1993 Daimler Majestic
His Majesty’s pleasure. The Daimler Majestic was a rare beast in its own right – an Insignia model even more so. We revisit a one-off XJ40.
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY CRAIG CHEETHAM
HISTORY: DAIMLER XJ40 MAJESTIC
The unique appeal of the SVO built stretched XJ40
Towards the end of the model’s life, Jaguar threw in every ingredient at its disposal to improve the XJ40 recipe.
One such variant was the Majestic – a rare long-wheelbase model produced in 1993 and 1994 only, of which a total of 270 were supposedly built, depending on which source you choose to believe. Of those, 71 are known to be right-hand-drive.
The Majestic models aren’t to be confused with standard LWB cars such as the majority of XJ12s and many XJ40 Daimlers.
Instead, they were bespoke, hand-finished cars that were taken off the line as short-wheelbase bodies and stretched by Project Aerospace in Coventry before being shipped back to Browns Lane, where they were hand-finished by Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department, which was busying itself with as many projects as it could get its hands on following the demise of the Daimler DS420 Limousine in 1992. For the US market only, a SWB Majestic existed as well, based on the Jaguar Vanden Plas trim line (essentially identical to a Daimler). A Majestic can be identified by the fourth letter of its VIN, which should be an ‘M’, regardless of model – but it’s the LWB models that are the most interesting and unusual as the SWB models were really just prettied-up factory cars.
They sit on a wheelbase five inches longer than a standard XJ40, with most of the visible length in the cars’ doors. The roofline was also two inches higher, requiring some particularly bespoke coachwork around the back end of the roof. It’s rumoured that the Majestic project was part of SVO’s determination to stay alive – knowing the XJ40 was on the way out, the team were essentially developing ideas that might also work on the future X300 model that shared much of the same architecture in a hope they’d avoid falling foul of imminent cutbacks.
The majority of Majestic models sold in the UK were bought by captains of industry or dignitaries (not to mention Jaguar’s own company car fleet) and there was once a green example owned by the Royal Household. This one, though, is something even more special. It’s a Majestic Insignia, and while there’s no definitive note of how many Majestics were also Insignia models, it’s fair to say that only one other is known of in the UK, and it’s a standard colour.
The Insignia programme was developed in 1992, immediately after DS420 production ceased. It was, in essence, a bespoke service for the XJ6, XJ12 and XJS, where prospective owners could specify special paint, trim, wood and wheels at additional cost in any given combination. The vast majority of Insignia models were unique, other than ones where it was just external paint finishes that were chosen. A total of 318 XJ40 Insignias were produced, most of them identifiable by the rectangular gold-on-black Insignia badges on the front wings (a delete option on this one, just to confuse matters), and by their well-appointed interiors. All of the interior trim was done in leather as opposed to the leather-vinyl combinations used on regular-spec cars and a range of special paint colours were introduced: Mahogany, Amethyst Blue, Mineral Green, Primrose Pearl, Crystal Blue, Saturn Orange, Peppermint, Sandstone, Lavender and White Pearl, which is what we have here – a shimmering pearlescent white colour that turns almost silver in certain lights.
It’s wonderful thing, trimmed in Magnolia leather with Oatmeal carpets and rich walnut veneers, which extend as far as the optional Motorola International 2700 car phone – a wonderfully kitsch accessory that was specified by the original owner of L353 GYU at an undisclosed cost. Lambswool over mats à-la-Rolls-Royce truly finish it off. The car’s history isn’t hugely wellknown, other than that it covered most of its minuscule mileage (less than 15,000) very early in its life and was off the road for many years until it was acquired by its current collector owner in 2017. It now lives among a selection of other very special Jaguars in the Scottish Borders.
What it is, though, is a wonderful and extremely rare car, the like of which you’re unlikely to ever find elsewhere. Drive it and it’s immediately clear that it’s had a sheltered life – it doesn’t feel at all worn or tired, with absolutely no suspension noises or rattles and there’s a tightness to it that you simply don’t get on more well-used examples.
Otherwise, aside from the extra length, which you need to be aware of when reversing in and out of spaces, it’s no different to a normal 4.0 XJ40, which means it’s responsive without being hugely rapid, with a delicate balance between ride quality and impressive handling, the likes of which are Jaguar hallmarks that have yet to be bettered by any other car manufacturer and – on current evidence – may well be gone for good.
The Majestic is an XJ40 that was designed to be as rewarding for the chauffeur as it was for the individuals being driven around, and it’s a balance that works as brilliantly today as it ever did. Perhaps more pertinently, though, it’s car of a type we’re never likely to see emerge from Jaguar ever again. It was built under Ford ownership, but is indicative of a model developed by a standalone company – the bespoke Special Vehicles Operations element and use of a local coachbuilder to lengthen it being anachronisms that hark back to when Jaguar was small and dynamic enough to create cars built to what were, essentially, individual commissions. A Jaguar that was but is no more.
The Majestic and Insignia programmes were developed tomake intimately personal variants of what were some of the finest saloon cars in the world back in their heyday, but which simply don’t fit within the confines of the behemoth that is today’s Jaguar Land Rover, which produces some fine luxury vehicles, but somehow lacks the personal touch that once made it so special. As a car that combines both of these personal services in one, this is a very special Jaguar indeed.
Thanks to: Rob Jenner and Letitia Mace for the use of their beautiful XJ40
The Majestic project was part of SVO’s determination to stay alive