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OPULENCE & SPLENDOUR

Luxury and the artsFrom houses to cars and from Hockney to van Dyck, a profile of the best and the worst

A magical Daimler

Legendary 1954 ‘Docker Daimler’ heads to auction

 

Sir Charles Dunstone recently took to the seas in his newly refurbished 65-metre yacht, the Shemara. The vessel, which dates to 1938, was once owned by the legendarily extravagant duo Sir Bernard and Lady Docker and this weekend Dunstone has the opportunity to add one of the couple’s famous ‘Docker Daimlers’ to his collection.

 

The 1954 Daimler DK400 'Stardust' limousine would be an ideal companion for Sir Charles Dunstone's yacht, the Shemara
The 1954 Daimler DK400 ‘Stardust’ limousine would be an ideal companion for Sir Charles Dunstone’s yacht, the Shemara
Lady Docker in the car
Lady Docker in the car

 

Priced with a guide of £130,000 to £160,000 ($211,000 to $260,000), the ex-London Motor Show 1954 Daimler DK400 ‘Stardust’ limousine designed by Lady Docker is noted as “the car that nearly bankrupted Daimler”. It features coachwork by Hooper & Co. Ltd. and its bodywork alone cost a reported £12,500 (the equivalent of £299,000 or $485,000 today).

 

Finished in Royal Blue and silver with 5,000 hand painted silver six-pointed stars on her sides, Lady Docker specified the car feature a dancer bonnet mascot modelled on herself and hand-woven silver-grey brocatelle upholstery. Blue crocodile skin trim was used for the car’s aluminium cabinets and an electrically operated central division, fixed glass sunroof and double-glazed side windows. Four crocodile skin suitcases were originally included in the boot but are now sadly absent from the car.

 

'Stardust's' interior was designed to provide the ultimate comfort for Sir Bernard and Lady Docker
‘Stardust’s’ interior was designed to provide the ultimate comfort for Sir Bernard and Lady Docker
The interior of the car takes opulence to another level
The interior of the car takes opulence to another level
The car also features a stunning mascot inspired by Lady Docker herself
The car also features a stunning mascot inspired by Lady Docker herself

‘Stardust’, as the car was known, was shipped to the South of France for the wedding of Prince Rainier of Monaco and the film star Grace Kelly and the invitations to the ceremony are included with the car. By May 1956, though, the extravagance of the couple had reached such bounds that Sir Bernard was voted out of office by the BSA Group, the owners of the Daimler brand.

 

In turn, Sir Bernard was billed £50,000 for the construction of the five ‘Docker Daimlers’ (the equivalent of £1,089,000 or $1,767,000 today) and in addition the Inland Revenue added a further tax bill of £20,000 (the equivalent of £436,000 or $707,000 today).

 

To attempt to extinguish memories of the Docker era, Daimler ordered the five cars be stripped of their expensive trimmings and sold. ‘Stardust’ was found abandoned on a Welsh farm with a frost damaged cylinder block and restored to show condition in 1980. Geoffrey Francis, the heraldic artist who had worked on the car in 1954, was commissioned to reapply the stars to the coachwork and blue-dyed lizard skin was used as a substitute for the crocodile but otherwise the car is presented in virtually identical condition to when it was built.

 

Having spent a period in the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in California, ‘Stardust’ has subsequently spent much of the last thirty years in Japan. Now back in Europe, Bonhams state that the car has only been started “occasionally” and requires attention to its brakes. Whilst a little work is indeed required, restoring ‘Stardust’, however, certainly won’t bankrupt whoever is successful in bidding for the car on Saturday 13th September in the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale.

 

Update 13th September: ‘Stardust’ sold for a slightly £110,140 including premium.

 

 

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