Daimler DK 400 Golden Zebra Coupé
Art or kitsch? Visitors to the Earls Court Motor Show in London in 1955 must have asked themselves that question when they saw this Daimler on the stand of Hooper coachbuilders. Its extraordinary characteristics are golden trim, zebra-hide upholstery, an ivory (!) dashboard and a zebra mascot on the radiator.
This extravaganza was the creation of Lady Docker, a former nightclub dancer who married Sir Bernard Docker (the chairman of BSA, which owned the Daimler company) in 1949, after two previous millionaire-marriages. Lady Docker believed that the Daimler marque was not widely recognised and needed to do something to enhance its reputation. She took on the role of stylist and as of 1951 she commissioned Hooper to build a new and ostentatious display model every year. This was the 1955 model, which was further fitted with a cocktail bar, a picnic basket, leather cases, and ivory make-up utensils.
Eventually, the management at BSA had enough of the Dockers’ flamboyant and indulgent lifestyle, especially since England had not yet recovered from the effects of the war. Sir Bernard was removed from the board and the cars were stripped of their accessories before being sold off.
The Golden Zebra had multiple owners and was restored to its original state between 1998 and 2006. Zebra hides were imported from Kenya for the upholstery. Needless to say, the dashboard is no longer made of ivory but a combination of ivory wood and sycamore.
After the BSA affair, Sir Bernard and Lady Docker were gradually excluded from high society and lost more and more of their possessions. They spent their last days in a bungalow in Jersey as tax exiles.