TED Smith had a guilty secret to reveal to the new lady in his life before he expected her to commit to marriage to him.
It wasn’t women or drink, but a 46-year long passion for... classic cars, and in particular Daimlers.
Luckily for Ted (75), Jean (61) happily accommodated the hobby and the pair of them have been driving to vintage rallies from their home in Weston Hills and carrying out repairs together ever since.
It was Ted’s first sighting of a gold-plated BSA Daimler at a car show during a school trip that sparked a passion that has seen him own ten Daimlers over the years – including a white leather interior version that once belonged to the English ’60s singer Susan Maughan. He also has a collection of associated memorabilia, such as oil cans from 1905 onwards, vintage tool sets as well as original handbooks and manuals.
The cars have all been non-runners and so Ted spent years tinkering on the beautiful sleek lines of various Daimlers at the expense of his personal life, until friends pointed out to him Jean’s message in the Lonely Hearts column of the Spalding Guardian. On their first date Ted picked Jean up from her Lutton home, not in the treasured Daimler he has owned for 26 years – it’s almost ready for the road – but in a Renault van.
After a few dates, and once he knew Jean accepted his hobby, the couple’s relationship progressed and when they became engaged their friends made sure it was in the Daimler, complete with champagne and balloons.
Luckily for Ted he had a good job in the print industry, which meant he could afford to buy up Daimlers made in the 1930s that he would then re-build from scratch, having been taught everything he knows by an engineer who had worked on Daimlers during the war.
Ted says he’s had as many as six classic vehicles at any one time, when work meant he had the money for his hobby but not the time, and in retirement he has just two cars – and limited means to spend money on them.
Nevertheless, he feels it’s only a matter of months before his beautiful cream and black Daimler Empress Series 2, with a special body by royal coachbuilders Hooper & Co, will be on the road. It still has its original vanity case hidden beneath the back arm rest, containing things such as a powder compact, scent bottle and lipstick. The only item they are missing from the case is the little hand mirror. In the rear, there are drop-down trays and up front there are ivory knobs for the – surprising for the time – electric windows.
The other vehicle is what Ted calls “a poor man’s Daimler” and is a Lanchester 10 – when the company went bust in 1931 it was taken over by Daimler. Ted bought it for £20 in 1966, one of the early acquisitions, and Jean helped him put the engine into that. It was made in 1935 and is in black and blue – it’s the car Ted and Jean have taken to all the vintage car shows, dressed in 1930s clothing, and it has earned a trophy for best closed saloon. Like the Daimler, it has no clutch but a pre-selected gearbox, a little bit like an automatic car, and has no seat belts, no heater or radio – although the front windscreen does open!
During 18 years of marriage Jean has more than accepted Ted’s hobby, producing new seat covers for the Daimler and looking forward to the day they can put it on the road. In return, Ted says he wouldn’t swap Jean for anybody else – and we think that includes the cars!