A drastic plastic cocktail of a sports car with a menacing grouper mouth, fanciful fins, the road manners of a tractor and that beautiful turbine-like 2.5-litre V8 designed by Edward Turner, creator of the famous Triumph Speed Twin motorcycle engine. It’s a measure of the car’s hurried development that Daimler top brass hadn’t even checked rights to the Dart name in the USA, where the badge was registered to Dodge.
Rebranded as the SP250, the Dart might just have saved Daimler if it had hit the mark in the US market where it was primarily aimed. But this last-ditch effort fell short, and in 1960 it brought Daimler into the clutches of Jaguar, where the Dart was overshadowed by the E-type. The car is a quaint, distinctive curio – and rare, too, with only 2650 built.
If this has some appeal, that gorgeous V8 will really win you over to this eccentric glassfibre-bodied device. Best buys are later, less bendy B- and C-spec cars. Today, in market terms Darts are still overshadowed by the E-type, but they have been making up ground in recent years.
Forever in E-type’s shadow, but prices are rising slowly
• Until 2000 the Dart tended to sell in the £5000-9500 range. Anything approaching £10,000 would be very smart.
• In 2003 there were first signs of an improvement in values; £12,360 for a restored 1962 B-spec model.
• Four years later, in 2007, a restored 1960 Dart sold for £19,500.
• In April 2009 a restored example made an auction record of £38,900. The fact there was no rush of Dart trading shows that aficionados were aware this was a freak result.
• Last December a lovely 1964 C-spec version made £30,400; many experts judged it better than the £38,900 model, and a more accurate reflection of the market for top cars.