The ex-Sword Collection
c.1911 DAIMLER 20HP CABRIOLET
COACHWORK BY ROCK, THORPE, AND CHATFIELD
Registration No. AA 4284
Chassis No. 9921
Engine No. 11428
Burgundy and black
Engine: four cylinder 90 x 130mm bore & stroke, 3,308 cc, sleeve-valve, water-cooled, pressure lubrication, Bosch dual ignition; Gearbox: three speed and reverse, cone clutch, shaft-drive to worm-gear back axle; Suspension: front and rear semi-elliptic leaf spring; Brakes: rear-wheel and transmission. Right hand drive.
The Daimler Motor Company of Coventry had produced its first cars for sale early in 1897 and its reputation was firmly established when in 1900 the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, bought a Daimler for his personal use. Despite financial reorganisations that beset the company in the early years it turned out motorcars that went very effectively and regularly won hill-climbs and other sporting competitions. However, the powerful cars that achieved these successes possessed little mechanical sophistication. As the position of Daimler as Britain's premier make was challenged first by Napier and then by Rolls-Royce the management desperately sought the means to improve the refinement of its products.
A solution was found by adopting the double-sleeve-valve engine that had been invented by an American: Charles Yale Knight. Putting all its efforts and experience into an intensive development programme Daimler ironed out the initial problems in Knight's design so that production became a viable proposition. This development work strained the firm's resources to the limit and the whole effort was a massive gamble that could have broken the company, but it paid off. Daimler submitted examples of its new engine to a rigorous test of 132 hours of continuous running supervised by Royal Automobile Club engineers. The engines performed outstandingly and for this Daimler received the Club's Premier award: the Dewar Trophy. At the end of 1908 Daimler stopped making poppet-valve cars and placed three 'Silent Knight' four-cylinder models on the market. The proprietor of The Car Illustrated magazine, Lord Montagu, who drove a 38 hp example across France, wrote: 'the silence and smoothness of running were very remarkable for a four-cylinder engine.' Although the engine had its critics, who never ceased carping, the cars gained immediate approval from the buying public with the King and members of the Royal Family heading the, orderly, queue.
This car has been referred to as a 1910 20 hp model ever since it appeared in the sale of the Sword Collection in 1962. If it is a 20 hp model it cannot be earlier than very late 1911, while the Chassis Number 9921 suggests a 1910 or 1911 date so the car could be a 22hp model (of 3,764 cc) if of 1910. Measurement of the engine dimensions would resolve the matter.
At the time of the aforementioned sale, where the Daimler was Lot 33, it was described in Kenneth Ball's sale report as: 'A perfect and superb motorcar. Absolutely immaculate and most impressive. Vertical, square, boxy, with dummy hood irons. That it [the body] was made in Tunbridge Wells in 1910 is fitting.' It sold to a London buyer for £650.
Long-term storage means that the Daimler is no longer in immaculate condition, but it is very sound and still a 'most impressive' motorcar.