February 11, 2014

Daimler Dart

When you drive a Daimler Dart you uncover one of the best kept secrets of British classic cars. The glorious 2.5 litre V8 engine simply purrs whilst the superb overdrive gearbox places its power firmly in your hands. But if your Dart looks like a dog’s dinner on the outside – with fissured, cracked paint marring its sleek contours – it can easily colour your judgement. Here’s how we applied our classic car restoration knowledge and expertise to make a Dart look as good on the outside as it performs on the road.

The Daimler Dart – a rare British classic

The Daimler Dart was manufactured in Coventry from 1959 to 1964. It launched at the New York Motor Show and always had the American market held firmly in its sights. Quickly renamed the SP250 – after threatened legal action from Chrysler – the car remains the Dart in the hearts and minds of classic car enthusiasts who care little for such niceties.

There were just 2640 Darts produced and it is estimated that only 700 remain in the UK. We were overjoyed to be asked to bring one of these back to its former glory.

Restoring the Daimler Dart

The Dart we were asked to restore had suffered over the years under the hands of resprayers. There must have been 15 layers of paints applied to it and all over its body the paint was cracking. Part of the problem was that the paint had been applied so thickly to mask the cracks on previous layers, but the main issue was that those who had tried to address the cracked paint did not understand how the Dart was built.

The Dart was made using fibreglass for its body – or GRP (glass reinforced plastic) as it is often called. It was one of the first UK sports cars to use GRP having been popularised by its use on the Chevrolet Corvette C1 in the States. The benefit of GRP to such manufacturers was that it offered a low-cost alternative that was easier to work than sheet metal. This made it ideal for building prototypes and low volume production cars. In addition the stuff can’t be dented and will not corrode.

GRP does have drawbacks, however, and the problem with our Dart’s paintwork was directly related to the material used for its body. Any car with a GRP body will always suffer some degree of movement – and the more layers of paint there are the more the cracks will start to show.

Here’s what we did to make the Dart look as good as new once again.

1. We mechanically removed all the layers of paint.
Great care is needed because the GRP has a gel coat applied to it that must not be removed. Another difficulty we faced was the danger that the orbital sander used to remove the paint is strong enough to sand out the shape that the GRP has been moulded to. Any mistakes here could be very costly indeed.

2. Any minor repairs that may be needed to the GRP are painstakingly undertaken before applying primer.
Working with GRP the only primer that should be used is a polyester primer but you’ll be amazed how many places don’t know this. Polyester primers are very tough and extremely durable – they are also thick enough to fill the GRP up to the desired level. Once applied this primer is sanded smooth.

3. We placed a 2K high build primer over the top for extra protection.
Once sanded down the Dart is in perfect condition and ready for the finishing touches.

4. A top coat of 2K direct gloss paint leaves the true glory of this classic car plain for all to see.

There you have it – the ‘class’ firmly placed into one more classic car.


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