Mid Wales

Luxury post-war limo found in Wales goes under the hammer

The Daimler Stardust Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption The Stardust limousine was built to promote the Daimler brand

A limousine used by an extravagant high society couple in Powys in the 1950s has been sold at auction for £110,140.

Sir Bernard Docker and his extrovert socialite wife, Lady Nora, used the Daimler Stardust after buying Glandyfi Castle, near Machynlleth.

Its bespoke coachwork was finished with 5,000 sterling silver six-pointed stars.

The one-off 1954 machine was restored after being found abandoned following the Dockers' fall from grace.

Locals near Glandyfi Castle recall the luxury motor thundering through the lanes around the mansion bought by Sir Bernard, who was then managing director of Daimler.

It was one of a series of outrageously opulent limousines made especially for Lady Docker, designed to court newspaper headlines and revive the flagging Daimler brand.

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption Lady Nora and her husband were ordered to hand back the car and the castle

As well as the sterling silver six-pointed stars, the interior boasted hand-woven silver-grey silk and blue crocodile-skin upholstery.

The dancer bonnet mascot was modelled on "Naughty Nora", as the press nicknamed Lady Nora during her time as a cabaret performer.

But far from saving the business, the "Docker Daimlers" - along with the expense of renovating Glandyfi Castle - nearly bankrupted parent company BSA or Birmingham Small Arms.

These days Glandyfi Castle is a hotel but owner Maureen Holmes says if you look hard enough, the Dockers' touch is still to be seen.

She said: "They were clearly living the dream. From the red and white marble fireplaces to a path through the woods made entirely of upturned gin bottles, the castle oozed excess.

"The older people around here who remember them say they were unbelievable, almost mythical figures. At a time when everyone else was still on rationing, the Dockers were thundering through the lanes in limousines made out of gold and silver.

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption The Stardust was presented as luxury at a time when Britain was enduring post-war rationing

"The irony is, that whilst the locals felt the Dockers' perceived wealth meant that they were utterly removed from the community, in actual fact they probably had no more money than anyone else in the area."

Indeed, in 1956 the couple's house of cards came crashing down in spectacular fashion.

As their behaviour grew ever more extravagant at the same time as BSA's balance sheet deteriorated daily, shareholders demanded an inquiry.

It revealed that among several other abuses of BSA funds, Sir Bernard had diverted £12,000 on purchasing Glandyfi Castle, and at least double that on its renovation.

The cost of the half dozen Docker Daimlers could have been anything up to £100,000.

The Dockers were sacked from BSA's board and ordered to hand back the cars, castle and other luxury goods bought with company funds, though this was not enough to prevent Daimler being taken over by Jaguar in 1960.

Following a 1958 falling-out with close friends Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, the Dockers lived out the rest of their lives in disgrace and near poverty.

The Stardust limousine fared little better.

It was somehow lost, and all Bonhams know is that in the 1980s it was found abandoned in a farm building somewhere in Wales.

Mrs Holmes says there are several places at Glandyfi which would fit the bill.

She said: "In all the confusion there are plenty of farm buildings on the grounds here where a car - even one like that - could have gone missing for years, though we've never heard the story of it being discovered at the castle."

Since being restored, the Stardust has spent time in collections in California and Japan.

It was sold at Bonhams' Goodwood Revival motor auction on Saturday.

Image copyright Glandyfi Castle
Image caption The Dockers bought and renovated Glandyfi Castle using company money

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites