The Daimler DE Range
What would become Britain's last straight-eight passenger car entered production in 1946. The DE36 featured a 5460cc eight-cylinder engine, which developed enough power and torque to haul its mammoth, 2.8-ton body along at a reasonable pace. A variety of different bodies graced the DE36 chassis including saloon, limousine and drop head coupe styles.
The "36" stands for 36 horsepower (RAC-rating), as compared to its little sister, the "27", with a six-cylinder engine and a slightly shorter body.
Production of the DE36 finally ended in 1953, marking the end of a great era in British motoring. In total 216 were made and it is unknown how many currently survive.
Peter Ruifrok (e-mail DERegistrar@dloc.co.uk ) from the Netherlands has been the DE Registrar since November 2002.
Anybody owning a DE, knowing about one, scrapped - it doesn't really matter, please contact Peter.
To read more about the Register see this link The DE Register and model statistics
DE's/DH's were infrequently used in movies. The only two I am aware of are "Schindler's List" from 1993 (with a DE36 landaulette) and "Four Weddings and a Funeral" from 1994 (with a DH27) (see www.imcdb.org)
Time line / history of Straight Eights
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Pre-War introduction and development
Daimler developed the poppet valve straight eight in 1932 / 1933 as a replacement for their slightly old-fashioned 6-cylinder 25hp sleeve valve engine. Announcement was on 13 March 1933. With 3.746 liters it developed 95bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 25.7hp). Hooper delivered two experimental limousines on a V26 chassis in July 1933 to Daimler and in October of the same year the first test car was ready for the road. The project received a considerable boost, when in December the Daimler Hire Company ordered 10 cars for delivery early March 1934. Daimler Hire was by then no longer part of Daimler. Chassis weight was 31¾ cwts, chassis price on introduction £900.
On the first of October 1935 the light straight eight was announced. Power of this 3.421 liters engine was 100bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 25.72hp). Chassis weight was 35 cwts 26 lb and the price at introduction was £775. This engine obviously could replace the older straight eight at considerably lower cost and hence end 1935 a revised version of that straight eight was introduced. The main external difference between cars with a light straight eight engine and the "normal" straight eights, are bonnet side vents on all (pre-war) light straight eights, which are thus lacking on the pre-war straight eights. This difference continued, when revised versions of both the normal straight eight and the light straight eight became available.
The revised version of the normal straight eight had 4.624 liters and developed 104bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 31.74hp). Chassis price on introduction was increased to £975 for the short version, respectively £1,050 for a long version.
Finally in September 1938 also the light straight eight was revised into a 3.960 liter version, with an RAC-rating of 29.8hp. The chassis price was £795. This engine is also known as the "4-liters" straight eight.
After WW II ended in 1945, Daimler introduced the DE36 with 5.460 liters having 150bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 35.91hp). Chassis weight was 37 cwts and price at introduction £1,300, although this increased rapidly.
Also the DE36 had bonnet side vents, although its engine is not really related to the pre-war light straight eight. DE36's became famous for their use in the Royal Tour to South Africa in 1947 (Royalty for a long time favoured pre-war 4.6 liter straight eighths and post war DE36's).
The final moment of fame came in 1953/1954 during the Royal tour of Australia and New Zealand, but by then production of straight eights had already ended.
And of course a number of (in)famous cars from the DE36 stable were the so-called "Green Goddesses" and "Docker Daimlers". At £7001 (£250,000 or so today) the prototype, built for Daimler chairman Sir Bernard Docker, was the most costly vehicle at the 1948 Earls Court show and probably the most expensive car on sale anywhere in the world.
Here are the few known cars:
the Green Goddess of the 1948 Earls Court exhibition (chassis 51233),
a sedanca de ville in 1950 (chassis 52823),
the Gold Car of 1951 (chassis 52830)
and Blue Clover in 1952 (chassis 52842).
Classic & Sports Car of July 2002 has an excellent article on this subject. Read it here.
The driving force behind the cars was Sir Bernard's wife Lady Norah and you can read more about her and the cars here.
The Blue Clover, 1952. This two-door sportsman’s coupe, was painted powder blue and gray, dotted with a four-leaf clover design. The interior was upholstered in gray-blue lizard.
Pictured at the Samsung Transportation Museum, Seoul, South Korea By Saratoga88 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
The origin of the DE36 engine
During WW II Daimler produced two different armoured cars:
Firstly the well-known Dingo with a 2.5 liter 6-cylinder in-line engine producing 55HP, which is similar to the one in the DB18.
And secondly the Daimler Armoured Car with a 4095 cc 6 cylinder in-line engine mated to a fluid flywheel and a pre-selector gearbox producing 95 hp, which seems identical to the motor used for the DE27 although the latter produced 110 hp.
By adding another two cylinders (each with 85.09 mm bore and 120.15 mm stroke) the engine became 5460 cc delivering 150 bhp.
Quite a transformation from a war machine to the most luxurious car ever built by the company.
The naming of the DE36 and the DE27 comes from their RAC-rating.
This measure was instituted by the RAC in Britain and was used to denote the power of early 20th century British cars. Many cars took their names from this figure (hence the Austin Seven and Riley Nine), while others had names such as "40/50 hp", which indicated the RAC figure followed by the true measured power. Later the RAC-rating became the taxable horsepower. Taxable horsepower does not reflect developed horsepower; rather, it is a calculated figure based on the engine's bore size, number of cylinders, and a (now archaic) presumption of engine efficiency.
As new engines were designed with ever-increasing efficiency, it was no longer a useful measure, but was kept in use by UK regulations which used the rating for tax purposes.
RAC h.p. = D x D x n / 2.5
D is the diameter (or bore) of the cylinder in inches
n is the number of cylinders
This is equal to the displacement in cubic inches divided by 10π then divided again by the stroke in inches.
Main differences between the "DE36", the "DE27", the "DH27" and the "DC27"
The obvious difference between a DE36 and a DE27 is the engine (a 5460 cc straight-eight for the DE36 and a 4095 straight six for the DE27/DH27/DC27).
In addition, a DE36 has two side-mounted spare wheels. The DE27 usually has just one spare, located in the boot.
Both the DE36 and the DE27 usually have bonnet side vents (not to be confused with the pre-war situation, in which the light straight eights had bonnet side vents, and the normal straight eights had not.
Pre-war bodies look quite different from post-war bodies however)
Daimler DE27 51282 belonging to John Hiscox (AUS)
Daimler DE36 52825 belonging to Peter Ruifrok (NL)
DH27s were specially built for Daimler Hire Ltd. They had air-conditioning, efficient heating, electrically operated partitions and special "sight-seeing" windows.
There is usually no bonnet side vents (DE27's and DE36's usually have). However, this is not a strict rule of thumb.
Usually two side-mounted spare wheels (like the DE36. DE27's have one spare wheel in the boot. There exists one DE27 with one side-mounted spare wheel). Again not all DH27's have side-mounted spare wheels.
One single Solex carburettor instead of the twin SUs on the DE36 and DE27.
A modified distributor was fitted and there were variations to the transmission.
Two propeller shafts were mounted in series, the forward one being supported by a rubber mounted centre bearing. The shafts were fitted with needle roller bearings and transmitted the drive from the gearbox to the rear axle.
The rear axle was of the hypoid bevel type albeit that the differential was located in a housing offset to the nearside.
The engine was not only inclined backwards but also positioned slightly diagonally to make room for the transmission.
Daimler DH27 52948 belonging to John Hiscox (AUS)
The DC27 is remembered as the first purpose-built ambulance of the post-war era, for it was specially designed to meet the needs of London County Council’s ambulance service.
The floor was low, for the ease of the crews, and a set of steps automatically unfolded as soon as the rear door was opened.
At 6ft 6ins wide, the Daimler looked formidable and a wheelbase of 12ft 6ins meant for spacious accommodation in the rear, even if the front cabin was slightly cramped.
One unusual feature was the concrete floor, which was to ensure stability.
Unfortunately, the rod-operated brake often meant for a literally unstoppable ambulance, and so the later versions were fitted with a hydraulic set-up. Another drawback was the fuel consumption of 8½ miles per gallon.
The handsome coachwork was mounted in an ash frame and early DC27s (identifiable by their single chrome stripes) were made by Barker.
Later models were courtesy of Hooper, and sported twin coachlines.
The DC27 was widely used in London (shown here in Surrey County Council Livery).
Image Credit: Peter Edgeler - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
London County Council had over 200 DC27 ambulances and they were also seen across the country, from the Isle of Wight to Salford.
Production ceased in 1953, after 500 chassis, but the Daimler remained in service for many years afterwards; the LCC demobbed its last example as late as 1964.
Daimler DE’s were bodied by a limited number of companies, first and foremost by Hooper, at that time part of the Daimler Group of companies. Secondly by Barker, the in-house Daimler coach builder. A fair number have coachwork by Windovers, plus some by Freestone & Webb. Finally, there are a few one-offs:
Windovers bodied 41 DE27s, of which 20 are still known to exist. Furthermore, they bodied 10 DE36s, of which 5 are still alivFreestone & Webb bodied 12 DE27s of which 5 still exist, and bodied 8 DE36s of which also 5 still exist. This “razor edge” coachwork is in my opinion the most beautiful.
For the one-offs no manufacturing records are available. This automatically means that these cars are mentioned here because they are still alive. Their coachwork resembles Barkers (except of course the two allweathers):
Startin 1 DE36 limousine
Charlesworth 1 DE27 limousine
Vandenplas 2 DE27s allweathers
Martin & King 1 DE27 limousine
Dottridge 1 DE27 hearse
Equally, it is not known how many bodies were made by Barker. 14 DE27s and 7 DE36s still exist.
The rest, the vast majority, were done by Hooper.
Autocar Road Test Daimler DE27 16th January 1948
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The Motor Road Test
Daimler DE36 Straight Eight 17th December 1947
Click to expand