|Vehicle:||1962 Daimler SP250 “Police Spec” Convertible|
|Tune Up Cost:||$300|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plate screwed to right side of bulkhead (and usually another welded to front crossmember)|
|Engine Number Location:||Front right of cylinder block near water pump|
|Club Info:||Daimler SP250 Owners Club|
This car, Lot 252, sold for $72,940, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival sale on September 9, 2017.
Various police forces, including Australia and New Zealand, used these V8 Daimlers to snare speeding motorists, but The Met (London’s police force) had the most, totaling 26.
Speccing them as autos seems perhaps an odd thing to do, but they feature a cable-operated intermediate gear hold so as not to blunt acceleration too much. Maximum power of 140 hp doesn’t seem like a lot (though it’s about the same as a 260-ci in a Sunbeam Tiger) but these were quick cars in their day, with over 120 mph allegedly available at a time when even big Triumphs and Nortons would barely breach “the ton.”
Catching the Café Racers
As well as hunting down the usual gamut of villains and blaggers — speeding through the West End with the Winkworth bell at full chat must have been much more fulfilling than wading through gigabytes of data in today’s fight against cybercrime — Met-police Darts were aimed at cracking down on the scourge of the North Circular: Bikers swarming from the Ace Café and other transport cafés like it.
Glamorized by films such as “The Leather Boys” (1964), legend is that back in the day, the aim of the bikers was to complete the three-mile lap to the Hanger Lane roundabout and back before the two-and-a-bit-minute song-of-the-day had finished on the jukebox.
The Ace Café’s still there, by the way, resurrected in recent times, but sadly, such feats of derring-do are no more than legends — or memories for the lucky few.
The right bits
Rose-tinted fantasies aside, survivors are quite well accounted for by both the Police Car UK Club and the Daimler SP250 Owners’ Club. This one retains most of its police gear: an operational bell, correct-style driving light, radio (though it doesn’t work), microphone, aerial, passenger’s footrest and radio-interference suppression kit on the engine.
Met cars had a large, separately driven calibrated speedometer and this is still with the car, but not fitted, and the lot included an original Metropolitan Police document folder compiled by one of its former drivers.
Also included were a car cover and a copy of Percy’s biography, Win 1, which includes a picture of him with the car. For trivia fans, Win 1 was written by his old friend Spike Anderson, creator of the Samuri Datsun Z cars in which Win got his first proper break in racing.
So here we have a car with cast-iron provenance, though with a few mods from original. In 2003, Win became partially disabled following a gardening accident that led to complications, so the fitment of rack-and-pinion steering (which can allow electric assistance) plus brake servo are understandable and easily reversible for originality anoraks. Same goes for the wire wheels, when all period pictures of the Met cars show them on discs.
The automatic was a must, hence the attractiveness of the police-spec SP250. Win is on record as saying that aside from the fact that he always liked the SP250, the main reason for his purchase was that as Driving Standards Advisor for Goodwood, it was a highly appropriate mount.
A market price
The high-water mark for a police-spec SP250 is $126,684 (then £82,140), achieved at the September 2015 Goodwood Revival sale (SCM# 266810). That car had been bought by Chris Evans at a Historics at Brooklands auction in August 2014 for £50,400 (then $85,500), and was being disposed of along with other cars in his collection, some of which sold for a similarly celebrity-inflated price of about 50%.
About the time that Percy bought this car in 2011, I drove one of its sister police cars (550 CLU) for sale at a dealer asking £60k (about $100k), which we both felt at the time was slightly speculative money. So it would appear that the top price for a near-concours SP250 approached £60k at the most recent high swell of the market, and like everything else, has dropped back between 10% and 20%.
Win is a celebrity in motor-racing circles, though if you’d met him you’d never guess it, so it’s hard to say if his ownership has enhanced the value, or whether being the best-known “Dart” in the world means the car carries a premium by itself. Either way, it was sold about right, and Win showed a small profit — enough to cover the auction costs, but maybe not enough to include the rack conversion and engine rebuild too. I’d say that’s reasonable cost of ownership, and everybody got out just fine. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)