1937 Daimler 15

The Daimler New Fifteen, also called the DB17 was a large saloon/sedan car at the lower end of the manufacturer’s range, introduced towards the end of 1937 and offered for sale by Daimler in 1938 and 1939. During this time it acquired a larger engine, and by 1939 it had been developed into the Daimler DB18, its successor.


1937 saw the opening, in September, of what was intended to be the world’s largest exhibition hall at Earls Court on the western edge of central London. The inaugural exhibition involved chocolate and confectionery: six weeks later the Motor Show opened on 14 October. For Daimler, the star of the first “Earls Court Motor Show” was the new Daimler Fifteen, described in their advertisements as “the most interesting car of the year”.

Engine and running gear

The car featured a 2,166cc ohv straight-six engine for which a maximum power output of 56 bhp at 3,600 rpm was claimed. By the time the car was replaced the engine had grown to a displacement of 2,522cc with 66 bhp, and in this form would power Daimler civilian and military vehicles until well into the 1950s.

Although the word "Fifteen" in the model's name was notionally a reference to its fiscal horsepower, strict application of the RAC formula used to compute fiscal horsepower gives a higher fiscal horsepower category of 17 hp even for the smaller engine with which the car was launched: by this time, like other mainstream UK manufacturers, Daimler were using a notional fiscal horsepower rating to define the class in which the car competed rather than to identify its actual tax classification.

Power was delivered to the rear wheels via a Fluid flywheel transmission system that the company had introduced in larger cars at the beginning of the decade and which was by now a feature that extended across the range.

The chassis was essentially the same as that used on the previous "15" model but with wider track. The final drive used a worm reduction gear. An innovative feature of the New Fifteen was the fitting of “independent front wheels springing” in the form of coil springs at the front. The manufacturer’s advertising made much of the secure roadholding that resulted.

The body

The standard body was a spacious “six-light” saloon, following the pattern adopted by many British middle-weight cars of the period, but a more stylish four-door sports saloon, 4-door cabriolet, fixed-head coupé (1937 only) and two-door drophead coupé were also available and buyers prepared to pay for a body from a specialist body builder would have faced a reassuringly wide range of possibilities including a smart "razor edge" style.


Wireless set, four ashtrays, zip pockets below the slip pockets on the forward doors, tables and footrests in the backs of the big adjustable front seats, Thermos flasks in front of the rear arm-rests, a cigarette-box in the folding centre arm-rest, a fire extinguisher, fog and pass lights, a boot and door lined with rubber, a master switch by the driver's seat, a lamp under the bonnet, and a provision for a heater and demister. Engine finished like a show piece. There are electric lights in the quarters with two switches, louvres over the four-door windows, twin wind-tone horns, a lockable cupboard, two wipers, winding screen, and sliding roof. The Times' Motoring Correspondent continued "the boot is not very large and the door does not fold down to the same level. Entrance and leg room behind are but fair, and the back seat is rather upright. On the other hand, the wheelbase of the FIfteen is not long and this body is of the sports type. There is enough head clearance and the floors are flat and unobstructed. The spare easy-clean wheel is in its own compartment. The seating is luxurious."

Lanchester Roadrider

Both Daimler Fifteen standard body styles were available on a 4-inch shorter wheelbase as Lanchesters for £375 (Daimler £485) in a lower standard of trim with a 6-cylinder 1.8-litre engine and Lanchester grille. They alone could be supplied with a conventional manual gearbox for a further saving of £10, later £25. Choose a Lanchester and "you can knit in the back at fifty".