Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

| 8 Nov 2021
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

Why you’d want a Daimler Majestic

Sales of the Daimler Majestic were hampered when it was new by its dated look and obsolete separate-chassis coachbuilt construction.

Conversely, these features add to its appeal today because they emphasise its traditional British qualities – characteristics that are certainly not normally found with servo-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, let alone with the option of a 4.6-litre hemi V8 under the bonnet.

Unusually wide for its day, the Majestic is delightfully spacious, wonderfully comfortable and exceptionally well equipped.

The high standard of finish makes restoration of a neglected car potentially very expensive, albeit all manageable by the enthusiastic amateur because everything is hand-finished.

Period road tests complimented the handling of this big car, with its minimal roll and gentle understeer; the Majestic had ponderous steering, but the Majestic Major enjoyed power assistance initially as an option, but soon as standard.

The Major’s oversquare V8 engine was a tour de force by Edward Turner, adding 50% more power for a 20% increase in capacity than the ‘six’.

It was 26lb lighter, too, and performance was quite startling for the day, with 0-60mph in 9.7 secs and a 123mph top speed from a car weighing just under two tonnes.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

Turner had taken charge of BSA’s motor car division (primarily Daimler) after the flamboyant Sir Bernard and Norah Docker were ousted by the board.

Profligate they had been, but they had many friends in high places and severe damage had been done to the group’s future.

Turner was a brilliant engine designer but faced impossible hurdles. He attempted to save the firm with a US-targeted sports car using a superb 2.5-litre V8 in what was basically a TR3 chassis, but the SP250 was expensive with a quirky glassfibre body and sales were poor.

An attempt to drop the V8 into the Vauxhall Cresta was swept away when Jaguar purchased Daimler in June 1960, but the Major went into production five months later and continued until the British Leyland takeover of ’68, its cancellation blamed on uneconomic engine production methods and tiny volumes.

Parts availability now is limited, but a small number of dedicated specialists can usually find the mechanical items to keep you going.

For body panels fabrication is the only option, while some used trim parts can still be found.

Images: James Mann

Daimler Majestic: what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

To check

See above for trouble spots.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic


Just 2044 cars were built with the big Daimler V8 engine, which shares few components with the smaller unit. Surprisingly, most parts can still be found.

Check for signs of head-gasket leaks on V8s and ‘sixes’; both are durable if well maintained, and have few vices. Beware oil leaks, knocks and rattles.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

Running gear

The running gear of these heavy cars needs frequent maintenance: check the power steering for leaks, joints for wear, brakes for neglect, and the tyres.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic


Modern for its day, the Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission was the only option and was at its limit in the Major: adding an oil cooler helps.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic


Check all the bodywork for rot, which is particularly hard to repair where the A-post and front wing meet: the front edge of the door pivots into the wing.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic


Burr walnut on this early Major, with a full set of instruments and leather upholstery.

A neglected interior can cost many thousands to put right.

Daimler Majestic: on the road

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

The Majestic and Major offered a traditional handbuilt quality from the ‘good old days’ that Sir William Lyons indulged for eight years after buying Daimler.

The cruciform box-section chassis had evolved from the 1937 Daimler New Fifteen but, with telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar, could still hold its own in the 1960s.

These cars need frequent maintenance, but the engines both reward with plenty of torque and lazy dependability.

Used Major V8 units can still be found for £1-2000 secondhand; their biggest weakness is the steel head gaskets that were originally used. Modern gaskets cure the leaks, provided the heads are in good order.

The Borg-Warner DG250M automatic transmission was at the limit of its capabilities in the Major; Mercedes fitted a cooler to this ’box and it’s a worthwhile, if costly, conversion.

Larger front brake calipers and pads were fitted on the Majestic Major. The cast-iron Dunlop calipers are very prone to corrosion if normal hygroscopic fluid is used, so silicone fluid is a wise investment.

Jaguar kept the Major’s specification under review throughout production, making numerous changes.

Most were positive: a deeper radiator; rear track widened by adding spacers between the hubs and wheels; exhaust re-routed from under the rear axle to over it; and late Majors had alternator charging, a limited-slip differential and power steering as standard equipment. But some costs were cut, too, with plain walnut veneer replacing burr walnut.

Daimler Majestic price guide


  • Majestic: £2000/6000/15,000*
  • Majestic Major: £4000/12,000/27,500*
  • DR450 limousine: £6000/20,000/40,000*

*Prices correct at date of original publication

Daimler Majestic history

1958 Jul Majestic launched: 3.8-litre ‘six’, Borg-Warner three-speed auto, all-disc brakes, 3.92:1 axle, 6.50x16 tyres

1959 Oct DQ450 Majestic Major launched

1960 Jun Jaguar takes over Daimler

1960 Nov Major production starts: 4.6 V8, longer boot, twin fuel pumps, 3.77:1 axle, 7.00x16 tyres, bigger front calipers, Girling dampers, padded sunvisors, redesigned dash, bench or individual front seats

1961 Sep DR450 Major limousine added: 11ft 6in wheelbase, eight seats, 110mph

1962 Majestic production ends

1964 Oct Power steering made standard; alternator and limited-slip differential fitted

1966 Jaguar group joins BMC to form British Motor Holdings

1968 British Leyland formed: 4.5 V8 Daimler production ends

The owner’s view

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

Talented engineer Peter Bristow bought his 1961 Major in 1967.

“It was already absolutely rotten,” he recalls, “I wasn’t a proficient welder then and couldn’t afford new panels, so I patched it with aluminium and pop-rivets – some of those repairs lasted until 10 years ago!

“It was my daily driver at first and has had only one eight-year spell in the garage after the torque converter failed; otherwise it’s always been on the road. The transmission is the weak point: I’ve had an oil cooler fitted now.

“I added a stainless exhaust early on and it has had silicone brake fluid for 45 years. I rebuilt the engine 10 years ago: it had done 150,000 miles. I had to get pistons from Australia.

“I’ve had the sills and some bodywork done professionally, but other panels I’ve welded myself and I had it painted a Jaguar colour. I keep it Waxoyled now!”

Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

Take a look at these alternative classic options from Jaguar (left) and Princess


Slower than a Major to 80mph in 3.8-litre form, the MkX had to grow to 4.2 litres to match the Daimler. More modern-looking, monocoque, with good parts supply, but equally rust-prone.

Sold 1961-’70 • No. built 24,282 • Price now £10-40,000*


With a 4-litre ‘six’, the saloon hit 99mph but the limo just 86mph: more for mayoral processions than chauffeured commuting. Luxurious and spacious, but lacked the prestige of a Daimler.

Sold 1952-’68 • No. built 4318 • Price now £5-15,000*

*Prices correct at date of original publication

Daimler Majestic: the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

Both the Majestic and Majestic Major offer an almost unique combination of olde-worlde charm with decent performance, handling and brakes.

Body rot and general neglect are the big challenges because these cars have been unloved for decades, but find a good one and it will reward with all the luxury and elegance of a Rolls-Royce without the snobbery and high parts prices. Just don’t buy a rustbucket…



  • Exclusivity and charm
  • Elegance and usability
  • Purchase and parts prices are very reasonable, if you can find them



  • Rusted severely from new, so survivors are likely to have been bodged
  • Prices are currently way below the cost of a quality restoration

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Daimler Majestic

Daimler Majestic Major specifications

  • Sold/number built 1958-’68/1490 Majestic, 1180 Majestic Major, 864 DR450 limousine
  • Construction steel body, steel chassis
  • Engine iron-block, alloy-head, ohv 3794cc ‘six’ with twin SU HD6 carburettors, or 4561cc V8 with twin SU HD8 carbs
  • Max power 147bhp @ 4400rpm-220bhp @ 5500rpm
  • Max torque 209lb ft @ 2800rpm-283lb ft @ 3200rpm
  • Transmission three-speed Borg-Warner auto, RWD
  • Suspension: front independent, by lower wishbones, upper links, radius arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar rear live axle, semi-elliptic springs; telescopic dampers f/r
  • Steering Burman recirculating ball, Major power-assisted (optional at first)
  • Brakes Dunlop 12½in (318mm) front, 12in (305mm) rear discs, with Lockheed servo
  • Length 16ft 4in-10in (4980-5130mm)
  • Width 6ft 1¼in (1860mm)
  • Height 5ft 2¾in (1595mm)
  • Wheelbase 9ft 6in (2895mm)
  • Weight 3920-4200lb (1782-1909kg)
  • 0-60mph 14.2-9.7 secs
  • Top speed 101-123mph
  • Mpg 15-23
  • Price new £2495/2906/3766 (Majestic/Major/limousine, 1962)