17/07/2008 00:00

The top 10 Royal cars



David Long

Princess Anne famously joined the AA as its millionth member when she was still in nappies, and as an 18-year-old the Queen learned to drive an ambulance with the wartime Auxiliary Territorial Service.

Generally though relations between the Royals and the motor car have had their ups and downs so that, while her son Edward VII clearly relished his new Renault, Queen Victoria found the smell of 'these very shakey and disagreeable conveyances... exceedingly nasty'.

GALLERY: top 10 Royal Cars

Similarly 20 years on George V was still insisting that the new Lanchester Forty was 'more suited to a prostitute than a prince.' In fact, it wasn't until the 1950 Silverstone Grand Prix that a reigning sovereign - George VI - actually went to watch a motor race, and even now most royals prefer watching horses going round in circles to Lewis Hamilton and all his chums.

Admittedly a few members of what Prince Phillip calls 'the Firm' have shown some enthusiasm for things automotive - and not just Rolls-Royces - but eyebrows were still raised when the 1997 Grand Prix Historique de Monaco listed one of the entrants as Prince Charles. (The driver in question was actually Charles Prince, driving a Maserati 300 S.)

1906 Renault 14/20hp XB

1906 Renault 14/20hp XB (© Image © MagicCarPics)

The first car to be owned and run by a British Royal, Edward VII took the plunge after enjoying a run in a steam-powered machine owned by a chum. Clearly enthusiastic about his new purchase - a year later he bestowed the Royal prefix on the Automobile Club - he was nevertheless not remotely interested in how they worked.

While a bit more clued up than his cousin the Kaiser (who believed cars were powered by 'potato spirit') His Majesty would growl at his chauffeur every time his Hooper-bodied car in its Royal Claret livery broke down or misbehaved.

More pictures of the old Renaults from Live Search

1934 McLaughlin-Buick

1934 McLaughlin-Buick (© Image © MagicCarPics)

Unaware of Mrs Simpson's affair with a car salesman - the truth came out in secret government papers released in 2003 - Edward VIII liked cars and ordered a customised, Canadian-built McLaughlin-Buick.

Finished in gleaming black, and still owned by him at his abdication three years later, the limousine included such refinements as drinks and jewelry cabinets, vanity mirrors, luncheon trays and a set of blinds to shield him from the public when he was out and about with the double-divorcée. Dubbed the 'most romantic car in the world' the car survived and in December 2007 it sold for $185,000 at auction in the US.

More pictures of the McLaughlin-Buick from Live Search

1935 Standard Nine

1935 Standard Nine (© Image © MagicCarPics)

While he was later to be seen tooling around in a variety of more exotic machines, the Duke of Edinburgh - or Prince Philip of Greece as he then was - began his motoring life in one of these, a cheap and cheerful little runabout which is reckoned to have saved the Standard Motor Company because its larger cars weren't selling well.

In 1950 the company had another brush with Royalty when, during a demonstration for Princess Margaret at the Motor Show, the chairman Sir John Black pulled the wrong lever and accidentally incinerated the company's TRX prototype.

More pictures of the Standard Nine from Live Search

1960 Nash Metropolitan

1960 Nash Metropolitan (© Image © MagicCarPics)

An extraordinary attempt to scale down what was then the look in American auto design, the Nash Metropolitan with its trademark two-tone paintjob ended up looking more like a bath toy than anything approaching a real car.

Despite this, and notwithstanding its feeble performance, it racked up a number of famous owners, including Elvis Presley, Paul Newman and Alma Cogan. Princess Margaret had one too, given to her as a wedding present, but the black convertible was stolen while she was out to lunch. After a police chase through the streets of London, a 14-year-old schoolboy was arrested.

More pictures of the Nash Metropolitan from Live Search

1965 Ogle Triplex GTS

1965 Ogle Triplex GTS (© Image © MagicCarPics)

An obvious precursor to the fashionable if flawed Reliant Scimitar GTE, the Triplex GTS advanced the use of glass in automotive aerodynamics and pioneered the concept of the sports estate.

Oil billionaire Nubar Gulbenkian offered Ogle a blank cheque for it, Lord Snowden was photographed climbing into it, and when Prince Philip let it be known that he'd find the so-called Glazing Test Special a good daily driver, arrangements were made for him to borrow it for the next two years. Clearly his daughter was impressed too, and given a Scimitar for her 20th birthday she was later apprehended for proceeding with undue haste.

More pictures of the Ogle Triplex GTS from Live Search

1974 Aston Martin Lagonda

1974 Aston Martin Lagonda (© Image © MagicCarPics)

Britain's first Royal undergraduate, in October 1967 Prince Charles arrived at Trinity College, Cambridge in a red chauffeur-driven Mini. His taste in motors soon moved upmarket, however, since when he's been seen in a variety of Aston Martins, including this rare Lagonda.

Essentially a stretched, four-door version of the standard V8 saloon, the idea appealed enormously to company boss and Lagonda fan David Brown but only seven were completed before the project was canned in 1976. With an extra 11 inches in the wheelbase the ride was better than the standard car, but it remained unwieldy with a mammoth 45 feet turning circle.

More pictures of the Aston Martin Lagonda from Live Search

1989 Aston Martin Vantage Volante

1989 Aston Martin Vantage Volante (© Image © MagicCarPics)

In place of genuinely new models, and in what eventually became standard practice for constantly-cash-strapped Aston Martin, the cleanly styled V8 gradually sprouted a variety of increasingly wild body mods and numerous, even larger engine conversions reaching a peak with the rather vulgar Vantage and Vantage Volante 6.3.

Prince Charles stuck with the marque, however, and even ordered a hot convertible for himself, albeit without the tacky side skirts and flared wheel arches. The less-is-more idea caught on, and a handful of replicas were later built in what is still known as Prince of Wales specification.

More pictures of the Aston Martin Vantage Volante from Live Search

2002 Bentley State Limousine

2002 Bentley State Limousine (© Image © MagicCarPics)

After decades as a royal favourite Daimler was edged out of the Royal Mews by Rolls-Royce, and eventually similar treatment was meted out to that company when Bentley's new owner, Volkswagen, presented Her Majesty with two bespoke new State Limousines to mark her Golden Jubilee.

Longer, taller and wider than the Arnage on which it is based, it features suicide doors - 'Coach doors', in Palace parlance - armoured body, armoured glass, run-flat tyres and a mine-resistant floor. The price has never been revealed because there are positively no plans to offer the model for general sale.

More pictures of the Bentley State Limousine from Live Search

2002 Audi Allroad quattro

2002 Audi Allroad quattro (© Image © MagicCarPics)

It caused a bit of an uproar in the press when the Prince of Wales did a deal with Audi instead of buying British, but presumably he just couldn't see himself being driven around town in a TVR or strapping himself into a Noble.

According to a St James's Palace spokeswoman 'Vauxhall have decided to stop making Omegas so he has had to pick another car' - and so he ordered a matched pair of these for himself and Camilla. Audi, clearly delighted, admitted, 'This deal is worth its weight in gold. The Prince is probably our most important customer.' Probably?

More pictures of the Audi Allroad quattro from Live Search

2006 Land Rover Defender

2006 Land Rover Defender (© Image © MagicCarPics)

In the 2006 film The Queen, Helen Mirren was shown in the title role driving a Defender through the Scottish countryside. When the vehicle breaks down fording a river - not a Defender, surely - the Queen quickly set to work to sort it out, commenting 'I was a mechanic during the war' in reference to her time in the ATS.

She really does drive Landies too, and despite being the only person in the country who can get away without a numberplate she has got one - JGY 280 - which George VI gave her on her 18th birthday.

More pictures of the Land Rover Defender from Live Search
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