We look at what it takes to buy a great Series II Daimler Sovereign...
It is here more than anywhere else where you realise just why the Sovereign SII is so desirable. The cabin is British luxury at its very best, and you only need to spend a few minutes in the wood and leather-lined haven to feel completely relaxed. Few cars of this age can deliver such style and comfort, and things get even better on the move. Whether you choose six or 12-cylinder power, you’ll be treated to a smooth and wonderfully quiet power-plant with plenty of performance (just try to ignore those fuel bills), and it is even better teamed with the smooth-shifting auto ‘box. It may not be very sporting in the bends but the Daimler is all about relaxed cruising and it does have a truly superb ride. The light steering may be a bit lifeless but the powerful brakes inspire confidence.
The SII is more than capable of playing the role of long distance tourer and if it’s comfort you’re after, fully deserves a place on any buyer’s list. There may be a few issues to watch out for but a good example will be an absolute joy.
Daimler Series II
Power (bhp@rpm) 180bhp@4500rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 232lb ft@3000rpm
Top speed 117mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Rot can hide just about everywhere, and you certainly need to examine the area around the headlights, the front and rear wings and wheel arches, the bottoms of the doors, and the sills. Pay particular attention to the front and rear screen surrounds as any corrosion here is bad news, while any signs of bubbling under the vinyl roof could easily be hiding a host of frighteningly expensive issues. Check the condition of exterior trim as the cost of replacement or re-chroming – particularly the lovely fluted grille – can add-up.
Get underneath for a good look around. Corrosion can affect the front and rear valances, the front cross member, and the floor pan and spare wheel well. Lift the carpets in the cabin and boot as well if possible. Be sure to check the twin 10-gallon fuel tanks, as these can rust from both inside and out and replacement is a labour intensive and costly job.
Engines are fundamentally strong, but can be plagued by a number of issues. Chief among them is overheating, so a thorough check of the cooling system is recommended as remedying head gasket failure – particularly on V12 models – is a pricey job. Other problems include oil leaks from the rear crankshaft oil seal, rattly timing chains and worn tensioners, and low oil pressure due to internal wear (40-50psi of pressure when warm is a healthy sign). Excessive exhaust smoke should also ring alarm bells. Evidence of regular servicing by a recognised specialist will put your mind at rest.
Transmissions were a choice of four-speed manual with overdrive or the Borg Warner 65 three-speed automatic. Both are generally trouble-free with any problems clearly apparent on the test drive. Later V12 models switched to the GM400 auto ‘box which is considered by specialists to be both smoother and stronger. Differential oil seals can leak and the unit itself can become noisy at high mileages, while clunking noises as you apply, or lift off the throttle point to probable worn propshaft or driveshaft joints.
The complex independent rear suspension has a number of bushes that can wear. Replacement costs aren’t excessive, but the hefty kerb weight will take its toll on springs and dampers so a noisy ride will mean work is needed. Watch for any signs of corrosion around the front suspension turrets and rear suspension mounting points as repairs here can be very costly. The brakes are well up to the performance of the big saloon, although the inboard rear brakes can seize on little-used cars and an overhaul is an awkward task. Leaks from the power steering hydraulics and faulty pumps are also fairly common, so take the time to check these carefully.
A Daimler SII with a tatty interior is likely to have a disastrous effect on your bank balance, so it really does pay to find one in tidy condition. A light refresh is one thing, but if areas such as the leather seats, door-cards, woodwork, or headlining are too far gone, then you are looking at a hugely costly professional re-trim. The cost of this alone could be more than the car is worth so you’ve been warned! Those BL electrics are likely to prove troublesome as well so it’s important to make sure everything is working. Air-conditioning systems can be fragile too, so ensure it blows cold and responds to the controls.
The Daimler SII is a fine-looking classic and a very pleasant way to travel. Remember, though, that a restoration case could swallow huge amounts of cash, so look for a well-cared for one. There are plenty around so take your time.
There is something really special about a luxury British classic, and Daimler provided luxury like few other car makers. Based on the Series II Jaguar XJ and launched in 1973, the Daimler Sovereign version added some extra touches to make this lovely design even classier, and that alone makes it well worth considering.
As well as that gorgeous shape, buying a Series II means you’ll be getting a car with a truly cossetting ride, while opting for V12 power means it’ll shift too. And there is a good choice of models including a superb-looking coupé and a long wheelbase variant that added four inches to the overall length.
The poor quality of British Leyland products at the time is almost legendary, so as you’d expect there are things to watch for if you’re to avoid bankrupting restoration costs.
However, there is a great owners’ club and a huge number of specialists to call upon for advice. Getting a good one and keeping it that way isn’t as hard, or as costly, as you might think.