Golden days of automotive public relations

A couple of years ago, I began researching the history of public relations in the UK automotive industry – something that doesn’t exist despite the volumes of print on marques, cars and even the indutry itself.  I gave a brief paper at a CIPR conference – managing to cover the the first decade from 1895-1905, with particular focus on the 1,000 Mile Trial – which remains a masterclass in changing attitudes of constituents from government to the general public. 

I wish I had the time to really dedicate to this topic – but know there will be a special place for Lady Docker.  The 1950s reflected glamour in a post-war era – an exiting time when Bob Sicot created the international press launch for Renault that still pretty much follows his format today (even though times have changed).  How exotic it was to fly to the south of France.  But Lady Docker was something else – the chairman’s wife, with mad ideas that even Max Clifford would be proud of today.

 Lady Docker

The Docker Daimler’s were extravagent in the extreme – and one is coming up for auction at Bonhams in London on 4 December – the 1955 Golden Zebra.  The pictures have to be seen to be believed.  It has been beautifully restored – including the gold plate and (I hate to say it) South African zebra seat-covers (Bonham’s report: Lady Docker was particularly proud of the zebra skin upholstery. When asked ‘Why zebra?’ she famously replied with a flippancy that would have made Marie Antionette blush: ‘Because mink is too hot to sit on.’ )  Fortunately laws prevent the recreation of the original elephant ivory dashboard. 

Expected to sell for £120,000 – compared to the original £12,000 (which was many times the value of the average semi-detached house at the time).  It was shocking in the 1950s – and really remains so today – and although the decadence captured headlines of the day, it quickly saw the millionaire Sir Bernard Docker ousted from the company. 

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

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