“It’s a little bit of history, ladies and gentlemen,” the auctioneer said as he started bidding at 100,000 pounds ($117,000) – a starting figure that has already eclipsed the previous record for a similar car, in white, sold last year. The final price, including a 12.5% buyer’s premium, was over $850,000.
The sale took place a few days before the 25th anniversary of a car accident in Paris who killed Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. She was not driving that car — a Mercedes-Benz S-280 — when she crushed at high speed early August 31, 1997.
The princess and the memories marking her life retain an enduring public appeal long after her death. Last year a a piece of cake of her royal marriage to Prince Charles – 40 years old and likely unfit for consumption – was auctioned off in another auction, for around $2,000.
Those at Saturday’s auction certainly seemed eager to hold on to a slice of UK history and a memento of the ‘people’s princess’, cheering when bids emerged from Coventry and Cheshire, and booing when the main offerings were moving overseas.
“It will be like the Elgin Marbles. There will be an embargo on sending overseas,” the auctioneer joked, referring to a series of 2,500-year-old sculptures that are the subject of one of the longest cultural conflicts in Europe.(Over the years many have tried to persuade the British Museum to send them back to Greece.)
Classic car values have skyrocketed in recent years as people locked down during the coronavirus pandemic have invested their wanderlust in other businesses such as cars, real estate and art.
Diana’s car was eventually sold to a buyer in a bucolic Cheshire village, just south of Manchester, which is favored by the British Premier League soccer players.
The auctioneer described the vehicle as a “pristine example” of the Ford Escort, which was one of best selling cars 1980s in Britain. Known as the “people’s sports car”, it ranged from base sport editions to fully bloated sport editions.
It was a rare black version of the car, Apparently commissioned at the request of palace security officials who wanted Diana to drive a more discreet vehicle. She preferred to drive herself, with a bodyguard in the passenger seat.
Also on sale Saturday was a black 1973 Rover P5 used to drive Margaret Thatcher to Buckingham Palace before her appointment as Britain’s first female Prime Minister and a 2015 Land Rover Defender that featured in the 2015 James Bond film ‘Spectre’.
The Escort was one of many world car sales records broken on Saturday, the auction house said. Even the auctioneer looked surprised as the bidding escalated: “£550,000 on the Ford Escort. I never said that before.