1954 Lagonda Drophead Coupe had one of the first car phones fitted
If you thought James Bond was the first Aston Martin owner to have a car fitted out with gadgets, think again.
That's because this 1954 Lagonda Drophead Coupe available at auction next month was built to order for the Duke of Edinburgh with a series of unique features.
But instead of flame throwers and an ejector seat like 007's motors, Prince Philip's Aston Martin had a pioneering radio telephone he reportedly used to prank call Buckingham Palace and an additional vanity mirror for Her Majesty to check her hat was straight after trips with the roof down.
Royal motor: This Aston Martin Lagonda Drophead Coupe will go under the hammer next month with a guide price of NZ$945,000
The car, which goes under the hammer on 20 April with a guide price of NZ$945,000, pre-dates Ian Fleming's first mention of an Aston Martin in a Bond book by five years.
And by the time the iconic DB5 made its cinematic debut in Goldfinger in 1964 featuring a radio telephone, Prince Philip could have been using his in this Lagonda MK1 convertible for the best part of a decade.
But while Sean Connery had a whole arsenal of other gadgets at his disposal back then, including front-wing 7.6mm machine guns, a dashboard-mounted tracking system, extending front and rear outriders, a rear bullet-proof shield, rear-housed oil-slick and caltrop dispensers, a smoke screen, tyre scythes, bullet-proof windows, an ejector seat, a concealed weapons tray, revolving number plates and a nail chamber that ejected specially made four-spiked nails — Prince Philip had an extra mirror to allow Queen Elizabeth to check her appearance after wind-swept journeys in the convertible four-seater.
The car, owned by The Duke of Edinburgh for seven years, was used during the Tour of the Commonwealth in 1956-1957 and also appeared at the opening of the M1 motorway in 1958
Also unique to this particular car is the paint - it's the only one of the 20 MK1 Lagonda Drophead Coupes to be finished in this bespoke shade of Edinburgh Green with grey leather upholstery.
As well as a raft of other non-standard extras, including a power hood and floor-change gearbox, the radio telephone, which was almost unheard of at the time, had to have its own radio frequency allocated by The Admiralty and any calls to Buckingham Palace were made via a Pye relay station in North London.
This car was also the one that was loaded aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia for Prince Philip's Tour of the Commonwealth during 1956-1957 including an appearance a the 1956 Melbourne Olympics - something the carmaker prepared for by ensuring all Australian dealers were fitted with the correct tyre size in case the convertible had a royal puncture en route.
The car, which he and the Queen opened the M1 motorway with in 1958, is thought to be the only car owned personally by the Duke to be in public hands.
The car is believed to be Prince Philip's only personally-owned car to be in private hands
A switch on the dashboard and aerial are all that remains of the radio telephone system now but the Queen's additional vanity mirror remains in situ as does almost all the original leather upholstery.
Covering around 50,000 miles in its 62-year life, the car has recently been serviced and is said to be ‘on the button’.
'This car is part of our history,' Damian Jones, H&H sales manager, commented on the auction. 'The accompanying paperwork beggars belief.
'There is an amusing story about Prince Phillip driving Her Majesty through London in this car and being held up by a policeman on point duty directing traffic. When the policeman saw who was in the Lagonda he did a double take and swiftly waved them on.'
The radio phone is no longer fitted in the car, though the dashboard switch and aerial are both still in place. The additional vanity mirror is still installed in the car
Philip would use it to make surprise calls to his wife and disguising his voice when in conversation with Prince Charles or Princess Anne.
As well as being equipped with a range of additional features, this one-off motor also had staff on hand to make sure it ran faultlessly.
Aston Martin despatched staff to The Royal Mews and Windsor Castle on a sometimes weekly basis during The Duke of Edinburgh's seven-year ownership up unitl 1961.