The Daimler limousine DS420, popularly known as the Daimler Limousine, is a large limousine produced by The Daimler Company Limited between 1968 and 1992. The model had been popular from the beginning with suppliers of chauffeur services, hotels, funeral services, mayors of larger cities, ministries or other state representatives abroad and ambassadors. But most important the Daimler Limousines until today serve the royal houses of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg. No other model of any make had been delivered to more reigning monarchs than the DS 420 Limousine.
The DS420 was announced in June 1968 to replace the DR450 which had been based on the Majestic Major. Unlike its predecessor, it had no Daimler engineering, but was entirely a Jaguar product, using the 4.2 litre version of the Jaguar XK straight-six engine. With Daimler being part of Jaguar since 1960 and Jaguar itself being part of the British Leyland Motor Corporation since 1968 it also replaced the Vanden Plas 4-Litre Princess Limousine, and was initially produced at the Vanden Plas works in Kingsbury, North London. The short designation DS420 was derived from earlier Daimler models which had the first letter D (for Daimler) and the second letter in alphabetic order (with interruptions) over the years while 420 refers to the engine capacity of 4,2litres.
The Limousine was based on the floorpan of Jaguar's 420G flagship (not to be confused with the smaller Jaguar 420), but with a wheelbase extended an extra 21 in (533.4 mm). The frontal styling was similar to the original Daimler Sovereign, introduced in 1966 with the Jaguar four-headlight treatment first seen on the 420G's predecessor, the Mark X, mated to a Daimler radiator grill bearing the traditional fluting. Jaguar Mark X/420G underpinnings were also apparent from the twin ten gallon fuel tanks set in each of the rear wings, each with its own electric SU pump selected by a dashboard mounted switch.
The driver sat on a full width bench seat in a relatively upright position which was said to make length-wise adjustment for different sizes of driver unnecessary, although there was 2.75 in (7 cm) of telescopic adjustment available on the low-set steering wheel.
Three of the six rear passengers sat on a bench-seat behind the glass division in opulent comfort — the DS420's rear seat spanning over 6 feet (1.8 m) in width. Three more passengers could fit on occasional fold-up seats but the DS420 was twelve inches shorter, on wheelbase 4 inches shorter, much lighter and with an engine two-thirds of the size of the very exclusive Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The Daimler was always half the price of even an "off-the-peg" standard series production long wheel base Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.
Originally the cars were built at the Vanden Plas works in Kingsbury Lane, London, from bodyshells made by Park Sheet Metals Company assembling panels supplied by Motor Panels of Coventry and by Pressed Steel Fisher. Early limousines bore the 'Daimler Vanden Plas' designation on treadplates and workshop manuals. The Kingsbury Plant was closed in 1979 and production moved to Jaguar in Coventry, where it continued until 1992. The move to Coventry also brought the third and most extensive facelift in the car's life, when larger bumpers and a revised rear number-plate surround were fitted. The previous facelift occurred in 1972, modernizing the window arrangement for the rear passengers. This involved a change from the previous design's division glass design (split between one vertically sliding portion and one fixed pane) to one single window that could slide up and down. It also addressed the corrosion issue of earlier cars (which related to the aforementioned division glass), slightly changed the dimensions of the grille and badge placement on the exterior, and reduced the amount of woodwork in the interior. The third and final facelift was made in 1987 with the arrival of new plastic coated bumpers and minor changes to the interior. This last model, known as MkIV, was produced until 1992, when Jaguar/Daimler ceased production of their last coachbuilt limousine.
As well as the complete limousine, the factory also supplied part-bodies to external coachbuilders to allow them to construct hearses.
Delivered vehicles varied from very basic models with wind-up windows to a mobile boardroom, reported to have been designed for use by Jaguar boss Sir John Egan in 1984, complete with TV, computer, printer and Cocktail Cabinet. The DS420 was very much a bespoke vehicle, with an extensive list of options. Private owners tended to fully option their cars. The service industry, including the funeral trade and limousine companies, tended to lightly option their cars. Until the early 1980s, after their purchase by Hertz, Daimler Hire was one of the largest clients. Daimler Hire cars were offered as limousine transportation, as well as for state and official use. As such, most Daimler Hire cars are well equipped with options, including electric division window, air conditioning, matching leather interiors, and the bonnet flag mount for ceremonial use.
Swedish state car at a state visit from Estonia in Sweden January 2011
Always hand-made, the DS420 had a fascia very similar to some contemporary (in 1968) Jaguars, particularly the Mark X and 420G, remaining faithful for many years to the old fashioned steering column and to the pencil-thin steering wheel. Two cars were built in landaulette bodywork by the factory (and apparently neither have survived), but many have been converted to landaulettes for the wedding car industry (some more successfully than others).
By 1992 the DS420 was the only model in the Jaguar range still using the XK engine, along with other parts of the drive train and suspension, and although the car still appealed to its traditional customers, production was no longer economic. The last DS420, registered L420 YAC, was built in Browns Lane towards the end of 1992 and is the last production car built to have an XK engine installed. This is in the care of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. No direct replacement was produced by Jaguar, although coachbuilders have adapted the Daimler version of the XJ6.
The Daimler DS420 is widely used among the funeral trade, serving as both the executive car for mourning relatives and the hearse for the deceased, after customization to fit funeral needs. The most prominent funeral with a Daimler Hearse and a Daimler Limousine was that of Diana, the Princess of Wales in 1997. In a first act she was repatriated on 31 August by the Prince of Wales from France to RAF Northolt where her coffin changed from the BAe 146 CC2 Queens Flight airplane to the 1985 Daimler Hearse with registration B626MRK, owned by the Funeral Directors Leverton&Sons to be brought to St. James Palace for a Laying-in-State. Her two sisters followed in the 1992 Daimler Limousine of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. with the registration NGN2.
On 6 September following the funeral ceremony at Westminster Abbey the Daimler Hearse brought Diana to her resting place at Althorp, the home of the Spencer family. The 77miles route was lined by thousands of people, who threw flowers on the hearse, which was followed this time by the 1988 Daimler Limousine of HM Queen Elizabeth II. with the registration F728 OUL. The broadcast in UK television is said to have reached 32 million spectators.
Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey limousine
The Limousines also served representatives of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II worldwide such as for instance their Excellences the Governor of Hong Kong (many models from 1972 until 1997), the High Commissioner of New Zealand (from 1980 until 1993), the Governor of Tasmania (the 1980 model served until 2016) or the Governor of Guernsey (at least until 2016) A DS420 Limousine still serves his Excellence the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey. As they are representing HM the Queen their Daimler Limousines need not carry a registration.
The Daimler was preferred by many embassies especially in London as can be seen by the examples of Jordan, Oman, Portugal and Spain.
The DS420 Limousine was also the choice of governments who were looking for an appropriate car to host State Visits or for own use on formal occasions. Australia for this purpose took delivery of a limousine already in 1968 that served on many visits of dignities, among others TRH the Prince and the Princess of Wales in April 1983 on their tour through the country. The New Zealand Government in 1969 ordered a pair of identical looking black Limousines. When TRH the Prince and the Princess of Wales were in New Zealand in 1983 two cars followed them by air transport in a Lockheed C-130H Hercules transport aircraft of the RNZAF, a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI and one of the two Daimler Limousines. When the Rolls-Royce at one stage failed to start, Charles and Diana changed to the Daimler for the rest of their tour among others at her visit to Christchurch In 1995 HM the Queen was provided transport in one of the two Daimler Limousines . By 1998 one of the pair had been replaced by a younger model from 1987. Both the 1970 and the 1987 model had served the Queen on her visit to New Zealand in 2002.
The Daimler Limousine was also popular for mayoral service and could be found in Coventry, home of the Daimler works but as well in Beverley, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Dundee, Exeter, the London Borough of Bromley, Lincoln, Maidstone, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Portsmouth, Sandwell, Scarborough and Solihull.
Some high class hotels have allowed` their guests the transport in a Daimler Limousine. The famous Regent Hotel (today run as the Inter-Continental Hotel) in Hong Kong had no less than 22 at service for its guests over the years.
Daimler is the only manufacturer that has delivered automobiles to all five monarchs of the United Kingdom since 1901. This preference was mirrored by monarchs worldwide and Rolls-Royce had to settle for second place in deliveries to monarchs apart from maharajahs. When Greek born Prince Philip Mountbatten became the spouse of Princess Elizabeth in 1948 the Rolls-Royce adherent opened the door for Rolls-Royce with an order for a private car, a Rolls-Royce Phantom IV Limousine that was delivered in 1950 and became part of the official fleet in 1952 when Princess Elizabeth became Queen. Despite that the Daimler Straight Eight (DE36) was still number one among reigning monarchs with deliveries to King George VI of the United Kingdom, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, King Mohammed Zahir Shah of Afghanistan, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Prince Rainier of Monaco, while the Phantom IV had just orders from the Shah of Persia, the Emir of Kuwait and the King of the Iraq.
This Daimler supremacy changed with the next generation of cars, the Rolls-Royce Phantom V being more successful with orders by five reigning monarchs (Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, King Hussein of Jordan, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Hakim Isa ibn Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain and Emir Sabbah III. of Kuwait) while the Daimler DR450 was just delivered to King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and King Hussein of Jordan. The somehow boxed design of the stretched Majestic Major lacked royal grace.
The man who had chosen "Grace, Space, Pace" as benchmark for his Jaguar cars, Sir William Lyons, was to change this and had the new Daimler DS420 launched in the same year as the new Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The new Daimler was to re-conquer Daimler supremacy on royal courts:
It started with King Frederick IX. of Denmark who could experience the very first Daimler Limousine, a pre-series works demonstrator at his visit to London in April 1968 before production started. He must have been very pleased as he later on ordered a Limousine. It was again a works car in classic black paint delivered to him in March 1970. This first order of a king for the new model prompted Daimler to a supplement to the then sales brochure which showed the Limousine of King Frederick in front of Christiansborg Castle . This Limousine has a rich history, after the death of King Frederik IX serving the new Queen Margrethe II, the dowager Queen Ingrid and Crown Prince Frederik at his wedding with Mary Donaldson, the new Crown Princess Mary in 2004. The advantage of the classic limousine design of the Daimler becomes evident when someone wants to step out in grace with an endless bridal trail as this sequence with the Arrival of the Bride exemplifies. In 2008 the Daimler could be viewed in the same role again at the wedding of Prince Joachim and Princess Marie, whom the Limousine since then served subsequently. This first DS420 Limousine delivered to a monarch is still with the fleet of the Queen and thus serving the Danish Court almost half a century.
The next monarch was served the same year. Prince Rainier III. of Monaco even took a flight to the UK in November 1970 to take over his Limousine (with chassis nr. 1M 20033) directly and had it brought to Nice airport in a cargo aircraft. His DS420 had a two tone paint of "silk" over black, same as his Rolls-Royce before. "Silk" in this context can be considered as a mixture of gold, silver and pale green. The Daimler carried a blue bullet lamp on top and served the Prince as state car until his death in 2005. The Limousine is displayed in the Automobile Museum which was founded by the Prince in Monte Carlo.
The greatest adherent of the DS420 was for sure Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She even visited the Vanden Plas factory when her first order neared completion to care for changes corresponding to her taste. In between 1970 and her death in 2002 no less than five examples of the DS420 had served her subsequently (delivered in 1970, 1978, 1983, 1986 and 1992).. They all were painted in the royal colour combination "Black over Royal Claret", had a blue bullet lamp on the roof and carried the Registration "NLT 1" or later "NLT2". It was the explicit wish of the Queen Mother that after her death the final example should be given to the "Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust" (JDHT), which today cares for the presentation of the limousine (with new registration K123 EYL) either at the museum at Gaydon or at Rallies.
King Hussein of Jordan had as well opted for a Daimler Limousine in 1970. It was painted in the colour "Sand" and served on various duties among others bringing to school the young prince that today is King Abdullah II. The Limousine today is on display at the Royal Automobile Museum at Amman.
Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg in 1970 opted for a Daimler DS420 as his new state car of which he took delivery in 1971. The Limousine (with chassis nr. 1M 20042) was painted in "Westminster Blue" and served him until 1988, when he replaced it by a new example in the same colour.
Sultan Qaboos of Oman was the next monarch opting for the new Daimler. He was delivered two examples in identical specification in black paint and with black leather in the front compartment and fawn West of England Cloth in the rear compartment. The Limousines had the chassis-numbers 1M 20051 and 1M 20052 and were despatched in January 1972.
Following the death of her father King Frederick IX in 1972 his daughter took over duty as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the oldest monarchy in Europe. The fact that both she and the Dowager Queen Ingrid requested the Daimler led to the decision to order another example. It was delivered in 1974 and despite being painted black as well a small change in the layout of the rear side window allows to differ which of the two Limousines was in use. Queen Ingrid opted for the younger Daimler (with chassis nr. 1M 20103) and combined private and official duties with the Limousine. The working day started with accompanying her sons to school before heading for her public engagements.
King Yahya Petra of Malaysia was the first monarch from the Far East to order the Daimler Limousine of which (with chassis nr. 1M 3494 BW) he took delivery in the second half of 1977.
1984 was to become a special year for Daimler. With eight orders by reigning monarchs from all over the world the record of the Straight Eight was already broken but one important was still missing before Queen Elizabeth II placed her first order for a Daimler Limousine. Her DS420 with chassis nr. 200477 was to serve mostly as an appropriate means of transport for her son Prince Charles and his young spouse Lady Diana. Same as the models supplied to the Queen Mother it was painted black over royal claret and carried a blue bullet lamp.
By 1986 time was ripe for the third order from the Danish Court to replace one of the two limousines in frequent use. Disbanded was not the older but the younger model – most likely for emotional reasons allowing dowager Queen Ingrid to continue with the Daimler her husband King Frederick IX had ordered. Queen Margrethe II with the new model changed for "Westminster Blue" paint.
1987 saw the 35 year jubilee of the reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II. what was a welcome occasion for a rejuvenation of her fleet. The two Vanden Plas Princess Limousines were dismissed same as the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV Landaulet. Both rivalling premium manufacturers were allowed to deliver a new model to the Royal Mews – Rolls-Royce a Phantom VI with standard limousine body and Daimler a DS420 Limousine in the latest guise of a facelift introduced the same year. The 1987 Daimler Limousine (with chassis nr. 200970) was often in use by the royal family. It served TRH Prince Charles, Diana Princess of Wales and their sons Prince William and Prince Henry, for who the occasional seats seamed tailor-made. The most frequent user was Sarah Fergusson, the Duchess of York in single official engagements. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II used it for lesser formal occasions that did not necessitate the use of a state car. Who was actually using the Daimler Limousine can be identified from outside by the Flag Shield it carried on the roof behind the blue bullet lamp. If the Queen is using it, her personal flag shield is mounted such as at her visit to Snettisham in 1992, 40 years after her accession to the throne. Other members of the royal family using the Limousine of the Queen might display their personal flag shield as well (that differs in details from that of the Queen) but regularly use the flag shield with the "Vice Regal" crown. This flag shield is also mounted when other dignities are carried along with the Daimler. The spectrum comprises the private secretaries, the ladies-in-waiting, the mistress of the robes of Her Majesty and the spouses of foreign Head of States that visited the UK, who followed the state car in the Daimler Limousine accompanied by Prince Philip. The 1987 Daimler Limousine was the first example of the latest model generation that was supplied to a royal court. The revised layout was to generate further orders of reigning monarchs.
At the Swedish Court back in 1950 a Daimler 4litre Hooper Limousine was elected to serve as a state car. By 1987 a modern alternative was sought after and found in the DS420 Limousine. The black Daimler (with chassis nr. 201045) was finished in October 1987 and subsequently handed over to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. It is still in service but in lesser official engagements the Swedish King makes use of modern Saloons.
In Luxembourg as well the revised design prompted a new order, Grand Duke Jean replaced his 1971 Daimler Limousine by another again in "Westminster Blue" (with chassis nr. 201168) in September 1988.
By this time Queen Elizabeth II. had already been supplied her third DS420 Limousine (with chassis nr. 201127), which was handed over in August 1988 and was to replace the 1984 model. Apart from a small detail in the interior it had identical specification as the 1987 model.
By 1992 this chapter could have ended, because production of the DS 420 Limousine was discontinued. Of the four final examples produced one went to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, another one to the Queen Mother (with chassis nr. 201629) and an identical equipped pair to Queen Elizabeth II. (with chassis nrs. 201628 and 201630). The Daimler Limousine had survived its opponent the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI for one year. Both manufacturers had to surrender to altered settings such as crash-tests or emission-regulations. The XK-engine from the 1950s and the chassis from the 1960s were the limiting components – but not the request by royalty. Both the two 1992 models and the 1988 model are still serving Queen Elizabeth as semi-state cars and could be viewed acting together at the weddings of Prince Edward, Prince William, Prince Henry (Harry) and Princess Eugenie.
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark would have liked one more example as well – but where to get one after end of production? Monarchs are not customers on the used car market. The Danish Queen was very lucky to find a pristine example with almost no mileage on the odometer that was kept in reserve by the Swedish importer since 1987. Not enough with that it had the preferred paint of "Westminster Blue" such as the 1986 model of the Queen. Likely intended as a supplement for the Swedish King the 1987 Daimler Limousine (with chassis nr. 201065) ended up with the Danish Queen in 1994. The youngest model in her fleet was not to become nr.1 instantly – and this in the very sense. The cars of the Danish Court carry license plates with a crown and a number. The Daimlers had Crown 1, Crown 2 and Crown 5 but in changing arrangements. At the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik in 2004 the oldest Daimler still carried Crown 1 while the youngest from 1987 hat to settle for Crown 5. At a later stage they changed registrations and the 1987 Limousine until this very day is the car for daily duties of Her Majesty despite its age of more than three decades. Not enough with that the Daimler even sometimes replaces the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith as state car. The 1986 model with Registration Crown 2 that had served the Crown Prince Couple on several occasions since 2004 is since 2011 exclusively used by them.
A final change worth mentioning in this context took place in Luxembourg in 2000 when Grand Duke Jean passed duty to his son to become Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg. The Daimler Limousine as the state car followed the change and is in service until today. It is definitely the Daimler with the greatest variety of registrations. When hosting State Visits or at the parade on National Day it carries a plate which simply displays a crown symbol. In "everyday" duty of the Grand Duke the plate displays a self-explaining "1". At the wedding of the Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume with Stephanie de Lannoy in October 2012 in Luxembourg the plate just displayed an orange and a blue stripe, the colours of the House of Weilburg-Nassau. At the wedding of the nephew of the Grand Duke, who belongs to the House of Habsburg the corresponding colours of black and yellow were displayed in Nancy later on that year. When the Daimler Limousine is driven outside Luxembourg it carries a diplomatic registration.
The Daimler DS420 can claim a special royal record. The rear compartment allows up to six passengers, the occasional seats favouring children. There is no other car that had the honour to carry six members of a reigning royal family at the same time except the Daimler Limousine. Both sons of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark have four children and they can be seen travelling together with their parents in the rear of the Daimlers. On the other hand royals sometimes can be found in the drivers compartment of the DS420 such as Prince William in August 1999 or Princess Anne leaving Easter Service at Windsor Chapel in 2016.
With the total of orders by no less than ten reigning monarchs the Daimler DS420 not just side-lined the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI which could just boast orders from the King of Thailand and the Sultan of Brunei, but all other models produced in Automobile history. If any model can claim the prefix "Royal" it is the Daimler DS420. It highlights the special significance of this model that it is still in use by the Courts of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Luxembourg despite its production ended more than a quarter of a century ago and despite the discontinuation of the Daimler make since 2008. Considering that the DS420 Limousine could be rated the most important vehicle built by Daimler/Coventry.
State car of Luxembourg at a royal family wedding in Nancy on 28 December 2018
Royal visit to Liverpool c. 1990s - one of five Limousines delivered to Queen Elizabeth II