What cars spring to mind when you think of the Royals? Is it the Queen’s endless supply of green-on-cream Range Rovers? Or the cheese and wine powered Aston Martin DB5 Volante that Prince Charles loves to roll around in? Perhaps it’s the exquisitely optioned Bentley Mulsanne that we featured on here last year. Either way, the Royals love to drive themselves about – preferably in something wallowy and built by a British manufacturer.
Princess Diana, though, did things a little differently. While the rest of the Royals were being ferried around in heavily armored land yachts, she was tearing around Pall Mall in all manner of ‘normal’ things ranging from Audi 80 Cabriolets to a Ford Escort Ghia with a silver frog ornament on the bonnet. She was the People’s Princess, after all. What made her the coolest royal of the lot (aside from the immense amount of charity work and breaking taboos on AIDS) was that for a brief period her she rolled about in a Ford Escort RS Turbo.
So how on Earth did Lady Di dodge the luxury barges and get her hands on one of the hottest of hatches of the era? It all started with, you guessed it, another Escort, The Royal Protection Group (aka SO14) weren’t all that pleased that the wife of the next in line for the throne was driving about in a bright red Escort Cabrio with little to no privacy or protection. Presumably in the mood for something with a bit more punch, Diana requested an Escort RS Turbo Series 1 as a replacement.
Given that the Diana’s Escort Cabrio was a bit on the flash side, what with it being red and roofless, the white-only Series 1 RS Turbo meant she’d stick out like a sore thumb pulling out of Clarence House. Ford’s PR department decided it would be stealthier if they supplied Diana’s car in black – making it the only Series 1 to be produced in the colour. Surely there are better ways for a Royal to blend into the background than driving a one-of-one RS Turbo. That being said, only diehard Ford fans would have noticed something was a bit off – and it’s unlikely they posed a threat to Lady Di.
After clocking 6,800 miles between 1985 and 1988, the one-off RS Turbo was sent back to Ford where it was bought by the company’s Government Sales department Geoff King for his wife. Then, bizarrely, it was sold off to Kiss FM where it was given away as part of a competition in September 1993. It was even owned by a ‘Mr Windsor’ at some point! But now the RS Turbo once owned by the Princess Diana is now up for auction – 37 years after she collected the keys.
Although it’s changed hands a number of times, the royal RS Turbo has only covered 24,961 miles and, unlike most fast Fords of the era, appears to be completely stock. The only change we can find is that the number plate was swapped after Diana gave the car back so people wouldn’t know it was once owned by a Royal (if the one-off paint wasn’t a giveaway). However, the original plate has now been reinstated so you too can pretend to be a princess from the 1980s. It’s got a fair bit of paperwork to go along with it, including RS owner’s club documentation and press clippings. You even get glossy photos of Lady Di using the car to prove that you haven’t just resprayed a regular RS Turbo.
It’s up for sale with Silverstone Auctions and is due to go under the hammer on 27th August. Remarkably it’s being offered without reserve, though given that it’s a bespoke hot Ford specially made for Princess Diana it’s likely the bids will be coming in thick and fast. Someone, somewhere, will no doubt pay top dollar to sit in the same Recaros once occupied by the People’s Princess.