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Sixties pursuit car set to to sell for £80k

An ex-Met high speed patrol car ordered to target 'café racer' bikers is up for sale.

Back in black: the restored Daimler SP250 could sell for £80,000

Back in black: the restored Daimler SP250 could sell for 80,000

Date - 2nd October 2021
By - Chris Smith

An ultra-rare survivor of 60s roads policing that took on bike racing gangs is set to go under the hammer.

The immaculate black 1961 Daimler Dart SP250 that was ordered by the Met to take on ‘café racers’ in the North Circular, is expected to sell for up to £80,000.

The sleek convertible was one of 26 supplied as a pursuit vehicle to catch bikers who were gathering for races around London’s North Circular.

The epicentre was the Ace Café near Wembley, a transport greasy spoon from which they would set off for illegal duels or attempts to set records for reaching locations including sections of the newly-opened M1 motorway.

As the death and injury rate mounted quesstions were asked in The House and daily papers demanded something must be done.

The Met’s fleet of Wolseley saloons were unable to keep pace so the fibreglass V8, with a top speed of 125mph, was chosen.

The 26 cars were ordered between 1961 and 1964 and stationed at traffic garages around outer London to take on the bikers – which they did in significant numbers, lowering the accident rate swiftly.

There was a significant modification from the standard SP250 – a special automatic gearbox.

Darts were a four-speed manual but the Met cars had Borg-Warner Model automatics that had a shift in the centre of the dashboard which, when pulled, locked the gearbox into second gear allowing a speed range from zero to 85 mph.

Traffic officers had found this better for town and high-speed work – and the unit avoided burning out clutches from 18-hour shifts.

The top speed was achieved despite being laden with kit including an AT Head Calibrated Speedometer and Pye radio equipment. An electric bell was fitted to the front bumper and if that wasn’t spotted a Police Stop light was fitted to the rear.

The added weight and hours of heavy braking meant the cars got steel rather than wire wheels.

Buying the Darts was also a smart move by the procurement team at the time.

Early cars were plagued with handling issues caused by a weak chassis and the styling was controversial. The model’s creation – part of the flamboyant spending by company owner Bernard Docker – helped send the company bust.

The revised model – which included the Met’s order – were heavily discounted in a desperate bid to gain sales.

The car joined the Met as Fleet Number 240T in June 1961. Roy Orbison was top of the charts, Harold MacMillan was PM and petrol was not only availably but cost 4 shillings (20p) a gallon.

The Met disposed of 550 CLU on 30 August 1967, having been driven 97,325 miles in less than five years and it was sold on to a Mr Killamsy of 2 Winter Street, London SW11.

After years of hard use, its saviour was Claude Kearley, President of the Daimler SP250 Owners Club who bought it in 2007 and began a nut and bolt restoration to to concours standards.

The car has also been immortalised as a 1/43 scale collectors’ model and featured at the Goodwood Revival.

There will be significant interest when it crosses the block at Silverstone Auction next month. Bidding is likely to pass £50,000 and one similar sold last year for £80,000.

As well as Daimler and historic police vehicle devotees, a celebrity buyer is also likely; TV personality Chris Evans owns one of the other Met SP250s. TV presenters Quentin Wilson and Jay Leno also have examples.

It will be sharing the sale with the original Mini Moke from the iconic 60s TV series, The Prisoner.

240T comes with its original Owners' Handbook, correct police accessories, period photographs of the car in service, newspaper clips, V5s old MOTs and Tax Discs.

Richard Greenhalgh, Senior Consignor at Classic Car Auctions, told Police Oracle: “We’re very pleased to have it in our sale. It’s a beautiful and they are few and far between. The restoration was meticulous and we hope the next owner will love and enjoy this fabulous car.”

The sale takes place on Friday 12 November at The NEC Classic Motor Show

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