Hooper Bodied Drop Head Coupes on DE36 Chassis

The Green Goddess and the Docker Daimlers

At the 1948 Motor Show, the first after the war, Hooper and Company, Coachbuilders exhibited  five-seater drophead coupe with streamlined bodywork built on the Daimler DE36 chassis with it's 5½ litre straight eight engine.  The coachwork  was painted jade green with green-piped, beige leather interior –  and was immediately named by the press as "The Green Goddess". It was the most expensive car at the show by a considerable margin at £7,000 including the very high Purchase tax (although the car was described as an export model). Over the next two years, a further six cars of this type were built, including the three left- hand drive ones which were exported to the United States.

This car was later used by Sir Bernard Docker, the chairman of the BSA Group to which Daimler belonged.  His wife, Lady Norah, inspired the extravagantly finished ‘Docker Daimlers’, two of which were also built on the DE36 chassis: the The Gold Car and Blue Clover.

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Hooper's brochure for the show car

Few contemporary photographs exist of the show car, this is from a recent restoration.

According to the Hooper files eight DHC's were produced of this Green Goddess type. The first was body 9352 on chassis 51233 (rhd) exhibited at Earls Court in 1948.

The other cars were according to the Hooper files:

Body    Chassis                  Date         First customer     (Current owner, lhd/rhd)
9537    51724                     05/49        F. Neild                    (Volo Automuseum, Volo, Illinois) (rhd)
9538    52802                     09/49        unknown                (restored by S. Frisbee in the early 1990s. Mark Hyman, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA) (rhd)
9539    51745                    1949/1950 unknown               Clive Cussler, Cussler Museum, Arvada, Colorado) (rhd)
9540    51752                     03/50        New York show 1950  (lhd)
9613    51753                     06/50        Fergus Motors, New York   (JDHT, lhd)
9641    51754                     11/50        J. Conroy/Eaton family of Canada     (Jim Walters, lhd)
9642    51233(see below) 01/51        James Melton, New York       (this body number never made it into a road worthy car, see below)

At least 5 were sold to the USA, of which 3 left-hand-drive. For a proper understanding of the story below one should understand that Hooper body numbers were more assigned like job numbers.

 

Although there are 8 body numbers, there are only 7 chassis numbers: Chassis 51233 could according to some Hooper files both have been used for body 9352 and for 9642.

The background is disclosed in Brian Smith's "Daimler Days" on page 734: originally Mr. Melton's car was built on chassis 52825. However, on road testing it developed a wheel-wobble at 50-60 mph. Daimler couldn't cure this entirely and according to Brian Smith there is documentation to suggest that body 9642 was intended to be transferred to chassis 51233 (I’ve personally seen this documentation).

John Sweeney of Franklin, Massachusetts, USA owned  Chassis 51233 from 1996 and was in the process of a complete restoration (note: John Sweeney sadly passed away in July 2009. The car was subsequently auctioned by Bonhams in the USA and is now in the possession of the JWR Automobile Museum in Frackville, Pa. USA. They will start a full restoration).

John Sweeney wrote the following:

"The original #51233 car with headlights recessed into front wings, right hand drive, and curved dash was continuously changed and up-graded by the week since 1948. The Dockers and their chauffeur brought the car back to Hooper every week or two for modifications.

The half moon bumper over-riders were added, the louvers on the rear wheel spats added, the angle of the steering column changed, the gear change lever re-worked, the inner fire walls ventilated, etc.

Then in 1951 or so, when the car was no longer "news worthy" it was scheduled to be modified and sold as new to Mr. Melton.

While there may have been a subsequent body number - the chassis number remained the same - but the body was certainly not replaced overall. There are patches of the original green paint showing underneath in places. I think the doors and trunk/tail were re-worked. I could see on the inside of the front wings where the recessed headlights were welded over, and new tubular lights added as per a Jaguar XK 120, the dash changed, and some seating re-worked in the front in 1951.

 

It remained right hand drive, and my best guess based on everything I've seen on paper and in taking the car apart is that Mr. Melton got another car in the end, the #51233 stayed in the UK for a decade or so. Some of the body was replaced, some remained as the original body. In the early 1950s it was two toned, dark on the lower half.

 

I have re-fitted the original recessed headlights in the front wings with fluted chrome surrounds over perspex lenses. Generally, I have brought the car back to 1948 standards.

 

The exception is that in the early 1950s, perhaps still under Docker's control, there was an applied chrome strip added, running from the front grill (1/2 inch wide) running all the way back at the waistline to the rear bumper. At the rear the strip is about 7 inches wide. When I got the car, the strip was painted over the chrome. I've seen one or two other Goddesses with these chrome strips, and like the look. So that stays. The less curved dash (from 1951) will remain the same.

 

I tell people that mine was the first and the eighth Goddess to be made, and there were six others in between. One of the other goddesses is in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, one in the US author's collection (Clive Cussler - below), one beautifully restored in the Portland, Oregon area, one recently returned to the UK to JDHT, one for sale last spring in London, I've heard, returned to the US, and mine"

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Clive Cussler in Arvada, Colorado, USA owns 9539 / #51745. Chassis 51724, two-tone maroon, is in the Volo Automuseum in Illinois and for sale at an estimated USD 750k (info May 2016).

There is documentation available to show that #51233 was advertised as the ex-Docker green goddess in 1956 in the UK, and again re-sold by Frank Dale Co of London in the late fifties to someone in Los Angeles. It is therefore believed that #51233 only went to the US then.

 

While recently investigating the history of #51233 John Sweeney came across a picture dated 24 June 1950 of Mr. Melton and his (left hand drive!) car at a motor show in the USA plus several others taken in the early 1950s. All pictures show a left hand drive car with front features that are clearly different from the car currently owned by John Sweeney.

Furthermore people remember having seen Mr. Melton’s Daimler a few times at his place in Connecticut and elsewhere. And he apparently maintained a private car museum in Florida later, with his Daimler as part of the collection. Mr. Melton indeed ended up with a green goddess on a different chassis number.

I now know he ended up with the very car that is currently in the possession of the JDHT, body 9613 on chassis 51753 (Fergus Motors being Daimler’s dealers at the time). It is rumoured that chassis 51753 originally was ordered by the opera singer Jimmy Martin, but looking at the timeline (the chassis is from June 1950 and the picture of Mr. Melton is from 24 June 1950) it is unlikely that it was ever delivered to him.

The one in Victoria is chassis 51754 with body 9641 and is in the hands of Jim Walters of Bristol Motors (see www.bristolmotors.com), which was under restoration, but early 2004 regretfully destroyed in a fire and probably beyond salvation.

 

Mr. S. Frisbee (in the Portland, Oregon, USA area) probably restored body 9538 on chassis 52802 which is now in the LeMay Collection in Tacoma, Washington, USA.

 

Clive Cussler in Arvada, Colorado, USA owns 9539 / #51745. Chassis 51724, two-tone maroon, is in the Volo Automuseum in Illinois and for sale at an estimated USD 750k (info May 2016).

 

One body #51752 is "lost" in the sense that I have no information on it and that it has not appeared in public the last few decades.

Also the fate of chassis 52825 is known. It was only sold by Daimler in October 1955 and was registered as a limousine by the Birmingham Co-op in August 1957 as VOG 299 with a body build by Startin. It is now in my possession. The body work originally commissioned by Mr. Melton is probably lost or may have been used in part for one of the many "upgrades" of  #51233.

Chassis number 51753, body number 9613.
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This car, originally owned by the American Tenor, James Melton was transferred from the Ford Motor Corporation to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust in 2002 and is now on display in the Collection centre at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire.

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Blue Clover 1952 chassis 52842

Hooper's show car for 1952 was a touring fixed-head coupé on the DE36 chassis.
The car was painted in two tones of powder blue and grey, with the lighter panels covered with a regular pattern of four-leaf clovers painted in the darker shades.


The headlights and pass lights were set inside front wings behind a Perspex cover. The front wings tapered to the back of the car, which did not have separate rear wings.

The seats were upholstered in lavender blue leather with dark blue piping. Instead of wooden veneers, the interior was finished with grey-blue lizard skins. These skins covered the steering wheels, the inside door panels, the cabinets on either side of the rear armchairs, and the manicure set fitted into the left door.
 

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Pictured at the Samsung Transportation Museum, Seoul, South Korea By Saratoga88 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522584

The cabinets in the back contained a flask and glasses made of cut glass, a silver Thermos flask, sandwich boxes, cups, saucers, and linen, while recesses above the rear seat held an 8 mm motion picture camera and a pair of field glasses. A tray under the instrument panel held a mirror, a comb, a clothes brush, two silver-topped jars, and a powder compact. 

The curved and raked windscreen and the electrically powered semi-elliptical rear quarter-lights were made from Triplex laminated heat-reflecting safety glass, and the electrically powered side windows were double glazed. The roof was thermally insulated and had a transparent sun panel fixed toward the front, with a blind underneath the panel to block the light when desired.

According to a contemporary report in The Motor, Blue Clover was "the most elegant thing at Earls Court" that year.