Cars in Books, September 1972

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At a time when the new Daimler Double-Six is very much in the news and a new Daimler history has recently been published, I have come upon some more Daimler material in “Norah—the autobiography of Lady Docker” (W. H. Allen, 1969). This book will not necessarily endear the Dockers to those who read it, although Lady Docker endeavours to clear up the quarrel with Prince Rainier of Monaco and deals a back-hander to the Duke of Norfolk over their banishment from the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. This is hardly the place to take sides over the Dockers’ stormy public life, although I must remark that I find it hard to see why, if they thought the intrusion on their yacht by ex-King Farouk so uncalled for, they should object to being told that their 19-year-old son could not attend at short notice the Rainiers’ son’s christening, from which 400 other people had had to be turned away. However, to Daimler matters . . . .

Lady Docker devotes a chapter to the notorious Golden Daimler, saying “there will never be another car in history quite like her . . . !” This was the Daimler limousine which was covered in gold stars for the 1951 Earls Court Show . . . Motor Sport made its own observations about it at the time. Lady Docker had been appointed by her husband a Director of Hooper’s and it was her idea to create this Golden Daimler, to help launch the smaller Daimler model she had persuaded Sir Bernard Docker to put into production. Hooper’s Chief Designer, Oswald Rivers, was at first horrified but Lady Docker had her way, and gold leaf, so thin that she could scrape it off with her finger nails, was sprayed onto the panels, fittings, even the exhaust pipe, and the petrol cap and wheel hubs tinselled in gold. Lady Docker received a nominal £400 a year, but the clothes she wore to the Paris Motor Show with the Golden Daimler cost £7,910. Incidentally, the idea of using gold-leaf is said to have sprung from the shortage of chrome at the time, and brass would have tarnished too quickly.

In 1951. apparently, Daimlers on the Continent were being mistaken for Delahayes and Lady Docker was determined. to stop this. This book tells of how successful the star-spangled car was as publicity for Daimler’s. It was followed by the powder-blue “Blue-Clover” sports Daimler in 1952 and the “Stardust” Hooper limousine in 1953. For 1954 they showed a Daimler SP250 named, on the spur of the moment by Lady Docker, “Silver Flash”, its body, having been re-sprayed metallic blue-grey with only 48 hours to spare before the Show opened, because the original deep green finish clashed with the car’s scarlet crocodile-skin upholstery! The following year there was the “Golden Zebra”, a cream-gold sports coupé Daimler with real ivory dashboard, real zebra-skin upholstery and all the gadgets imaginable, including an ivory telescopic umbrella. I wonder how many Rolls-Royces that one sold!

Lady Docker had a £1,000 Chiberta evening dress covered in Daimlers, which she wore to a New Year’s Eve fancy-dress ball at Poole Harbour, with Sir Bernard accompanying her in a mechanic’s outfit. All the publicity cars, she tells us, went back to the Company and the Golden Daimler was sold in 1959 to an American motorcycle dealer, W. E. Johnson, Jnr., who paid £7,300 for it without the gold-leaf.

Another chapter in this remarkable book is devoted to the Dockers’ yacht the Shemara, built by Thorneycroft’s for £100,000 in 1938. She was an 863-ton diesel yacht with a 214-foot-long main deck and accommodation for twelve passengers and crew, soon to be requisitioned by the Royal Navy. She was sold in 1968, after an adventurous career, for £260,000. The manner in which Sir Bernard Docker was sacked from the Daimler-BSA Group is recounted, with no punches withheld, in another chapter. After he had left the Dockers bought two Rolls-Royces—ND 5 and BD9—and temporarily removed their account from the Midland Bank, while Lady Docker, opening a Ford showroom at Whitley Bay, found herself saying “Really, Fords are best. At least you can get spare parts”. — W. B.

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Frederick Warne, 40, Bedford Square. W.C.1 have published their Iatest illustrated “Observer’s Book of the Automobile”, compiled by Olyslager Organisation, which is up to date, even to inclusion of the Jensen-Healey. It sells for 50p.