Matthew Steeples compares two comparable examples of motoring excess: the “Golden Zebra” and the Fulda Maybach Exelero
In recent weeks I’ve received a number of messages about an $8,000,000 car named a Fulda Maybach Exelero. One of them referred to it as “one of the most over the top cars on the planet” and so it piqued my interest.
In these straightened times, such a figure seems quite a lot for a car but what, you may ask, makes it so special? Well, for a start it was a one off and commissioned in 2005 by the tyre company Fulda to showcase their Carat Exelero range. Designed for them by a 24-year old student named Fredrik Burchhardt of the Pforzheim Polytechnic Department of Transport Design and built on the chassis of a Maybach 57 limousine, this 2-seater coupé is 5890mm long and 2140mm wide. The vehicle, which weighs a not so insubstantial 2.6 tonnes, has a 5.9 litre V12 twin turbo engine and in testing achieved a top speed of 218mph at southern Italy’s Motodrom Nardo.
In due course the Exelero was sold to André Action Diakité Jackson, a diamond industrialist, for €5,000,000. Jackson allowed Jay-Z to use the car in his Lost One music video before selling it to a “European entrepreneur” named Arnaud Massartic. Subsequently, various reports state that Massartic sold the vehicle on to the rapper Bryan “Birdman” Williams for $8,000,000 in April 2011 but other articles suggest that he failed to pay for the vehicle. Who knows where it is now.
Whether or not this piece of “automotive art” is indeed in the ownership of a “bling-king,” there are countless other examples of individually designed vehicular excess but amongst the most extravagant has to be an example commissioned by Lady Docker in 1955.
Norah Docker (1905 – 1983), whose third husband was Sir Bernard Docker, chairman of Birmingham Small Arms and its subsidiary the Daimler Motor Company, spent £12,000 in 1955 creating the “Golden Zebra” coupé on the chassis of a DK400 limousine. She replaced anything on the car that would have normally been made in chrome with gold and upholstered it in real zebra hide. Black, white and gold-trimmed accessories completed the look and amongst them were picnic stools, folding rear seats complete with a cocktail bar and an elephant ivory dashboard makeup table with a mirror, compact, comb, brush, cigarette case and cream jars.
Commenting as to why she chose to use zebra for the car’s upholstery, Lady Docker’s justification, in a quote that Barbara Amiel could only dream of having come up with, was simple:
“Because mink is too hot to sit on.”
The 4.6 litre “Golden Zebra” was to be last of the cars created to Lady Docker’s designs as shortly afterwards, in May 1956, Sir Bernard Docker was sacked from BSA’s board for squandering the company’s cash. In addition to the extravagance of the “Docker Daimlers,” he’d used shareholder money, in a manner that could indeed be compared to Lord and Lady Black’s days at Hollinger, to buy his wife a castle in Wales and maintain a 212ft motor yacht named Shemara.
Daimler forced the Dockers to return the Daimler vehicles Lady Docker had so diligently designed and in revenge she bought a Bentley Continental from the firm’s rival, Rolls-Royce. The “Golden Zebra” and the other “Docker Daimlers” were stripped of their expensive trimmings and sold. In 1966, the car was offered for sale by Daimler distributors Henlys of Chester for just £1,400 and after passing through the hands of several other owners ended up in California.
In 1988, the “Golden Zebra” was purchased by a Daimler collector named John Wentworth. He restored the vehicle to its original glory with the help of experienced craftsmen and even managed to locate Kenyan zebra hides at a tannery in South Africa. Wentworth died prior to the completion of the car’s restoration and in 2006, it achieved £177,500 at Bonhams. The “Golden Zebra” came up for sale again in 2011 for £175,000 in Florida. It is now on display in the Louwman Museum in The Hague, Netherlands.
“The Golden Zebra” was certainly a car that reflected the excesses of the 1950s and the Exelero was without doubt the equivalent for the 2000s. What on earth could usurp these two moving monuments of extravagence next? We are on the lookout.
Watch a video of Sir Bernard and Lady Docker at: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/sir-bernard-counted-out-1
View the Louwman Museum entry for the 1955 “Golden Zebra” Daimler at: http://www.louwmanmuseum.nl/asp/appmain.asp?appactie=collectiedetail&taalcd=en&collsq=5486
View Fulda’s website dedicated to the Fulda Maybach Exelero at: http://www.das-projekt.com/EN/maybach_homepage_en.html