The royal family’s car collection is their crowning glory

As the Royal Family returns to our screens, it seemed like a good time to recall how much the House Of Windsor have enjoyed life in the fast lane…

God save Netflix for delivering unto us series four of The Crown while we’re in a nationwide lockdown with nothing else to do. Beyond the familial, constitutional, domestic and geopolitical dramas affecting the House Of Windsor in this series, there are some really lovely cars. We’ve had a peek inside the Royal Mews’ garages and picked out our favourites, from vintage limousines through to modern sports cars and superbikes.

The Queen

Rolls-Royce Phantom IV State Landaulet (1955)

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The royal family has owned dozens of Rolls-Royce Phantom IVs and Vs. Perhaps the rarest specification is that of Her Majesty’s 1955 State Landaulet, with coachwork by Hooper & Co. Powered by a 5.7-litre straight-eight engine, just 18 of these long-wheelbase luxo-barges were produced by Rolls-Royce and sales were restricted to heads of state. Our Queen’s machine was painted in claret and black, with dark blue and grey cloth upholstery. It remained in service for 43 years before being returned to Rolls-Royce in 2002 and is similar to the car in which Meghan Markle rode to her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.

Vauxhall Cresta PA Friary Estate (1961)

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Rumour has it that this is Her Majesty’s favourite car. She had it spec’d back in 1961 to suit her outdoorsy lifestyle, with bespoke modifications that include fishing rod holders built into the roof, a dog guard for her corgis and a gun rack, as well as custom Imperial Green paintwork. It remains in the royal garage at Sandringham today. Elizabeth II also loves Series I, II and III Land Rovers.

Bentley State Limousine (2002)

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Rolls-Royces were the royals’ preferred transport for formal occasions in the 20th century, but in the 21st the Spirit Of Ecstasy has been usurped by Bentley. This unique State Limousine is based on the Arnage and was gifted to the Queen by the Crewe manufacturer in 2002 to mark the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne. It’s powered by a modified 400bhp 6.75-litre V8. The extended wheelbase provides the monarch with a vast amount of legroom and accommodation for her ladies in waiting. The raised roof, raised rear seats and panoramic glasshouse ensure well-wishers can get a good view of Her Majesty as she passes by. When the sovereign is aboard, the Flying B ornament on the bonnet is replaced with a solid silver sculpture of St George slaying the dragon. Safety, of course, is paramount and we’re not just talking airbags: it’s armoured and blast-resistant and rides on Kevlar-reinforced tyres, yet still manages a top speed of 130mph. This car is reportedly valued at £10 million.

Prince Philip

Lagonda 3-litre Drophead Coupe (1954)

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The car that earned Aston Martin Lagonda its first royal warrant, the Duke Of Edinburgh’s 3-litre Drophead Coupe boasted a radio telephone on which he used to make prank calls to Prince Charles and Princess Anne and an extra-large vanity mirror so the Queen could check her hat. The car even made an appearance at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, having been shipped to Australia aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. Painted in a shade called Edinburgh Green, it was also used by the Queen and Prince Philip to officially open the M1, Britain’s first motorway, in 1959. The Lagonda was finally sold in 2016 for £350,000, around three times the value of a “regular” 3-litre Drophead.

Alvis TD21 Series II Drophead Coupe (1961)

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Fit for a prince, this elegant Park Ward-bodied Alvis entered production in 1959 and caught the eye of the Duke Of Edinburgh a couple of years later on a visit to the London Motor Show. Described by Autocar at the time as “one of the most enchanting cars imaginable”, it is powered by a 115bhp straight-six and Philip paid extra for an upgraded five-speed ZF gearbox. He also had it specially fitted with a taller windscreen and an electrically folding power roof. It remains on display at Sandringham.

Princess Margaret

Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith II LWB (1980)

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The Queen’s only sibling took delivery of a Cardinal Red long-wheelbase Silver Wraith II in 1980 and kept it much longer than any of her other vehicles or, for that matter, lovers. As one would expect, it carried the Standard Pennant and Royal Crest mountings and a police light, as well as unique interior furnishings: matte rosewood veneer and door cappings in black leather so as not to reflect camera flashes. A lowered rear bench seat provided extra privacy. On occasion, Princess Margaret would loan the car to Her Majesty, to the Princess Of Wales and to Ronald and Nancy Reagan whenever Air Force One landed in the UK.

Prince Charles

Aston Martin DB6 Volante Series II (1969)

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Elizabeth II purchased the Seychelles Blue DB6 Volante as a present for her heir’s 21st birthday. A very powerful car for a young man (Prince Charles’ first car was actually an MGC GT), HRH hired Thruxton circuit and the services of two-time Formula One world champion Graham Hill (“Lovely man. He gave me so much confidence”) to help him get to grips with the 148mph machine. In recent years, it’s had a number of ecofriendly modifications in line with the Prince Of Wales’ sustainable values. In fact, it is powered by wine and cheese (well, a cheese by-product called “whey” and wine you wouldn’t want to drink). Apparently, it takes about three bottles to drive a mile, so we’re guessing the range isn’t massive but, we’re told, the performance is better than ever. While the Prince may be very serious about biofuel, this car is mainly about fun: he’s stuck a fake red “eject” button to the Aston’s dashboard, designed to make his passengers nervous.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante (1989)

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One gets the impression the Prince Of Wales doesn’t like to pay for things if he can avoid it. His second Aston Martin was also a gift, this time from the Emir of Bahrain. Charles worried that it was a bit too beefy-looking, so he had Aston remove the boot spoiler and side skirts that mark it out as a Vantage. He kept the more powerful engine, thankfully. He added a manual gearbox and Balmoral Green paintwork, making it much the same as the one James Bond drove in 1987’s The Living Daylights.

Aston Martin Virage Volante (1994)

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Prince Charles’ preferred transport in the mid-1990s was a green Aston Martin Virage Volante, which he leased from the Newport Pagnell firm for 15 years. He had the V8 engine uprated from 5.2 to 6.3 litres, making it capable of 175mph, and there were a few other optional extras installed, such as a police radio, a second rear-view mirror so his accompanying protection officer could keep an eye on who might be tailing them and, endearingly, a special inbuilt leather jar, custom-made to keep sugar cubes for the Prince’s polo ponies. The car was sold last year by Bonhams for £230,000, slightly below the estimate. Prince Andrew owns a similar 1997 V8 Volante LWB in the same colour and has held onto his.

Princess Anne

Reliant Scimitar GTE (1970)

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The Princess Royal is the world’s most famous Scimitar enthusiast. She loves them so much she’s owned nine over the years. The first was an Air Force blue 1970 GTE – a joint Christmas and 20th birthday present from her parents. Reliant was, of course, best known for producing Del Boy’s three-wheeler, the Robin, but with the fibreglass Scimitar this niche Staffordshire manufacturer proved it could create something far more sporty and desirable. The performance hatchback was initially powered by a 3.0 Ford block, which could propel Anne from 0-60mph in an impressive 8.5 seconds and on to 120mph.

Princess Diana

Jaguar XJ-SC (1987)

Prior to the royal wedding, Lady Diana Spencer made do with a Renault 5 (sold in 2017 for £58,000) and an Austin Mini Metro. However, in 1987 and with her marriage well and truly on the skids, the princess decided she needed a pick-me-up and ordered a V12-powered sports car. Her Jaguar XJS was the targa-topped version, the XJ-SC. The XJ-SC was meant to be a two-seater, but Diana had hers fitted with rear seats for her sons. It had a custom-made and permanently fixed rear hard-top to ensure William and Harry couldn’t strike their heads on the solid roof bar by accident. This car was acquired from the Princess by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust in 1991 in return for a charitable contribution.

Mercedes-Benz 500 SL (1991)

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In December 1991, the Princess Of Wales added to the various controversies swirling around her by leasing a car that wasn’t British. The “R129” Mercedes 500 SL was one of the most glamorous-looking production cars of the day and she loved it, but pressure from the government and trade unions meant that she felt forced to return the burgundy convertible to Mercedes in September 1992. It’s now displayed in the manufacturer’s museum in Stuttgart.

Audi 80 Cabriolet (1994)

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Despite the German car backlash that resulted in the return of the 500 SL, once Diana was officially separated from Charles she decided there was no reason she had to drive a British car anymore. This time it was Audi who earned her patronage and the marque’s St Johns Wood dealer loaned her a series of Cabriolets. Jeremy Clarkson said at the time: “She alone has turned what might have just been another nice car into by far and away the coolest and most sought-after four-wheeled status symbol of them all.” Steady on, Jezza. We’re not sure the Audi 80 Cabriolet qualifies for iconic status, even if the icon driving it looked particularly radiant doing so.

Prince Harry

Audi RS6 (2017)

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Since Diana’s flirtation with Audis, Princes Charles, William and Harry, and their wives, have enthusiastically embraced the four rings. Apparently, the country of manufacture no longer matters, though it may have something to do with the special discount the royals receive. It didn’t go unnoticed by your author that Audi’s UK PR director received an invitation to Harry and Meghan’s wedding. The most powerful of all the cars supplied to the Windsors was Harry’s Daytona Grey RS6 Avant, on which he put 4,400 miles on the clock before selling it for £72,000 – presumably more than he paid for it. What a motor, though. Its twin-turbo V8 produces 552bhp and hits 62mph from standstill in 3.9 seconds, making it one of the quickest estate cars in the world. Harry even had the top speed limiter removed so he could hit 174mph, should he wish.

Prince William

Ducati 1198S Evo Corse SE (2011)

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The Duke Of Cambridge is mostly seen in Land Rovers, Range Rovers or in the back of his 200mph Bentley Flying Spur. But he sometimes goes about his business stealthily on a motorcycle – a crash helmet providing anonymity. William passed his bike test aged 19 and has owned a whole bunch of Triumph, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Ducati superbikes and scramblers since then. Ducati’s 1198 appears to be his favourite two-wheeler. He’s owned at least four of them, including the incredibly rapid Evo Corse SE. Kate, apparently, is not a fan and has urged her husband to “tone it down” now they have three children. She was probably thrilled when mice were found to have nibbled away at the wiring loom of Wills’ 1198SP, despite the costly repair bill. A love of motorbikes may be in the royal blood – William’s great-grandfather, George VI, was often seen on a 350cc Douglas back in the Roaring Twenties.

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