Diamond Jubilee
12/05/2012 09:00 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

We drive the Queen's Land Rovers



Driving the Queen’s Land Rovers in Windsor (© Land Rover)
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  • The Queen’s 1954 Series I Land Rover (© Land Rover)
  • The Queen’s 1954 Series I Land Rover (© Land Rover)
  • The Queen’s 1954 Series I Land Rover (© Land Rover)
  • The Queen’s 1954 Series I Land Rover (© Land Rover)
  • The Queen’s 1954 Series I Land Rover (© Land Rover)
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Driving the Queen’s Land Rovers in Windsor

Royals and Land Rovers go hand-in-hand. When you see images of the royal family on their Balmoral or Sandringham estates, chances are they're driving, or being driven in, a Land Rover or Range Rover product.

The Queen herself is famously a Land Rover driver and has been pictured in her sturdy machines for decades. Her own personal transport, the iconic green Land Rover, stayed with her long after other, more luxurious, models had been replaced.

Given the longstanding links between the royals and their Land Rovers, MSN Cars jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel of some famous models connected to the Queen in the run up to her diamond jubilee.

We drove the historic cars around the picturesque grounds of Windsor Park, an opportunity rarely afforded to anyone outside royalty or Land Rover top brass.

Click the gallery at the top of the page to see the cars in all their glory and read on to find out what we made of the Queen's classic Land Rover collection...

Read Land Rover car reviews

We drive the Queen's Land Rovers (© Land Rover)

The royals and their Land Rovers
The royal relationship with Land Rover goes back further than you think, right back to 1948 when King George VI viewed the original Land Rover. He later even ordered one, in 1951 - alas, he died before the special Land Rover was finished.

The Queen did still take delivery of her father's own Land Rover, though - and has used the Solihull firm's vehicles ever since.

The Royal relationship with Land Rover goes back further than you think

This is why Land Rover holds a royal warrant, as supplier to the royal household. Enabling it to use the Royal coat of arms and the words 'By Appointment to...', Land Rover actually holds all four Royal warrants - to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the late Queen Mother.

The relationship has been cemented by some iconic models over the years, including that famous Land Rover, said to be one of the Queen's very favourite vehicles and one that she used so much it was even immortalised in film.

The relationship continues to this day - and Land Rover insiders hint there's plenty more to come in this special diamond jubilee year...

Royal stars and their cars

the Queen's 1954 Series I Land Rover (© Land Rover)

The history of the Queen's 1954 Series I Land Rover
This 1954 Royal ceremonial vehicle was the first of the Queen's bespoke Land Rovers. The rear section was specially converted so the Queen and Prince Philip could stand in it and wave to crowds: Land Rover even incorporated discreet leg rests for its rear passengers.

It was painted in the official royal claret and finished with delicate hand-painted red pinstripes. There are no registration plates though: as it is a state vehicle used by the monarch, number plates were unnecessary.

This car was used by the Queen and Prince Philip on their six-month Commonwealth tour of 1953-54. The Queen - and her new Land Rover - covered 50,000 miles visiting New Zealand and Australia, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Aden (now Yemen) and Africa.

This is possibly the sweetest Series I Land Rover in the world

The 1954 Series I Land Rover 86-inch wheelbase was used by the Queen on other official duties and tours for 20 years.

What is the the Queen's 1954 Series I Land Rover like to drive?
This is possibly the sweetest Series I Land Rover in the world. The four-cylinder engine is sewing machine smooth and the lightweight all-aluminium body means it is an unexpectedly swift performer too.

The direct controls and crisp mechanical feel combine with the short wheelbase to give a sprightly, agile feel. It is the Caterham of off-roaders. Such exploits are not to be recommended if the Queen is in the rear, of course...

A real period piece to look at, it is surprisingly entertaining to drive and is a fascinating insight into what automotive sights, sounds and sensations the Queen experienced while touring the Commonwealth in the 1950s.

Royal stars and their cars

The Queen's 1974 MkI Range Rover (© Land Rover)

The history of the Queen's 1974 mk1 Range Rover
Land Rover decided to replace the Queen's Series I Land Rover with its then-new Range Rover in the early 1970s. Close communications between Land Rover and the royals for more than two years ensured it would be built to The Queen's exact specification.

It was finished with a super-luxury rear. Fully trimmed in leather, the special setup contains foldaway seats and special half-seats which the royals could rest on while standing. Brilliantly, these are set at different heights - the Queen's is lower than Prince Philips...

This Range Rover has been optimised to travel at low speed

Detail engineering even went as far as rerouting the exhaust away from the rear door, so the royals didn't have to breathe in exhaust fumes. Once again, it was finished in the iconic royal claret, with red pinstriping.

What is the Queen's 1974 mk1 Range Rover like to drive?
This Range Rover has been optimised to travel at low speed. The V8 is silky smooth, the transmission is creamy and it will happily take third gear at 10mph. With a pliant ride and progressive controls, few original Range Rovers are as relaxing to drive.

The driver has much less space than normal as the bulkhead was moved forward to maximise space for the Queen. This means the seatback is bolt upright, which is why the chauffeurs always look so stiff and correct while driving it...

What's also striking is how blustery it can be standing up exposed to the elements in a car. This is why the supplementary speedo is fitted, with a strict 20mph speed range. Even at half this speed, the wind blast is considerable. The Queen is clearly made of tough stuff.

Royal stars and their cars


The Queen's 1983 Land Rover V8 (© Land Rover)

The history of the Queen's 1983 Land Rover V8
The Queen's Land Rover 110 is perhaps Her Majesty's most famous Land Rover, after being immortalised in the film The Queen. This really was her own personal car on her Sandringham and Balmoral estates from when it was delivered in 1983 right up to 2001 (when it was replaced with another Land Rover Defender!).

One of the first 110s built, it is a V8 model with a manual gearbox - and the Queen also selected some other special features, including a distinctive 'carphone' with a hotline to the Home Office. The green leather seats were also bespoke.

This very Land Rover was fully recreated for the film The Queen

The Queen used this Land Rover to transport her corgis around her estates, particularly Balmoral, and it was often pictured over the years in action with Her Majesty.

This very Land Rover was fully recreated for the film The Queen, even down to the bespoke grabhandles by the doors. However, detail spotters will note the registration is slightly different, and the colour isn't quite a perfect match...

What is the Queen's 1983 Land Rover V8 like to drive?
This Land Rover is brilliant. It snarls, rorts and growls like the V8 of your dreams - the Queen clearly likes her V8s raw and muscular (after all, she did train as a mechanic while serving in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service during the second world war).

It's an absolute blast to drive, all growling V8 power and perfectly honed mechanical directness. It exudes character and it's easy to see why the Queen kept it for so long. Particularly as, with its lustrous paint and perfect panel gaps, there's perhaps not a better-built Land Rover 110 in existence.

Full of character, it is the car you'd hope the Queen would fall in love with. Simple, enthusiastic, fun and able, there are no frills with this Land Rover but none are needed. The in-built class it boasts sees to that.

Royal stars and their cars

The Queen Mother's 1995 Range Rover LSE (© Land Rover)

The history of the Queen mother's 1995 Range Rover LSE
The royal relationship with the original Range Rover continued for many years - even in 1995, when the new Range Rover was on sale, royals were still taking delivery of the original model

The late Queen mother enjoyed a very special 1995 Range Rover LSE, the long wheelbase version launched in 1992 with an eight-inch stretch over standard. This model introduced world-firsts for 4x4s, including electronically controlled air suspension and electronic traction control.

It was also fitted with leather seats, power steering, ABS brakes and driver's airbag, as well as the dashboard from the new P38a Range Rover to give it a more contemporary feel. Even the engine was stretched, from 4.0 litres to 4.2 litres.

It has a sedate, softly set up gait

The Queen Mother's personal LSE sported the registration NLT 9. Finished in Ardennes Green, it is fitted with bespoke side running boards to help its famous owner step out gracefully - something the new height-adjustable air suspension also facilitated.

What is the Queen Mother's 1995 Range Rover LSE like to drive?
Oddly, this Range Rover feels the most elderly of all the Royal Land Rovers. It has a sedate, softly set up gait that lacks the precision of, say, the Queen's own Land Rover. The V8 doesn't feel as eager and the steering isn't as crisp.

It's an exceedingly regal car to sit in though. Despite the narrow (by modern standards) cabin, there's a huge amount of legroom and the incredibly deep, large and low-shouldered side windows give a supreme view out. Few classic cars make its occupants feel as classy as the Queen Mother's Range Rover.

Indeed, sitting in the rear is best place to be. With bespoke built-in armrests for the plush leather seats, it was certainly the most luxurious Range Rover of its type back in 1995. Even the built-in dog-guard is immaculately finished...

British stars and their cars

Read Land Rover car reviews

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First drive: Range Rover Evoque (2011 onwards)

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