Daimler DS420

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Daimler DS420
Daimler DS420.jpg
ManufacturerDaimler Motor Company
Parent companyJaguar Cars
Production1968–1992
4116 produced
PredecessorDaimler DR450 & Vanden Plas limousine
ClassExecutive
Engine(s)4235 cc DOHC Jaguar straight six
Wheelbase358 cm (141 in)
Length574 cm (226 inches)
Width197 cm (77.56 inches)
Height161 cm (63.39 inches)
Curb weight2133 kg (4702 pounds)
ManualsService Manual

Origins

The Daimler DS420, popularly known as the Daimler Limousine, began production in 1968, replacing the DR450 which had been based on the Majestic Major. Unlike its predecessor, it had no Daimler engineering, but was entirely a Jaguar product, utilising the 4.2 litre version of the Jaguar XK straight-six engine. It also replaced the Vanden Plas 4-Litre Princess Limousine, and was initially produced at the Vanden Plas works in Kingsbury, North London.

It was based on the floorpan of Jaguar's 420G flagship, but with a wheelbase extended an extra 21 in (533.4 mm). The frontal styling was similar to the original Daimler Sovereign, with the Jaguar four-headlight treatment first seen on the Mark X mated to a Daimler radiator grill bearing the traditional fluting.

The 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. The dimensions of the vehicle are the same as those of the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI with which the limousine was designed to compete, although the Daimler significantly undercut the Rolls-Royce on price.

The top speed available from this 245 bhp (183 kW), three speed automatic, independently suspended, four wheel disc braked Daimler limousine was 110 mph (176 km/h). Undercutting the Phantom VI in price by 50% or more, the big Daimler was considered to be a fine vehicle for the cost with its Le Mans winning Jaguar engine, the last car to use it, and bespoke construction.

Production

Originally the cars were built at the Kingsbury works from bodyshells made by Park Sheet Metals Company assembling panels supplied by Motor Panels of Coventry and by Pressed Steel Fisher. Production moved to Jaguar in Coventry in 1979, where it continued until 1992. The move to Coventry also brought the only notable facelift in the car's life, when larger bumpers and a revised rear number-plate surround were fitted.

As well as the complete limousine, the factory also supplied part-bodies to external coachbuilders to allow them to construct hearses.

Trim levels varied from the base model with wind up windows to a mobile boardroom supposed to become a specific model, that has been told to be used by Jaguar Boss John Egan in 1984, complete with TV, computer, printer and Cocktail Cabinet.

Always hand-made, the DS420 had a fascia very similar to some contemporary 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 have been built in landaulette bodywork by the factory (and apparently none survived), but many have been converted for the wedding car industry.

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. No direct replacement was produced by Jaguar, although coachbuilders have adapted the Daimler version of the XJ6.

Customers

The Daimler DS420 is widely used among the funeral trade, serving as both the executive car for grieving relatives and the hearse for the deceased, after customization to fit funeral needs. It is also seen in official use across the world, including by the Danish Royal House (see external links) and the Governor of Tasmania. The vehicle was also purchased by many local authorities and embassies. The Inter-Continental Hotel, Hong Kong, formerly The Regent Hotel has been said to have purchased twenty-two Daimler DS420s across the years.

Royal Connections

The British Royal Mews is now in possession of three Daimler DS420s available for Royal use on state occasions and for visiting dignitaries. The late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother had three DS420 models over the years (all registered NLT1 or NLT2), including one of the last three models to be produced in 1992 (the other two going to Queen Elizabeth II, although rarely used). All of these featured certain special features including cloth seats, removal of chrome around the doors, a bullet-shaped blue light and a mount on the roof for the late Queen Mother's Royal Standard and Coat of Arms. These cars were a reminder of the royal patronage that Daimler lost to Rolls-Royce in the early 1950s.

One of the Queen Mother's Daimler DS420s, painted in Royal Claret, is now in the Royal Mews, along with two other models already owned by HM The Queen. These are classed as state cars although, unlike the Royal Rolls-Royce and Bentley models in the royal fleet, these do have number plates as only the state vehicle (currently the Bentley State Limousine) is permitted to drive on British roads legally without registration plates.

One of the most famous late appearances of the DS420 was for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales respectively, both the hearse and the mourning limousine following it were DS420s. A hearse version of the DS420 was used for the funerals of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and HRH Princess Margaret in 2002.

The Royal Family of Denmark, in addition to many other prestigious vehicles, have three Daimler DS420s.

External links