By 26 September 2011 17 Comments Read More →

The converters : Owen Sedanca

Two years before Leyland launched the Jaguar XJ-S, the Jaguar dealership HR Owen came up with a coupe of its own…


The first of the Panther-built Owen Sedancas, which differed in various details from the original cars. Most noticable are the different door handles, mounted higher on the door, and the alternative headlamp arrangement.

The first of the Panther-built Owen Sedancas, which differed in various details from the original cars. Most noticable are the different door handles, mounted higher on the door, and the alternative headlamp arrangement.

HR Owen had a penchant for commissioning customised Leyland products. Having enjoyed moderate success with the Crayford/FLM Panelcraft Rover P6 Estoura, their next project was altogether more ambitious: in September 1973, they presented the Owen Sedanca, a bespoke coupé conversion based on the Jaguar XJ saloon.

Designed by Chris Humberstone, the car took its inspiration from the rather more exotic Lamborghini Espada that was owned by HR Owen boss Gerald Ronson at the time. Of course, the Espada had itself begun life as the Bertone Pirana, a radically rebodied Jaguar E-type.


Some original design sketches…


Alternative tailgate arrangements are interesting…

The prototype Sedanca takes shape at the workshops of Williams & Pritchard. As can be seen here, its fixed roof meant that it was a sedanca in name only.

The prototype Sedanca takes shape at the workshops of Williams & Pritchard. As can be seen here, its fixed roof meant that it was a sedanca in name only.

The Sedanca’s all-aluminium bodywork was skillfully hand-beaten by north London coachbuilders Williams & Pritchard, who then applied it to the superstructure of the XJ6 donor car. Inside, the car was plushly reupholstered in very-Seventies brown Dralon. Inevitably, the finished product attracted a hefty price tag of £8500 – well over twice the price of the car on which it was based, and even eclipsing the likes of the Bristol 411 and Jensen Interceptor by a fair margin. And yet, despite the fact that it was powered by nothing more exciting than the standard 4.2-litre Jaguar engine, HR Owen managed to take 80 firm orders for the car on the strength of the first prototype.

Things looked promising, with HR Owen envisaging around 100 orders per annum, but disaster was just around the corner: in the time that it took to build the first ‘production’ model, the impending oil crisis ensured that one-by-one, each of those 80 orders was cancelled. With no buyers in sight, HR Owen wound up the operation.

On the matter of the ownership and production of these cars, Anne Russell-Steele, the daughter of the first car’s owner, recalled, ‘My mother had the original white car built for her, as she would not cancel her original order and I have photographs of it at our house in Oxford (see bottom of the page) and have been driven in it many times and have driven it. We sold our house in Oxford to a Lebanese (Arab) gentleman and stayed good friends with him and his family and he eventually bought my mother’s car for his eldest son as he was so impressed with it. He then commissioned a second car to be built (blue) for his second son, though neither sons were of an age to drive them on the public roads at the time. When the gentleman left the UK both cars were sold.’


One of HR Owen’s original publicity shots for the Owen Sedanca, showing the prototype car (also seen
at the top of this page) which was later destroyed, along with the first production example.

This time, HR Owen gave the job of building the car to Panther Westwinds, and it seems that the finished article made a good impression, as a further Owen Sedanca was built by Panther in 1983 for the same customer’s son. Both these cars are thought to have survived – leaving us with a total of three produced.

Anne recall, ‘The HRO1 was the prototype as my mother had only bought the car from drawings they brought the prototype down for her to have a look at and decide colours etc. The other photos are when they delivered the car (by which time we had moved). On their first attempt to deliver the car on one of the country roads they bashed the front bumber of the car and had to take it back to repair. The nose was like Concorde’s and you couldn’t see the end of the bonnet. It was easier to park if you put the lights up and then gave it a couple of feet.

‘I remember my parents being stopped by police once as they were supposed to know all types of cars on the road and they hadn’t seen one like that before. It had a very luxurious interior with silver topped decanters and brushes in the arm rest etc.’

By the way, if the Owen Sedanca name has a familar ring to it, that’s probably because it was borrowed from HR Owen’s past: in the 1930s, the firm had commissioned a number of Rolls-Royce and Bentley-based Owen sedanca coupés from the Cricklewood-based coachbuilders Gurney Nutting. Unlike the 1970s version, the original cars were true sedancas, in that they could be driven with the front seats open to the elements.

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

17 Comments on "The converters : Owen Sedanca"

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  1. Mike Goy says:

    RIP Gilbern, Marcos, Lagonda, Frazer-Nash (et al). Now we can add Owen to the list…

  2. Sam Mace Frankie says:

    I’ll leave these here, shall I?

  3. wends says:

    We own the white owen sedanca and it is about to be put up for sale. It is in excellent roadworthy condition. If there are any interested parties, my email address is wendstorey@btinternet.com

  4. mk says:

    I own this blue one. Hope is back on the road next year

  5. geccove says:

    Have just seen the gold one WLY 666M parked in a drive. Currently SORN’ed it seems.

  6. Chris Baglin says:

    Great to hear of there being three survivors. Whilst I wouldn’t call it a pretty car, it could most certainly be described as both very striking and intriguing. Hope the oh-so-70’s Jason King brown dralon upholstery survives- would be a shame to dilute the style of a car that is very much fixed in its era- as distinct from certain other classics which could be described as ‘timeless’.

    Is it me or did those back lights come off a Datsun?

  7. geccove says:

    I saw the gold one again. Not sure what’s happening to it if anything. Took a picture:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/72582258@N04/9313477321/]

  8. Mick Stoner says:

    I’m sure I have seen a green/gold Owen Sedanka parked in a driveway in St Johns, Woking. It’s on open view and parked under trees. I pass the car every morning on the way to work so I try and get a photo of it.

  9. Mick Stoner says:

    gecove …. the car in the photo is the same one I see every morning

  10. svenman says:

    Being from Germany, I notice a “parts bin special” that wouldn’t have been so obvious to the average British motorist. The rear light clusters are straight from the Ford Taunus TC 1, the German parallel model to the British Cortina Mk 3. Smart move!

  11. James says:

    The gold one WLY 666M has just been featured this evening as barn find of the week on Channel 5’s Classic Car Show. It is reportedly the 1973 preproduction prototype. At the time of filming it seemed to be living in a lock-up garage “in South-east London”.

  12. Peter Chalmers says:

    Didn’t look like a barn find, not much in the lock up with it (ie piled on top!) and not dusty. Then reading here it was sitting on a drive. Maybe SORNED, but not a ‘locked away and forgotton about for decades car’ – THAT’S A BARN FIND

  13. Ox says:

    I am glad to see the “Golden Girl”(my nickname for her)is still lurking around! I have done a bit of work on the old girl back in the mid 90’s. She features in a quick video I made on YouTube. Just type Owen Sedanca 🙂

  14. Barry says:

    Just a bit of background on the Owen until 1988 I owned a garage in Shepherds Bush one of my customers was Bob Manuklian the right hand man of the Sultan of Brunei’s brother he purchased what I believe was the prototype car at the Barclay Square Ball charity auction for around 14k & kept it at his house in Eaton Squre at that time it had only 5000 miles on the clock it had very little use as I MOT’d the car every year it never had more than 100 miles on the clock at one time I had the car for sale but could not find a buyer I did receive an offer of 10k but this was turned down I assume this was the barrn find on the classic car show as one thing stands out in my mind was the two tone front seats and the suede dashboard

  15. Hi I have an original sales brochure for the Owen Sedanca I picked up at the 76 motor show!!! Would love it to go to an owner of one of the 3 cars!!!
    I can be contacted on 0041786050401
    Many thanks and regards Julian

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