The Daimler limousine DS420, popularly known as the Daimler Limousine, is a large limousine produced by The Daimler Company Limited between 1968 and 1992. The vehicles have been used by the British, Danish and Swedish royal houses. The car is still commonly used in the wedding, funeral, and hotel trades.
The Limousine was based on the floorpan of Jaguar's 420G flagship (not to be confused with the smaller Jaguar 420), but with a wheelbase extended an extra 21 in (533.4 mm). The frontal styling was similar to the original Daimler Sovereign, with the Jaguar four-headlight treatment first seen on the 420G's predecessor, the Mark X, mated to a Daimler radiator grill bearing the traditional fluting. Jaguar Mark X/420G underpinnings were also apparent from the twin ten gallon fuel tanks set in each of the rear wings, each with its own electric SU pump selected by a dashboard mounted switch.
The driver sat on a full width bench seat in a relatively upright position which was said to make length-wise adjustment for different sizes of driver unnecessary, although there was 2.75 in (7 cm) of telescopic adjustment available on the low-set steering wheel.
Three of the six rear passengers sat on a bench-seat behind the glass division in opulent comfort — the DS420's rear seat spanning over 6 feet (1.8 m) in width. Three more passengers could fit on occasional fold-up seats but the DS420 was twelve inches shorter, on wheelbase 4 inches shorter, much lighter and with an engine two-thirds of the size of the very exclusive Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The Daimler was always half the price of even an "off-the-peg" standard series production long wheel base Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.
Originally the cars were built at the Vanden Plas works in Kingsbury Lane, London, from bodyshells made by Park Sheet Metals Company assembling panels supplied by Motor Panels of Coventry and by Pressed Steel Fisher. Early limousines bore the 'Daimler Vanden Plas' designation on treadplates and workshop manuals. The Kingsbury Plant was closed in 1979 and production moved to Jaguar in Coventry, where it continued until 1992. The move to Coventry also brought the third and most extensive facelift in the car's life, when larger bumpers and a revised rear number-plate surround were fitted. The previous facelift occurred in 1972, modernizing the window arrangement for the rear passengers. This involved a change from the previous design's division glass design (split between one vertically sliding portion and one fixed pane) to one single window that could slide up and down. It also addressed the corrosion issue of earlier cars (which related to the aforementioned division glass), slightly changed the dimensions of the grille and badge placement on the exterior, and reduced the amount of woodwork in the interior. The third and final facelift was made in 1987 with the arrival of new plastic coated bumpers and minor changes to the interior. This last model, known as MkIV, was produced until 1992, when Jaguar/Daimler ceased production of their last coachbuilt limousine.
As well as the complete limousine, the factory also supplied part-bodies to external coachbuilders to allow them to construct hearses.
Delivered vehicles varied from very basic models with wind-up windows to a mobile boardroom, reported to have been designed for use by Jaguar boss Sir John Egan in 1984, complete with TV, computer, printer and Cocktail Cabinet. The DS420 was very much a bespoke vehicle, with an extensive list of options. Private owners tended to fully option their cars. The service industry, including the funeral trade and limousine companies, tended to lightly option their cars. Until the early 1980s, after their purchase by Hertz, Daimler Hire was one of the largest clients. Daimler Hire cars were offered as limousine transportation, as well as for state and official use. As such, most Daimler Hire cars are well equipped with options, including electric division window, air conditioning, matching leather interiors, and the bonnet flag mount for ceremonial use.
Always hand-made, the DS420 had a fascia very similar to some contemporary (in 1968) Jaguars, particularly the Mark X and 420G, remaining faithful for many years to the old fashioned steering column and to the pencil-thin steering wheel. Two cars were built in landaulette bodywork by the factory (and apparently neither have survived), but many have been converted to laundaulettes for the wedding car industry (some more successfully than others).
By 1992 the DS420 was the only model in the Jaguar range still using the XK engine, along with other parts of the drive train and suspension, and although the car still appealed to its traditional customers, production was no longer economic. No direct replacement was produced by Jaguar, although coachbuilders have adapted the Daimler version of the XJ6.
The Daimler DS420 is widely used among the funeral trade, serving as both the executive car for mourning relatives and the hearse for the deceased, after customization to fit funeral needs. It was once seen in official use across the world, including by the Danish Royal House (see external links), the Governor of Tasmania, and the Governor of Bermuda. The vehicle was also purchased by many local authorities and embassies. The Inter-Continental Hotel, Hong Kong, formerly The Regent Hotel, is said to have purchased twenty-two Daimler DS420s over the years.
The British Royal Mews is now[when?] in possession of three Daimler DS420s available for Royal use on state occasions and for visiting dignitaries. The late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother had five DS420 models over the years, four of them registered as NLT1 or NLT2 , including one of the last three models to be produced in 1992; the other two were commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II registered as NGN 1 and NGN 2 and served as "semi-state cars" until 2012,subsequently replaced by the newly acquired Jaguar XJ State Limousine. The 1992 models owned by the late Queen Mother was registered as KLL1, although it was rarely used, and the other is retained by Jaguar for use in Coventry, currently in the possession of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. All of the cars delivered for royal use featured certain special features including cloth seats, removal of chrome around the doors, a bullet-shaped blue light and a mount on the roof for the Royal Standard and Coat of Arms. These cars were a reminder of the royal patronage that Daimler lost to Rolls-Royce in the early 1950s.
One of the Queen Mother's Daimler DS420s, painted in the royal livery, is now in the Royal Mews, along with two other models already owned by the Queen. These are classed as state cars although, unlike the Royal Rolls-Royce and Bentley models in the royal fleet, they do have number plates.
In the TV series C.A.T.S. Eyes, Nigel Beaumont (Don Warrington) is chauffeured in a DS420, which he refers to as the "naughty Daimler" when caught speeding.
A black Daimler DS420 limousine was one of the leading cars in the film of Tom Clancy's Patriot Games starring Harrison Ford: It is the vehicle in which a British minister is travelling when he is the target of an IRA bomb attack and ambush in Piccadilly Circus, London. (In the book it was The Prince and Princess of Wales but this was changed to a government minister for the movie).
In the film Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, Desmond Tiny is chauffeured in a Daimler DS420 which seems to have purple neon lights underneath it. Also, the Daimler is painted in a dark purple color in the bottom part and the upper part is painted black. In the movie, the limousine had the four front lights removed and eight took their place; these were placed in the grille, the license plate is DES-TINY (making reference to Desmond Tiny's shortened name) and is surrounded by a chain. In the film, it appears to have no real chauffeur due to Mr. Tiny's magic powers; in its place, there is a green-glowing Celtic-like symbol.
In the DaVinci Code movie, Sir Leigh Teabing and his guests are collected at the airport in a DS420 with his guests hiding on the floor to evade the police.
In the movie "Ocean's 12" Danny's wife Tess is picked up by Danny's associates at Rome airport in a DS420, in order to appear rich and famous, i.e. like Julia Roberts.
The first recorded Daimler DS420 to be banger raced was in the Summer of 1985. This car was driven by 627 Terry Coke, at the Ipswich Spedeweekend and was a limousine variant. It was four years until a hearse version was raced and in unlikely fashion, two were raced in the same afternoon. The first was raced at Smallfield dirt track in July 1989 by 814 Mark Millen and later that evening 44 Barry Cannell raced his version at Foxhall Stadium. Since then, it is believed that almost a quarter of all hearse versions have met their end on a banger track, the number currently standing at 207 (out of 903 believed to have been built) as of November 2012. Despite the limo version having substantially more units produced (4141 the believed number) there have only been slightly more of these seen on track.