Princess Diana’s 1985 Ford Escort fetches over $850,000 at auction sale

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A 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo Series 1 that belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold for £730,000 ($857,712) at a Silverstone auction August 27. The final price includes a buyer’s 12.5 percent premium.

The price sets an astounding new record for Escort sales, decimating the former record of £63,000 ($73,900) earned by a white 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo S1 at auction in 2021. That one had fewer than 15,000 miles on the engine and was considered collector-quality. The sale also beat the price of the Ford Escort Ghia Prince Charles gave Diana as an engagement gift, which sold for £47,000 ($55,100) last year as well.

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Ford Escort Turbos are considered humble economy cars and can be bought for roughly $10,000. The two most recently listed on Bring a Trailer failed to sell altogether.

“We have sold a number of motorcars that have had a royal pedigree, but this car ticks every box in terms of history, rarity, condition and mileage. The market adores early Ford RS models,” said Arwel Richards, a Silverstone Auctions classic car specialist, in a statement.

A 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo S1 car formerly driven by the late Princess Diana, offered for sale via Silverstone Auctions on August 27, 2022, is seen in this undated handout photo taken in an unknown location. (Reuters)
A 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo S1 car formerly driven by the late Princess Diana, offered for sale via Silverstone Auctions on August 27, 2022, is seen in this undated handout photo taken in an unknown location. (Reuters)

“When royal cars come to auction, they’re usually Rolls-Royces or Range Rovers, so to offer the very best example of the working-class hero’s sports hatchback with such provenance is perhaps unique and therefore very exciting. The house would only confirm that it was a British buyer.”

Most royals at the time drove around in Bentleys, Aston Martins, and Jaguars, rather than a lowly economy car from an American brand. “It remains the most daring choice of class-dividing motor car by any member of the Royal Family since,” the lot notes for the car stated.

Offered at no reserve by the UK auction house, Diana’s black hatchback had blue pinstriping and a mere 24,961 miles on the engine and an ownership history that included RS Owners Club documentation, maintenance receipts, newspaper clippings, glossy photos of Diana using the car, and period registration forms. It also included memos from Ford confirming the re-plating of the registration number, a common practice for ex-Royal cars.

She had originally preferred a red Ford Escort 1.6i Cabriolet, which was photographed when the princess drove it to Ascot in 1984, but her security team asked her to select a different vehicle in which to drive around town, since the soft top of a convertible did not provide what they considered adequate privacy and security for a royal highness. She specified that hers be black, the auction catalog states.

Her choice became the first and only black RS Turbo Series 1. It also came with some unique adjustments to make it more low-key. Ford’s special vehicle engineering department fitted a five-slat front grille and a secondary rear view mirror for the protection officer who would ride in the passenger seat while she drove. Mechanics installed a radio in the glove compartment as well.

The car was registered August 23rd, 1985, nearly 37 years to the day before it sold.

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