5 ex-royal cars you could have bought and 2 you still can
What if that “one lady owner” was the Queen of England? Scour the auctions and you’ll be surprised at how regularly ex-royal cars come up for sale. It’s not just Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, either. In recent years Minis, Audis, Astons, Land Rovers and Humbers by royal appointment have all gone under the hammer.
Despite the regal provenance, these kings and queens of the road aren’t always that much more pricey than their equivalent, proletariat-driven cars. What better service history could you ask for than one which has served HRH?
Princess Margaret’s Rolls-Royce
In November you can bid for Princess Margaret’s Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. Delivered new in May of 1980 the Cardinal Red Wraith features a black Everflex roof and, for reasons that will soon become clear, raised cloth seats and matte wood veneer trim.
The Wraith was a long-wheelbase version of the Silver Shadow II and royal additions included a Standard Pennant inset in the roof along with a mount for the royal crest and a blue police light. Inside, the green cloth seats are raised so that the Princess could be more easily snapped by the paparazzi. That in turn meant the prospect of some rather unpleasant reflections from camera flashes, but Her Royal Highness remedied this by fitting matte rosewood veneer on the dashboard and leather door cappings.
The Rolls served Princess Margaret until the end, taking her family to her private funeral at Windsor Castle. Soon after, it passed into private hands when her son Viscount Linley decreed it to be surplus to royal requirements.
The Wraith will be auctioned by Silverstone Auctions at its NEC Classic Live Online auction on November 13–14 with an estimate of £45,000-£55,000 ($59,000–$72,000).
King Edward and Mrs. Simpson’s Humber
It was the scandal that almost brought down the British monarchy. King Edward VIII and had to choose between the crown and his divorcée American lover Wallis Simpson. Edward abdicated, passing the throne to his younger brother Albert who would become King George VI.
In the midst of it all the couple would sneak around London’s hotspots in the back of this 1933 Humber Snipe, hidden from prying eyes thanks to the car’s rather small rear window.
The car has been exhibited in the Humber Museum in Hull and is expected to fetch £20,000–£40,000 ($26,000–$52,000) at a closed auction by Hansons on October 28. A less-controversial 1952 Humber Super Snipe Mk III formerly used by the Queen Mother in Scotland is also up for sale.
The King of Belgium’s Aston Martin
Sold by Bonhams in October for €264,500 ($314,000) is a stunning Aston Martin DB2/4 that was ordered new in 1955 by King Baudouin of Belgium.
The car was originally supplied in Imperial Crimson with beige Conolly hide upholstery and is believed to have been used by Belgium’s Paris embassy.
The DB2/4 was described by The Motor as “The fastest car in the world capable of carrying two people with a month’s luggage.” Actually, it could carry four people, as it featured two small rear seats that could also be folded to accommodate a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk or two. The DB2/4 also had a raised roofline and a smaller fuel tank to increase interior space.
The King’s car was powered by 140-hp, three-liter engine which could propel it to a royally fast top speed of 118 mph.
Princess Diana’s Audi
The People’s Princess was the most photographed woman on earth and often those photos would depict her behind the wheel of the 1994 Audi Cabriolet which sold at Silverstone Auctions in 2016 for £54,000 (approximately $77,000 in today’s money).
The 2.3-liter, five-cylinder, automatic Audi was finished in Gomera Pearl paintwork with parchment leather interior. By 1994 Diana was separated from Prince Charles, but she remained an extraordinary media magnet. Audi Dealer, Dovercourt in London’s St. John’s Wood loaned her the car for some 4000 miles and got more exposure than any advertisement campaign could ever buy.
After it was returned to Dovercourt the car was, rather appropriately, bought by political commentator Ian Campbell Dale, who kept it for 17 years in pristine condition before selling it.
When sold again in 2016 the car fetched about 25 times what a similar car would be worth.
The Queen of England’s Daimler
For a right royal bargain, look no further than the long-wheelbase 2001 Daimler V8 Super which was at Her Majesty’s service for three years and 11,000 miles. It sold in 2013 for just £45,000 (equivalent to $68,000 today) at Historics Auctions.
Queen Elizabeth II used the car to pootle around Windsor Castle and travel to and from Buckingham Palace. She didn’t just regally repose in the rear seat. Oh, no, Lizzie took the wheel on numerous occasions—although only on her own property.
The Daimler had a variety of royal extras including a special armrest to hold her handbag, extra window switches, and various security features. After serving the Queen the car was returned to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage trust which kept it until the 2013 sale.
Lord Mountbatten’s Mini
This Morris Mini Traveller was registered to The First Earl Mountbatten of Burma in 1965. It was, of course, the De Luxe model, with a heater, bumper over-riders, and added chrome on the sills, wheel trims, and filler cap. It was finished in Tartan Red with a matching vinyl interior.
This woody design with non-structural ash exterior trim was longer than the normal Mini and featured barn doors to access the cargo area.
It’s not quite clear how long Mountbatten kept the car, but by 1991 it was in private hands and the owner at the time thought he’d have a go at selling it back to the family, offering it to the Earl’s car-loving nephew Prince Charles. According to correspondence included with the car, the Prince of Wales declined. Later in its life, the Mini would find its way to racing royalty instead, becoming part of Anthony Hamilton’s collection.
It sold in July 2020 at Silverstone Auctions for £23,625, ($31,000) which seems a pretty good deal for Mini with such provenance.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Range Rover
In January 2019, 97-year-old Prince Philip had a little incident near the Sandringham estate and managed to tip over his Range Rover. Shortly afterwards he surrendered his driving license which rendered another Rangie rather unnecessary. So off it went to be sold.
The Prince was said to have chauffeured President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle in the car in 2016, a trip that was thankfully without incident. In fact it had covered just over 3000 miles and was in mint condition.
With a few modifications, including side steps and grab handles, the car was sold by Surrey car dealer Bramley Motors for the princely sum of £129,850 ($171,000), which was significantly more than a new one would have cost at the time.