Diamonds are Forever

Bentley MulsanneThe former Queen of South Africa recently celebrated her diamond jubilee in the UK, and whilst she is no longer the Queen of South Africa we thought it would be interesting to have a look at ‘Reader Number One’s’ car history.

The state provides the Queen with a fleet of official state vehicles for official duties which include eight limousines, consisting of two Bentleys, three Rolls-Royces and three Daimlers. Other vehicles in the Royal fleet include a number of Volkswagen ‘people carriers’. Obviously the VW is for those family camping trips down the coast.

The Bentleys and Rolls-Royces uniquely do not have registration number plates, since they are State vehicles.

The most recent State cars, used for most of The Queen’s engagements, are the two Bentleys. The first of these was presented to The Queen to mark her Golden Jubilee in 2002.

However these are no ordinary Bentleys, in technical terms, the cars have a monocoque construction, which allows for greater use of the cabin space. This means the transmission tunnel runs underneath the floor, without encroaching on the cabin.

The engine drives a standard, four-speed GM 4L80-E gearbox, which directs power through up-rated driveshafts to the rear wheels, but don’t expect to see the Queen flashing past you in her blue light brigade as even the Queen’s cars are subject to normal speed limits. On processional occasions, they travel at around 9 miles per hour, and sometimes down to 3 miles per hour with the slow speed giving the Queen ample time to perfect her royal wave.

Visibility is important. For many people, a glimpse of a Royal car driving slowly by may be their only opportunity to see The Queen or a member of the Royal Family. The Bentleys are fitted with a removable exterior roof covering which exposes a clear inner lining, giving an all-round view of their Royal passengers.

The rear doors are hinged at the back and are designed to allow The Queen to stand up straight before stepping down to the ground.

In celebration of the Queen’s current jubilee Bentley have released a special edition Mulsanne.

There are other cars in addition to the Bentleys. A Rolls-Royce Phantom VI was presented to The Queen in 1978 for her Silver Jubilee by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The oldest car in the fleet is the Phantom IV, built in 1950, 5.76 litre with a straight eight engine and a Mulliner body. It was used by Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh. It features a straight eight engine and a Mulliner body. Despite its age, the car is in fine condition, and is still used for occasions such as Ascot. There is also a 1987 Phantom VI.

Finally as we draw to the close of our automotive history tour it might interest some of our car history buffs that there is no proof that King Edward VII or King George V could drive, but later monarchs King Edward VIII and King George VI could. Which leaves us with one question; if you were the regaining monarch which car would you choose as your state vehicle?

Justin Stephenson
Information on the Queen’s vehicles provided by the official website of the British Monarchy.

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