Biden and Boris are negotiating to reopen travel between the US and the UK as we write this, and that means we are all going to need a quality ride in the UK, and fast. You missed your chance to buy The Deuce’s bespoke wide-seat Capri, but don’t worry, mate, there’s something even more prestigious coming up on the auction block: Princess Diana’s 1981 Ford Escort.
The ‘scort in question was an engagement gift from Diana’s future husband, Prince Charles. Which on the surface seems like a shitty way to welcome Lady Di into the family as there were nicer cars in the Ford lineup and in general. The sexy Capri that Henry drove, for example, or the spacious Granada that the prince had his own copy of – a blue car, apparently awaiting an heir and a replacement. Nonetheless, Chuck at least had the good premarital feeling to pop for the chic Ghia model with the large 1.6-liter engine.
Unsuitable as it may seem for a princess ride, the Escort was not entirely without merit: this was the first application of front-wheel drive to Britain’s best-selling car (and just two decades after the Mini). The Escort even won the European Car of the Year award in 1981, a claim that loses some of its glamor in the face of competition from the British Leyland Metro and the Fiat Panda. Perhaps Prince Charles was referring to the escort as a metaphor: “I may be humble on the outside, but on the inside I’m a winner, especially when compared to a cheap, picky Italian!”
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A British colleague put the gift in context: “Before the escort, Diana drove the new Austin Mini Metro for 1980, a very exciting unveiling this year. The classy escort would have been seen as an increase in prestige.” without being so conspicuous that the future queen seems aloof and snobbish. “
You will find that Di’s Escort has a manual transmission; At that time, the UK Escort was not yet available with an automatic. Yes, friends and neighbors, Princess Diana drove a stick shift, and that means she’s even more seductive than we remember.
You’ll also notice that the car has a huge chrome-plated jumping frog hood ornament attached to the base of the windshield. The silver statue was given to Diana by her sister Lady Sarah Spencer, a not-so-subtle reference to the, uh, fairytale nature of her upcoming wedding. (If Charles is the result, frogs may be best left unkissed.)
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Princess Diana drove the Escort for a year, then replaced it with another Escort Ghia (take the silver frog with you; the one on this car is a replica) before switching to an Escort convertible (yes, there was such a thing – in Europe at least ). When her protection staff decided that it was too dangerous for the princess to drive around topless, she switched to a hot 132 hp Escort RS Turbo with a stealthy black paint job instead of the usual white of the RS.
In 1987, after getting married, she bought a Targa-topped Jaguar XJ-SC with a back seat for the kids before shocking Britain by turning to German cars.
Ready to buy? Princess Diana’s Ford Escort will be sold by Reeman Danise at her Royalty, Antiques and Fine Art sale on June 29th. After 20 years of private ownership, the escort has now covered 83,000 miles and still has its original paintwork and upholstery. The auction house expects the car to sell for between £ 30,000 and £ 40,000 ($ 42,000 to $ 70,000). (Her ’94 Audi 80 Cabriolet sold for £ 58,000 last year, just under $ 82,000.) Okay, it’s not a Capri – but if you kiss that frog on the hood, the Escort might turn into a Bentley.