An old-fashioned Glamour Girl, or an unlikely precursor of Girl Power. We look at Norah Docker’s Golden Years.
In the period after the Second World War, and the long climb out of austerity, the Dockers were the visible end of the malaise of much of UK industry, particularly the motor industry. Most car companies had been started by hard working individuals, often from humble backgrounds, and their energy and ambition had allowed them to prosper, But, by the middle of the Century, many had become personal fiefdoms, run by bosses who were, at best, paternalistic philanthropists such as William Morris (Lord Nuffield) and, at worst, greedy and self-important incompetents.
In 1949, the one-time dance hostess, Norah Turner, married her third husband, second-generation industrialist Sir Bernard Docker who had inherited the chairmanship of BSA Group from his father. BSA had owned the Daimler car company since 1910. In 1953, Bernard took over the additional responsibility of running Daimler which, by then, was producing rather staid luxury cars, buses and specialist commercial vehicles. Norah took a particular interest in Daimler and decided that what the company needed was an improved image with some lavish one-off cars built by coachbuilder Hooper, also a BSA company.
From 1951 to 1955, she had 5 show cars produced to her specifications : The Gold Car, Blue Clover, Silver Flash, Star Dust and Golden Zebra. Refined taste was not on the agenda, the last named reflecting the metal plating used on the brightwork and the animal used to trim the seats.
Having risen herself, Norah wasn’t the sort to give anyone else a hand-up and, by accounts, was a graceless snob. Certainly her championship of Daimler was far from altruistic, the price of her helping bringing the staid brand into the second half of the 20th Century was that these show cars were at her personal disposal.
In a country where food rationing only ended officially in 1954, and parochial, conservative values still reigned, the Docker’s high-profile exploits attracted mostly scorn. Banned from the Casino in Monte Carlo for assaulting a waiter then, after further outraging Monaco, rather fabulously banned from the entire French Riviera, Norah Docker and her somewhat hapless husband were prime fodder for the popular newspapers.
In 1956, Bernard Docker was forced to resign from BSA and to give the Daimlers back. If there had ever been a chance of reviving Daimler’s image, it’s likely that Lady Docker put paid to it. By the 1960s, the Queen no longer used Daimlers and Jaguar had acquired the company. Although it had a swansong with the excellent Edward Turner designed V8s, including the underestimated Majestic, by the end of that decade the only Daimler that wasn’t a badge-engineered Jaguar was the Mark 10 derived DS420.
In fact, Norah Docker was probably just a woman born out of her time. In the buttoned-up 1950s, she was largely reviled. Today, she’d have millions hanging onto her every Tweet.