Sunday in the Park Blog: Steve Busch's Daimler SP-250
by Lowell Paddock, Sunday in the Park Concours Chairman
For the few enthusiasts who recognize them, the Daimler SP-250 roadster is a bit of, well, an acquired taste, mostly because of its unique styling. Said one contemporary pundit, “it looks like a chrome-mouthed bottom-feeding fish that accidentally sucked on a lemon.”
But don’t tell Steve Busch that. In his case, familiarity breeds respect to the extent that he owns 12 SP-250s ranging from the pristine, award-winning version he showed at the Sunday in the Park Concours in 2019 to various parts cars that are harvested for their vital components.
The SP-250 has a fascinating history, even if it wasn’t a smashing commercial success. Daimler was the passenger car subsidiary of the Birmingham Small Arms Company, an industrial combine better known by the initials carried on its motorcycles, BSA. Among BSA’s many human talents was the brilliant motorcycle engineer Edward Turner, who, in the late 1950s, was tasked by Daimler with developing a V8 engine that would turn out to be Britain’s first V8. Likely because of his extensive motorcycle experience, Turner developed an especially compact, twin-carbed, hemi-head powerplant that produced 140 hp. Initially intended for a sedan, the V8 wound up in a sports car instead, which, due to low anticipated production volumes, was created with a lightweight fiberglass body. Add to that then-innovative four-wheel Girling discs and the SP-250, launched in 1959, would seem to be serious competition for a certain sports car that Jaguar would launch in 1961. That might have been just fine — if Jaguar hadn’t purchased Daimler in 1960.
Jaguar supremo William Lyons probably would have put the SP-250 out to pasture eventually following the E-Type’s launch, but low SP-250 sales relieved him of that task. Among Jaguar’s contributions during the SP-250’s short life was an extensive upgrading program that, among other benefits, addressed the heart-stopping tendency for its doors to swing open under hard cornering. Though only about 2,700 SP-250s were built (including a limited number for the Metropolitan Police), owners praise their performance while staunchly defending their uniqueness – and that certainly includes Steve.
In and amongst the other SP-250s in his stable is an unrestored 1963 car that he plans to keep that way. “More and more people understand that they are only original once,” he told Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car, “and I already have a nice one, so why would I disturb what’s here? My wife doesn’t understand the appeal — with the musty smell and the cracking paint, she calls it the ‘boo-boo car’ — but I like the fact that I don’t to do as much to it, to drive it.”
Given that, Steve has 11 more cars to choose from, we’d happily welcome another one of his SP-250s back to Lime Rock.