It was launched at the 1959 New York Motor Show, and its greatest success was in the North American market. It had a fibreglass body, four-wheel Girling disc brakes, and a 2.5-litre Hemi-head V8 engine designed by Edward Turner. The car was described as a 2+2, but the bench-like rear seat offered very limited leg room unless the front seats were pushed fully forward. Thirty black Daimler Darts with the Borg-Warner Model 8 3-speed automatic were used by the British Metropolitan Police.
Daimler were soon forced to drop the Dart name when threatened with legal action by Chrysler’s Dodge division, and the car was then renamed the Daimler SP250.
The original A-spec version could do 120 mph (193 km/h), but the chassis, a “14-gauge ladder frame with cruciform bracing” based on the Triumph TR3, flexed so much that doors came open, marring its reputation.Bumpers were originally an optional extra.
Jaguar bought Daimler in 1960, and were immediately concerned about the chassis flex. They brought out the B-spec version with extra outriggers on the chassis and a strengthening hoop between the A posts. There were also other detail improvements, including an adjustable steering column.
The C-spec version, introduced in 1963, had some additional luxuries as standard equipment.
2,645 were produced in total (all specs).
Jaguar built a prototype replacement (known as the SP252) with a neater body style but decided not to proceed with production.
Ogle Design produced a coupé version called the SX250, but this was not taken up by Daimler and the body design was later used for the Reliant Scimitar.
- Engine: V 8 iron block, water cooled, OHV, bore 76mm x stroke 70mm, capacity 2547 cc. Single central camshaft operated valves through short pushrods with double heavy-duty valve springs. Aluminium alloy hemispherical cylinder heads. Stiff 5 main bearing crankshaft, dynamically balanced. Compression ratio 8.2:1. Twin SU carburettors. bhp 140 @ 5800 rpm. Max Torque 155 lb·ft (210 N·m) at 3600 rpm. SU electric fuel pump.
- Ignition: Coil and distributor with conventional automatic advance & retard.
- Lubrication: Submerged gear oil pump with full flow filter. Sump capacity 1.75 US gallons.
- Cooling: Pressurised radiator with fan, pump and thermostat control.
- Transmission: 4 speeds with synchromesh on top three ratios. Provision for overdrive. Automatic optional.
- Rear Axle: Hypoid bevel 3.58:1
- Steering: Cam & follower.
- Suspension: Front independent with coil springs. Rear live axle with half elliptic leaf springs. Oversize dampers.
- Brakes: Girling Discs on all four wheels, hydraulic operation.
The following items could be ordered for the standard car:
- Wire wheels
- Adjustable steering column
- Hard top
- Front and rear bumpers
- Windscreen washers
- Fog lights
- Seat belts
A car with hard top tested by The Motor magazine in 1960 had a top speed of 123.7 mph (199.1 km/h) and accelerated from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.9 seconds. A fuel consumption of 25 miles per imperial gallon (11 L/100 km; 21 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1,489 including taxes.
- Spot-on produced a model of the SP250 in the 1960s, available in a number of colours including red and light blue.
- Crossway models introduced a model in 2007, available in various colours and with or without the hood up.
- Modesty Blaise had an ivory-coloured Dart in the early book versions of her adventures, and it also appeared occasionally in the comic strip.
- A Dart features briefly in the film The Fast Lady.
- A green Dart was used in the ITV Series Heartbeat in 2005.