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J & M Classics Daimler Conquest Century Saloon

This review of the J & M Classics Daimler Conquest Century model appeared in The Diecast Collector magazine. July 2007.

This is the first in a planned new range of Daimlers from Sussex-based J & M Classics, to complement their existing Alvis and Healey models.

The Conquest was introduced in May 1953, and effectively replaced the Consort model in Daimler’s range.  (Daimler doesn’t seem to have had a clear-cut policy of replacing one model with another immediately, more one of running a wide model-line, dropping one only when it was clear that another had taken its place from the customer viewpoint.)  The Conquest was the smallest car in the range, and was aimed at the professional or business owner-driver, who wanted a large family saloon of good quality, performance and finish, but not too large or expensive to maintain.

Daimler had taken over the Lanchester company in 1931 and the bodywork and chassis of the new car were much the same as for the Lanchester Fourteen which had come onto the market in October 1950.  With its 2 litre engine this car was no great performer and it was discontinued in late 1954 when the Conquest had become established.  Daimler had given the Conquest a new 2433 cc 6-cylinder ohv unit with 75 bhp on tap, for lively smooth performance – 0-60 mph in just over 20 seconds, and 81 mph top speed.  This level of performance was very similar to that of the larger Daimlers in the range of that time, with larger 3 ½ litre engines.  The Conquest’s roadholding, handling and general road manners were all highly praised by road testers of the time, the car could cruise at 70 mph for hours without strain, and maintain good average speeds on long journeys.  It had a separate chassis with pressed-steel bodywork, and of course was well equipped, with a heater / demister as standard (unusual for that time!) walnut veneer dashboard and door cappings, leather seats, carpets, separate ashtrays for all passengers, and similar.  The gearbox was a preselector with right-hand column change, and this meant there was no large transmission tunnel, and thus even more space inside, another factor which did not go un-noticed.

The basic price of the Conquest was £1066.00 – many people believe that is where the new model’s name came from, being the same as the date of the Norman Conquest, but purchase tax lifted it to £1511.00, which obviously diluted the link.  Either way, it was a reasonable price for a car of such quality and performance, and the Conquest was a popular model in its class.  In October 1953 a sports roadster was announced, and in spring 1954, the drophead coupe and the “Century” higher-performance saloon joined the range.  Mark 2 versions were announced in October 1955 at the London Motor Show, though differences were few, a slightly different front lighting arrangement being the main one.  The Conquest continued in production until January 1958, but when production ceased there was no immediate replacement, though the larger Majestic (a development of the Regency “One-o-Four” model) came along in July of that year as an owner-driver car.  Jaguar took over the Daimler Company in 1960, and in 1962 the 2 ½ litre V8 saloon – based on the Mark 2 Jaguar saloons of course  - came along, so that might be better considered the spiritual successor to the Conquest.

J & M’s model is of the Mark 2 Conquest, and they tell me that the Mk 1 version is to be modelled as well, as are the Century, the drophead coupe and the sports roadster versions.  Their model is based on the earlier Pathfinder one, for which they obtained the master and upgraded it, and the overall effect is very good.

Casting quality is very good, and there is a choice of three colour schemes: Maroon, Dark Green or 2-tone Silver over Maroon.  Inside, the green car has green seats and door trim, and the others have red.  The seats are correct-pattern, as is the black three-spoke steering wheel and the dashboard is in wood-effect with the main dials picked out in black.  The doors have armrests and other details neatly cast in.  The underside carries basic chassis, drivetrain and exhaust system detail, in the baseplate, where the model details have been etched in rather crudely.

If I have one criticism of the model, it is exactly the same as with the original Pathfinder: the tyres slip off the wheels all too easily.  I think this is due in part to the tyres being a fraction large, and to the wheel centre not being dished to hold them in place.  Once the model is on the shelf, it is not a problem though.

Price of the Daimler is less than the usual for J & M Classics, at around £95.00, about the norm for a good-quality white metal handbuilt.  This is a fine replica of one of the British saloons from the 1950s, for which a model was sought for a long time, and is less expensive than the original Pathfinder is likely to be on the secondary market.  Your specialist supplier should be able to source one, though production will be limited to around 250 at most.

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