Manufactured 1988

The Daimler DS420, also known as simply the Daimler Limousine, is a large limousine produced by The Daimler Company Limited between 1968 and 1992. The model was popular with chauffeur services, hoteliers, funeral homes, politicians and other state officials. Most notably 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[citation needed], and examples are still in use by the royal houses of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg.[citation needed]


The Daimler Company had been purchased by Jaguar Cars in 1960, which itself was bought by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1966 and became part of the larger British Leyland conglomerate in 1968. BMC and Jaguar each had their own limousines prior to merging operations: the Vanden Plas Princess and the Daimler DR450, respectively. Rather than build two competing products they decided to consolidate limousine production to a single model under the Daimler marque. Most of the engineering of the DS420 would be carried out by Jaguar, sharing parts such as the engine, gearbox and suspension with the Jaguar 420G. Production of the DS420 was announced in June 1968[3], with the cars being built at the Vanden Plas works in Kingsbury. The short designation DS420 was derived from earlier Daimler models which had used the first letter D (for Daimler) and the second letter in alphabetic order (with interruptions) over the years (i.e. the predecessor was 'DR', thus the successor was 'DS'), while '420' referred to the 4.2-litre displacement of the XK engine.


The DS420 was based on the floorpan of Jaguar's 420G flagship (not to be confused with the smaller Jaguar 420), but with the wheelbase extended 21 in (533.4 mm). The front styling was similar to the contemporaneous Daimler Sovereign, with four headlights reminiscent of the Jaguar Mark X but with a radiator grille bearing the Daimler marque's traditional fluting. The new limousine also shared the 420G's 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.[4]

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.[4] The passengers were seated behind a glass divider separating the cabin from the driver's compartment. Three of the six passengers sat on a bench seat spanning over 6 feet (1.8 m) in width, while the other three sat on folding seats.[2]

In comparison to the competing Rolls-Royce Phantom VI the DS420's wheelbase was four inches shorter, body 12 inches shorter, was approximately 350 kg lighter, and its engine was only about two-thirds the displacement of the Rolls-Royce V8. As such the Daimler was always much less expensive than a Rolls-Royce; less than half the price of a long-wheelbase Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.[5]


Daimler DS420

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 tread plates 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 coach-built limousine. The factory also supplied part-bodies to external coach-builders 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[citation needed], complete with a TV, computer, printer and cocktail cabinet. The DS420 had an extensive list of options. Private owners tended to fully option their cars[citation needed]. 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).[citation needed]

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 economical. 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.[6] This is in the care of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. No direct replacement was produced by Jaguar, although coach builders have adapted the Daimler version of the XJ6.


Westminster 1974

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. Diana's coffin was transported from RAF Northolt in a 1985 Daimler Hearse, to St. James Palace for a Laying-in-State. Her two sisters followed in a 1992 Daimler Limousine of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey limousine

The limousines have also been used to transport representatives of Queen Elizabeth II worldwide, as well as by diplomatic missions in London. Examples include various Governors of Hong Kong, the High Commissioner of New Zealand,[7] the Governor of Tasmania,[8] and the Governor of Guernsey.[9] A DS420 Limousine still serves the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey.[citation needed] Diplomatic missions that have used a Daimler include Jordan[10], Oman[11], Portugal, and Spain[12]. The DS420 Limousine was also the choice of other governments who were looking for an appropriate car to host state visits or for their own use on formal occasions, such as Australia,[13], and New Zealand[14].

The vehicles have also found use among some hotels that have provided them to their guests for transportation.[15][16] The Regent Hotel (today known as the Inter-Continental Hotel) in Hong Kong had no less than 22 in service for its guests over the years.[17]

Royal connections

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. After the marriage of Prince Philip Mountbatten to Princess Elizabeth in 1948, he opened the door for Rolls-Royce with an order for a private car, a Rolls-Royce Phantom IV. It was delivered in 1950 and became part of the official fleet in 1952 when Princess Elizabeth became Queen. Despite this, the Daimler Straight Eight (DE36) remained the favorite among reigning monarchs with deliveries to King George VI of the United Kingdom, 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.[18]

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[19] and King Hussein of Jordan[20].

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.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23]

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).[24][25]. 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.[26][27]

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.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31][32]

He was followed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei who had his 1981 Limousine based and registered in England where he has several retreats.[33][34]

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[35] 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.[36]

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.[37]

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.[38] The 1987 Daimler Limousine (with chassis nr. 200970)[39] 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.[40] 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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43]

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[44] 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).[45] 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.[46]

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.[47]

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.[48] 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


  1. ^ a b Daimler DS420 Production, prices and options, Retrieved on 14 February 2013
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  3. ^ Daimler's £4,424 challenger. The Times, Tuesday, 11 June 1968; pg. 4; Issue 57274
  4. ^ a b "The new Daimler Limousine". Autocar. Vol. 128 (nbr 3774). 13 June 1968. pp. 24–27.
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  17. ^ "The Driving Member" July 1991
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  21. ^ The Driving Member Vol.52 Nr.2, 45 years of Royal Daimler in Denmark (2015)
  22. ^ The Driving Member Vol.52 Nr.2, 45 years of Royal Daimler in Denmark (2015)
  23. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.37
  24. ^ Brian Smith "Daimler Days – A Celebration of 100 Years of Daimler Motor Cars" ISBN 9781873361214 – Vol 2 Part Appendix IX "Royal Daimlers" p.952
  25. ^ Brian Long "Daimler and Lanchester – A Century of Motoring History" Appendix X Royal cars, 1995 Longford Int. Public. ISBN 1 899154019
  26. ^ The Driving Member Vol. 41 nr. 8 pg. 13, Royal Automobile Museum, February 2005
  27. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.38
  28. ^ The Driving Member Vol.49 Nr.9, Royal Daimler in the Heart of Europe (2013)
  29. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.39
  30. ^ The Driving Member Vol.52 Nr.2, 45 years of Royal Daimler in Denmark (2015)
  31. ^ Brian Smith "Daimler Days – A Celebration of 100 Years of Daimler Motor Cars" ISBN 9781873361214 – Vol 2 Part 4 p.892
  32. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.40
  33. ^ "Die Autosammlung des Sultan von Brunei". (in German). Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  34. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.40
  35. ^ Brian Long "Daimler and Lanchester – A Century of Motoring History" Appendix X Royal cars, 1995 Longford Int. Public. ISBN 1 899154019
  36. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.42
  37. ^ The Driving Member Vol.52 Nr.2, 45 years of Royal Daimler in Denmark (2015)
  38. ^ Brian Smith "Daimler Days" Vol.2 Part 4 picture p.917
  39. ^ Brian Long "Daimler and Lanchester – A Century of Motoring History" Appendix X Royal cars, 1995 Longford Int. Public. ISBN 1 899154019
  40. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.43 and p.50-53
  41. ^ Brian E. Smith "Royal Daimlers" Transport Bookman Publications Ltd. ISBN 0 85184 019 1
  42. ^ The Driving Member Vol.51 Nr.8, Royal Daimler in Sweden (2015)
  43. ^ The Driving Member Vol.49 Nr.9, Royal Daimler in the Heart of Europe (2013)
  44. ^ Brian Long "Daimler and Lanchester – A Century of Motoring History" Appendix X Royal cars, 1995 Longford Int. Public. ISBN 1 899154019
  45. ^ Brian Smith "Daimler Days – A Celebration of 100 Years of Daimler Motor Cars" ISBN 9781873361214 – Vol 2 Part Appendix IX "Royal Daimlers" p.952
  46. ^ The Driving Member Vol.52 Nr.2, 45 years of Royal Daimler in Denmark (2015)
  47. ^ The Driving Member Vol.49 Nr.9, Royal Daimler in the Heart of Europe (2013)
  48. ^ Austro Classic 5/2019 "Die Limousine der Könige und Königin der Limousinen" p.49

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