Jay Leno Ferrets Out an Armored Scout Car’s Secrets

Modern technology means that armored cars can be more discrete than their forebears. Discretion, though, goes out the window when you’re talking about ex-military vehicles, especially vintage ones. The subject of Jay Leno’s latest video, a 1959 Daimler Ferret armored scout car, is just such an example. But the armor plating is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Daimler Ferret is an armored scout car powered by Rolls-Royce

A camouflaged 1958 Daimler Ferret scout car in a field
1958 Daimler Ferret scout car | Bonhams

Both now and in the past, the armed forces of the world rely on more than tanks to fulfill their duties. And the Daimler Ferret, despite its looks, isn’t a tank, Autotrader explains. It’s an armored scout car meant to ferry around a small crew on reconnaissance duties. And it has the specs and features to match.

Despite its name, the Daimler Ferret has nothing to do with Daimler-Benz, Mercedes’ parent company, the Lane Motor Museum explains. Daimler was also the name of a British automaker. And in 1949, it was contracted by the British Army to design a replacement for the Dingo, a previous Daimler scout car. The resulting car, the Ferret scout car, entered service in 1952, Bonhams reports.

The rear 3/4 view of a camouflaged 1958 Daimler Ferret scout car
1958 Daimler Ferret scout car rear 3/4 | Bonhams

The Ferret scout car went through several revisions over the years, TanksALot reports. The early Mk 1s have no turret, while later models have 0.30-caliber Browning machine guns and thicker armor. The British Army also outfitted them with grenade launchers and smoke grenades, Bonhams reports. A few even carried anti-aircraft missiles. But all Ferrets have several things in common.

The Daimler Ferret scout car has a steel monocoque chassis and four-wheel drive with a transfer case. Its 9700-lb curb weight may seem heavy, but that’s actually light for an armored vehicle, Hagerty reports. Helping move that weight is a 129-hp 4.25-liter straight-6 engine designed by Rolls-Royce—yes, that Rolls-Royce. It’s linked to a 5-speed pre-selector transmission that includes five reverse gears, The Drive reports. And while it doesn’t have tank treads, the Ferret scout car does have run-flat tires.

Jay Leno’s 1959 Daimler Ferret Mk 2 can tackle quarries and urban roads with aplomb

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The 1959 Daimler Ferret scout car in Jay Leno’s collection is a mostly-stock two-seater Mk 2 model. It doesn’t have missiles, but Leno did install several cameras with a central screen for better road visibility. And that’s not a misprint. Because it lacks treads, the Ferret can legally travel on paved roads. That’s one reason why Jay Leno went with it over a more traditional tank.

Admittedly, it’s not a particularly fast car, Autotrader reports. The top speed is only 58 mph, RM Sotheby’s reports, and it’s rather loud. It’s also not particularly efficient: Jay Leno claims his car records about 5 mpg. Plus, the steering wheel is angled downwards, which is a bit awkward given the tight confines.

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But thanks to 4WD and a sealable hull, there aren’t many places the Ferret can’t go. And it can go 58 mph in reverse. The trickiest part is understanding the pre-selector transmission.

The Ferret scout car has three pedals, like a traditional manual. And you start off in first gear as per usual. But once you’re moving, you don’t have to balance the clutch and accelerator pedals. Instead, you move the shift lever to ‘pre-select’ the next gear. Then, once you’re going fast enough, you just press and release the clutch, and the transmission shifts.

They’re cheaper to buy than you might think

The Daimler Ferret scout car was a fairly successful armored vehicle—it almost out-lasted its nominal replacement, the Fox, RM Sotheby’s reports. By the time production ended in 1991, Daimler had let 4409 Ferrets loose.

The driver's seat of a 1958 Daimler Ferret scout car
1958 Daimler Ferret scout car driver’s seat | Bonhams

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Despite its age and background, getting a Ferret scout car isn’t necessarily an expensive ordeal. A few sold on Bring a Trailer in the $30,000-$35,000 range. Some examples auctioned by Bonhams have been even cheaper. The hard part is figuring out how to register it.

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