Daimler DS420 Changes


  logo (1.7kB)

The DS420 was on the market from 1968 until 1992. During these 25 years the car had only one really large face lift. But many small changes were incorporated over the years. This web page tries to show the changes that were most visible from a non-technical point of view.

Apart from being of interest to DS420 lovers, the pictures may warn you when you are looking for a replacement part, and should be aware of the existence of different versions. But in those cases the only real solution is to compare part numbers in the different parts catalogues.

A very interesting article appeared in The Driving Member, the magazine of the Daimler and Lanchester Owners' Club in September 1991. This article was written by Keith Cambage, who was the head of the limousine operations from the transfer to Coventry in 1979 until his retirement. Note that September 1991 is only a few month before before the end of the lifespan of the DS420, Mr. Cambage looks back on the changes that were made to the limousine in his years. See it here.

Many photos on this page come in pairs to show an old and a new situation. If you click on one of a pair, you see enlarged versions of both together.


The first visible change was made to the chrome trim on the side of the car. The original design had two parallel chrome stripes. The story goes that when the Queen Mother ordered her first DS420 in 1970 (car 1M1559, picture right), she suggested that one of those stripes would be replaced by a painted one. This car was black over claret, and a red stripe was painted on. The result was obviously so pleasing, that it was decided (summer 1971) to make this a standard feature.

Two chrome stripes    One chrome stripe
   Queen Mother's 1970 car
The summer of 1972 brought a larger collection of modifications. This started on cars 1M2181 (RHD) and 1M20072 (LHD). They served to cut cost, and to eliminate a serious design problem with the rear side windows.

These last side windows originally were of a wind-down type. A chrome dividing pillar provided a straight vertical edge, and a rubber sealing strip at the bottom of the window prevented too much rain water to seep in. Such a sealing strip is never sufficient, and therefore car doors always have draining holes at the bottom. But the last side window is not part of a door, and draining holes could not be provided because they would have to pass through the hollow beam at the bottom. Inside the beam is a complicated system of small drainage pipes, but they easily get clogged, e.g. by a Waxoil treatment. Then the water is trapped inside, and usually is not very forgiving about this.

The new design had to close the body. The window was made hinged on its front pillar, and a small latch (see separate photo) replaced the wind-down handle. Rumour goes that the Royal clientele of the DS420 regretted this change very much, since the new window made waving to the crowds much less "effective".

   old side window

The disappearance of the wind-down handle called for a redesign of the rear arm rest; it became more stretched and the small horizontal wooden panel with the ashtray disappeared. The small ashtray in the old armrest had caused criticism as well, and it was replaced by a larger one in the side panel.

Note that the two photos on the right are only meant to show the effects of the changed rear window opening, and the resulting difference in the design of the arm rest next to the bench and the ash tray above it. The fact that the lower photo has a different opening handle on the door is a different story, explained below.

An intercom, introduced in 1975, and ventilation/blower openings, introduced much later, also found their way in this new side panel design, as can be seen on Greg Lewis' car in the "Cars and Owners" part of this web site.

   new window latch    new side window

old wood A major cost cutting was achieved by a substantial reduction of the wood veneer parts: almost half the woodwork disappeared. The surroundings of the side windows are the most visible ones, but also the dividing glass was extended all the way to the roof of the car, thus eliminating the large wooden panel above it. Admittedly, the new design gave a much roomier impression to the whole interior. Even the six window sills lost their wooden inlay: instead of half wood - half vinyl, they became vinyl covered only. The two pictures to the left show the old style woodwork on the window sills, the window surroundings, the top of the division window, etc.
old division top new division top


A minor modification was done to the insignia on the air inlet grille under the headlamps. This started out as a round Daimler badge which, by the way, is the only place where the name Daimler is printed in full on the outside of the body. These insignia have a tendency to fall off, so many cars drive around with empty base plates in the centre of the grilles. John Nash of the Daimler Club in Christchurch, Dorset (eBay seller names landcruiser102 and daimlerclub), has these insignia remade, although in silver colour where the originals are gold colour,

Somewhere between Summer 1973 and August 1974 this was changed to a rectangular insignia with the BL logo. Then there are May 1977 press photos, and a 1978 sales brochure where the car is shown without any insignia (nor base plate) at all. This may reflect the fact that BL never was very popular with Jaguar... Finally, in 1979, the round grilles were changed for rectangular ones (see below); they carried no insignia badge anymore.

  Daimler insignia BL insignia
short bootlid with key lock short bootlid without key lock   

The boot lid handle is a landmark: it started in short form, above a square number plate. This model was used until car No. 1M2827, in summer 1974, when the internal construction of the boot lock changed. Then for just one single year, the boot lid handle was still short, but had no key lock anymore.

After car 1M3082, in summer 1975, the long handle was introduced, above a rectangular number plate. From now on, the reverse lamp would become a simple add-on construction hanging under the bumper. Or worse, as shown in this 1984 sales brochure.

long bootlid with rectangular plate
bumper w. chrome overrider rubber block bumper, round inlets   

The first car to the left shows the bumper with the chrome overriders. This was fitted until November/December 1976 (car No. 1M3381), which is almost 10 years. This particular car has a badge bar, but that was an optional feature.

The car at the top right has the rubber block bumper: fitted until 1987. Note that the grille sits at the same height as before, and the air inlets are still circular, as on the previous car. The top of both grilles have the extra flap pointing backward, for which a recess was left in the bonnet. This particular car was an export model, and therefore it does not have the flying D because many countries did not allow such a device. From the very beginning, a medallion was fitted instead on cars for A, B, CH, D, DK, F, I, IRL, IS, LUX, NL, S. But the backward pointing flap on the top of the grille is still (barely) visible.

The bottom left shows a car after the modification of the air inlets and the side lights, which was done in Fall 1979 when the production moved from VandenPlas/London to Jaguar/Coventry. This was probably the most outspoken modification that was ever made to the DS420. We still have the rubber block bumpers, and the high grille model, but the grille does not have the backward pointing flap on the top anymore. The chrome strip in the centre of the bonnet became much thinner.

Finally, bottom right, is a car with the rubber strip bumpers fitted; this happened in 1987. Note how much higher these bumpers sit, with respect to the air inlets! Also note how the direction lights moved into the bumper, and the rectangular side lights therefore changed from orange to white.

Because of this difference in height, a totally new grille was fitted: much shorter than the previous one. This difference is even better visible on the photo here below.

rubber block bumper, rectangular inlets rubber strip bumper, rectangular inlets   
old and new

The above picture was taken at the 2003 International Rally of the DLOC in Beaulieu. It shows the 1987 car of club member Ivan Ford (left), and my own 1971 model (right): 16 years and one meter apart. Ivan's car once belonged to Princess Margaret, and still has the "Royal" blue lamp fitted. The actual height of the car did not change. The nose of the new car looks much lower, but actually it still has the same height.

To illustrate the different points, I have used my own photographic collection as much as possible. But I also used pictures that I found on other web sites. If you own the rights on one of those pictures, and do not agree with its presence here, please send an e-mail to hjt@xs4all.nl and I will remove that picture immediately.

Back to the indexHomepage.