As Britain’s first automaker, it’s only natural that Daimler’s history is inextricably linked to royalty, considering turn-of-the-century cars—or, more accurately, horseless carriages—were playthings of the wealthy, not the common citizen. King Edward VII—then the Prince of Wales—took the crown’s first motorized ride in 1898 on (future) Lord Montagu of Beulieu’s Daimler. Montagu later drove his Daimler onto the yard at parliament’s Palace of Westminster, becoming the first “car” to do so.
Prince Edward took delivery of his own Daimler “Mail Phaeton” in 1900, cementing the mighty 6-hp two-cylinder buggy into history as the first Royal car. The prince’s 1902 purchase of a second Daimler led to the first “Royal Warrant” issued to an automaker; similar royal appointments to Daimler soon followed from Spain, Prussia, and Malaysia. Daimlers served as the primary car of state for the British monarchy until the early 1950s, when transmission troubles in the king’s Daimler led to Rolls-Royce taking over much of the royal fleet.
Daimler persevered in some form of pseudo-production until dormancy in 2010, though not without changing hands seven times. The more modern era of Daimler is commonly associated as a subsidiary of Jaguar, utilizing shared platforms and mechanicals but serving as a cushy, upfitted alternative to the more sporting Jag. Limousines were Daimler’s natural specialty, and the new-for-1968 DS420 became one of Daimler’s most recognizable and long-lived models in its 114-year production history.
The Jaguar Mark X—later branded the 420G—provided the bones for the new Daimler, sharing the engine, transmission, suspension, interior structure, controls, and much of the interior appointments, among other commonalities. Though visually, there was no mistaking a DS420 for its lesser Jaguar counterpart; the Daimler adds a whopping 21-inches to the Jaguar wheelbase and wears unique swooping, buttressed bodywork hand-shaped by British Leyland’s in-house Vanden Plas coachworks. Inside, what could be upfitted was, and the primary limousine compartment was separated behind a bulkhead.
It's important to note the DS420 was and always has been either a limousine or a hearse. At no point during its 24 years of production was a DS420 built or bodied as anything else—at least not officially. At the time of the DS420’s debut in 1968, Vanden Plas previewed a mock-up of a shortened four-door coupe based on a standard Jaguar 420G floorpan. Jaguar rejected the proposal, and the DS420 entered production solely as a long-wheelbase limo.
40 years after that mock-up, a notable Daimler super-enthusiast and Jaguar collector endeavored to bring Vanden Plas’ experiment to reality. The original four-door proposal was used as more spiritual guidance than recipe; starting with a standard DS420 limo, he significantly shortened the wheelbase, moderately flattened the roof profile, cut the rear passenger doors for a traditional coupe layout, and extended the remaining doors by 10-inches to match the new truncated footprint.
The result is nothing short of stunning. It seems Jaguar did the motoring world a disservice nixing the original proposal—though we very much doubt the shortened four-door could match the visual impact of this uniquely elegant DS420 coupe. The mercurial silver-green paintwork is particularly eye-catching and in excellent condition, tastefully complimented by a revised interior space upholstered in beige Connolly leather with green piping and green Brocade fabric inserts. Where was once a voluminous six-passenger rear compartment is now simply a sumptuously upholstered rear bench seat complete with matching throw-pillows.
Most everything else is familiar Daimler DS420 finery. All controls, switchgear, and gauges present as new, as does the plush high-pile carpeting and interior chrome trim. The rich burl woodwork is pristine, and extends through the entire cabin—including to the rear seating area.
A 4.2-liter twin-cam Jaguar XK inline-six breathes through triple SU carburetors—likely matching a similarly-equipped E-Type for power—and is managed by a Borg-Warner 12 three-speed automatic transmission. With a hotter engine and significantly less leather, wood, and important diplomats to haul, this compacted DS420 should offer a lush and assured touring experience beyond even the finest Jaguar Mark X.
Really, cross-country touring is the ideal use-case for this special Daimler; after the project was completed, the owner shipped the coupe back to England for an International Daimler & Lanchester Owner’s Club meet, later meeting up with Jaguar World magazine and 88 individual Jaguar owners for a 1,200-mile drive through the French countryside, where the car took home the “People’s Choice” award.
This extraordinarily well-executed feat of historical revisionism is perfect for a selection of notable gatherings and events around the globe. Though, unlike most other Daimler DS420s, you might want to look elsewhere if you plan a future in chauffeuring.
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Stock number 7542
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