A Ford Escort RS Turbo from 1985 has sold at auction for an astonishing £650,000, 20 times what even the very best example could be expected to make. The reason? The black fast Ford was the choice of wheels in the 1980s of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
Bidding started at £100k and with more telephone bids from around the world than the auction house had ever had before soon rocketed up. At the half a million mark, the auctioneer Jonathan Humbert said: “£500,000 for a Ford Escort? I’ve never said that before.”
The battle to get hold of Princess Diana’s beloved Escort came down to bidders from Cheshire and the Middle East – with the UK buyer emerging triumphant. The hammer fell at £650k, which means this automotive piece of history will cost the new owner £722,500 by the time fees are added.
The Series I RS Turbo was ordered for and specified by the princess. It was delivered by Ford in black (all the other Series 1 RS Turbos were white) and has a regular Escort grille. It was otherwise standard apart from a radio in the glovebox for her Royal Protection Squad officer.
The police officer accompanied the princess, who preferred to drive rather than be driven, on trips around London where she was often photographed in the car over the three years she used it. In one famous photograph she had a young Prince William in the backseat.
In marked contrast to other, mostly Rolls-Royce travelling members of the royal family, the princess’ motoring tastes were famously well grounded. And she had a thing about Escorts – the RS Turbo (or “people’s sports car” as it was spookily known by some at the time) was her third. She had wanted a cabrio but it was decided that the hood offered too little protection.
Since the princess’ time with the car it has had several owners and most recently been housed in a Ford collection. In 37 years it has covered 24,961 mikes and is said to be in concours condition.
In that it is not alone: the best examples of the nowadays highly sought-after fast Ford are valued around the £35,000 mark. Because of the Princess Diana connection, experts thought the black car might make £120,000 but no one dreamed it would sell for six times that.
“Not much shocks me these days in the classic and collector car market, but this sale price astounded me,” says John Mayhead of Hagerty whose Power List 2022 published earlier this year ranks what effect celebrity ownership has on classic car values. Diana came out as number one royal in that survey with cars she owned or used selling for an average of 813 per cent more than an identical car with no royal connection.
John Mayhead adds: “The UK Hagerty Price Guide values this model at an average of £35,400 for a totally concours, low-mileage, original car. The Diana-owned car sold for 2062 per cent of Hagerty’s top value.”
What value now we wonder on her equally beloved, equally photographed, 1994 Audi Cabriolet that sold in 2014 for just £47,000?
Images courtesy of Silverstone Auctions.