The Docker Daimlers – The Golden Zebra

Daimler maintained its long-established position as royalty’s favourite in the immediate post-WW2 years and went about grabbing headlines thanks to a succession of ‘Docker Specials’. The list as follows:

  • 1948 ‘Green Goddess’, based on a Daimler DE36
  • 1951 ‘Gold Car’, based on a Daimler DE36
  • 1952 ‘Blue Clover’, based on a Daimler DE36
  • 1953 ‘Silver Flash’, based on a Daimler Regency
  • 1954 ‘Stardust’, based on a Daimler DK400
  • 1955 ‘Golden Zebra’, based on a Daimler DK400

The 1955 Daimler ‘Golden’ Zebra is possibly one of the most extravagant of any car ever built. With ivory-coloured paintwork, all exterior trim being gold-plated, REAL ivory interior trim, and the seats covered in zebra skin, it wasn’t the most inconspicuous of vehicles. It was ahead of the trend for the diamond-encrusted ‘bling’ mobiles often tailored to celebrities in more recent times, although tailored to a more sophisticated clientele.

The car had been dreamt up by Lady Norah Docker, a Daimler director who gained notoriety for her extravagant tastes. The basis for the car was a DK400 limousine rolling chassis, and its bodywork and interior were the work of the craftsmen at the Hooper coachworks in west London. The interior included a vanity case, manicure set, cocktail cabinet, a concealed telescopic umbrella, and when asked why she had chosen real zebra skin for the seat upholstery, her reply was ‘ because mink is too hot to sit on.’

Lady Norah and her husband, Sir Bernard Docker, chairman of Daimler, used the car for their grand entrance at the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956. It was to little surprise then that shortly after, in the May of 1956, a special meeting was called that resulted in Sir Bernard and his wife being fired from Daimler. With their creators banished, the Daimler show cars were stripped of their expensive trimmings and sold. In 1966 ‘Golden Zebra’, which cost £12,000 to build (around four times the value of the average house at the time) was offered for sale by Daimler distributors Henlys of Chester with 25,000 miles on the clock for only £1,400.

 

Bouncing around a few owners in the US it was eventually returned to the UK in 1988 by Daimler collector John Wentworth. During the 18 years of lengthy restoration which included sourcing the correct Kenyan zebra hides from a tannery in South Africa, John Wentworth died suddenly in the September of 2002 without seeing his restoration completed. It was subsequently sold in 2006, fully restored under the direction of his widow, for £177,500 – it now resides in the Louwman Car Museum in the Hague. It is rumoured that a mysterious seventh Docker would have been released in 1956 based upon an aluminium-bodied Daimler 104, although it appeared at the 1956 London Motor Show less the usual extravagance.

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