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Hooper Daimlers

Car histories: owners, dates, etc. restorations, events visited, holidays, stories about the car, etc. plus statistics like numbers and models produced.
Fossil
Posts: 420
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 5:08 pm
Location: Helensburgh, Argyll

Re: Hooper Daimlers

Post by Fossil » Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:29 pm

Barrie

Thanks for posting the Martin Buckley item originally published in Classic & Sports Car magazine last year. It retains his uninformed comments and the general feelking of condescention towards Hooper and Daimler, most of all in his reference to post-war Hooper designs being stuffy and pompous compared to other coachbuilders, which is rubbish. Osmond Rivers' designs were refreshing in their elegance and simplicity, and the scaling down of the Empress design to the small DB18 and L/DJ chassis was successful, striking and beautiful, although I do prefer the longer bonnet of the earlier DB18 two door cars.

Interestingly there is information to suggest that the company did not wish to create much interest in the Lanchester Dauphin show cars, but why that should be remains a mystery. However I share your admiration of the Dauphin, so I'll add some personal perspective that might be of interest.

OVC444 is of course a unique machine, especially with those trade-mark faired in headlamps, the only Hooper show cars I believe, along with 'Stardust', to survive with those headlamps intact. Those of the Gold car were removed before it was sold after the show. Why? But the more traditional frontal design of the six DJ256 Hooper Century cars is nonetheless attractive in its own right, while they all have the additional benefit of a more comprehensive dash design, the full 100 bhp engine with high lift camshaft, and probably the uprated brakes with wider drums and shoes, which I doubt the 1953 LJ250 chassis cars have. So I would choose one of the DJ256 Hooper cars every time.

Apart from OVC444, as pictured in Brain Smith's 'Daimler Tradition', I was like everyone else unaware of the other Hooper bodied Centuries until one each of the two door (design no 8396) and four door (design no 8404a) examples appeared at Doune in 1994. As one of the organisers of that event I awarded NFS2, the Dauphin, the 'Organiser's Choice' prize; I had owned a number of Conquests and Centuries during my student years in the late 60s and had grown fond of them, particularly the Century with its more comfortable seats, improved dash, extra performance and esp the leakproof HD6 SUs of the MkII. So the concept of a Century with a coachbuilt body seemed to me the perfect small Daimler, especially the Dauphin which, although referred to as a two door saloon by the company, is really a 2+2 FHC; those individual rear seats are neither comfortable nor easy to get in or out of. I was less taken by the four door example, mainly due to the more sleek appearance and lower roof line of the Dauphin, but the four door is undoubtedly the more comfortable and spacious car; in an ideal world one would have one of each, of course!

Having given the Dauphin a prize at Doune in 94, it was an unexpected but very pleasant surprise later that year to be asked by the owner whether I would like to buy it. No surprise that we decided to accept the offer then. I still remember that my first impression taking it for a test drive before buying was surprise at the solidity of the body on poor road surfaces that would usually produce much rattling and squeaking from a standard steel Conquest model. So NFS2 became ours; there was some history with the car, but unfortunately no information about the first owner, other than a legal letter dating from 1960 suggesting a link of some sort to the Royal family. Of that I'll say no more here other than that it is known that the first of the three four door Hooper Centuries was a Royal stock car for a number of years before being sold at auction in London, possibly to a foreign embassy, and thereafter disappearing, while NFS2 was the first of the three two door Dauphin Centuries, so it may have been intended by the company to have had a special future that was not fulfilled.

First examination of NFS2 reavealed that the engine in its entirity was painted with bright blue Hammerite, which had to be sorted of course. The engine was of a late specification with a steel sump basechamber, it was a factory recon unit fitted in the 1970s. Internally it was very clean. All the ancillaries were removed, the core plugs removed and the block rodded and cleaned out, and the engine stripped with Nitromors and repainted with David Beales' engine enamel. the opportunity was taken to fit twin HD6 SUs and a superb PD Gough stainless exhaust system, and later Lumenition and Bosch platinum spark plugs. Chassis-wise the entire underside had been expertly Waxoyled at some time, and to my surprise the brakes were in superb order with every link of the mechanical linkage to the rear brakes at precisely the correct angle of adjustment as specified in the manual, a surprising state to find!

Less pleasant discoveries were the inoperative odometer and very noisy diff. The odometer gears were replaced with less worn items from a spare speedometer, and a new rear axle restored silent travel.

The full history of NFS2 since discovered is that it was sold new in Edinburgh via the Daimler agent Rossleigh, with that unique and lovely Scottish number, to an Edinburgh based railway company in May 1955 for its director. That company may have had links to BSA. The director then retained the car when he retired in 1960, and it eventually passed to a car dealer in south-east Scotland in 1984, perhaps after the first owner's passing. I've met people who remember seeing it parked in Edinburgh in various places at various times. It then passed to a further two private owners before our purchase of it 10 years later in 1994. It therefore seems possible that while owned by the first owner between 1955 and 1984 it had been serviced and the engine replaced in the 70s by the original dealer Rossleigh in Edinburgh, and probably by Daimler trained mechanics, who did exist in Rossleigh service departments in the 60s and 70s. Their Aberdeen department had one at least when I owned Conquests there in the late 60s and early 70s, who certainly knew how to set up a pre-select box! Hence also the perfect brake linkage set-up and other excellent and surprising findings about its condition.

I've often wondered why, having tested their new 2.5 litre V8 engine in around 1959 in a Century or Centuries, Daimler didn't sell a 'proper' V8 Century saloon, even just as a stop-gap; the car would have suited it well. But unfortunately to my knowledge no 2.5 V8 Century now exists anywhere. I'd love to do that conversion! There is at least one DB18 MkI Empress 2.5 V8 conversion, which belongs to John Nash, and also the Major MkII 4.5 V8 Empress, but no Century. It's nice to imagine retrospectively that Daimler could have popped a V8 DJ256 (perhaps a DJ258?) chassis over to Hooper to receive a Dauphin body design no 8396. What a car that would be! But should such a conversion be done to possibly the only remaining DJ256 Dauphin. Most would say NO, of course, so that prospect will remain imaginary. NFS2 did have one other sister car known a few years ago, of the two others made. But it disappeared towards Eastern Europe in 2012 via ebay, in poor but restorable condition, not to have been heard of since.

But a 2.5 V8 DJ252/4/6 Century of some sort remains on my bucket list.

Apologies again for such a long post

Fossil
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Barrie
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Feb 29, 2016 11:50 pm
Location: Sydenham Hill SE London

Re: Hooper Daimlers

Post by Barrie » Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:12 am

No need to apologise about the lengthy post Geoff, it was fascinating and you've set off other trains of thought.
All noted about the V8s but I don't think Century's ever achieved a value that made the conversion worthwhile. Would a pre-selector gearbox stand the extra power? Would a majestic engine fit? I suppose both these engines require an automatic gearbox and if so why not use a more modern 4 speed ZF 'box which would transform the car. Such are the pleasurable meanderings of an enthusiast's 'dream garage'.
More realistically I wonder of anyone has tuned a Century engine? 100bhp was what the market demanded in the 50s but surely someone has blue-printed/updated the engine or added a third carb a-la Alvis TF21?
As for Mr Buckley I think you're quite right. After a lengthy chat with me he drove my Jensen CV8 and wrote an article, which although quite complimentary, was just plain wrong even to the extent of saying it had no power steering when it did!

Fossil
Posts: 420
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 5:08 pm
Location: Helensburgh, Argyll

Re: Hooper Daimlers

Post by Fossil » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:07 pm

Barrie

Some years ago the DM carried a series of articles from a gentleman who had converted his DJ254 inlet manifold to take triple SUs, but I don't recall that it improved the performance much. A simpler option would be to fit twin HD8 SUs, but I doubt that there would be much benefit from that either, other than at high revs, without further attention to the camshaft, which is well beyond my capabilities. Ideally the engine needs a cross-flow head. In its early years the Century did have some success in saloon racing, but I have no knowledge of whether further upgrade of the engine was used in those cars. I doubt that the Conquest pre-select box would cope with 140 bhp or more, one would need to try it, but as you say the simplest option is the ZF auto box.

Similarly I don't think that the 4.5 engine would fit into a Century without attention to the inner wings and other parts of the bodywork, but it might although the differential and brakes would need to be improved. Convert to full hydraulic all-disc system? And a MM back axle, narrowed of course. Perhaps 4.5 V8 conversion would best be reserved for the larger models. eg a 4.5 V8 Sportsman, as opposed to the 4.5 st 6 that was fitted to some, but didn't they also have pre-select box issues?. But there are so few of them left that it is not realistic, just buy a MM instead and fit it with the ZF auto box!

So what to do with a 4.5 DV8 engine expands to other marques such as Jaguar, options there for cars that will cope with the size and power of it might include the XJ saloon and coupe, the XJS and even the DS420, but how much would they be improved beyond their standard st 6 or V12 engine options? We return to the simple situation of two excellent British V8 engines that were never developed to iheir true potential which in both cases should have been in the direction of larger DOHC fuel injected derivatives that could have powered the entire British motor industry for decades.

As we know drawings exist for a 3 litre DOHC D V8 that is described as potentially suitable for race applications and/or availability to other car manufacturers.

What if?

Cheers

Geoff

Christopher Storey
Posts: 262
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 6:40 pm
Location: Cheshire

Re: Hooper Daimlers

Post by Christopher Storey » Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:18 am

Geoff : your comments are very interesting . However, I must add a word of warning about HD8s - these at 2 inches are far too large for a DJ254 and will result in very poor throttle response. HD6 at 1.75 inches would be about the limit

I must also rather tentatively differ from you about the V8 having been suitable to power the British Motor Industry for decades ! The V8 is lovely , certainly in 2.5 litre form, and particularly if well balanced both statically and dynamically . However, much as I love it, it has some glaring defects, the most notable of which are the propensity for electrolytic corrosion, and the distinctly narrow main bearings which limit the working life of the engine rather drastically even by the standards of the 1950s/60s. I think this is why Jaguar did not make more use of it, because in comparison with the XK it just did not have the toughness and durability . I feel sure that Edward Turner if he had come to design it again would have rectified this even at the price of making the engine longer

ranald
Posts: 311
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:21 am
Location: North Wales

Re: Hooper Daimlers

Post by ranald » Sun Nov 03, 2019 9:25 am

I note a DJ256 Hooper Century is advertised for sale in the current club magazine.

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