Sold for $50,600 at 2013 RM Auctions - St John's.
Coachwork: Vanden Plas
Chassis #: SADWV2344FC200512
With a long rich history in the UK, Daimler was founded in 1893 and following WWII continued to produce very special automobiles for the rich and titled. Daimler eventually became part of Jaguar and began to share platforms. Because of their quality and attention to detail, many of Daimler's cars were produced for English royalty. It is also commonly utilized in funerals and in hotel trades. From 1968 until 1992 a special division of Daimler produced 4,141 limousines based on the Jaguar 420G chassis. The DS420 Limousine was entirely made to order with a limitless selection of options that included a television and a bar. Three different types of flag mounts were available along with a teardrop royal police light on the roof.
For 25 years the Daimler DS420 has remained in production and has become a national institution, favored not only by Royalty, local governments but also as a popular transportation choice for weddings worldwide. The British Royal Mews owns three Daimler DS420 limousines in their royal fleet and the Queen Mother had four DS420s over the years including one of the final three models that were produced in 1992. All of the limousines were delivered for royal use and came with special cloth seats, no chrome around the doors, and a mount on the roof for the Royal Standard and Coat of Arms and a bullet-shaped blue light. One of the Queen Mother's DS420 is resplendent in Royal Claret and along with two other models, they are classed at state vehicles in the royal fleet and do have number plates unlike the Royal Rolls-Royce and Bentley models.
The Royal Courts of Denmark and Sweden also have the Daimler DS420 in active service. The courts of Spain, Luxemburg, Monaco, Morocco, Belgium, Jordan, Bahrain and numerous presidents have used this vehicle in the past. American billionaire Howard Hughes is tribute with being the most unusual owner of the limousine, even fitting it with a toilet under the rear bench.
The Daimler DS420 conception began after BMC and Jaguar joined forces to create British Motor Holdings in December of 1966. Both companies had plans to create an eight-seater limousine, BMC wanting to replace the Vanden Plas Princess, while Daimler wanted to replace the DR450. The Daimler design won and the DS420 was the result of a joint effort of the design from both marques, though the underpinnings were purely Jaguar. The styling was by Browns Lane with William Lyons being the final sign-off, and the engine, all-independent suspensions and automatic transmission from the Jaguar 420G. The inside of the car was given to Vanden Plas to design.
The hope for the Daimler DS420 (according to Autocar magazine's 1968 launch coverage) was to reach great success in the UK market segment. In the past fifteen years, Vanden Plas and Daimler had together sold nearly 4,500 big limousines. The Daimler DS420 was announced on 11 June 1968 and featured similar dimensions to the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, its direct competitor. However, the Daimler was nearly half the price of its competitor.
One had only to take a peek into the rear of the DS420 to know that the focus of the luxury vehicle was entirely on rear-seat passengers. The rear door openings were incredibly generous and had sills that lowered nearly 11 inches. The large trunk was designed conventionally with low floor, upward-opening lid, but the covered spare wheel was mounted vertically at the side rather than flat under a high floor with a bottom-hinged lid like more traditional Daimlers. Nearly 55 inches separated the space in the roomy rear compartment, but the fold-back occasional seats did reduce this space to just under 30 inches. An average-size six-foot passenger in the back seat had either 5 inches of room or 32 inches depending on the occasional seats.
Screaming luxury from every nook and cranny, the DS420 featuring traditional burr walnut cabin work that included the large wooden instrument panels, topped by a leather padded crash roll. The front seats were upholstered in rich supple leather supplied by Connolly while the rear seat was offered in either leather or West of England cloth. To divide the rear, a spacious armrest could be pulled down and the outer armrests featured an ashtray, courtesy light switch, and cigar lighter. The left-hand side also featured a rheostat for the variable speed rear compartment heater fan. The front seat wasn't adjustable, but the steering wheel is. Owners of the DS420 could completely customize their limousine from the floor up with any variety of cloth interiors, options of on-board TV, computer or car-telephone. Jaguar boss Sir John Egan in 1984 ordered his DS420 as a custom boardroom complete with a TV, computer, printer and a cocktail cabinet.
The DS420 was powered by the impressive 4235cc DOHC Jaguar XK engine that produced 245bhp at 5500 rpm and 282 lb/ft at 3750 rpm. The limousine was quite a powerhouse and one of very limited number of vehicles that could boast a Le Mans winning engine under the hood. Available only as an automatic, the DS420 utilized the Borg-Warner Model 8 three-speed epicyclic gearbox with dual drive range and torque converter driving through a 3.54-to-1 Salisbury 4HA final drive. A dashboard switch regulated the electric SU pumps in the twin 10-gallon tanks found in each rear wing. Moderately increasing overall gearing, the tire size was increased from the 420G's 205-14 tubed Dunlop SP41 to 225-1 8-inch tubeless version. With a top speed of 110 mph, the DS420 could reach 0 to 50 mph in 9.2 seconds, 0 to 100 mph in 43.5 seconds and a standing quarter-mile in 19.5 seconds.
Vanden Plas Ltd originally carried out the final assembly and furnishing of the limousine, in northwest London at its Kingsbury works. The body shells were first received in bare metal before being phosphate-coated, bituminous-sealed, baked and primed before being finish-painted to an exceptionally high standard. Park Sheet Metals Company produced the body shells, while assembling panels were provided by Motor Panels of Coventry and by Pressed Steel-Fisher. In 1979 when Kingsbury works was closed, the process was simplified and moved to Jaguar at Browns Lane in Coventry where it remained until the end of the DS420 in 1992.
In 1974 the limousine underwent its first update that includes a revised window arrangement for the rear passengers that replaced the two-piece rear glass opera window with a one-piece window. The grille was also revised, the interior received less wood and anti-corrosion measures were added to the vehicle. The factory-supplied part-bodies to external coachbuilders so they could construct hearses, in addition to the complete limousines that were supplied.
With the relocation to Coventry, the third and final facelift of the DS420 occurred in 1979. Larger impact bumpers were added along with an updated rear number-plate surround. This would be the final update for the limousine and it remained this way for the next decade all of the way until 1992. The DS420 was the only model at the time of its death to still use the XK engine. The last of a very exclusive line, Jaguar has never produced a direct replacement and the UK has yet to declare a coachbuilt alternative.
The Daimler DS420 made a film debut in the 1997 James Bond Movie 'Tomorrow Never Dies'. Bong and Moneypenny ride in a DS420 to London's Heathrow Airport and Moneypenny used a built-in laptop computer in the glove compartment. The limousine also appears in the TV series C.A.T.S. Eyes, and in the movie Patriot Games and Cirque du Freak.
In 1985 the first chronicled Daimler DS420 to be banger raced was driven by 627 Terry Coke, at the Ipswich Spedeweekend. Banger racing is a popular type of motorsport event in Europe and especially the U.K. on a dirt track. The first vehicle to be raced was a limousine, and four years later a hearse was raced, and crazily enough, two were raced in the same afternoon. As of November 2012 around 207 hearse version have met their demise on a banger track.
A 1985 Daimler DS420 sold at St. Johns auction on July 27, 2013, for $50,600. This model had reportedly been built for use by Queen Elizabeth II, and one of the two examples intended for royal use in North America. The car had been customized for U.S. requirements with left-hand drive and a modified emissions control system. It was finished in a royal shade of dark blue and featured the expected opulence throughout the interior with plush grey leather. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson