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Wedding Wheels: best cars of the Royals

2018-05-21 13:37

Lance Branquinho

Image: ODD ANDERSEN / POOL / AFP

'If you weren’t into the protocol and glamour, at least the Royal Wedding cars were a pretty interesting site to behold,' writes Lance Branquinho.

Whether you wanted or not, there was no escaping the marriage of a certain former British army officer to his American fiance this past weekend. 

The ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was an event which upended the Saturday schedules of many, replacing the usual weekend obsession of all-consuming sports broadcasting. Even if a royal wedding isn't your cup of tea, at least there were interesting cars amidst all the other protocol. 

Although the horse and carriage are still a central theme of Royal events, the British Royals realise that promoting the English automotive industry is part of their duty and the fleet of cars which made Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding happen showcased some absolute four-wheeled unicorns. 

Meghan and her mother arrived at St. George’s Chapel in a Rolls-Royce Phantom IV. Built-in 1950 it has been with the Royals for decades and is an exceedingly rare Rolls-Royce, one of only 16 surviving cars of 18 originally assembled. These Phantoms were never sold, they were commissioned or offered to Royals and people of the utmost importance only.

                                                                            Image: AFP

The particularly interesting thing about the Rolls-Royce that Meghan arrived in, is its engine. Unlike all other Rolls-Royce cars ever marketed, the Phantom IV features an in-line eight-cylinder, displacing 5.7-litres and good for 122kW.

Although that power output appears laughable, the Royal Phantom is rarely required to anywhere in a hurry. In fact, its sole purpose is crawling, quietly and smoothly, with great decorum. The in-line eight can run at very low speeds without being prone to overheating, unlike a V8 engine. 

Following the Rolls, in order of appearance, was the Queen’s own State Bentley, a custom car which was delivered to the Royals for the Golden Jubilee in 2002. Built on an Arnage platform the Queen’s Bentley is nearly a meter longer and features elaborate bodywork, by Mulliner coachworks, to distinguish it. It’s powered by the classic 6.75-litre capacity Bentley V8, benefiting from twin-turbocharging to boost power to 300kW and 835Nm. Valued at R150m, it’s perhaps the most valuable car in the entire Royal automotive fleet.

                                                                     Image: AFP

Presenting another British automotive brand, but one which is effectively in suspended animation with the new product was the Duchess of Cambridge – Kate Middleton. Prince Harry’s sister in law was transported, with a company of bridesmaids and pageboys, to the wedding in a Daimler DS420.

Powered by a 4.2-litre inline six, these Daimler’s feature swooping rear aspect styling and are half a metre longer than any of the Jaguar X-platform limousines which share the same chassis. A decidedly 1960s design, featuring Jaguar’s renowned 4.2-litre engine which was made famous in the E-Type, the Royal DS420s are amongst the very last ever built, in 1992.

Prince Harry had by far the most impressive car at the Royal Wedding, as one would expect. A British classic, the iconic Jaguar E-Type, featuring a futuristic drivetrain. The Concept Zero is a battery powered E-Type, with the chassis dating from 1968. Jaguar commissioned the car as an engineering test-bed to prove that its classics could be converted to becoming zero emissions, electrically powered, collectables. 

If Prince Harry was in a hurry, the Concept Zero certainly had the performance to make a getaway. This Jaguar’s lithium-ion battery pack powers up to 220kW which guarantees a 0-100kph benchmark sprint in only 5.5 seconds. The greatest irony of all these Royal Wedding cars is that although they are still perceived as being inarguably British brands, none are British owned anymore. Rolls-Royce bosses report to BMW. Bentley engineers must consult to VW. And Jaguar’s board of directors are answerable to Tata.

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