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1948 DE36 Daimler drophead coupe

The red ‘Green Goddess’ fit for a King

by Michael Kliebenstein

The untold story of Daimler DE36 Drophead Coupe, Chassis # 51724, by Hooper & Co. Coachbuilders

The details of what I am writing about here are not yet officially confirmed, but are supported by evidence and facts that I have collated. I became involved, because I was asked by the new owner of this truly grand Daimler DE36 Drophead Coupe to research its history. The car itself was found in Chicago, with a fascinating, until now unknown, story to tell. A true SuperFind.

Daimler DE36 Drophead by Hooper was a stately motor car

Above: The Daimler DE36 Drophead by Hooper was a stately motor car.

This Daimler DE36 must have been one of the largest dropheads ever produced in Great Britain. It can also be considered as the high-point for both Hooper and Daimler.

The car is bigger than the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, and similar in proportions to the large, Frua-bodied Rolls-Royce Phantom VI Drophead. It is the equal of both in terms of performance.

Magnificent Drophead Coupe design

Above: For many, the magnificent Drophead design was the high-point for both Daimler and Hooper.

Regarding the car’s history, I have discovered that apparently chassis 51724 was intended to be a secret present from the British Government to King Farouk of Egypt, but for some reason this was kept quiet, and the car never arrived with the King.

King Farouk of Egypt loved cars. He owned literally hundreds of them, and he visited Earls Court Motor Show regularly, with great gusto. His favourite colour was red, and legend has it that traffic in Egypt was required to make space immediately whenever a red car appeared.

Messrs. Hooper & Co. Coachbuilders in 1949

Above: Nield was apparently code for ‘Farouk – to be delivered to the Nile Delta’. The King ordered a DE36 Drophead and two Rolls-Royce Silver Wraiths from Messrs. Hooper & Co. Coachbuilders in 1949.

At Earls Court in 1948 King Farouk must have seen what was then described by the press as the star of the show; the Hooper Daimler DE36 ‘Green Goddess’ Drophead Coupe, with design number 8183. The massive machine featured an enormous 147in wheelbase, and was powered by a silky-smooth 5.4-litre inline-eight. The Daimler Drophead had a rather unique ‘three-two’ seating arrangement, with two foldable throne-like chairs in the back. This unique concept would have surely appealed to Farouk.

King Farouk appreciated large cars, and even more so when they were supplied for free, and he owned many Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Delahayes, as well as a fleet of American cars. It is known that Adolf Hitler gave him a Mercedes 540K Cabriolet B as a wedding gift in 1938, although it was actually a present in return for German forces being given permission to use Egyptian airports and fuel supplies during the forthcoming war. The Merc was, by the way, red.

The story starts with a small clue. In looking through the files for the Daimler, I noticed a little hand-written paper slip saying, “to King Farouk, but not delivered”. The car was finished in May 1949, but where it eventually went after being built is a mystery.

In the official Hooper files, the first owner was listed as F. Nield. Apparently, this gentleman also ordered two Rolls-Royce Silver Wraiths from Hooper, at the same time in 1949. No mention of Farouk.

Hooper drophead coupe

Above: The flowing lines remind one of the work of Figoni & Falaschi, the famous French coachbuilder.

Wanting to know more about Mr. F. Nield, I began my research, only to find out that he never existed. I explored every avenue, and even consulted all the Rolls-Royce files, just to see if I could find an address. Nothing. That made me really curious.

A collector friend who is involved with secret services (not wanting to be named here) looked into my story and suggested that F. Nield may be a typical cover-name to hide an important, but politically-sensitive ruler. After a few days of mulling it over, he called me in the middle of the night to tell me that he had the solution. F. Nield was a code for FAROUK – TO BE DELIVERED TO THE NILE DELTA!

I was stunned. My friend also suggested the reason why the car might never have been delivered. In 1949, Farouk became a leader with no political future. He was under constant threat from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Free Officers Movement (both striving for political change in Egypt). The British distanced themselves from the King, keen to maintain the balance of peace in the Middle East. Farouk became persona non grata.

Straight-eight Green Goddess

Above: Note the three-two seating arrangement, with two foldable ‘thrones’ in the back.

King Farouk was overthrown during the Egyptian revolution of July 1952, and was forced to abdicate in favour of his son. He left Egypt and settled in Italy, dying in exile in 1965, aged 45. Most of his cars remained in Egypt, although the Daimler was apparently stored somewhere in London, together with the two Silver Wraith‘s ordered from Hooper. But who paid for them?

Anorak fact: Of all the seven original DE36 Dropheads only four are known to survive. Chassis 51724 is the second car built, and the most original.

SuperFinds by Michael Kliebenstein

Other articles by Michael

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Comments

Damien - June 7, 2021

Hi Michael, interesting article – I believe F Nield was in fact Fred Nield, principal of the Manchester firm Thomas Nield & Son who died in 1959. Nield appears to have been a longtime customer of both Rolls-Royce and Bentley, owning a Derby (B137LE), a pair of Mark VIs (B193EW and B363GT, both with Hooper coachwork), two R-types (B36RT and B154TN), three S-type Continentals (BC49AF, BC17BG and BC31FM), a pair of S1 James Young Saloons (B490AN and B352CK), a Phantom III (3CM67), several Silver Wraiths (WDC24, WOF5 and BLW63, DLW171, FLW12, HLW2) and a Silver Cloud DHC (SNH106) in addition to the Daimler. There were probably others as well…

Really enjoyed the book on Corrado Cupellini’s archive and look forward to reading your next publication!

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