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…
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 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.