Daimler DS420 Howard Hughes' car


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Hughes' car in showroom Hughes' chair original

The most eccentric DS420 owner was the American billionaire Howard Hughes. Car number 1M20053 was delivered to him by British Leyland Piccadilly on the 23th December 1971, and he bought a very special interior with it. Mr. Hughes spent part of 1973 in London's "Inn on the Park" at the age of 67/68, and used the car e.g. for his trips to Hatfield Airport.

The original colour of the car was light grey, with Fawn cloth interior throughout. The photo shown here (left) was taken in the showroom of the American garage where the car was offered for sale in late 2003. The exterior colour combination obviously is not the original one, and the factory records do not mention the gilded parts.

Hughes' chair in 2003

Being an engineer, Mr. Hughes decided that the most comfortable position inside the car would be in the very centre, both longitudinal and latitudinal. That would minimise the roll and pitch forces on his body. In those days Mr. Hughes was in constant pain because of the many air accidents he had, and heavily relied on pain killers. So he had a special chair installed, as shown on these pictures. The B&W picture of the chair is a factory issued one, the colour photos date from 2003. Apart from the central chair, the B&W photo also shows a special radio/tape-player and recorder that was fitted.

The car was equipped with a large foldable picnic table against the division wall, and a smaller one on one side. The rear bench has a toilet, hidden under a detachable cushion. In the centre arm rest is a cubby box with a water container and drinking glasses.

Most photos on this page can be enlarged by clicking. The two B&W photos below were contributed from the archive of the VandenPlas Owners' Club and were made at the factory.

Hughes' chair in 2003 Hughes toilet chair 1 Hughes toilet chair 2

In January 2004, this car was offered for sale as lot No. 770 at the Scottsdale (Arizona, USA) auction of the Barrett-Jackson auction house. The text to the right is a citation from their sales announcement.

This is a perfect example of how even prestigious auction houses evade the responsibility to provide an accurate description of the objects on offer. The statement that Mr. Hughes "induced the factory to build one for him" is nonsense. The DS420 was a catalogue item that could be ordered by anybody with the right amount of money, and the factory literally published that they would be happy to meet individual owner's requirements. In 1971, Daimler sold 231 of these limousines; if the "was only built for Royalty" claim is true, there must have been a lot of Royalty out there...

Sweden changed to driving on the right hand side of the road in September 1967, while the DS420 came on the market in July 1968. So it must be assumed that the King of Sweden, if he had bought one, would have chosen a LHD model. The factory records contain a lot of detail about who bought each LHD car, especially for the first few dozen ones. Recall that this Howard Hughes' car is No. 1M20053, which is the 53th LHD car produced. But none of the earlier LHD numbers was sold to Sweden.

Another miss is that Barrett-Jackson consistently positioned this car as a 1967 model. It would have taken some effort to find out that this actual car dates from 1971, but how difficult is it to find out that the DS420 model did not even exist before 1968? A JDHT certificate to set all this straight was obviously too much to be asked.

The new owner paid a hammer price of $ 97,200.- at the auction. While he drove the car home, it died on the road. The engine then needed a rebuild, again.....

   The Daimler Royal Limousine was only built for Royalty. Howard Hughes, the famous American industrialist, when visiting the King of Sweden, saw one and because of who he was, he induced the factory to build one for him.
The engine was recently gone through and is perfect.
To see this information: go to the Barrett-Jackson website, select "Results", "Search Archives", then fill in Make: "Daimler". Then select from the Scottsdale 2004 auction lot nr. 770, or type "Scottsdale 2004 lot 770" in the search box.
German article

The magazine article, in German language, features a previous owner: Mr. Bikram Choudhury in Hollywood, offering the car for sale for "big money". Source of this article is the Auto Motor und Sport magazine, issue 11, 2. Juni 1982, pg. 34. For an English translation click here.

Many years after this article was written, Mr. Choudhury became known for his worldwide yoga franchise chain "Bikram Yoga".

German article
Hughes' front bench (2003) Hughes' front bench (2003)

In 2014 the car needed a new coolant expansion tank. It was made to measure and the workshop that did the job published the following photos on their website:

hughes 2014 hughes 2014
hughes 2014 hughes 2014 hughes 2014

In Summer 2020 I found a website with the announcement that the car had been sold again. The exact date of sale was not clear on that site. However, the site had many pictures and one of them showed the new coolant tank, So it was not a reference to the Barrett-Jackson auction sale in 2004. Another difference was the odometer reading: 49000 Km. in 2004 and 50468 Km. in 2020, But strange enough this website had an almost verbatim copy of the Barrett-Jackson description of the car, including the story about the King of Sweden. And it even had copied the phrase: "The engine was recently gone through and is perfect."

Below we show a selection of the photos found on this website. Clicking on one of the images shows an enlarged version, and gives access to the full set. The sign "The last personal limousine of Howard Hughes" obviously is still with the car, although Mr. Choudhury's name has been removed from it. Currently (2021), the car is located in the Phoenix, AZ, USA. area.

hughes 2020 hughes 2020 hughes 2020 hughes 2020
hughes 2020 hughes 2020 hughes 2020 hughes 2020

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