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Sunday 3rd June 2012


DRIVING THE QUEEN'S V8 LAND ROVER

PH gets into the jubilee spirit with a drive in the Queen's V8 Landie


There's a video on YouTube of Her Majesty driving her Land Rover V8. What's the Royal driving technique? Squirt it in first and second, tease third and swiftly clack-clack into fourth. She doesn't mess about, does the Queen, showing the early-production 1983 110 why she not only rules the nation but is also the master of its integral transfer case four-speed, legacy of wartime service driving and fixing trucks as a teenager.

The world's shiniest Landie?
The world's shiniest Landie?
I only saw this after I drove her Land Rover V8 around Windsor Park. Pity. Because my approach was one of regal gentility, noble respect - and not a little intimidation. There was the famous name on the V5, the fact it's priceless ... and, well, the grumbling, rumbling noise. I could hear it from within the Queen Mother's 1995 Range Rover LSE, which I also drove (it was one of those days) as I followed in the wheel tracks of the green Land Rover up front. What's this, I thought, the Rangie's 4.2-litre V8 is experiencing major ignition-off run-on? Nope, it was the snarling, snorting beast that was her majesty's Land Rover up front, all but spitting unleaded as it daunted all around it. Be in no doubt, this Land Rover is packing a V8. A great big fiery V8.

One has certain standards
Behold, then, the Queen's A-reg Land Rover, made famous by the 2006 film (and not quite faithfully replicated - they missed the B-pillar grabhandles fitted to this one). It appears largely stock, but there are some telling differences: the rich green leather seats, the special radio with a hotline to the Home Office. The colour's bespoke too - and look at the panel gaps, says the photographer. Yes, they're more straight and true than on perhaps any other Land Rover in the world. These Lexus assembly standards are finished with paint glossier than something from the Bentley booths. Unsurprisingly, Land Rover really went to town with this V8.

Aucock feels the pressure...
Aucock feels the pressure...
A very Royal rumble
Fire it up again, via the fiddly key mounted to the left of the massive padded plastic steering wheel. Yes, that's definitely a V8 alright. Gingerly swing the broomhandle-long gearlever into first, with a positive clack, and I'm driving the Queen's Land Rover. I don't stall: it's impossible with this torquey V8. The YouTube movie shows as much - distracted by her lackey talking about removing the ivy on the treetrunks of her estate (or some such), she tries to pull away from a junction in fourth. Realising her error, the Queen snicks down. Into third. And it's away, from about 300rpm. God bless the Rover V8.

So although it's not particularly fast, it feels extremely purposeful. Gears don't really matter because it pulls in any speed - it's simply the degree of thrust that you alter with the ratios.

Her majesty ran this Landie for 18 years
Her majesty ran this Landie for 18 years
It's quite glorious to drive. Sitting, ahem, regally high, it reminds me of those V8 LDV ambulances they have in central London: unlikely, but wondrous because of it. This should be clattering at tickover, not burbling. In the old-school, unsoundproofed, raw environment of a 1980s Land Rover, the fact this is the car chosen by the Queen is gloriously amusing. Rather like driving it. Dominated by its engine, it is an absolute blast.

Purist streak
This vehicle was finally retired in 2001, 18 years after she took delivery. But only after she'd covered 43,000 miles in it. Yes, the Queen drove over 2,000 miles a year in this Land Rover. Not bad for an estate hack. Then again, the Sandringham Estate is 8,000 hectares. At a probable single-figure mpg return, she probably drained the tank daily in this thing.

The Queen prefers her V8s with a manual
The Queen prefers her V8s with a manual
The Queen donated it to the Heritage Motor Centre, where it's now on display. What did Land Rover replace it with? Another V8 110, by this time called Defender following the 1991 rebrand. It was actually delivered with a special order auto, reveals Land Rover guru Roger Crathorne - one of just a handful. The only others he knows of are the Tomb Raider Defenders. Yes, the Queen shares her tastes in Land Rovers with Lara Croft - those were V8s too.

Not for long, though. Apparently, it was returned to Land Rover, with a service note: change it back to a manual. The Queen, a petrolhead who likes her V8s raw and her drive involving? Who knew.