In spite of the rain that day, thousands lined Queen Street to welcome the Royal couple as they drove by to the civic reception at the Auckland Town Hall. The car in which they travelled was one of six Royal Daimlers purchased specially for a royal tour – but not this royal tour.

On their arrival in New Zealand, the Queen and Prince Philip were driven along a very wet Queen Street from the wharf to a civic function at the Auckland Town Hall in this All-weather car, number 51709. Prince Philip reputedly stated that he felt that he was being driven in a gold fish bowl (Auckland City Libraries – Sir George Grey Special Collections 1370-378-2)

In March 1948 it had been announced that King George VI and the Queen were to visit the South Pacific, including New Zealand and Australia. It was proposed that Daimler cars should play a leading role in the tour transportation plan.

The relationship between Royalty and Daimler had its beginnings in 1897, when the first English-built Daimler was demonstrated to the Royal Family. In 1900, the first Royal Daimler, a 6hp car, was delivered to HRH The Prince of Wales, at Sandringham. At this point, he became an ‘automobilist’ – a great coup for the Daimler company. Following the death of Queen Victoria, the Prince became King, more Daimlers were purchased and the Daimler company could claim “By Appointment to HM The King”. So began a tradition.

Back then it was unusual for the Royal Family to venture abroad, aside from to Europe. As new methods of transportation evolved, touring the Empire became more possible. In 1939, George VI travelled to Canada and the United States. In 1947 the Royal Family toured South Africa. That was to be followed by a visit down under, in March 1949, and New Zealand became ecstatic with the prospect.

Daimlers at Hoopers, London in 1948. Taken from Hoopers’ brochure of the Royal Tour of New Zealand, the six brand-new Royal Daimlers (Photo from Royal Daimlers by Bryan E Smith)

Hooper-Bodied Daimlers

Following the success of Hooper-bodied Daimlers on the African tour, orders were placed with Daimler of Coventry for six such cars for New Zealand, and another six for Australia. The chassis (consisting of the frame, engine, transmission, suspension and body work forward of the firewall) was to be the new DE36 type. The motor was a 112kW (150bhp), 5460cc straight-eight, connected to the famous Daimler fluid drive and pre-selector gearbox. The wheelbase was a massive 3734mm – indeed the Daimler DE36 was the largest car the British motor industry had ever built! Fuel economy, at 4.25-5.1 kilometres per litre, was not a consideration.

To read this and other articles on the Classic Driver website please click here to sign up for a membership. Once a member and logged in, you'll be able to read all the articles on the site. If you are already a paid up member, please log in, using the Log In link in the menu at the top of the page.