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Eight cars with royal names | Axon’s Automotive Anorak

02nd June 2022
Gary Axon

This week in the UK we have been given an exceptional two-day public holiday to create a long weekend in which we can all celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s astonishing 70-year reign on the Throne.

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To mark her glorious reign as HRH, and as a mark of respect, here are eight cars that have a (sometimes tenuous) Royal connection, and it’s not the usual stately Rolls-Royce Phantoms, Daimlers, Land Rovers or Bentley Limousines that you might be expecting.

During HRH’s seven-decade reign, the Queen has travelled in and driven a countless number of vehicles. From the formal and imposing black limousines (usually hand crafted by Rolls-Royce, Daimler and Bentley) as used on State occasions, to the Land Rovers she uses on her Estates to transport her family and Corgi dogs, her trusty Vauxhall Cresta and Viceroy Estate cars (the latter uniquely being built for the Queen but never offered to the public) or the cars she’s travelled in on overseas trips. A personal favourite was the stunning stretched four-door drop-head Citroen SM, commissioned by the Élysée Palace from celebrated Parisian coachbuilder Chapron on the occasion of HRH’s official visit to France in 1972, her second of five such visits to the Country.

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For Her Majesty’s Platinum jubilee, McLaren Automotive has just revealed a special metallic silver jubilee paint option. For her Silver Jubilee in 1977, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars gifted Queen Elizabeth II a special Phantom VI State limousine, whilst Carbodies (now LEVC) produced a limited run of metallic silver FX4 taxis to mark this special occasion. Reliant also built a limited edition of 750 Robin three-wheelers painted in ‘Royal Purple’, with a silver coach line and detailing plus a Union Flag decal (the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, was a loyal regular customer of Reliant’s, choosing to run a series of Scimitar GTEs, plus a Robin).

On the occasion of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, The Royal Mews changed brand allegiance by having a pair of Bentley State Limousines built (at Bentley’s suggestion), powered by a twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8, developing 406 PS (299kW). Her Majesty travelled in one of these dark Burgundy-coloured Bentley’s for Prince Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle in April 2021, whilst the rest of the Road family used a selection of classically elegant Rolls-Royce limousines. Both Bentleys were converted to run on bio-fuel in 2009.

Not quite limousines maybe, but here are eight other cars with loose Royal connections for eight decades of HRH’s reign.

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Royale

Think Royale in a motoring sense and the infamous Bugatti Type 41 Royale probably springs immediately to mind, this huge (21ft overall) 12.7-litre 1927 ultimate Molsheim machine being aimed by Ettore Bugatti at Royal households only. Just seven Type 41s were famously built, with six surviving. The models’ enormous engine ultimately found a home in a series of high-speed and aerodynamic Bugatti ‘railcar’ trains for the French National Railway (SNCF) in the 1930s.

Also short-lived, but somewhat less well-known than the Bugatti Royale, is another car to be graced with the Royale name, the Vauxhall-branded range-topping version of the luxury Opel Senator saloon and Monza coupe. The Vauxhall Royal wore a different grille and rear detailing to its Opel cousins, but remained a German-produced model, despite its very British marque name. Following its debut at the 1979 NEC Motor Show, where it was eclipsed by the new Opel Rekord-derived Vauxhall Calton, the Royale remained a niche seller in the Vauxhall range, the models being quietly withdrawn in 1982.

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Regal

The Regal nomenclature has graced a pair of very different cars, neither of which were very appropriate to wear such a grandiose badge. The Buick Regal was commercially the more successful of the two Regals, this being a series of mid-sized ‘upscale’ family saloons, first introduced by General Motors (GM) in 1973, and running through four different generations until 2004. American TV detective Kojak famously drove a tatty brown Regal sedan in this 1970s show, with Corgi Toys making a popular 1:43 scale model of the car, along with a miniature plastic Telly Savalas. The second-generation 1978-87 Buick Regal used GM’s ‘A-body’ with the now highly collectable and cult-like Grand National GNX coupe based on this Regal model.

Although the Regal name remained available in China as a Buick (GM’s most popular brand in China), the name plate was retired in the USA in 2004, only to return seven years later on a badge-engineered version of the Opel (Vauxhall) Insignia. This model is still being sold in China, but was withdrawn from all North American markets in 2020 when GM sold its Opel-Vauxhall marques to the PSA Group (now Stellantis). 

The other Regal that pre-dates the Buick was a small Reliant three-wheeler, first launched in 1952, with the Regal name remaining with Reliant until 1973 when the Regal MK VI was replaced by the Robin. It was a big success by Reliant standards, almost 600,000 Regal three-wheelers were sold.

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Regent

When British Leyland’s Italian outpost - Innocenti - was tasked with building and marketing a localised version of the notorious Austin Allegro for the Italian domestic market only. Innocenti wanted to give its modified version of the Allegro a suitably British-sounding name, so called its own incarnation the Regent.

Against very stiff and excellent local front-wheel-drive small family car competition from the Fiat 128 and Alfa Romeo’s dynamically superior Alfasud, the Regent didn’t stand a chance. Less than 18 months after it was launched in early 1974, the model was dead. Even with the numerous adaptations intended to bring it in line with Italian tastes, such as opening quarter-light front door windows and a redesigned boot lid to accommodate the local Italian square licence plate, the Innocenti Regent was a royal failure.

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Monarch

The Monarch model name was a popular one in the US auto industry. It was first used by Chrysler in 1965 for a derivative of Its full-sized Dodge Monaco sedan, then taken over by Ford for its ‘posh’ Mercury Monarch in 1975 (this being an upmarket American Ford Granada, not to be confused with the UK/German-built executive model of the same name).

Strangely, the Monarch name overlapped in the USA for three of years with both Dodge and Mercury offering Monarch badged sedan models, although Mercury did re-tag the model as Grand Monarch for a while for its ultimate trim level version. Ford’s Mercury division stuck with the Monarch name until 1980, when a revised version was renamed as the Cougar from 1981-onwards.  As an aside, a RHD version of the Mercury Monarch was very briefly offered in the UK, wearing Ford branding. It didn’t sell very well.

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Sovereign

Having been the original supplier of ‘formal’ State motor cars to the Royal household since the dawn of motoring until the mid-1950s, it seems only appropriate that Daimler should be the first to use the name Sovereign. The Sovereign model designation originally appeared in 1966 on the more opulent Daimler version of the badge-engineered Jaguar 420 sports saloon.

When Jaguar replaced its 420 and Mark 2 models with the world-beating XJ6 in 1968, one year later the inevitable Daimler version of that model was introduced, again badged as Sovereign.  The Sovereign name continued to be applied to all three-generations of the original XJ6, until Jaguar adopted the model name itself. Confusingly for the base entry versions of the XJ6 range, the Jaguar Sovereign losing the ‘crinkly’ fluted chrome Daimler grille and boot lid surround.

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Crown

The Crown name was first used by Toyota (then Toyopet) in 1955, with the model name remaining for the dominant Japanese vehicle makers large executive luxury saloon models ever since. Today sold in Japan and the Asian markets only, the Crown is retailed in its domestic market through chain of specialist Crown dealers only. First seen to many oversees eyes in the 1967 James Bond 007 film, You Only Live Twice (along with one of just two convertible Toyota 2000 GT sports cars) as the 1962 second-generation S40, export sales of the six-cylinder Toyota Crown soon began. The fourth-generation S60/S70 models, with their distinctive raised bonnet-mounted front indicators and side lights of 1971, arguably become the most iconic of all Crown models, especially in pillar-less Coupe form.

Ford in began using the Crown name in North America, too, in 1979 for its top-of-the-range LTD Crown Victoria sedans and wagon. The LTD element of the name was dropped from 1992-onwards, for the model (popular as a Police Interceptor pursuit car) to become known as the Crown Victoria (simply shorted to Ford Crown Vic in local parlance). Ford deleted the model from its range in 2012.

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Tiara

Toyota followed its Royal-inspired model name after the 1955 Crown with its smaller and lighter Tiara in 1960, this being the name applied to export versions of the second-generation T20 Corona. When Toyota replaced the Tiara in 1964 with its third-generation Corona, it stuck with that model name in all global markets, the Corona being the first Toyota officially sold in the UK in 1965.

Specialist Swiss sporting and exclusive car maker Monteverdi also used the Tiara name between 1982-83 for its rare and short-lived luxury sedan. Based on the contemporary Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W126), the Monteverdi Tiara featured a redesigned front and rear end, using dual Alfa Romeo Alfetta headlamps, combined the Peugeot 505 tail lights. Only three examples were ever made.

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Princess

Before becoming Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II on 6th February 1952, HRH was ‘simply’ known as the young Princess Elizabeth. Princess was used a car name by the Nuffield Group and its later BMC and British Leyland successors for many years, first appearing on a Vanden Plas-built (VDP) Austin Limousine in 1947, and living on through various VDP models (based on the Austin A99/A110 and best-selling ADO16 BMC 1100/1300 ranges) up to 1974.

After a short hiatus, the Princess name reappeared at the 1975 IAA Frankfurt Motor Show in that September as a stand-alone marque rather than a model name, it being applied across the range of previous BL Austin-Morris-Wolseley 18-22 ‘wedge’ models. The range of upper-medium Princess wedge saloons (ADO71) lived on until being superseded by the Austin Ambassador in 1982, the later itself being a Princess-based five-door hatchback derivative.

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