Prince Charles gave Diana a Ford Escort Ghia saloon just two months before the royals tied the knot in May 1981 — now, 40 years later, it remains preserved "just as Diana would have driven it"

By Phil Boucher
June 08, 2021 01:23 PM
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A silver Ford gifted by Prince Charles to Princess Diana ahead of their iconic 1981 royal wedding is about to find a new owner.

The 1981 Ford Escort Ghia saloon was given by Charles as an engagement gift to his future bride in May 1981, just two months before the royals tied the knot at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

The princess continued to use the car until August 1982, when it was sold to a private owner. It has spent the majority of the past 20 years in the care of a "great admirer" of Diana, who has largely kept the vehicle safely stowed away in a garage.

Princess Diana Ford Escort
Princess Diana driving her Ford Escort
| Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty

"The car has been dry stored for quite a few years," says Lewis Rabett from Reeman Dansie auctioneers, who expect the car to fetch up to $55,000 when it goes under the hammer on June 29.

"This is really nice because keeping it stored in a dry barn or garage has kept it in a really nice condition. Escorts of that age weren't like modern cars with really good galvanizing and rust proofing, so a lot of them have just rusted away. Now, 40 years later, you don't tend to find Escorts at all, let alone ones with the provenance of this car."

Princess Diana Ford Escort
Princess Diana in her Ford Escort
| Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty

The car itself has done just 83,000 miles since Diana first grabbed hold of its steering wheel. It retains its original paintwork and upholstery, and its original license plate: WEV 297W.

Princess Diana Ford Escort
Princess Diana's Ford Escort
| Credit: Reeman Dansie Auctions
Princess Diana Ford Escort
Credit: Reeman Dansie Auctions

In an especially personal touch, the car's hood also features a silver frog mascot. This is a copy of a wedding gift to Diana from her sister, Lady Sarah Spencer, to remind her of the fairy tale of how a kiss from a beautiful girl turns a frog into a prince.

"I've driven the car myself and it's a lovely step back in time," adds Rabett about the Ford, which Diana was regularly photographed driving or sitting inside to watch Charles play polo.

"Even the radio is a 1980s Ford radio," he adds. "Nobody has changed it and fitted a super modern thing, so it's just as Diana would have driven it." 

Princess Diana Ford Escort
Princess Diana's Ford Escort
| Credit: Reeman Dansie Auctions
Princess Diana Ford Escort
Inside Princess Diana's Ford Escort
| Credit: Reeman Dansie Auctions

Rabett continues, "It was very surreal to sit behind the wheel and think who would have been there at an early part of her life when she was young and before she went on to do all that she did in her unfortunately very short life."

He adds, "Just the fact it's silver makes a difference. It's a very bright shade of silver and just really shines in the sunlight."

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The sale of the car coincides with the opening of a new exhibit called Royal Style in the Making at Kensington Palace, London, which includes a display of Diana's intricate wedding dress for the first time in 25 years.

Diana's famous gown designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, complete with scooped neckline and dramatic 25-foot train, is on loan from her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.