DRIVING THE QUEEN'S V8 LAND ROVER
PH gets into the jubilee spirit with a drive in the Queen's V8 Landie
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.
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.
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.
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.