In each 'Spotlight' article, we feature one of our cars in more detail. First up is 'Queenie', the 1954 Daimler Conquest.
I will address the obvious question first; why 'Queenie'? The answer is simply that she was imported from England brand new in 1954 to be used as one of the official cars for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Royal Tour of New Zealand that year.
We don't know who among Her Maj's entourage rode in her, but I did recently meet a lovely local lady who was fairly certain her late father had driven this very car - he was one of a team of chauffeurs hired for the duration of the tour. Given the history, it was probably inevitable that some bright spark would acquire the 'HRH' plate for her to complete the royal look!
When I started looking for a classic car to use for the Napier Classic Cars business I wanted to set up, I had already decided that I wanted something from the 1950s as it would be a point of difference from other classic cars already in the Hawkes Bay area and just as importantly, its an era of car design that I love.
So, my mental check list ( I never wrote it down) went something like this:
After talking to friends, one suggested a local guy who had two Daimlers for sale. They were large 1960s limos and just didnt float my boat, lovely as they were. Too modern, too like a Jaguar and not distinctive enough somehow. I needed to really think about this.
A few weeks later I was wandering around the British Car Museum in sunny Te Awanga one day when I spied two half-forgotten lovelies tucked away in the corner (see photos below). The first was a Lanchester Leda and the second a Daimler Conquest with an intriguing notice fixed to the windscreen that read, "1953 Daimler Conquest - used for the Queen's Visit in 1953".
My curiosity piqued, I sought out my friend the museum's owner Ian Hope to ask what he knew about it. Ian told me that it was believed his Conquest had carried Her Maj's official manicurist during the tour. That lodged itself firmly in my brain ... this was something special!
As a relative newcomer to the classic car scene, I'd never even heard of Lanchester before and the Conquest was a Daimler model I'd not come across before either, so some homework was definitely in order. The first thing that struck me about the Leda and the Conquest was they looked almost identical - why was that?
Much maligned as it is, thank God for the internet. I believe more research is conducted today - and more information shared - than ever before in the history of humankind. There's simply no way I would have travelled to a local library looking for a book on the history of Lanchester and Daimler cars. However, one simple Google search and the whole story unfurled before me in seconds.
It transpired that Lanchester was one of England's earliest motor manufacturers but got into financial difficulties after the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression that followed, with the result Lanchester's bankers called in their loans and the company was forcibly sold to Daimler for a mere £26,000 - considerably less than the value of it's assets at the time.
The reason the Lanchester 14 and the Daimler Conquest look so alike is that the Conquest was developed from the 14. I subsequently read that a Conquest cost £1500 new in 1953 - around the same as an average house. This was no 'everyman' car.
Why the name 'Conquest'? The pre-tax list price of the car at launch was £1066 ... 1066 also being the year of the Norman Conquest of Britain.
Far more historic and technical information is provided separately for those with the appetite for it. Click on 'read more' at the foot of this page.
How I found Queenie
My interest truly piqued, I asked some people more au fait with classics than I am if they had any knowledge of the Conquest and if so, their thoughts about whether it might be a good buy. The answers were pretty much positive so I decided to look for a Conquest for sale.
A quick search on Trade Me in New Zealand revealed no less than four Conquests for sale - suggesting they were not overly rare so parts should be reasonably easy to find. I first attempted to investigate a lovely red Conquest advertised for private sale, but the seller failed to respond to my enquiries, so I moved on.
Next I found a dealer called Waimak Classic Cars located near Christchurch on NZ's South Island who - remarkably - had two 1954 Conquests for sale at the same price. After poring over the photos and a video Jesmond (the owner) had posted online, I decided to make contact with him.
Here is the video posted online by Waimak Classic Cars - my first close look at Queenie, albeit only online - I added the music.
Confounding all the usual car dealer stereotypes, Jesmond turned out to be not only a thoroughly decent chap, but also a bona fide classic car lover and he couldn't have been more helpful. After several discussions about what I was looking for, he recommended one of his Conquests as the better option for me and the deal was soon done, subject to an independent technical appraisal which uncovered no nasty surprises.
Short cut to two or three weeks later and Queenie arrived safely in Napier on the back of a huge transporter truck, ready to begin a new phase in her already long life story here in sunny Hawkes Bay. What did I find when I climbed in for the first time? Power steering and a heater - luxury indeed!
So far, I'm delighted with her and hope this is just the start of a long friendship. Her last private owner was 94 years old, so I have quite a way to go to match that!
WARNING - YOU ARE NOW ENTERING ANORAK-FRIENDLY TERRITORY!
Lanchester - a potted history
I wont bore you with all of it (trust me, someone had uploaded an inordinate amount of information!) so here are the salient points as I see them:
The three brothers Lanchester
This business was begun by the three Lanchester brothers, Frederick, one of the most influential automobile engineers of the 19th and 20th centuries, George and Frank who together incorporated The Lanchester Engine Company Limited in December 1899 retaining the financial support they had previously received from the two brothers, Charles Vernon Pugh and John Pugh of Rudge-Whitworth. Others who took directorships included the Whitfield brothers, J. S. Taylor and Hamilton Barnsley – a master builder who sold the business to BSA-Daimler in 1931.
Work on the first Lanchester car had been started in 1895, significantly designed from first principles as a car, not a horseless carriage, and it ran on the public roads in February or March 1896. It had a single-cylinder 1306 cc engine with the piston having two connecting rods to separate crankshafts and flywheels rotating in opposite directions giving very smooth running.
A two-cylinder engine was fitted to the same chassis in 1897 and a second complete car was built alongside it. This led on to the first production cars in 1900, when six were made as demonstrators. These had two-cylinder, 4033 cc, horizontal air-cooled engines, retaining the twin crankshaft design. Steering was by side lever not wheel. The gearbox used epicyclic gearing. The first cars were sold to the public in 1901.
In 1902 Lanchester became the first company to market disc brakes to the public. They were mechanical and on the front wheels only. The discs were very thin and made of a very soft metal like brass. Although probably leaving much to be desired, they completely fit the definition of a disc brake, and beat all others to market by many years.
The Daimler Conquest DJ250 is a series of automobiles which was produced by The Daimler Company Limited in the United Kingdom from 1953 to 1958. Based on the Lanchester Fourteen, the Conquest replaced the Daimler Consort. Sales were affected by increasing prices and by the fuel shortage caused by the Suez Crisis, and production ended by 1958.
The standard 1953 Conquest used a straight-six engine developed from the inline-four engine used in Lanchester's Fourteen and Leda models. The engine was made from cast iron and had a single Zenith carburettor and a compression ratio of 6.6:1. With a bore of 76.2 mm (3.00 in) and a stroke of 88.9 mm (3.50 in), the engine displaced 2,433 cc (2.433 L; 148.5 cu in) and delivered 75 bhp (56 kW).
The 1955 Conquest Century model had an alloy head with larger valves, higher compression, high lift cams, and twin SU carburettors. These modifications raised the power to 100 bhp (75 kW) at 4400 rpm.
The body was a slightly modified version of that used on the earlier Lanchester Fourteen. Apart from the grille, the Conquest was identical in appearance to the Lanchester Leda. While the Fourteen had been coachbuilt of steel on a timber frame, the Leda had an all-steel body, on which the Conquest's was based. The whole car appears to have been developed within four months of Bernard Docker, then managing director of BSA, taking on the additional responsibility of managing director of Daimler in January 1953.
Presented as a new car, the 75 hp (1953–1956) Daimler Conquest saloon chassis and running gear had originated in the 1950 Lanchester Fourteen or Leda.
The usual Daimler large cruciform chassis had a double wishbone front suspension, with laminated torsion bars, telescopic dampers, and an anti-roll bar, while the rear suspension used leaf springs with telescopic dampers.
The Conquest featured automatic chassis lubrication to 21 points, using a pump controlled by exhaust heat.
Cam and peg steering was used, and Girling hydro-mechanical brakes. (Hydro - mechanical = hydraulic front, mechanical rear brakes.) The cars had an 2,642 mm (104 in) wheelbase.