Senior Specialist, Head of Department, UK
A cornerstone in the infant motor industry, the Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd., founded in 1896 as part of H J Lawson's mighty motor empire, sold their first cars based on Panhard-Levassor chassis, and employed German-built Canstatt Daimler engines. British car manufacture at that stage lagged behind its European mainland counterpart and although Lanchester, at nearby Birmingham, had commenced manufacture in 1895 it was Daimler, exploiting Gottlieb Daimler's motor patents, who really carried the flag for Great Britain in those pioneering days starting manufacture at the Motor Mills factory Coventry in 1897. Early cars featured twin cylinder engines and had tiller steering, hot tube ignition, a four speed gearbox and chain final drive. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, took delivery of his first Daimler in 1900 and Daimler was to remain the marque of choice of the royal household until the 1950s.
This archetypal Victorian vehicle was first registered in Shropshire under the 1903 Motor Car Act and its very early history is not recorded. In about 1931 it was rescued from a Shropshire orchard by a Surrey enthusiast, (believed to be H.Garrett-Adams), no doubt inspired by the formation of The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain just one year earlier and the great interest in The Emancipation Run re-enactments at that time. The planned restoration was never completed by that owner and a chance conversation with the local postman in 1938 put Francis Hutton-Stott, a pillar of the early days of the 'old car' movement, (Past President of The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain and founder of The Lanchester Register), in contact with the wagonette and its owner. 1148 was to join the Hutton-Stott collection and its restoration continued. The Motor magazine of 5th April 1944, reviewing the Hutton-Stott motor car collection, reported on the acquisition of 1148 as follows:
'At that time the car was exactly 40 years old, but its specification seemed to diverge somewhat from standard. It turned out it had been "modernised" and super-tuned in 1902 by Frank Morris (sic) of King's Lynn. Morris (sic) was a specialist in bringing 19th century Daimlers up to 20th century standards by fitting higher compression engines and other "mods". He must be the earliest "hotter upper" in the trade. The Daimler was completely dismantled and was being reconstructed to its 1898 condition with contemporary parts, when the war started. Morris's wheel steering, side gear lever, radiator and bonnet have now been replaced by tiller steering, tram type gear controls on the dash, and an original Daimler bonnet without radiator.
It would seem from inspection that the present eight seater wagonette body had remained intact under a Morriss-styled disguise, this is supported by photographs of the car prior to restoration. As Hutton-Stott focused his collection more on the Lanchester marque 1148 passed in the 1950s into the ownership of another Veteran Car Club stalwart, S.J. 'Jimmy' Skinner, who embarked on further restoration which was completed in the 1970s. 1148 was subsequently acquired by Irish collector Denis Lucey, later passing to his friend and compatriot Sullivan, residing in Hawaii. From Sullivan it passed into a Japanese collection circa 20 years ago, where it has remained since.
The car is now presented to original specification in all major respects although it has been converted from hot tube to electric ignition, probably by 'hotter upper' Morriss of King's Lynn in 1902. More recently an incorrect radiator has been removed and the vehicle relies on its large rear mounted water tank in line with original specification. The number 1148 is stamped on the engine cylinder head. '1148' was dated by The Veteran Car Club in the very earliest days of dating (Certificate no.57) and attributed a date of 1897, quoting car number 1026. Recent inspection has not yet revealed that number. The rear axle forgings are clearly stamped 'Kirkstall Forge, Leeds, 1898'. Similar dated stampings appear on other VCC dated surviving contemporary Daimlers. It should be noted that The British Motor Company Ltd. plate on the inside of the bonnet, showing no.3412, may not be relevant to this car as it is recorded that this bonnet was replaced during Hutton-Stott's ownership – see above.
Following the long period of museum storage overseas the car has more recently returned to the UK and has been carefully researched and gently recommissioned by leading Victorian vehicle specialist Richard Peskett. Fuel,oil and pressure lines have been cleaned, new inlet valve springs fitted along with new trembler coils and wiring. The oil pressure system has been checked and cleaned and it is reported that the car starts easily and runs well. Further careful inspection is recommended to identify any further remedial work which may be required before the vehicle is used extensively. This eight seater Victorian wagonette generally has that comfortable feel of a well matured restoration and is nicely equipped with a contemporary floor gong, giving audible warning of approach, (in practice normally accompanied by suitably chosen words from driver or passengers), a candle tail lamp and a fine matching pair of candle power Daimler Motor Company front lamps. The original registration number AW 98 surrendered circa 30 years ago when the car left the United Kingdom has been applied for with the DVLA.
British built Victorian vehicles rarely come to the open market and here is just such a vehicle from the most distinguished Daimler marque that has continued in motor car manufacture at the heart of the British Motor Industry for no less than 118 years. Imagine the thrill of driving British-built 1148 - seven passengers aboard - across the finishing line of the world's premier veteran car event - The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
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