To say that Howard Hughes, oil man and one time film producer, was “wacky” would be damning him with faint praise. And yet, at the same time, the tall Texan was immensely creative. In 1946, after plowing an experimental airplane into a Beverly Hills home after engine failure he was sent to the hospital for numerous operations. Bored during his recovery, he designed a push-button bed to help burn victims move around, which led way to modern hospital beds. He always wanted things his way and as a multi-millionaire since age 18, he pretty well got them.(Stock photo at factory)
He was known for buying cars and adding expensive filtration systems because he was so afraid of germs.
Now when it comes to eccentric car owners, you have to go a ways to beat Howard Hughes. He was bizarre in his personal life style, and got more so as he grew older. One of the unusual cars he owned was a Daimler DS420, basically a four door limousine with divider made at Jaguar (I know that because when visiting Jaguar I was walking through the Brown’s Lane plant and came across a room full of Daimlers being built).
(Stock photo at factory)
They had Jaguar drive trains but in body style were more along the lines of a Rolls Royce limousine, something like a “razor edge” James Young Phantom V from the back but unfortunately that combined with a more ordinary Jaguar sedan nose style in front. Two factory marketing photos are seen below.
The car with SN 1M20053 was delivered to him by British Leyland Piccadilly on the 23th December 1971. He had ordered a very special interior with it including a potty!
He used the car in 1973 when he lived in London’s “Inn on the Park” at a time when he was roughly 67 years old.
The car, when delivered, was light grey, with Fawn cloth interior throughout. Later, possibly by a later owner, it was painted two tone, black with a silver bonnet, and some parts appear to be simulated or real gold like the grille and the radiator mascot.
Hughes, being aware of car accident forces, might have chosen the spot for his own seat, a single bucket seat mounted ahead of the rear bench seat, right in the center.
He also had a special radio/tape-player and recorder fitted.
The car was also kitted out with a large foldable picnic table on one side of the division wall, and a smaller one on the other side. Behind his bucket seats was a bench seat with a toilet hidden under the seat cushion.
In January 2004, this car was offered for sale as lot no. 770 at a large collector car auction in Scottsdale. The auction company called it a Royal limousine because they said it was when Hughes visited the King of Sweden and saw his Daimler, he ordered one. But calling Hughes’ car a “Royal” car was typical of the braggadocio of that particular auction house, who I won’t name (the fact they wouldn’t issue me a press pass has something to do with that as well…)
The DS420 club, MyDS420.info, which has a very informative website, says the car “ 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…”
Of course, in America, where we do not have royalty (we barely have aristocrats), the word “royal” is used rather cavalierly, most apparent in people who continue to name their sons “Baron” or “Duke,” as sorta ersatz Royal wanna-bes.
The DS420 Club also points out that this car was consistently positioned 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?“
That brings to mind that a lot of foreign cars were running into registration problems about that time if they didn’t have EPA an DOT and NHTSA clearances.
The DS420 Club also shows that it was offered for sale at some time in the U.S. by Bikram Choudury, the developer of Bikram Yoga and a well-known collector of coachbuilt Rolls Royces.
At that auction, the successful buyer reportedly paid $ 97,200 and attempted to drive the car home, but it died on the road and required a rebuild. I’ve lost track of it since.
I’d like to feature this car in my next Incredible Barn Finds book but need a couple more facts, such as, if any Daimler fans out there know what Bikram was selling it for, or who he bought it from and for what price? It’s always been one of my favorite cars, a sort of cut-rate Rolls Royce James Young-style limo at a fraction of the price of a real Roller…