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One-off racing Daimler star of UK show

2014-03-28 11:30

PRIDE AND JOY: UK car-lover Harold Wilson with the 1953 Daimler pre-prototype racing car that he rescued from 40 years of being parked in a garage. Image: Newspress

LONDON, England - A unique Daimler racing car will take centre stage at the first Practical Classics magazine Restoration Show at Birmingham’s NEC over the weekend of April 12/13.

The car was found by one Harold Wilson in 2009 after it had been parked for 40 years in a garage in Brighton on the English South Coast - a classic "barn find". He first saw the car in 2002; it took seven years of persuasion but he eventually bought the car.

The old-timer is a long-time classic enthusiast and owns a huge collection of vehicles that ranges from a Bentley to an Austin J40 pedal car; he knew the Daimler was something special. He explained the history:

"Daimler saw how good the Jaguar XK140 was selling back then and decided it wanted a piece of the market. So, with only six weeks to go before the 1953 (Earls Court) motor show, set about to making a sports car - first for them."


The result has since travelled the globe and described by Wilson as a ‘pre-prototype’- only 100 were made; this pre-production example is therefore about as rare as a car can get.

"Daimler put Ken Wharton (Vanwall)in charge of the new racing team,” Wilson said. "The (then) new Conquest engine went into six saloons and the race team was born. The Roaster could not race at Silverstone as there wasn’t a class for prototypes but through the pressure of Daimler a last-minute prototype race was put on."

The race wasn’t recorded, however, and Wilson has struggled to find further evidence of the car’s history. "We have witnesses who saw the car race but no pictures have come to light. The team toured Silverstone, Tulip Rally, Monte Carlo etc but in all these races the cars were listed as Daimler Conquests, so it’s hard to know which car was in which race.

"Daimler gave the car to Wharton, who kept it for three years, taking it with him wherever he went. In those days if you turned up for a race you just entered."


The car had five owners after its racing career, none of whom really understood or appreciated the Daimler’s rarity. It was also driven by general racing and F1 driver Reg Parnell - that's him in the picture at the bottom of this article.

"One owner left it in a village garage, unloved, for many years until the garage owner threatened to scrap it," Wilson said. "It was then sold to a farmer in the local pub, a Mr Reilly, for the price of two pints (of beer). His son towed it home, were he set about getting it going. He saw that the rear seemed to be very close to the ground so presumed the back end was rotten and had collapsed.

"His solution was a length of strong wire wrapped around the chassis and under the fuel tank. He then wedged a half-brick between the wire and the tank to keep it up!”*

The Daimler seemed destined for a life in rural exile until in 1969 it was spotted by a Daimler enthusiast who immediately recognised the car. “It was parked outside a pub when John Beal drove past. He recognised it as the pre-prototype - his excitement was too much and he bought the car for £1500 (about R3000 back then). In those days you could buy a small house for that!"


The farmer’s son trailered the car to Beal’s home in Brighton on the English south coast where it was put straight in to his garage and that was where it stayed for 40 years until Wilson pulled it out in 2009.

Harold’s Daimler will be part of the show's Heritage Insurance Barn Find display that will include a rare 1936 MG TC, an ex-demo AC four-door two-litr, a 1950's Standard Vanguard and a rare Triumph Stag sedan.

View the classic car here

*The suspension hadn't collapsed - the fuel tank had dropped!
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