Meeting the "I" from Withnail to discuss the Dockers

6

Author: Martin BuckleyPublished:

Last week I was interviewed about Lady Docker for a Sky series on the British motor industry.

The man asking the questions was Paul McGann, former Dr Who and one of the stars of Withnail and I. He told me that his one and only everyday car is a Rover 3.5 Litre Coupé that he has owned for years, so top marks for that.

With no Docker cars around to film in the UK (unless someone knows differently) the production team got permission from the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust to shoot us next to a straight 8 DE36 'Green Goddess' Hooper drophead, a vehicle I was vaguely aware of, but had never seen in the metal.

It was truly a car in the spirit of Lady Docker, a humungous five-seater with power windows and hood (which disappears under a metal cover); just right for Cruella Deville.

It just seemed to be awaiting some chrome and its three-abreast front seat refitting – I’d love to do a story on it when it’s back in one piece. The back seats were two completely individual fold-up armchairs.

I think the Dockers did use these Hooper Dropheads (there were eight I believe) before they began with their own particular brand of gold-spangled show cars.

I can’t help thinking that any other straight-eight car with a body as beautiful and dramatic as this would have people dribbling all over it at Pebble Beach or Lake Como, but because it’s British, a Daimler and it didn’t win a race, it gets a bit forgotten.

Jaguar/JDHT should dust off some of these glamorous Daimlers and get them out there for people to see; pre-war there was that amazing low-chassis Double Six, too.

And why have the Docker cars not been tracked down – the Gold car, Silver Flash, Stardust, Golden Zebra? Do they even still exist?

On a depressing side-note, we met the production crew at what’s left of the old Browns Lane factory and, gazing over it, I wondered if Fiat would have allowed such a tedious estate of semi-detached houses to have been built on the site of Ferrari factory at Maranello.

I was really quite shocked. We did the interview in a the JDHT’s secret warehouse and I had to follow the E-type roadster 77 RW through the Coventry hinterland to find it, which had a slightly surreal feel about it.

It was interesting watching people’s reactions; little boys were still stunned by the thing, pointing and jumping up and down. Nice to see.

Comments

DUESIE

Seriously Martin, there is your next mission. I can't believe such well publicised extravagances could just vanish. I have to say I have a perverted admiration for the old bag, Daimler was not the first name to spring to mind when discussing glamourous cars in the fifties, but combined with her flair for the outrageous, some classic lines from Hooper, an indulgent hubby and a willing press were they not as big as Elvis? Or Rainier and Kelly? McMillan was surely talking about them with his "never had it so good" malarkey. So where did the cars go? Go fetch Martin! There must be a good book in there somehwere. I have an old C&SC I read recently with a feature on that old Gulbenkian Rolls that was locked up in a redundant night club in Nice, and I bet that is still accounted for. Even the Batmobile and a load of old Maharaja's cars are still known, so where did the Docker Daimlers go? Maybe they became Jaguar property at the time of the takeover? There's a place to start anyway.

GBt

Hi

I think the Docker coups that followed on were considered totally out of tune with the era of austerity post war.

The shareholders and other board members didnt aprove of their stodgy Conquests and Lanchester 10s and 14s having such crass associations , albeit there was a reasonably attractive, or so Norman Wisdom thought, sportster version of the Century.

That is why the Dockers were ousted and Edward Turner co-opted onto the board as chief engineer and MD-thats how the Triumph BSA association came about .

 The 1959, didnt google it so maybe inacurate, you've never had it so good, there were a plethoria of new cars, my Dad was persuaded to try a new Farina 6/99 and before buying one in 1960, mum got a new Austin Seven, on 30 th December 1959!

 Had Jag gone ahead with a Daimler V8 Mark 10, maybe a 2 door coupe would have been in the same mould as the Docker Coups. However some Yanks said it looked like a Hudson Hornet, good news for a late 40s stepdown, not necessarily for a 60s Daimler version.

The kiddies hereabouts can watch replays of Cars to see what one of those looked like-it has Paul Newman giving the voiceover-sorry you are far to young to know who he was!

The Lady D association drove the Royals straight from the arms of their beloved Lanchesters into those of Royce, but HRH Philip of greece, did at least buy the second Daimler V8 engined Ogle.

 

cheers GAv

julianem

Can't think of anything more vulgar than the Docker Daimlers, so yes, get after them Martin. You're right; if they were French or American we'd be salivating all over them already.

Why wasn't Paul McGann in a clapped out Mk 2 Jag?

julianem

Can't think of anything more vulgar than the Docker Daimlers, so yes, get after them Martin. You're right; if they were French or American we'd be salivating all over them already.

Why wasn't Paul McGann in a clapped out Mk 2 Jag?

AndrewWA

One of them - the Zebra Car I think - is in the fantastic Louwman Museum in the Netherlands - well worth a visit. Whilst you can get all left-wing and radical about it, I do think that the cars need to be celebrated for their over-the-top extravagance. I would much rather see a car like that at a show than a row of rather dull British saloons from Austin, Morris, BL, Vauxhall, Ford etc.

Oh and Fiat would not have much of an issue with selling off Maranello in need I think - just go an have a look at the old Alfa plant at Arese sometime - Fiat has a fantastic skill for screwing up their heritage when they get a chance to play with it. I bet there is a dead Lancia factory or two about the place as well!

Andrew Stevens

Filby

Interesting that after the mention of the Green Goddess, and Norman Wisdom, nobody has made the link to Wisdom's first film "Trouble in Store" made in 1953.

In the opening scene, Norman plays commuter havoc with Jerry Desmonde who is being driven to their same place of work in a chauffeur driven Green Goddess.

When featured, the Daimler wore the registration number HUC 680 (or MUC 680?). It would appear that this particular car's styling details match that of the Green Goddess currently owned by Clive Cussler and displayed in his museum collection at Arvada, Colorado.

Since the film, the car now wears non original paint and a different UK registration plate. Perhaps this majestic car sparked Wisdom's interest in the Daimler marque. He went on to own a Conquest drophead, which still survives. Registered PYM 575, this too appeared in his next film to dress a garage film set, see:
http://imcdb.org/vehicle_504087-Daimler-Conquest-Drophead-Coupe-1955.html

So Martin, with all this celebrity stuff, what better place to commence your article??

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