By Rod Ward
How did a great British car marque come to be named after the German pioneer of automotive design? Gottlieb Daimler patented his engine design in the late 19th century and sold territorial franchises. Frederick Simms bought the UK and colonies licence in 1893. Daimler himself was a director of the British Daimler concern until 1897 when the firms went separate ways, the Daimler name being retained by the Coventry firm. So many ‘Daimler’ companies were being set up in other countries that German buyers were becoming confused, so the Daimler name was dropped for German-built cars after 1908. After that time German-built cars were called Mercédès, though the company retains the Daimler title as Daimler-Benz. The British Daimler concern was at first part of the monopolistic Lawson empire, then became known for quality cars used by royalty and nobility. The firm was taken over by BSA, which also later absorbed Lanchester. A process of ‘badge engineering’ between the three car marques made their stories inextricable, so they are all told in this book. In the 1950s Daimler suffered from under-investment, and the company was sold by BSA to Jaguar, after which Daimler cars soon lost their identity, as rebadged Jaguars. As well as the cars, this story features many fascinating personalities such as the fraudulent financier Harry Lawson and that star celebrity of the 1950s, Norah Docker.
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