Daimler 104 Sportsman

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Daimler 104 Sportsman

1959 - 1968
United Kingdom
Straight 6
3.5 litre
137 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
104 mph
Number Built:
4 star
Daimler 104 Sportsman
Daimler 104 Sportsman
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4

The World's Most Popular Small Car

This striking coupe built on the "104" chassis, so called because the prototype topped 104 miles per hour and was manufactured by Mulliners using a composite alloy/steel construction. Technically known as the 4 light saloon it became universally known as the Sportsman Coupe.

Performance easily exceeded the 104 mph due to lighter weight and superior aerodynamics. Daimlers records, never complete at the best of times, show approximately 69 cars as having been built. The majority were fitted with the 3.5 litre straight 6 engine with tuned alloy head courtesy of Harry Weslake developing 137 bhp and nearly 200lb ft of torque.

This drove through a 4 speed Wilson pre-select gearbox. A special feature on most cars was the "Ladies model" dashboard with "juke box"styling with central polished alloy panel and special alloy switchgear. The handling was first class ,and driveability good, due to the unique Daimler fluid flywheel and Wilson pre-select gearbox married to a high ratio back axle and large servo assisted brakes. The build quality has ensured a high survival rate and these rare cars, and they are now highly sought after.

Sturt Griffith's Road Test

A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing circuit of typical Australian roads throughout New South Wales to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today.

While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We are not experts on the Daimler 104 and as such we thought it best to recite what Sturt Griffith's said, verbatim. We do refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Daimler 104 review below remains as told in 1957.

Daimler "0NE-O-FOUR"

The Daimler One-O-Four is a very special car. It is built, not to sell in large quantities, but for the owner who wants a distinctive motor car of which he can be justly proud, and which will give him a lively performance on the road. No attempt has been made to give this Daimler great seating capacity. On the contrary, the rear seat has been specifically designed, with the wide and genuine arm rests on either side and a generous (retractable) central arm rest, to seat two passengers in luxurious comfort, and to accept three on occasion. Having tested the very large postwar Daimler limousines on the one hand, and the lively-Daimler Century on the other, it is clear to me that the One-O-Four lies between the two. It has the dignity and luxury of the largest Daimlers, leavened with 100 mile-per-hour performance when required.

Apart from its impressive appearance, the characteristic which distinguishes the One-O-Four is its fast-touring ability. Excellent road holding and high gearing combine to give a very fast cruising speed in safety and comfort. Power brakes will stop the car in that smooth and rapid manner which engenders the confidence so necessary to relaxed driving at speed. Really keen drivers would prefer the steering to be a little quicker than it is, but such alteration would doubtless require power assistance for low-speed manoeuvring, which is not necessary with the present design. The only other desirable improvement would be the relocation of the tachometer (and its warning lights) to a position before the driver, rather than before the front passenger. I must, at this stage, make special mention of the interior finish of this Daimler. It is extremely comfortable, with ample leg and head-room, it has retractable tables for the rear passengers, and is finished in soft coloured hide, polished burr walnut and pile carpets. English craftsmanship of this quality is second to none in the world.

Hill Climbing

Because of its high gearing in top, the climbing ability of the Daimler in that gear is not startling. Nevertheless, it is remarkably tenacious and flexible at low speeds, as demonstrated by the steady drag up the winding River Lett hill. In third gear the car will ascend even difficult mountain passes in lively fashion. The gears and speeds on the regular test hills were:

BODINGTON (average grade 1 in 1 11): Top gear at 50-53-49 mph.
RIVER LETT (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 81): Top gear (for testing purposes) at 50-25-37 mph.
SCENIC HILL (1 in 10, maximum 1 in 8): Third gear in a lively climb at 50-25-46 mph.
MOUNT TOMAH (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 9): An easy climb in top at 50-35-41 mph.
KURRAJONG WEST (1 in 121): Top gear at 50-53-53 mph.

The power to weight ratio (with a load of 3 cwt) is good at 68.5 bhp per laden ton. Overall gearing is high, yielding a road speed of 21.2 mph in top gear at 1,000 rpm. As a cruising vehicle the Daimler is outstanding. It is a car which can be driven hard and fast over almost any type of road, since its riding and cornering characteristics appear to be designed for this purpose. On open country roads one will find the speedometer moving between 70 and 80 mph with the car sailing over poor surfaces rather like a liner in a calm sea. When ambling along, the Daimler shows unusual flexibility, as the engine retains its smoothness down to very low speeds.

The average speed over the test route was controlled to 46.2 mph with the car tending to be well ahead of schedule on every section. Weather was fine, but with some ice on the roads on the upper Mountains. The maximum pulling power of the Daimler (a very healthy torque of 191 lbs-ft) is developed at 42 mph in top gear, and at 27 mph in third gear. On account of engine smoothness and the fluid flywheel, the car may be driven in traffic in top gear. However, for lively overtaking third gear should' be used between 20 and 30 mph, over which speed top gear gives sufficient response. Times for acceleration from 20 to 40 mph were: Third gear. 8.0 seconds.; top gear, 11.4 seconds. Acceleration from 30 to 50 mph in top gear required 11.8 seconds.

Roadholding, Steering and Braking

The front suspension of this Daimler is by coil springs, and it is on the firm side to give good roadholding at speed. Front-seat comfort, with the car lightly loaded, is reasonably good. Comfort of the back seat is excellent under all conditions. The Daimler corners particularly well, and the equal distribution of the dead weight of the car between front and rear wheels, plays its part in preventing slide when the car is cornered fast on dry bitumen. There is very little roll on corners, but the tyres complain rather readily. The car is rated as very safe arid well designed for fast driving.

The Burman recirculating ball steering mechanism is pleasant to use and is not heavy, even when manoeuvring the car. it requires 4.5- turns from lock to lock and is only saved from the accusation of slow action by its variable ratio. The steering is well designed to permit women drivers to handle this car without exertion, and is noticeably free from reaction in the hands over bad roads. The turning circle is 42 feet, which is reasonable for a car of this size. Girling hydraulic brakes are employed and they have a total lining area of 220 square inches. The brakes are power-assisted by a vacuum servo-motor and advantage is taken of this fact to make both of the shoes in the front drums of the trailing type, thus reducing their tendency to fade.

The operation of the brakes is very pleasing. Pressures are moderate but ample "feel" has been left in the pedal so that one can control the great power available in the brakes at high speed. Fuel consumption was commendable too. At an average speed of 46.2 mph over the test route, the Daimler gave a satisfactory 19.9 miles per gallon. Taking the loaded weight into consideration, this gives 39.8 ton-miles per gallon, and a fuel-speed factor (ton-mpg, x average speed) of 1.835: both of which figures are good. At the foregoing rate of consumption. the large fuel tank gives a satisfactory range of 360 miles.

Behind the Wheel

The driver's seat is of the upright type with a high squab, and is very comfortable. The steering column is well-raked, the wheel is of correct size, and the column is instantly adjustable for length, so that any driver can be comfortably accommodated. The pedals are well placed and have large pads, but they are rather higher than is desirable. The driver's window requires 2i turns of its crank for full movement. Vision is good, the rear window of moderate size, but the traditional Daimler bonnet is higher than is usual today. The screen pillars are rather wide.

The rear vision mirror is adjustable in all directions, including a telescopic stem for height adjustment. It is particularly wide and is of convex reducing type, which embraces a wide field of . vision, but causes following cars to appear further behind than they are in fact. The gearshift is of pre-selector type, operating with the well-known Daimler fluid flywheel. This type of gear-shift permits any driver, to make faultless and instantaneous changes in either direction.

The instruments are unfortunately positioned towards the centre of the fascia. The speedometer, at the right of the instrument panel, can be readily observed by the driver, however the tachometer is inconveniently located at the left of the panel, and the other instruments between the extremes. The controls are well spread about so that each can be distinguished when driving at night, and extra fitments include a clock along with fuel and temperature gauges. Additionally, there is a hand throttle, choice control, petrol reserve, separate switches for the two fog lights and the two-speed self-parking wipers, washers and a rheostat for controlling instrument illumination.

Warning lights are also provided for high beam and the semaphore trafficators. The side lights, mounted high on the front mudguards, are equipped with red crystals to assist in determining the width of the car at night. The driver's floor has a separate ventilator, the opening of which is adaptable by means of a small lever. There is an open glovebox immediately in front of the driver, and a door pocket with a flap. The handbrake is well located at the right of the driver's seat, but the space available for it is rather confined.

Engineering and Body

The design and finish of the engine and chassis are in accordance with Daimler reputation. The engine has a bore and stroke of 82.5 by 107.9mm (long stroke), and with a moderate compression of 7.6 it gives a good specific power output of 39.5 bhp per litre. The engine has such refinements as a water-jacketed inlet manifold and detachable sleeves. It is quiet throughout its speed range. Access is good to all engine ancillaries requiring servicing, whilst chassis lubrication is automatically effected by the Daimler system. The massive chassis frame is supported at the front end by wishbone and coil springs, and at the rear by :emi-elliptic springs. Control of the front end is by telescopic shock absorbers and an anti-roll bar. Similar spring dampers are used in rear.

Access to the car interior is easy because of the wide doors and an overall height of 5ft 2;in. The front seats are of individual type, each 25 inches wide. They are align-able to form a bench seat capable of accepting three people in comfort. The rear seat is 47 inches wide between the substantial arm rests. A retractable central arm rest is fitted in rear, while each of the front seats has retractable arm rests on the centre line of the car. The seats are particularly comfortable and are generous in proportion, with high squabs. A small retractable table is provided for each rear seat passenger, these being mounted in the backs of the front squabs.

Interior finish is most attractive, with soft coloured hide on the seats, pile carpet on the floor, and polished burr walnut cappings on the doors and the fascia. Chromium window frames complete the appearance of luxury and there is a glovebox on either side of the fascia, and a pocket with a flap in the depth of each door. Hot and cold air for ventilation and screen demisting is supplied by an excellent heater operated either under ram or fan pressure. The quantity of heat supplied to the front compartment is adequate for really cold weather.

There is ample headroom in both seats, whilst legroom is good in front and more than sufficient in the rear compartment. Each side window is fitted with a ventilating quarter panel, and assist-straps are provided for the rear passengers. The boot is quite unusual, being almost rectangular in shape and attractively lined, it has a clear luggage capacity of approximately 16 cub. ft. The wheel changing tools are stowed in clips on the walls of the boot, and there is a convenient flat case which carries a goodly array of hand tools, each in a separate cavity.


The Daimler One-O-Four is an excellent motor car, designed and built for a particular type of owner. It is a reasonably large car which has ample power, and it is a delight to drive on long tours. For such use, the particularly good roadholding of. the car can be used to the full to cover great distances in a day if one is so disposed. On the other hand, the Daimler offers comfort and unusual top-gear flexibility when pottering about the city. Its preselector gearbox makes its control a matter of simplicity for any reasonable driver. This car is not only heavy, it is particularly strongly constructed and will accept hard work without complaint. In this way it would be ideal for permanent country use. In whatever location the Daimler finds a home, it will always be a source of pride and of pleasant motoring to its owner. The car tested was made available by the distributors, Hercules Motors Pty. Ltd.

1957 Daimler 104 Quick Specifications

Price: Imported saloon. A£3,700 (inc. tax).
Body: Five seater, fair boot. Overall length, 16ft 4in; wheel-base, 9ft 6in; track, 4ft 5in; clearance, 7in; tyres, 6.50 x 16in; tank capacity, 18 gal. Unladen weight (tank full), 37cwt; laden weight as tested, 40cwt.
Mechanical: Six-cylinder, overhead-valve engine of 3.5 litres capacity, producing 137 gross horsepower (R.A.C. rating, 25 h.p.). Four-speed pre-selector gearbox and fluid flywheel. Separate chassis.
Performance: 19.9 miles per gallon at an average speed of 46.2 m.p.h. over the test route. Max Speed (in touring trim): Top gear, 100.2 mph. At 5,000 r.p.m.: third gear, 69.2 mph.; second gear, 45.7 mph.
Daimler 104

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