Daimler began, as its name implies, as the licensee of Gottlieb Daimler’s engines in Great Britain, as did Panhard in France.
The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, selected Daimler as the vehicle in which he learned to drive at the turn of the twentieth century. The first automobile he bought was a 2 cylinder Daimler. Later Daimlers joined the Royal Mews, earning Daimler a coveted Royal Warrant.
In a continuing search for greater refinement, Daimler in 1909 adopted Charles Yale Knight’s patented sleeve valves. Knight’s sleeve valve design replaced poppet valves with ported sleeves concentric with the piston cylinders. Manipulated in an intricate mechanical syncopation with the pistons’ reciprocation, Daimler’s sleeve valves performed nearly silently.
In 1926 Daimler introduced the Double Six, a 60-degree vee-sleeve valve 12 cylinder, a masterpiece designed by famed engineer Laurence H. Pomeroy. Daimler Double Sixes were built to individual clients’ specifications in a vast array of body styles and chassis lengths over a 10-year span, but only about 500 examples were produced. Built to the highest standards with the finest materials, many were sacrificed to World War II’s scrap drives, and only a few survive today.
This 1928 Daimler Double Six Model P.1.50 Royal Limousine is one of only 12 believed to have been built in the 163” wheelbase and is the only known survivor of them. Its scale is massive and compares nearly inch-for-inch with the famed Bugatti Type 41 “Royale,” but while Ettore Bugatti built only six and found buyers for only three of them, Daimler successfully catered to the rich, famous and royal with the Double Six.
Its V12 engine displaces 7.1 Liters (437 cubic inches) and produces 150 brake horsepower at a leisurely 2,480 rpm. Significantly, its valve sleeves are steel and are precisely fit adding to the sleeve valve engine’s inherent silence and smoothness and improving its oil conservation. The Daimler-built limousine coachwork stretches 21 feet bumper-to-bumper and stands six feet, nine inches tall. It weighs just over four tons, without passengers or luggage, and is the largest production automobile built in Great Britain.
Built in 1928, it was exported to Australia where its first owner was Australian-born Sir Frederick Harold Stewart. In 1919 he developed a 50-acre subdivision in Chullora outside Sydney. The local government declined to provide his Chullora development with streetcar or rail service, but Stewart responded by starting his own bus line. Only a few years later, his Metropolitan Omnibus & Transport Company was the largest private bus operator in Australia.
Stewart acquired this Daimler P.1.50 at the height of his success, before he turned to politics in 1930 and was elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 1931, a seat he would retain until 1946.
Not surprisingly Frederick Harold Stewart — he was knighted in 1935 — licensed his Daimler P.1.50 with the distinctive registration NSW 1. It remained in Australia until 1964 when it was acquired from its then-owner George Sevenoaks by the Harrah’s auto collection. In 1981 it was acquired by Thomas W. Barrett, Barrett-Jackson auction co-founder, who sold it to a Japanese collection in 1984.
It returned to the U.S. in 2004 and in 2007 was acquired by the present owner who immediately undertook a complete and meticulous restoration in his own shop. Completed two years later, it is magnificent in its correct original color scheme of dark cordovan body with black fenders and roof over beige Bedford cloth owner’s compartment and cordovan leather chauffeur’s office. The carpet was custom woven to match the original salt-and-pepper wool cut pile. The body is lavishly equipped with interior lamps, cigar lighter and smoker’s kit, vanity, Dictaphone and pull-down shades on all the rear compartment windows including the division. The ample trunk contains fitted luggage.
All the exterior bright trim is brilliantly re-plated in nickel, including the six wire wheels. The wheels are 23” in diameter but are perfectly proportioned to the scale of the 163” wheelbase and generous limousine coachwork.
Upon completion, it was accepted for the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it successfully completed the Tour d’Elegance before receiving a class award in the concours. Awarded 100 points in Classic Car Club of America competition, it earned “Best of Show” at the January 2010 CCCA Annual Meeting followed by “Best of Show” at MOTORCLASSICA in Australia.
Carefully maintained since then, it is ready to appear at the most demanding concours and will be an arresting addition to any collection. Its condition is magnificent, particularly the spectacular presentation under the hood where the 7.1-Liter V12 gleams with polished aluminum.
It is one-of-a-kind, a gorgeous example of the design, construction, assembly, finishing and trimming skill of Daimler, Britain’s oldest marque and holder of a Royal Warrant as supplier to Britain’s Royal Family.
– — By Rick Carey