Daimler’s flagship DE series debuted in 1946 as their largest and most expensive car on offer. The chassis was a fairly conventional design with x-bracing and independent front suspension; Hotchkiss drive rear axle, and Girling hydro-mechanical brakes. Two versions were available, the 138-inch wheelbase DE27 which was powered by the Daimler Twenty Seven inline-six cylinder engine (named such for its taxable horsepower rating), or the range-topping DE36 which featured a grand 147-inch wheelbase and was powered by a 5.4 liter inline-eight cylinder engine. The Thirty Six was essentially Britain’s last straight eight (Rolls Royce did use one in the "heads of state only" Phantom IV, but only eighteen were ever produced). It is a marvelously smooth, overhead valve unit with nine main bearings and a 150 horsepower output. Every bit of that power was needed to pull along the large and opulent bodies that were fitted to the DE36 chassis. Just 205 examples of the Thirty Six were built between 1946 and 1953, with a great many finding favor with the Royal Families of Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Thailand as well as at home in England.
At the time the DE36 was built, Daimler counted Hooper & Co. Coachbuilders among its subsidiaries. Hooper had a long tradition of supplying coaches and motor bodies for the British Royal Family and was considered to be a purveyor of the finest quality bodies available. Hooper would stop at nothing to meet their clients’ wishes. Their long association with Daimler produced some fabulous and memorable motorcars. Hooper’s signature post-war style was fabulously elegant; with long, graceful sweeping lines and exquisite detailing. To promote Daimler and Hooper, BSA Chairman Sir Bernard Docker and his wife Lady Docker (who incidentally was made director of Hooper) commissioned a series of show cars for the annual Earl’s Court Motor Show. A run of six different style “Docker Daimlers” were produced; three on the DE36 chassis, consisting of The Green Goddess of 1947, The Golden Daimler of 1951 and the Blue Clover coupe in 1952. The 1953 Silver Flash was built on a 2 ½ liter Conquest Century chassis, and the final two, Stardust and Golden Zebra, sat atop DK400 chassis.
Of all the Docker Daimlers, it is the stunning Green Goddess that attracted the most attention, enough so that it spawned a very short production run – with approximately 7 made. Of those seven originals, four are known to survive, each slightly different from the next, with our featured example built in 1948. This fine example was restored some years ago in Europe, and remains in good order throughout. It is painted in a very attractive burgundy and red combination much like its sister car, and the body is pleasingly well detailed and respectably presented.
The original show car earned its name thanks to the metallic jade green paintwork applied to the magnificently sweeping and curvaceous drophead body. Today, all cars are known by this nickname regardless of color. Beyond the fabulous Hooper-designed bodywork, it is the sheer scale of the Green Goddess that really captured the attention of show goers. The wheelbase is a massive 147 inches long, and the body is a full 20 feet in length and 78 inches wide at the front. As a point of reference, the original Land Rover rode on an 80 inch wheelbase. The body was loaded with interesting details and features such as a hydro-electrically operated soft top which disappeared beneath a body-color metal cover. Side windows were electrically operated and headlights were faired-in to the front wings behind Perspex covers with fluted chrome trims that mimicked that of the signature Daimler radiator shell. Rear wheel spats are affixed to sprung hinges and built-in jacks at each corner make for civilized servicing should one encounter a puncture. In spite of the aluminum construction of the body, all of those details add up and the Green Goddess weighs in at over 6,000 pounds.
The tan leather interior is equally as magnificent, flamboyant and beautifully styled as the exterior. As the DE36 Green Goddess is wider at the front than the rear, seating is a unique 3+2 arrangement, with large leather chairs up front for three, and two individual seats in the rear. The rear seats are cleverly positioned so passengers have a clear view of the road ahead, and if that isn’t enough, they can be raised, theater-style, to allow rear passengers to see over those in front. The driver is treated to a fabulous view down the impossibly long bonnet and faces a gracefully curved wood dash, peppered with bespoke instruments and ivory-colored switchgear. Speed can be registered in either KM or Miles, a feature that hinted at the cross-continental ability of the big Daimler. A column mounted gear selector controls a Daimler pre-select Fluid-Flywheel transmission for seamless, smooth shifting.
Ineffable elegance and breathtaking presence define the Daimler DE36 Green Goddess. Sir Bernard Docker was certainly no wallflower; he very much enjoyed using his very special motorcar, and it must have made quite an impact on the narrow British B-roads! With just four known survivors, the Hooper Green Goddess is undeniably an extremely collectible and very important automobile. For many, it marks the high point for both Daimler and the Hooper & Co. Coachbuilders, an impossibly grand statement in the waning days of the custom coachbuilding era.
Jun 10, 2016