Article and photos by Lawrie and Jane Nock.
1947 Daimler D.E. 27 Salon Chassis number 51104
Freestone and Webb body number 1364
During a Marques in the Park display several years ago, a long standing friend with whom we hadn’t had much recent contact, observed our petrol burners. His thoughts and advice turned immediately to large vehicles which he also collects – his are mostly Packards. He suggested that we should be interested in his Daimler D.E. 27 whatever that was.
Further investigation revealed that it was even bigger than the Bentleys and came complete with all the traditional British features – almost irresistible. Being a special bodied Daimler it came with even more of the “special” features than standard bodied vehicles.
We caught up with Peter again when he came to do a pest extermination job on the property. The Daimler was about to go on the market and we threw caution to the wind and sought further details. Worse still we went to see it and then to cap it all off we went for a run in it.
The marque has an illustrious history providing transport for royalty and I am told, is sometimes referred to as the Lord Mayor’s Car, because so many were used by councils as their official limousine. This one was built between 1946 and 1949 with a Freestone and Webb body designed for an owner driver. Available records suggest actual production in 1947. This one is therefore about my age, is a bit too heavy needs a bit of cleaning up and is lacking in top protection with a leaky sun roof originally designed to let the sun in through the roof – a perfect match so we had to have it.
During the Second World War, Daimler produced among other things the engine for famous military vehicles such as the scout car. Just looking at the D.E. 27 is sufficient to accept that it has links with the armoured car. The D.E.27 is fitted with basically the same engine which powered the Scout car which was a six cylinder in line engine of about 4 litres capacity. It weighs 55cwt (2.75 tons) has huge chassis rails and 7 inches of ground clearance. I was contemplating mounting a mock up 50mm cannon on the roof and I did’t think it would look too much out of place. Good enough for Lawrence of Arabia in a Silver Ghost, it is arguably good enough for this Lawrence and Jane in a Daimler.
Freestone and Webb was regarded as a high quality body builder. Most of its surviving work is probably driving around on Rolls Royce or Bentley chasses. With a 138 inch wheelbase and split rims it is a large heavy commercial type of thing. I was a little surprised to learn that the overall length was less than 18 feet especially when there is such a huge distance between the front and back seats and axles. The running boards are cunningly concealed by bodywork in accordance with modern design concepts of that period in England. In most bodies built by Freestone and Webb on such chasses, there were 2 folding occasional seats mounted behind the front seat, giving the vehicle a seating capacity of 8 people, but this owner driver specification as well as doing away with the dividing window, dispensed with the foldaway occasional seats.
Why anyone would want to have an owner driver car with the rear passengers so far from the driver is difficult to understand. If you dislike the passengers so much why not have the more normal divider window fitted or better still buy a two seater car so there isn’t any room for them in the car in the first place. Anyway someone, being one of only three similarly minded people, ordered this car without the divider.
As already mentioned, I have been advised that the engine is basically the same six cylinder engine which powered the Scout car. Fitted with twin SU carburettors and overhead cams it develops 110 bhp at 3600 revs. The transmission is the well-known Wilson pre selector gear box with a fluid clutch. The four speed transmission and engine combination gives smooth and effective performance despite the mass of the vehicle.
Peter had purchased the car with a view to using it in conjunction with his historic motor cycle club activities. Subsequent to the purchase he had been advised not to fit a tow bar and try to tow a recovery trailer and on the basis of the impact of a trailer behind on the already stretched available power. He agreed that his intended use would probably challenge the available power beyond a reasonable ask – hence the sale. With the amount of space between the front and back seats, Peter should have been able to consider use of the car for motor cycle recovery on the basis of simply running bikes into the rear passenger compartment.
The paint work on this car is showing its age – what is left of it looks like it is 60 years old. If something isn’t done the bits where paint is missing are going to increase and damage might occur. The chrome is in variable condition and some of it must be renovated which means that a lot of it will probably need to be done to avoid glaring differences. The leather interior needs more than a little tender loving care. The timber work is complete but a renovator’s delight and Jane is just the person to delight in it. The headlining is surprisingly good. The car runs very nicely and is comfortable to travel in.
The car made its maiden club run to the Tarago show. I was surprised at how many people actually recognised it for what it was. I was advised to secure the Lucas P100 headlights carefully. One spectator suggested that they could be worth more than the rest of the car.
We purchased the car as a project car. It is such a nice looking and unusual car that we felt that our efforts would be warranted. We were hoping that we would find ourselves up to the tasks without causing too much damage to the originality of the car. We intended to use it where possible and have some fun with it while carrying out restoration work in between times. We did not intend to attempt a complete restoration. We went so far as fitting two of the three new tyres supplied with the car. The next bit was more frightening.
We think it would be fairer to describe our planned efforts as preservation. We had decided that we should make a minor change to the overall paint colour to give it a two tone finish. Club members or other people with appropriate skills, who did not agree with our plans, the standard of our workmanship or thoroughness in the work we might do on the car, were most welcome to display their greater skills and where necessary contribute their funds to the exercise if they felt strongly about our efforts.
When the original article was prepared for The Wheel, we were sufficiently optimistic to believe that a cosmetic overhaul would work. As time progressed, we discovered that much more was involved if we were to do any sort of justice to the car. We would have to remove the aluminium skin and go right back to the wooden body frame. Then we would have to carry out any restoration needed on the body frame before refitting the body cladding. There was also the question of the chrome work as well as the condition of the leather upholstery and how much of it would have to be redone– the answer was all, if the car was to look other than patched up.
Fortunately, a friend who understood our limitations also knew a collector of old cars who was looking for such a vehicle in basically original condition. The car was inspected and found to be suitable so it went off on a truck to its new home at a small museum in Victoria.
Peter did not escape from this adventure unscathed. Despite having several very beautiful Packards, he managed to be sucked in by the Rolls Royce disease and finally succumbed to become an owner of a very nice early Silver Shadow complete with the rear passenger picnic tables fitted to the back of the front seats. He also decided to join us at STHARC and if we are fortunate enough we will get him to provide some stories and details of his cars and motor bikes.