Daimler DE36, Chassis number 52825
UK Registration number VOG 299 NL Registration AL-60-51
This page is dedicated to my own family's Daimler DE36, chassis number 52825, which had the UK registration number
VOG 299 and now bears the registration AL-60-51 from the Netherlands.
It describes our fortunes with this great classic car, which we purchased in non-running order early June 2002.
You can reach us via e-mail at DERegister@dloc.co.uk
Peter Ruifrok, Diepenveen, Netherlands
Getting the bug
After we moved to Chester in the UK early 1999 we started visiting historical places in our region. One day in the summer of that year we went to Tatton Hall, where also a big classic car show took place. That's where we got the bug. We saw what we at the time thought was a RR Cloud II, but must have been a Wraith. You see how inexperienced we were! Anyway I got a subscription to C&SC for my birthday and slowly started to focus down on style, era, type and most importantly budget.
Selecting a type
Era was relatively easy: we really liked the early post war types, say 1946 to the early fifties, after that the styling got too modern. Being foreign, we are Dutch, it should be a famous English mark. Furthermore in view of the English climate it had to be a saloon or a limousine. I know a lot of English people would disagree, but an open car or a DHC didn't somehow seem appropriate. And the family should fit in, which ruled out the sportier types and FHC's. So my first target became a Bentley R-type or the slightly earlier MK VI.
Finding a decent example
Now we were really in to it. More classic shows followed. We went to the big Rolls-Royce and Bentley happening in Towcester and I started attending auctions. I visited some dealers and became a member of the RREC. Looked for and found good advice on how to buy a classic car, the pitfalls, the costs. The Internet, the club and magazines appeared good help and over the months I became a reasonable amateur on judging cars and finding their problems.
Kicking the tyres
I don't have a mechanical back ground, but with some common sense, a good torch and astute questioning one gets a fair way. Don't be afraid to kick the tyres, rock the doors, and look at the body fluids and underneath the car. Inspect wings, sills and all the other rust traps. Because the usual problem on early post war cars is rust. For obvious reasons it was difficult to find good quality steel in those years. Go pre-war and it is a different story: much better materials were used.
Early 2002 I got depressed and tired after having seen too many over-priced sad examples. We extended the search to contemporary cars and cars from the late thirties. An Alvis grey lady, a Sunbeam and even a Delage crossed my path, but nothing materialised. And then I saw a Daimler DB18 advertised. Until then I had discarded Daimlers, because I thought they were just upmarket Jaguars. My daily driver is a Jaguar XJ8 and although I love it, I wanted something different as a classic. Stupid me! Daimler became only part of Jaguar in 1960, before that they made for eighty years exactly what I had been looking for: well engineered, old fashioned styled saloons and limousines.
But the solution was near
The web-site of the DLOC and a few others told me all I needed, including cars for sale and the possibility to leave a "wanted" advert even by non-members. As we speak I have canceled my membership of the RREC and am a member of the DLOC now, but at that time, May 2002, it was a great help. We looked first at an advertised DB18 Empress and then inspected a DE27 from the former registrar of the club, who had at the time 14 Daimlers all in different condition. I had also left an "interested in a straight eight Daimler" advert on the web-site, but didn't get any reaction for some weeks.
An incredible find
And then suddenly by e-mail a one-liner: "I might be of help. Ring Peter at so-and-so". I thought, this must be a trader, but what the heck, let's phone. And then something happened, which can only happen in England. Peter was the executor to a will and had only checked the DLOC web-site by chance. The garage and its contents once belonged to two brothers and a sister following the death of their parents many years ago. The sister was already deceased some time ago, one of the brothers lived above the garage and died recently, the other was still alive. The brothers carried on the garage business as "Grand Parade Garage", 16 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, which hadn't been used for over a decade. But all garage items were still there from the time that an undertaker 11 years ago for the last time had maintained and stored his cars (and coffins) in it. So imagine a 25-year-old Wolseley, a pre-war Buick ready for scrap, coffins, two petrol pumps and other automobilia, rusted parts and machinery. And in the middle of all this what would become our Daimler DE36. Structurally sound after over 10 years of untouched dry storage and with good bodywork and relatively low mileage (74383 miles). But it was immediately evident that engine and brakes would need an overhaul, some of the leather was crap, new tyres were needed, the chrome was heavily pitted, the exhaust had to be replaced, and I wasn't too sure about the front and rear springs. And then a number of smaller items such as non-original front lights (reflectors missing), rear lights which didn't look right, a filler cap inside the car, etcetera. We could turn the engine around by hand, but that was about it.
The buying process
We saw the car for the first time on a Friday and a week later it was ours. I organised transport back to Chester and to my delight a bit of force and some air in the tyres was enough to tow it. I got a basic insurance and found a nearby good mechanic in Chester prepared to give it a try. And that was the beginning of the first expenditures and of a real adventure. I don't need a car to be concourse, but it has to be reliable and in good running order. We did not only want to potter to the occasional club venues, but also to do longer trips in it to the continent.
After the purchase
The first thing we did was cleaning the inside and the outside, which confirmed that all woodwork, rubbers and even floor mats were in good to very good condition. This includes the roof, which has a kind of inlay made from some synthetic rubber or leather with wood. Some of the chrome is still very good and returned to its original shiny state with a bit of polish, but the door handles need re-chroming or renewing all together and we are not sure about the bumpers either. Also most of the leather only needed cleaning, and/or a bit of reconditioning. The original blue has faded a bit over time and we will have to do some colouring later on the bare spots. The front bench will need new upholstery.
All windows move freely and the mechanics of opening and closing only needed a bit of oiling. Body rust is minimal (aluminum over a wooden frame), but the car will need a re-spray later, since the black paint is flaking of. That will also be the right moment to decide on the final colour (royal blue?). The first priority is getting it through an MOT (engine, battery, electrics, tyres, brakes, jacks, exhaust) and the local garage has started doing just that. I've made some photocopies of the handbook to help them. Decisions to take are amongst others, should we re-instate the trafficators, should we install an extra fan, and generally how original should the car become?
To the garage (July, August, September, October and November 2002)
July 2002 was dedicated to taking the engine, the brakes (including master cylinder and servo's), the gearbox, the exhaust, wheel bearings and you name it, literally all moving and non-moving chassis and motor parts apart and checking what replacements were needed. Luckily the springs and the chassis itself appeared to be fine, but oil from the rear half shaft leaked into one of the brakes. Also other components of the braking system appeared not right, and we ended up with a complete overhaul, which delayed things considerably.
The car has received basic maintenance over the years, but obviously not from an official Daimler dealer. Mind you, that might have been difficult anyway in view of the few DE36's made and in view of the fact that Daimler was taken over by Jaguar in 1960, only three years after the car was registered. Grand Parade Garage, the previous owner for some 35 years, did the servicing in-house. The first owner (from the mid fifties to the mid sixties), now known as the Birmingham Co-op, did the same. Unprofessional repairs from the past were amongst others the master brake cylinder. It must have been serviced before, but was then put together in such a way that it could hardly function. Other items, which had not been serviced correctly, were the securing of one of the back axle bearings, even the oil filter and the hydraulic brake cylinders at the front.
Then came the time consuming task of either locating the replacements or having them made. This list wasn't very long, but in view of the limited availability of parts difficult (and pricey!) enough. In addition, not all suppliers of parts appeared equally reliable, which didn't help and which was another source for major delays. In a number of cases the wrong items were supplied, despite us ordering the correct part numbers. In other instances our interpretation of "re-conditioned" was quite different from the supplier's. Anyway, we found two new reflectors for the Lucas P100 headlights (£ 150) and decided to fit an oil pressure gauge (£ 35). An oil pressure gauge is not standard on these cars, but I like to have a bit more than only a warning light.
Another important replacement was the steering box (£ 375 plus £ 75 for getting it to us), which was the main source of the play in the steering wheel. In the end we had to look at three different steering boxes, before we found a decent one. The speedometer and the other dials were serviced by a local watch maker (£35).
The front bench was handed over to Martrim in Middlewich for new padding and new leather (£ 329 incl. VAT). A new exhaust is for the time being not needed and the petrol filler cap can also stay inside the car, an outside ventilation appeared not to be necessary.. Everything has been cleaned and where necessary greased before putting it together again and all body fluids have been replaced. These lubricants are: motoroil 20W50, fluid flywheel and gear box SAE30, steering box & back axle EP90.
Two new tyres (Dunlop cross ply) have been bought as spares at £ 214 each (excluding VAT and transport), although the current front ones will do for the MOT. For the rear we will use one tyre which was still in reasonable condition and one new tyre which came with the car. Of course a new heavy-duty battery (£ 75) was installed.
Tyres are on hindsight the main problem with this car. The original 8.00 - 17 cannot be purchased anywhere anymore. Originally we ordered Firestone 7.50 - 17, since on paper these should come closest. The price seemed reasonable as well (about £ 140 each excluding VAT). However, when they arrived it was a major disappointment. They were far too small by any measure. Even to the extent, that I feared for insufficient clearance between car and road. They were returned and Vintage Tyres (0044 845 1200711) delivered two Dunlop Fort 7.00 - 17, which are specially made in batches of about 30 at a time.
The total height of the original cross plies (rim plus tyre) is about 85 cm (17 inch plus twice 8.00 inch as the width/height ratio for cross plies is 100%), and is reduced to 80 cm with the new Dunlop cross plies. The tread (width) is reduced from about 20.5 to 18 cm. Just a week after having them installed Sod's Law struck: I saw 2 new unused 8.00 - 17 advertised in the Driving Member for just £ 150. Too bad.
To keep it simple radials (below) are expressed with the width in millimeters and the height as a percentage of the width, while the rim diameter is still in inches: 8.00 x 17 thus translates into 205/100 x 17. And equally 7.00 x 17 becomes 180/100 x 17.
Other alternatives are:
General 225/90 x 17.5 radials. These should be readily available as they are small truck tyres. Although they are slightly larger (17.5 instead of 17) they have been tried successfully on a DE36 and were a very good fit
Michelin XCA 750R x 17 which is a radial, these tyres were still made in 2000 and would probably be a special order from a Michelin importer/dealer
A trip to Newby Hall in Yorkshire, the Golden Jubilee Rally (classic car show) on 21 July, brought us for the first time in face-to-face contact with other DLOC members and their cars. The result? A friendly and helpful reception, a very useful contact for investigating the missing history of VOG299 and a decision on the future colour, which is now all black.
She will become Oxford blue over black which means that the wings, the side mounted spare wheel covers and the footboards will stay black, the rest (doors, bonnet and engine bay sides, the rear and the roof) will become Oxford blue. A fine gold line from front to rear just below the door handles will give an extra touch to the blue. We also found out that the lighting at the rear of every car is different, which means that we can choose almost anything as long as it is contemporary and looks the part.
During August, September, October and November 2002 we collected most of the necessary items and everything was put together again, after which the underneath got a nice coat of underseal. Also some cosmetic work was done to the chrome and the leather and we bought two trafficators. The successful MOT on 5 December was merely the spin off from much more elaborate work done.
The car was re-insured and we got the (free) road tax disk on 6 December. The garage has done a perfect and thorough job, which includes most of the sourcing for parts. I can really recommend them, and not many in the UK will know as much about a DE36 as they do now. One might argue at our cost, but that would be unfair. I am not aware of anyone else who could have done the same job better, though of course I'm not an expert. And I'd like to think that Sir Henry Royce's saying in this case would be appropriate: the quality remains long after the price is forgotten. The forgetting might take us a while, but at last we will soon be enjoying the car!
The first driving experiences
Steering at normal speeds is unexpectedly light. Crossplies give a different road feel than radials, but roundabouts and corners are a doddle. Only maneuvering in confined spaces is a bit difficult for two reasons. The car is big and consequently has a large turning circle. And secondly at low speeds steering is heavy. The car also keeps up nicely with modern traffic. Cruising at 60 mph on Cheshire's rather winding A-roads is no problem whatsoever and engine noise is limited. Maximum speed is above 80 mph, and the car holds well at that speed. There is no rattling, shaking or anything else worrying, but maintaining that speed for too long will cost petrol dearly, hence 70-plus seems appropriate on the motor way. There is no sign of the wheel-wobble mentioned in "Daimler Days", when Hooper tried to build a DHC on this chassis (see below under
Driving in the city is fine as well, but watch the space, this is a BIG car after all and I still need to learn its dimensions. Driving in reverse requires some practising, as the side mirrors don't give you any clues about where you are going, they are just too tiny. Overtaking must be done with care for the same reason. The fluid flywheel is miraculous. On level areas one can drive away in 3 (2 is recommended in the driver's handbook) and this is also my favourite setting for roundabouts and corners. A steep hill needs 2, and cruising is best in Top. The brakes work like a charm. Engine temperature settles at a nice 170 degrees Fahrenheit and oil pressure is about 70 psi when warm. An extra fan for cooling will not be needed. However, passengers in the rear compartment do complain about the absence of any heating, so we might consider an extension of the heating system. A better windscreen heater would do no harm either.
I filled the petrol tank, which had been cleaned by the garage but which wasn't entirely empty when I collected the car, to the brim with 70 liters of unleaded, it should contain about 20 gallons. I have read at length about the choice between LRP, unleaded or unleaded plus "lead from the bottle". But I fell for the argument that a) petrol was pretty awful in the early days after the war anyway, and b) these engines are not required to make a lot of revs. I can set the ignition control, and as long as the engine doesn't pink, it's fine to me. Also the petrol tank contains something called "Carbonflo" (£ 100). Carbonflo was apparently developed during the Second World War to enable the Russians, who had only low-octane fuel available to them, to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes supplied to them by the British. Carbonflo are domed-shaped cones of 22mm diameter. They are an amalgam of metals, the majority constituent being tin. They come in a ferrous metal "sock", which must be put on the bottom of the fuel tank, and they last for ever. Don't ask me how they work, that's hidden in history. But a number of people were quite positive about it and it doesn't hurt to try.
The engine starts easily from cold, without hardly any choking, and it helps setting the hand throttle part way. After a few hundred yards the engine is warm enough to close the choke again and after a mile or so the hand throttle is closed as well. When the engine is warm, no choke or hand throttle is needed. Then the engine starts immediately and ticks over slowly, steadily and very quiet. The word that comes to mind is reliability. When we've done a thousand miles, I'll tell you the fuel consumption, but the miles per gallon probably will be written in a single digit, hopefully close to 10. The only small problems during the first few hundred miles appeared a few water leaks (some screws and bolts needed fastening) and a small oil leak from the rocker cover, which was cured with some sealant.
Import in the Netherlands
This was relatively simple, although governmental admin fees amounted to a hefty Euro 190 (£ 135). She obviously had to be tested by a dedicated testing station about an hour drive away, but classic cars get a special treatment, as a number of modern requirements (front lights!) don't apply. The main thing missing, and for that I had to return on a different date and pay an extra fee, was a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), since a chassis number “the old way” on a copper plate was deemed insufficient. So now someone has etched for ever 52825 in one of her main chassis rails! I did get a couple of good advises on repairs to be done before the next MOT one year from now, and that was it. From now onwards VOG299 has been re-named as AL-60-51, which is a contemporary number. Old fashioned number plates, white letters on a blue background, have been ordered. Like in the UK for cars of this age you don't pay road tax and there are no import duties, just the costs of the test.
Insurance is however much more expensive: compare £ 80 for a limited mileage comprehensive cover in the UK with € 325 in the Netherlands! Not taking into account that the valuation in the UK was free, while in the Netherlands I was charged € 110, to be repeated every 3 years!
Classic car show at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield on 5 May 2003
On May 5 we went for the first time with VOG 299 to a classic car show. Gawsworth Hall is only an hour drive through country roads and we wanted to support this initiative of the North-West branch of the DLOC. While preparing the car on the Friday evening before, I noticed a small drop of water coming from the radiator hose connection. A proper inspection revealed a split hose. Where to find a new one at such short notice? Luckily the solution was only a few phone calls away and by Sunday morning a new hose had been fitted. With wife, two children and dog we set off in heavy rain and half way the wiper motor gave up. Not a good omen, really. But by the time we arrived, the weather had improved and it turned out to be a lovely day in lovely surroundings.
More than a dozen DLOC-members turned up for one of those nice, relaxing happenings to which England appears to have exclusive rights. We met some nice people and we saw some beautiful cars (not only Daimlers). I was also able to help David Beales, who is restoring the engine of the JDHT "Green Goddess" (see below), with some useful contacts, and I had a really nice chat with the owner of the one and only Daimler Continental. This car was meant as a competitor to the Bentley Continental, but never was a success. I don't understand why, and if it ever is for sale, I'll buy it (if I have enough money and my wife lets me, that is). The colour, mistletoe green, really suits her. Our monster attracted quite some spectators, you obviously don't see many of them around, but she was rather dirty from the rainy journey and that shows on black! Another good reason for a re-spray, when the budget allows. And the mileage? Nine miles to the gallon. Hopefully we can pick up a new wiper motor on the next auto jumble.
Visit to the Jaguar and Daimler Heritage Trust in May 2003
On May 25 we visited for the second time the JDHT at the Jaguar plant near Coventry, also known as Browns Lane. They have a small, but rather nice museum there, a must for all Jaguar and Daimler lovers. It's open to public every last Sunday of the month and during weekdays on appointment. The first time visit was end June 2002, when we just had bought VOG 299. We were unlucky then, since most cars had been garaged elsewhere to create space for the official announcement of the new Jaguar XJ8 to the dealer network.
This time a special display of royal Daimlers had been promised and because there are quite a few DE36's amongst them, a visit now was a must. Much to our regret however this display of old cars had been postponed due to the temporary non-availability of a few key cars. We must have looked very unhappy, because as a consolation we were shown a separate building in which most of the JDHT cars when not on display, are garaged. Packed with amazing cars, each with their own special history, amongst others the last car of the late Queen Mother. Especially interesting for me were DE36 chassis 51740 and 51753.
Chassis 51740 is a DE36 landaulette from 1949 and originally belonged to King George VI, but was afterwards exported to Australia and used by the government of Queens land. Thereafter a Mr. Anderson, Mazda dealer in Brisbane, bought the car and she collected dust in his warehouse until he died. Charles Lloyd Jones then became the owner, until he exchanged the car for the latest Jaguar XJS (!) and Jaguar moved the car to the JDHT. I wouldn't say, that the car is in running condition, but she does run and interior and exterior of the car are quite good.
Chassis 51753 is a DHC and one of the green goddesses. This car has been displayed on several occasions last year, but currently the engine is being restored by David Beales and hence she is going nowhere. Ford America had restored the coach work immaculately, but never touched the engine, which the happy few that have driven the car since (but on hindsight shouldn't have done that!) can witness. It must have been awful, but I can tell you, a car without her engine is also a sad view.
A wedding, two trips in Wales and a breakdown
In June we attended with the old lady the Chester Festival of Transport on the Rowdee (the race course), parked next to an immaculate MG TD, which was dwarfed by our car. When returning from some sightseeing I noticed a youngish lad, who seemed in love with the black monster. Much to our surprise I received a week later an e-mail from him, in which he hesitantly explained that he was going to marry real soon and whether he could borrow the car? We obliged and the car performed flawlessly.
Encouraged, we decided that she was now ready for a longer run and we planned a 200-mile trip in nearby Wales on 9 July 2003. We drove to Conwy (castle and harbor), Bodnant (gardens), Betws-y-Coed (walkers paradise) and headed via Capel Curig for Llanberis Pass to collect our son, who had been walking in Snowdonia. And that is where she broke down, just before the pass at the junction of the A4086 and the A498. A part of the pulley came of and with a lot of kloink-kloink noises and frightening vibrations I parked her at the side of the road, creating in my nervousness also a flat tyre. Mobile phones don't work out there, but luckily there is a pub at the junction with a pay-phone and 30 minutes later the RAC arrived with a lorry. And so the old lady was brought back home, having done about 100 miles on her own and another 100 in a taxi.
A proper inspection revealed, that a heavy metal disk, rubber mounted onto the pulley (which in turn is bolted onto the front crank shaft), had come of. This disk is "glued" with rubber onto the pulley, its only way of connection, by the factory. After some 50 years the rubber had perished and the disk came loose. The disk is a damper, to dampen out any unwanted vibrations of the crankshaft. These vibrations stem from the different forces exerted on the crank shaft by the engine. It must be rubber mounted, since otherwise the dampening effect is insufficient. This rules out any repair, by which the disk is bolted onto the pulley. DIY-glues are not effective, and moreover, the disk must be mounted perfectly centered, otherwise it will create its own forces on the crank shaft. A second hand pulley might have perished rubber as well, so the only good solution is to buy a re-conditioned pulley including the disk, which must be properly balanced as a whole.
Now, for me the key question was, how important is this damper? Is it essential or is it a refinement? I asked a lot of people and I didn't get a clear answer. What did emerge was, that the risk for vibrations is biggest at high revs with a stationary car. People that run high revving cars or tune engines, told me that one shouldn't drive one yard without the damper with the risk of breaking the crank shaft. However, people running low revving pre-war classics were a lot less negative. So I decided to run the engine stationary at low revs, listened for any new noises and felt for any new vibrations. To my relief none were there. The next step was a few miles including a hill, to test the car under different circumstances. Still everything okay.
The final test was a rally in Wales of 75 miles on 20 July 2003 with a couple of friends having a Triumph Stag, a Morris Minor 1000 Convertible and a Riley 14/6 Alpine (open) Tourer. We drove all kind of roads, from a dual carriage way to unclassified, steep and very narrow ones. Needless to say, that the car performed flawlessly again. I drove the car in a normal way, which basically means low revs, and had taken the opportunity to replace the two fan belts, which were a bit worn. The rally itself was great. We went from Burton Green, which is near Rossett in North Wales, to the B5373 and then to Hope mountain. Then via the B5101 we took the A5104 until just before Bryneglwys. From there over unclassified roads to the river Dee and we had an old fashioned Sunday lunch in the Sun Inn in Rhewl. The next stop was at the Llangollen motor museum (worth a visit) and the amazing aquaduct near Trevor. Then again via unclassified roads to Eglwyseg Mountain and Worlds End. From there to Minera and Coedpoeth direction Wrexham onto the A483 and back to Burton Green. A wonderful journey which took us through some of the best parts of North Wales. The only burning question left: should I worry about the damper or not?
Classic car show at Cholmondeley Castle on 31 August 2003 and subsequent trip to The Netherlands
The North-West branch of the DLOC had chosen Cholmondeley Castle between Chester and Whitchurch, very near our home, as their second show for the year. And rightly so. It is a friendly happening in a very relaxing atmosphere next to one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the UK, with the castle splendidly placed above this all. The weather was just right and sixteen cars turned up in an area which was meant for only twelve, so we were a bit cramped. But that didn't matter.
Not only got a Lanchester 10 a second place in the category “cars from before 1950”, and a Conquest third in the category “cars from the fifties”, also as a club we received a first price for the best display! Probably not because we had such a magnificent display (we hadn't), but since we managed to convince a lot of the participants to have their cars judged in the central area (which was much appreciated by the organizers). In comparison, the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club had a really professional area next door, but virtually none of theirs car went to the central arena. That's not on, is it!
As you may understand from the above, I had taken the brave decision to look upon the (in)famous damper as non-essential and we obviously attended the show with VOG299. Not only did we attend the show, subsequently we drove her 600 miles to The Netherlands, to our new home. In total, from Friday 29 August to Monday 1 September I drove 708 miles in total without a single flaw. Terribly un-eventful for a good story.
VOG299 went on motor ways in the UK (yes, M6, M40, M25), through the channel tunnel, and again on motor ways through Belgium and the Netherlands at a steady 60 mph. And that at 14 miles per gallon, I was positively surprised. I will add some pictures about the journey, but I can tell you, it was quite a happening. Before the Cholmondeley show we stayed Saturday night at the Wild Boar, a pub annex hotel nearby which I can really recommend, and after the show on the Sunday we drove to the Chesford Grange hotel near Warrick to reduce the number of miles on the Monday a bit. We met a lot of interest on the road, were overtaken by most cars including lorries, but managed to overtake one or two. Oil consumption was minimal, and no cooling fluid was lost, although I must admit that we were extremely lucky by avoiding all traffic jams (Birmingham, Heathrow). Between Gent and Antwerp in Belgium we encountered a severe accident, but I managed to take just in time an exit and we re-joined the motor way at the next exit without any problems.
Squeezed in at Cholmondeley Castle (and if you can believe it - pronounced "Chumley"!)
At the Wild Boar Country House Hotel - Tarporley in Cheshire
At the Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth in Warwickshire
So we have moved back to The Netherlands (August 2003), although I will continue working in the UK by commuting between Deventer and Wrexham. That sounds worse than it actually is. Door-to-door travel time is about 5 hours. Don't worry, I am keeping a phone and an address in the UK (see at the rear of the Driving Member), e-mail and website stay the same, and I will continue to do the register. You will notice, that I have updated the register accordingly, there is one more DE36 in The Netherlands and one less in the UK. We will be using the car at classic car shows in The Netherlands and may be occasionally also in the UK. And it will give me the opportunity to write a bit about the classic car scene in The Netherlands and compare it with the UK.
During Autumn 2003, Winter and Spring 2004 the car was occasionally used taking care not revving the engine too much, and in May 2004 I decided that it was time to get the torsional vibration damper back on to the pulley and the front crank shaft. Wout Voerman, the secretary of the Dutch branch of the DLOC, had located a company in Almelo, The Netherlands, who could vulcanize damper and pulley together again, and helped me. So at this moment (June 2004) the front and the radiator have come out to create enough space to take the pulley off. We needed two BSF bolts of 7/16 inch diameter with threads all the way (the official term is “fully threaded”), which were quite difficult to get in The Netherlands, while it was only a question of minutes in the UK. But I feel almost depressed without the car. No possibility to look, feel, smell or drive, but I must be patient. It is all for the better.
While the car was off the road I visited the DLOC International Rally 2004 in Warwick on July 13. It was good to see many old friends and make a couple of new ones. The weather was fantastic, almost too good and there was a great selection of very different Daimlers. My favourites were a couple of pre-war DHC's and I have taken a zillion pictures. I will try to put them on the net, if my provider and the remaining space permit, since they are almost 75 Mb together. It was a lovely day and no doubt a number of people will write about it, however I have one complaint: where were the DE's and the DH's? There was none! And I do know, that there are a few around in the UK in good running order. Shame on you, how can the annual event of the DLOC really be THE event without one of us? Next year we must have at least one DE/DH present!
One week later my first experience with a Dutch rally was a disappointment. In Lelystad the largest oldtimer show of the year was advertised with slightly over 350 cars and trucks no younger than 1970. Too many American “beauties” and still too many “young” classics despite the age limitation. There were a couple of really beautiful Rolls-Royce's (including the wedding car of Prins Willem-Alexander and Prinses Maxima), an interesting Isotta-Fraschini, some nice Citroen Traction Avant's, but the rest (sorry) was run-of-the-mill. The trucks were good though.
Finally end of August 2004 I could collect my car again with the torsional vibration damper fitted. That same weekend we did in nice weather a well-organised picnic tour with the Dutch section of the DLOC in the picturesque area of the river Vecht near Ommen: one Conquest, one (pre-war) ELS, one Jaguar MK1, four Daimler V8’s and our DE36. The car performed flawlessly and the company was great. Lovely! As was the classic car show at Cholmondeley early September, where I attended obviously without my car. And where I fell in love with a beautiful red, a two-tone Jaguar MK VIII with incredibly gorgeous lines (sorry boys, this can happen to all of us. Sex-appeal, hormones and so on), the best right-hand hooker I’ve ever met, I’d love to have an affair with her (if my wife would allow). On the serious side, the DLOC had a very nice stand with 16 representative models. Beautiful weather and a nice turn-up of a fairly usual mixture of different pre-jaguar Daimlers and one Lanchester. But again no DE/DH’s. Where are you lot?
The year 2005 saw a couple of rallies in the Netherlands: one in the typically Dutch scenery (rivers, windmills) around the old fortified cities of Heusden and Woudrichem, and including the Dutch National Auto Museum in Raamsdonkveer (worth a trip). And another one touring the nice country side of the Achterhoek (cottages and castles). I also visited the DLOC International Rally 2005 in Grantham (without car), but found it a disappointment: I’ve seen nicer locations and the weather was cold and wet. On top of that no DE/DH’s. Hence no photo gallery of this event. In July I decided to waste some serious money on the car. About a £ 1000 was spend on a thorough service (including new battery, wiper blades, plugs, engine oil, fuel lines and filter, inner tyre), on replacing the not-functioning automatic lubrication system by 17 grease nipples (very necessary!) and on repairing the pitman arm, which due to malfunctioning of the automatic lubrication system was completely worn. The effect of this repair on the road holding was amazing.
Expenses thus far
Transport £ 300 (E.A. Downes & Sons from Shrewsbury)
DLOC membership £ 35
DEC membership £ 16
Basic insurance (laid up cover only) per 8 June 2000 £ 65.90 (Hall & Clarke, as advised by the DLOC), which was changed to comprehensive cover with mileage up to 3000 annually for an additional £ 21.65.
Cleaning, dying, conditioning of leather; chrome polish £ 38.16
Hammerite £ 12.80
Other bits and pieces £ 25
A few new tools £ 10
"Daimler Days", the 2 volume standard on Daimler history by Brian E. Smith, for sale at the JDHT (the museum is open on the last Sunday of the month or during the week by appointment only) £ 45
Great help from the JDHT and the DVLA £ free
Getting it ready for MOT, which includes much more. Checking and servicing really everything to the very last part: excluding VAT about £ 7200 for all labour and £ 2400 for all parts (tyres & tubes, battery, headlight reflectors, bulbs, steering box, brakes, servo seals, trafficators, number plates, clock repairs, all kinds of fluids, fire extinguisher, gaskets, bearings, oil pressure gauge, oil filters, spark plugs, "carbonflo", etc.).
Membership of the RAC (roadside, recovery, at home, onward travel and European) £ 223. This is a personal membership, so it will also cover our other cars.
Front bench new padding and leather £ 329 incl. VAT (Martrim in Middlewich, Cheshire)
New stainless steel exhaust £ 425 incl. VAT (Peco Exhaust Service, Birkenhead)
Import duties in the Netherlands € 190
New registration plates € 39.27
Valuation report for Dutch insurance policy € 110 (to be repeated every 3 year!)
Dutch insurance for a limited mileage comprehensive cover € 325 (note how much more expensive than the £ 85 in the UK)
A wonderful sales brochure of the Barker bodied DE36 hearse and limousine from Brian Smith £ 20 (I will put the brochure on the web site)
A book about Chester with two wonderful pictures showing respectively Queen Elizabeth (the later Queen Mother) in October 1949 and Princess Elizabeth (the later Queen Elizabeth II) in April 1951 visiting the city in the DE36 landaulette 51732, which was the Queen Mothers private car (I will put them on the web site) £ 10.99
Vulcanizing the torsional vibration damper back onto the pulley: € 960 for the vulcanizing by Egberts Rubber BV in Almelo, The Netherlands, plus € 400 for taking the pulley off and putting the re-assembled damper and pulley back on. Egberts Rubber kept the mould, in which the pulley and the damper were vulcanized, in case other DE36 owners would have the same problem. Egberts did a good job and can be recommended.
Service, replacement of automatic lubrication system, repair of Pitman arm € 1564.45
More work to the front and rear breaks to prepare for the December 2005 MOT € 897.93 (including VAT)
More wonderful brochures £ 45 (Also now on the web site)
MOT December 2006, including a new petrol filter and a new main electric switch Euro 483
A new radiator in April 2007 Euro 2167.11 (including VAT)
Obviously regular services (once a year) but furthermore worth mentioning:
another new tyre (in order to have one 7.00 x 17 spare)
new petrol pump, a revision of all brakes and a new ball bearing (rear, passenger side) in July 2009 at € 1028
new rear half axle in June 2013 at € 1741
repair of one of the two exhaust manifolds
complete check-up of the car (tappets, cooling system, all several oils, grease, points, filters, bracket on the steering column, new sparking plugs, etc., etc.) in July 2013 at € 2687
Diary of events
16/05/02 "wanted straight eight" on DLOC web-site.
24/05/02 first e-mail of seller (reply to my "wanted" on DLOC web-site).
31/05/02 first actual inspection of VOG299 based on pictures e-mailed previously. Bid accepted on 05/06/02.
08/06/02 second visit to Brighton and payment to owner. Collection of car, small items and handbooks. E.A. Downes & Sons from Shrewsbury (01743 368271) did a good job in bringing the car to our home for a decent price.
18/06/02 the engine runs fine, and the car was moved by its own power a meter forward and a meter backward. The petrol tank was still full with fuel. Basic engine and driving checks and lubrication.
22/06/02 the tyres were inflated to the right pressure and the car was driven a few miles on private grounds. We definitely need to do something to the play in the steering wheel.
23/08/02 the front bench was collected from Martrim in Middlewich with new padding and new leather (phone 01606 834480 for quick and friendly service).
05/12/02 the car passed the MOT. We changed the insurance to comprehensive cover with mileage up to 3000 annually and collected the (free) road tax disk on 6 December.
12/12/02 the car returned from the garage All that's left doing now, is some cleaning, a little bit of bodywork, mainly a re-spray, installing the trafficators and deciding on the rear lights.
28/04/03 a new stainless steel exhaust was fitted by Peco Exhaust services (Birkenhead, tel. 0151 647 6041, recommended).
05/05/03 visit to classic car show at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield.
June 2003 visit to the Chester Festival of Transport and subsequent wedding.
09/07/03 trip in Wales and breakdown at Llanberis Pass (damper separated from pulley).
19/07/03 decision to drive without damper. Installed two new fan belts.
20/07/03 second trip to Wales.
31/08/03 visit to classic car show at Cholmondeley
01/09/03 trip to The Netherlands
03/12/03 car imported in the Netherlands as AL-60-51
13/06/04 visit to the DLOC International Rally in Warwick (without car)
28/08/04 torsional vibration damper re-furbished. Car had been not running since May.
29/08/04 picnic tour with the Dutch section of the DLOC
05/09/04 visit to the classic car show at Cholmondeley (without car)
01/05/05 rally around Heusden and Woudrichem, visit to the National Dutch Auto Museum in Raamsdonkveer
12/06/05 visit to the DLOC International Rally at Belvoir Castle, Grantham (without car)
26/06/05 rally in the Achterhoek (cottages and castles)
07/05/06 seven miles rally Overijssel
And obviously many more afterwards.........
History of VOG 299
Registration number VOG 299 (validation character E) and chassis number 52825. The car had not been used for 11 years; the last tax disk was from 1991 and was for a restricted HGV. Genuine mileage appeared to be 74,383. VOG is a Birmingham number. The outside colour is now black, but there is clear evidence of grey underneath.
Help from the JDHT and the DVLA
According to the Vehicle Registration Document that came with the car, the date of first registration is 03/08/57 for a black car. However the chassis number relates to July 1950 as confirmed by the JDHT. So what happened between 1950 and 1957? The JDHT also confirmed that this chassis was only dispatched by Daimler on 26/10/55 as one of the very last and thus should have received its body between October 1955 and August 1957. Actually only two other DE-36 chassis were dispatched after 52825, being numbers 52854 and 52855 (these two chassis were the last built, in November 1953, and were dispatched in December 1955).
Our VOG 299 had been (slightly) converted for dual use as limousine and occasional hearse, but again rumour had it, that the car started her life as a normal limousine. Furthermore the VRD stated under "number of former keepers": "none since January 1978". This VRD (number M5268252) was dated 24/01/84. I have now taken the conversion out and it was obviously a later and not-original addition.
When our new VRD returned from Swansea, it showed "Grand Parade Garage" in Brighton as the first owner from 03/08/57 until 08/06/02, which is the date we indeed purchased it from this enterprise. It thus also proudly shows, that we are only the second owners from new. But that cannot be true. Neither 1957 nor the Birmingham registration number fit with this. A very helpful DVLA, we even received free of charge a microfilm copy of the very first (Birmingham!) registration document of 3 August 1957, couldn't shed more light on the situation. They also sent me a copy of the 24/01/84 VRD, which I already had, and another VRD (number D5058904) with probably January 1981 as date and also "Grand Parade Garage" as owner.
Careful analysis of the two new copies didn't tell us a lot, apart from the fact that originally the very first 1957 registration document did not have an owner mentioned and was indeed for a grey car. However, somewhere later in time a little note was glued to it with the name and address of "Grand Parade Garage". This probably explains why the DVLA thinks that they were the first owners, but it doesn't reveal anything on who actually was the first owner.
Related to the Daimler Docker "Green Goddess"
Looking through "Daimler Days" by Brian E. Smith my initial impression was that Mulliners Ltd. of Bordesley Green Road, Birmingham could well have made the body, but I couldn't find a body plate. On a hand written list of all Daimlers sold, of which the registrar of the DLOC had a copy, chassis number 52825 was sold in January 1951 as a drop head coupe. However at some later time this entry was scratched out. Brian Smith on page 734 mentions chassis 52825 as the one on which a Mr. James Melton of New York in 1950 had a two-door open-car produced by Hooper, of the Green Goddess type. The Hooper job number (or body number) was 9642 and the car was to be delivered to Mr. Melton in January 1951. On road-testing this drop head coupe was found to develop a wheel-wobble at around 50-60 mph. Other similar DHC's had too shown a similar problem. Some adjustments were made, but these did not bring about a complete cure. Sadly the records do not exist to provide clear evidence of the outcome.
On inspection our Daimler chassis 52825 showed to have received the benefit of modifications otherwise only available to other cars late 1952. These modifications effect improvements to the handling, steering and suspension and consist of telescopic dampers replacing the standard front shock absorbers (see also Brian Smith, page 752). The last note on file suggests that the body would be transferred from chassis 52825 to 51233. This must indeed have happened, and Daimler will have found a different future for 52825. According to the Hooper files James Melton took delivery of a DHC in January 1951 on chassis 51233. Chassis 51233 had previously belonged to Sir Bernard Docker, who had a DHC on this chassis delivered to him in June 1949 with body number 9352 (that is actually the original 1948 Earls Court Green Goddess).
My hypothesis at the moment is that Daimler kept chassis 52825 -with the improvements and after taking the Melton body off and storing it in the factory until October 1955, when someone bought it and had the current body made on it as a limousine for weddings and funerals. In view of the registration number this someone probably lived in the Birmingham area. It is likely to have been the Birmingham Co-operative Society Ltd., which supplied funeral, wedding and transport services and is still in existence, actually one of the largest now in the West Midlands. I found copies of their traffic department with instructions for funerals in December 1960 and July 1962, when cleaning the car. Also the seller (see below) confirms this: the only surviving brother appeared to remember that the car was bought somewhere in the mid-60's from Stratstones of London after previous use by the Birmingham Co-op. Stratstone was the main Daimler distributor in London. "Grand Parade Garage" continued the use for hire out in the Brighton area.
We probably know now why the vehicle registration document seems wrong, but still do not know for sure the first owner and who built the body. It could have been a Midlands coach builder specialising in these vehicles such as Startin in Birmingham, but that remains pure speculation. A chance meeting with a DLOC member who has access to the early files of the Birmingham Co-op, will hopefully shed some light on this.
The Birmingham Co-operative Society Ltd.
Being a bit impatient and not having heard from our fellow DLOC member for a while, I decided to start ringing around. The Midlands Co-operative Society now incorporates the Birmingham Co-operative Society and via their head office in Lichfield I found their transport department. As I expected no files that old were in existence anymore, but they advised me to contact Dave Clayton, now 55 and the oldest ex-Birmingham Co-op employee around. He was very helpful and I spoke at length with him over the phone. He joined the Birmingham Co-op in 1964 at the age of 17, so even after my two copies from their traffic department found when cleaning the car. But he remembered the drivers mentioned well, Harry Clive and Jack Stuart.
The Birmingham Co-op would always buy from new, usually one hearse and two limousines at a time, which would then have the advantage of three consecutive number plates (which indicates that very likely two other Daimlers have existed or still exist with a registration number around VOG 299). After about ten years the cars would be sold on and new ones bought. When Dave Clayton joined the Birmingham Co-op they had a fleet of about 8 hearses and 25 limousines, all Daimlers, although he does not remember how many of which type. Gradually these were replaced by more modern Daimlers. All hearses and limousines were sprayed in a dark grey, deep silver metallic colour. Not as dark as gun metal, but more a granite look.
The Birmingham Co-op had also one or two white cars for the bride and the groom with a driver in an all white uniform, but the following limousines would always be silver, as would be the hearses. They had no black cars at all. The limousines were equally used for weddings, funerals or as hire cars for transporting celebrities. Weddings or funerals would never be after 4 p.m., thus this was an excellent way to improve the use of the fleet during evening hours.
Dave also confirmed the suggestion of the JDHT. All cars came from Thomas Startin in Birmingham. At that time Startin's garages were at 1 Holland Road, Aston, Birmingham 6 (there is a motor way now) and as far as I am aware the company no longer exists. Startins would buy the chassis from Daimler and build the body, hearse or limousine, and the Birmingham Co-op would then register the vehicles, three at a time. A vehicle, whether a limousine, so passenger transport, or a hearse, hence goods transport, would always be registered as a HGV in view of the weight of these cars. Basic service of the cars would be done in-house by the Co-op, more elaborate work by Startins.
I described our VOG 299 with its vertical rear side and not with a normal boot but more like a shooting brake, and the double rear doors, one opening up and the other down (see picture).
He concluded that the car originally would have been built as a limousine and only later by Stratstones might have been converted for dual use.
Hence the double doors and the rear lights, which look much more mid-sixties than 1957. At the same time the colour would have been changed from silver to black.
A genuine hearse as bought by the Birmingham Co-op would not have had folding seats nor a rear bench. Neither would it have the 6-light arrangement of the side windows.
All leather and floor mats in the car are of the same blue colour and of the same age and look original, which also proves that the (now removable) rear bench is not a later addition and that VOG 299 indeed started her life as a limousine.