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Princess Diana's 'very special car' sells for more than $750,000 at auction

Ahead of the sale auctioneer Jonathan Humbert said it was “impossible to underestimate the value of this car.”
The black Ford Escort RS Turbo Series 1 was used by the princess for casual outings, Silverstone Auctions said.
The black Ford Escort RS Turbo Series 1 was used by the princess for casual outings, Silverstone Auctions said.Silverstone Auctions / Silverstone Auctions

A small car used by Princess Diana in the 1980s sold for more than $750,000 at a British auction Saturday, after a tense bidding war among potential buyers from the U.K. and abroad.

Roared on by a crowd, the bids kept coming for the black Ford Escort RS Turbo Series 1, prompting disbelief from the auctioneer Jonathan Humbert.

As the price rocketed, at one point he said, “560,000 pounds ($657,832) for a Ford Escort. I’ve never said that before.”

Ahead of the sale at the Silverstone racing circuit, which sits around 80 miles north of London, he said it was “impossible to underestimate the value of this car.” He added that the vehicle sat there “exactly as it was back in the day.”

The auction at the Silverstone racing circuit was eventually won by a British bidder whose identity was not revealed.

The winning bid of £650,000 ($763,555) beat off others from as far away as Dubai.

The car was used by the princess for casual outings and was frequently spotted in London's upmarket Chelsea and Kensington neighborhoods when she owned it between 1985 and 1988, Silverstone Auctions, which managed the sale, said in a news release before the sale.

Diana used a fleet of luxury vehicles for official engagements but preferred to drive the modest Ford for personal errands, Silverstone said in its release.

A young Prince William, the second-in-line to the British throne, was pictured in the backseat with his mother in one image from the period she owned it, the release added.

The vehicle has changed hands four times since 1988. Having racked up only 24,961 miles, it was “incomparable in terms of condition, rarity and low mileage,” the release said.

The vehicle was later used by a Ford Motor Company manager’s wife, and was given away as part of a radio promotion in 1993, according to the auction house.

Before the sale, Arwel Richards, a classic car specialist at the auction house, told NBC News that the car's previous owner, who wished to remain anonymous, purchased the vehicle in 2008 and believed it was “the right time to sell.”

“We have sold a number of motorcars that have had a royal pedigree, but this car ticks every box in terms of history, rarity, condition and mileage,” Richards added. “The market adores early Ford RS models.”

It's not the first time a vehicle that once belonged to Princess Diana has been sold at Silverstone.

Her first Ford Escort fetched more than $60,000 when it was sold at auction in June 2021, while a 1994 Audi Cabriolet that also belonged to the princess fetched $63,447 at auction in 2016.