1969 Daimler Ds420

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1969 Daimler Ds420
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Vehicle story

A truly Royal limousine

The Daimler DS420, also known as the Daimler Limousine, is a limousine made by the Daimler Company between 1968 and 1992. The car was designed for official use and it was popular with chauffeur services, hoteliers and undertakers. It was used as an official state car in many countries. No other limousine model has been delivered to more reigning monarchs than the DS420, and the car is still used by the royal houses of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, and Luxembourg.Daimler has delivered automobiles to all five monarchs of the United Kingdom since 1901. Prince Philip opened the door to Rolls-Royce with an order for a private car, a Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, which was delivered in 1950 and became part of the official fleet in 1952 when Princess Elizabeth became Queen. Daimler was challenged by the next generation of Rolls–Royce cars, whose Phantom V was more successful, with orders from 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 delivered to King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand[17] and King Hussein of Jordan.[18] The Daimler Straight Eight (DE36) is a favorite among reigning monarchs, including King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, King Mohammed Zahir of Afghanistan, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Prince Rainier of Monaco.[17]

William Lyons launched the Daimler DS420 in the same year as the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The new Daimler was to re-establish Daimler supremacy with royal courts, starting with King Frederick IX. of Denmark, who would experience the very first Daimler Limousine, a pre-production demonstrator on his visit to London in April 1968 and who later ordered a black production model, delivered in March 1970.[19] After the death of King Frederik IX, this car served his successor Queen Margrethe II, the dowager Queen Ingrid, and Crown Prince Frederik at his 2004 wedding to Crown Princess Mary. In 2008, the Daimler would again serve in the same role at the wedding of Prince Joachim and Princess Marie, whom the Limousine then served subsequently. This first DS420 Limousine delivered to a monarch is still with the Queen's fleet and thus has served the Danish court for almost half a century.[19]

Prince Rainier III. of Monaco also took delivery of a DS420 in 1970. His DS420 had exterior two-tone paint of "silk" (a mixture of gold, silver, and pale green) over black, the same as his previous car, a Rolls-Royce. The Daimler carried a blue bullet-lamp on the roof and served the prince as state car until his death in 2005. The limousine is on display in Monaco's Automobile Museum, which was founded by the Prince in Monte Carlo.[20]

Another owner of the DS420 was Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who visited the Vanden Plas factory to supervise customizing to her specifications. Between 1970 and her death in 2002, no less than five separate DS420s served her (delivered in 1970, 1978, 1983, 1986, and 1992).[21][22] They were all painted in the royal colours of "Black over Royal Claret", had a blue bullet-lamp on the roof, and carried the Registration "NLT 1" or, later, "NLT2". It was the wish of the Queen Mother that after her death her final DS420 should be given to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust (JDHT), which today maintains the limousine (with new registration K123 EYL) at the museum at Gaydon, or takes it to rallies.

King Hussein of Jordan ordered a Daimler Limousine in 1970. It was painted in the colour "Sand" and served various duties, including bringing King Abdullah II to school when he was young. The Limousine today is on display at the Royal Automobile Museum at Amman.[18][23]

Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg ordered a Daimler DS420 in 1970, as his new state car, taking delivery in 1971. The Limousine was painted "Westminster Blue" and served him until 1988, when he replaced it with a new DS420 in the same colour.[24]

In January 1972, Sultan Qaboos of Oman took delivery two cars of identical configuration, in black paint and with black leather in the front compartment and fawn West-of-England cloth in the rear compartment.[25]

Following the death of her father King Frederick IX in 1972, both his daughter and successor, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Dowager Queen Ingrid wanted the use of the Daimler; and so another DS420 was ordered, which was delivered in 1974. It was the same as the first except for a small change in the layout of the rear side windows. Queen Ingrid opted for the newer car and used it both privately and for official duties.[19]

In 1977, King Yahya Petra of Malaysia took delivery of a Daimler Limousine in the second half of 1977.[26][27]

He was followed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei who had his 1981 Limousine based and registered in England where he has several retreats.[28][29]

In 1984, there were eight orders by reigning monarchs, the record of the Straight Eight was already broken. One important customer was still without a DS420, until Queen Elizabeth II placed her first order for a Daimler Limousine. Her DS420[22] was to serve mostly as transport for her son Prince Charles and his spouse. As with the models supplied to the Queen Mother, it was painted black over royal claret and carried a blue bullet lamp.[30]

By 1986 time was ripe for the third order from the Danish court to replace one of the two limousines in frequent use, but it was to replace the newer, not the older car—most likely for sentimental reasons, allowing dowager Queen Ingrid to continue with the Daimler her husband King Frederick IX had ordered. Queen Margrethe II had the new DS420 painted "Westminster Blue".[19]

1987 saw the 35-year anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and a welcome occasion for the rejuvenation of her fleet of cars. The two Vanden Plas Princess Limousines were discontinued, as was the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV Landaulet. Both manufacturers were allowed to deliver a new model to the Royal Mews—Rolls-Royce delivered a Phantom VI with standard limousine body, and Daimler a DS420 Limousine with the facelift introduced the same year.[31] The 1987 Daimler Limousine (chassis nr. )[22] served TRH Prince Charles, Diana Princess of Wales and their sons Prince William and Prince Harry, for whom the occasional seats seemed tailor-made. The most frequent user was Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, during official engagements. The Queen used it for less formal occasions that did not necessitate the use of a state car. Who was using the Daimler Limousine could be determined by the flag shield carried on the roof behind the blue bullet lamp: the Queen would mount her personal flag shield, such as during her visit to Snettisham in 1992. Other members of the royal family could display their personal flag shields as well but regularly used the flag shield with the vice-regal crown, which is also mounted when other dignitaries are being transported, such as the private secretaries, the ladies-in-waiting, the mistress of the robes, or the spouses of foreign heads of state, accompanied by Prince Philip, following the state car.[32] The 1987 Daimler Limousine was the first example of the latest generation to be supplied to a royal court. The revised layout was to generate further orders from reigning monarchs.

In 1950, at the Swedish court, a Daimler 4-litre Hooper Limousine was elected to serve as a state car.[17] By 1987, a modern alternative was sought after and found in the DS420 Limousine. The black Daimler (chassis nr. ) was finished in October 1987 and subsequently handed over to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. It is still in service, but for lesser official engagements the Swedish King makes use of modern saloons.[33]

In Luxembourg, as well, the revised design prompted a new order. In September 1988, Grand Duke Jean replaced his 1971 Daimler Limousine with another in "Westminster Blue" (chassis nr. ).[24]

By this time, Queen Elizabeth II had already been supplied her third DS420 Limousine (chassis nr. ), which was delivered in August 1988,[22] to replace the 1984 model. Apart from a small detail in the interior, it had an identical configuration 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 to the Queen Mother (chassis nr. ) and an identically equipped pair to Queen Elizabeth II. (chassis nrs. and ).[21] The Daimler Limousine had survived its rival Rolls-Royce Phantom VI by one year. Both manufacturers had to adhere to new requirements such as crash-tests and emission-regulations. The XK-engine from the 1950s and the chassis from the 1960s were the limiting factors, but not a lack of desire on the part of royalty. Both the two 1992 models and the 1988 model are still serving Queen Elizabeth as semi-state cars and were used at the weddings of Prince Edward, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Princess Eugenie.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark would have liked one DS420 as well, but where to get one after end of production, when monarchs are not customers on the used-car market. The Danish Queen was lucky to find a pristine example, with almost no mileage on the odometer, that was kept in reserve by a Swedish importer since 1987. It was also in "Westminster Blue", such as was the 1986 model of the Queen. Likely intended as a supplement for the Swedish King, this 1987 Daimler Limousine (chassis nr. ) was delivered to the Danish Queen in 1994. This newest model in her fleet was not to become number 1 immediately. The cars of the Danish court have license plates with a crown and a number. The Daimlers had Crown 1, Crown 2, and Crown 5, but in changeable arrangements. At the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik in 2004, the oldest Daimler still carried Crown 1 while the youngest from 1987 had to settle for Crown 5. At a later date they changed registrations, and the 1987 Limousine is now the car for the daily duties of the Queen, despite its age. The Daimler even sometimes replaces the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith as the state car. The 1986 model with Registration Crown 2 that had served the Crown Prince and his wife on several occasions since 2004 is since 2011 exclusively used by them.[19]

A final change worth mentioning in this context took place in Luxembourg in 2000 when Grand Duke Jean abdicated and his son became Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg. The Daimler Limousine remained as the state car after the change, and is in service 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 that simply displays a crown symbol. In "everyday" duty with the Grand Duke, the plate displays a simple "1". At the wedding of the Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume to Stephanie de Lannoy in October 2012, the plate displayed an orange and a blue stripe, the colors of the House of Weilburg-Nassau. At the wedding of the nephew of the Grand Duke, who belongs to the House of Habsburg, in Nancy later that year, the corresponding colors of black and yellow were displayed. When the Daimler Limousine is driven outside Luxembourg it carries a diplomatic plate.[24]

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 orders from no less than ten reigning monarchs, the Daimler DS420 not just side-lined the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI which could only 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 appellation of "Royal", it is the Daimler DS420.[34] 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 having ended more than a quarter of a century ago and despite the discontinuation of the Daimler marque since 2008.

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