The ex-Harrah Collection
1948 Daimler DE-36 'Green Goddess' Drop-Head Coupe
Coachwork by Hooper & Co. Ltd
Chassis no. 52802
This marvelous and immense automobile is the third of just seven Daimler DE-36 Hooper-bodied 'Green Goddess' drop-head coupes built between 1948 and 1953. More than 20 feet long and just under 80 inches wide, the super-sized drop-top weighs more than three tons. Beautifully streamlined and sumptuously appointed, the Daimler DE 36 drop-head ranks, both in size and prestige, among the most prominent automobiles ever constructed.
The original Hooper DE-36 drop-head show car dominated the Daimler stand at the 1948 Earls Court British Motor Show. The massive convertible was dubbed "the Green Goddess" by the motoring press, in tribute to its special jade green paint. Following its debut showing, the Green Goddess was put into the service of Sir Bernard Docker, then chairman of Birmingham Small Arms (BSA), the conglomerate that owned the British Daimler Motor Company.
Sir Bernard seems to have enjoyed 'living large,' both figuratively and literally. His yacht, the 863-ton Shemera, was the most massive privately owned boat of its type in Englandand his personal Daimler was similarly unsurpassed on the roadway.
After Sir Bernard married in 1949, he and his wife, Lady Nora Docker, immersed themselves in a jet-set life style that made them darlings of the British tabloid press. Lady Nora also made a name for herself in automotive circles, as in the early 1950s she personally designed a series of spectacularly stylish Daimler show cars known collectively as, "the Docker Daimlers."
Dating to 1897, the British Daimler was the first car manufactured in England. The car was named for the German Daimler engine associated with the earliest examples, but the two concerns were always separate entities. An on-going association with the British Royal Family began when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) selected a Daimler for his first automobile in 1898.
The onset of World War II's tribulations in 1939 spurred Daimler to fully convert to the production of military materiel. By the time peace came in the spring of 1945, enemy bombing had reduced seventy percent of the Daimler works complex to rubble. Even so, production of the super-premium Daimler DE-36 chassis got underway in 1946.
The 147-inch wheelbase Daimler DE-36 chassis was powered by a 150hp straight-eight displacing 5460cc (5.4L). The large, silky smooth engine was coupled to a Daimler Fluid Flywheel transmission, controlled by a pre-selector mechanism. Factory documents indicate as many as 216 DE-36 chassis were built, with the final units being dispatched in 1953.
As would be expected, the lengthy DE-36 chassis were most often fitted with heavy, formal limousine coachwork. Delightful exceptions to the rule were the six magnificent DE-36 drop-head coupes created by Hooper's in the style of Sir Bernard's prototypical 1948 show car. Although delivered in various colors, all of the Hooper DE-36 drop-heads are popularly known today as Green Goddesses.
London-based Hooper & Co. Coachbuilders Ltd., founded in 1805 as Adams and Hooper, had long been England's premier supplier of coachwork for the nation's finest vehiclesQueen Victoria rode in a carriage built by Hooper's, as did King Edward VII. In constructing the Green Goddess drop-heads, Hooper applied aluminum panels, hand-beaten by the trade's finest artisans, over a sub-structure framework of English ash and metal-faced plywood, strengthened with sheet steel plates.
Walking around the offered DE-36 drop-head, the observer may first be taken by the massive front wings (fenders), which flow into a tapered line extending all the way to the rear bumper. Clear Perspex covers protect the stacked pairings of Lucas headlamps and passing lamps faired into the wing's leading edges. The radiator shell sparkles with trademark Daimler fluting at the top. Chromed side moldings accent the car's streamlined form most admirably. At the rear, dual fillers permit fuel replenishment from either side of the vehicle. Massive half-circle over-riders on the bumpers help protect the coachwork.
The rear-wheel spats (skirts) can be rotated upwards, on spring-balanced arms, providing access to the rear tires and wheels. Should one of the 7.00 x 17-inch tires require removal, the hydraulic jacking system stands by to lift the car at the appropriate corner.
Fitted with dual rear windows, the cloth hood (top) is concealed when folded by a painted metal cover; both top and cover operate hydraulically. A trio of wipers is spread across the broad base of the curved single-piece Triplex safety-glass windscreen.
Inside, the five-passenger seating, which originated with Sir Bernard's 1948 show car, is unusual front and rear. The three-across front upper cushion is divided into three sections, with the outer sections tilting forward for access to the two armchair-type seats in the rear area. "These [rear] seats are placed towards the centre of the car so that the occupants have a clear forward view between the heads of the people on the front seat," a Hooper's publication explained. Elegantly veneered and polished "cocktail cabinets" located in each rear quarter are equipped with decanters and cocktail glasses. The rear seats can be folded to add luggage space. Black carpeting of the highest grade covers the floors.
A full set of Smiths gauges is set into the curved wood instrument panel, as is the Motorola radio originally specified for the car. The four-speed semi-automatic transmission's pre-selector lever, mounted on the steering column, falls readily to hand.
Lifting the massive deck lid reveals a fully detailed luggage compartment, equipped with a set of chromed tools. The spare tire is secured beneath the large tray provided for luggage and necessities.
Daimler factory documentation tells us DE-36 chassis 52802 was completed in September 1949; however, the identity of the client who originally commissioned its Green Goddess coachwork is not known. The car was at one time held in the Harrah's Club Collection in Reno and apparently passed from their hands in 1982. In the early 1990s, the late Oregon collector Wes Lematta acquired the car, having discovered it by chance in Texas, while on a trip to inspect a Packard for possible purchase.
Steve's Automotive Restorations, Oregon shop renowned for the show-winning classics it turns out, was commissioned to perform an exacting restoration. Owner Steve Frisbie found the massive Daimler to be a 98% complete, running and driving, automobile when it arrived at his facility.
According to Frisbie, it took 12,700 man-hours of shop time, in addition to a great deal of subcontractor effort, to complete the impressively thorough restoration. Essentially, all of the car's components and systems were rebuilt, restored or replaced. Every nut, bolt, washer, bushing, bearing and gasket was restored or renewed. Each aluminum body panel was stripped bare, repaired, primed, hand sanded, painted, color sanded and rubbed out in Glasurit Urethane.
The eight-cylinder engine was totally disassembled and then rebuilt with new crankshaft bearings, pistons and valves. The twin carburetors were rebuilt, as were the fuel and water pumps, starter, generator and distributor. The suspension, electrical and hydraulic systems were restored to full functionality.
Experts fabricated exact replacements for the Daimler's few missing parts, including the unique Perspex headlight covers, taillights and bumpers. The solid brass side spears required multiple chrome platings to achieve reflective perfection.
In sum, the restoration was done correctly and at the great expense commensurate with such a perfectionist endeavor. The quality of the finished car was recognized at the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours, where the Daimler took class honors. An invitational showing at the Essen International Motor Show in Germany followed.
In 2007, Wesley and Nancy Lamatta donated their beautifully restored and carefully maintained Daimler to the LeMay Museum, and it is from that collection that the car is now offered.
A well-qualified professional appraiser who inspected and drove the car in 2007 reported it to be exceptional in every detail. Mechanical aspects of the car were described in the appraisal report as, "Fantastic - Period!" An October 2008 static appraisal commissioned by the vendor rated the car excellent in every one of 24 categories evaluated. The quality of the exceptional restoration completed in 1994 remains evident in the minutest details.
The original DE-36 instruction manual and fluid-flywheel operating manual are included with the vehicle.
In addition to the offered car, three other Daimler DE-36 Green Goddess drop-heads are presently known to exist. The original 1948 show car, which is believed to have received at least portions of an alternate body during a 1953 factory renovation, was sold in partly restored condition by Bonhams in 2009; it is now being completed for an automotive museum located in the eastern U.S. The Jaguar-Daimler Heritage Trust holds the Green Goddess built on chassis no. 51753 in its collection. Another, chassis no. 51745, is held in the Colorado collection of the prominent author Clive Cussler. A fourth example, originally owned by the Eaton family in Canada, was reportedly irreparably damaged in a 2004 fire. The fate of the remaining two DE-36 Green Goddess-style Daimlers is undetermined.
Easily ranking among the most impressive and exciting cars ever built, the 1950 Daimler Green Goddess Drop-Head offered here is further enhanced by its extremely meticulous restoration and exceptionally attractive livery.
- This vehicle is currently titled as a model year '1950'.