Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

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 noticeable 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, its next project was altogether more ambitious: in September 1973, it 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 which 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…

A very British affair

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-1970s brown Draylon.

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.

Who made the Owen Sedanca?

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

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 below) 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 have survived – leaving us with a total of three produced.

How many Owen Sedancas were made?

Anne recalled: ‘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 bumper 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.’

Where does the Owen Sedanca name come from?

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.

Owen Sedanca in the press

The October 1973 edition of Motor Sport magazine had this to say 0n the Owen Sedanca.

‘A Jaguar XJ6/XJ12-based luxury four-seater touring car on the lines of the Lamborghini Espada has been announced by HR Owen Ltd, the Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar etc. distributors. The Owen Sedanca, named after the same firm’s coachwork on Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis in the ’30s, has a hand-built, aluminium body of exotic lines.

Yet its two doors are so wide that rear-seat passengers can climb in without moving the front seat backrests and 25.38 cu. ft of luggage can be swallowed up through the rear tailgate without piling it more than 18in high or without lowering the rear seal backrests. With the seat back laid flat it is claimed that 34.56cu ft can be accommodated, so this is a functional as well as exotic car.

If its mechanical components are not so exciting as say a Ferrari or Lamborghini they should at least ensure that London owners (where most exotica seem to be wasted) should not have to endure plug and maintenance problems, while the V12 option should leave very little to be desired in the way of performance.

Owen Sedanca options and prices

‘Automatic is standard on the V12, which sells for £9500, while presumably manual or automatic can be specified on the £8500 4.2-litre straight-six, in line with the XJ6. The floor pan and running gear is identical to that of the XJ6/12, but even better roadholding and handling is claimed because of the lower polar moment of inertia.

Design was carried out by Chris Humberstone of SAC Designs Ltd., a member of the SAC Group in common with HR Owen. The body is said to exceed all known safety requirements, the entire passenger compartment being protected by a tubular space frame incorporating a double roll-over bar.

Interior appointments are lavish, to say the least, upholstery being in suede, Bridge of Weir leather, and Draylon, while lambswool carpets are fitted. A stereo radio/cassette player and recorder is numbered among the long list of standard equipment, along with silver-backed hair and clothes brushes and notepad!’

Update: Gold Sedanca in new hands

Richard Town got in touch to let us know that, as of May 2017, he’s the new owner of the above example. He says, ‘It’s a small world, this classic car game. The seller is a restorer of Lagonda and Alvis, but now retiring so clearing the decks. It’s now in the wilds of Hampshire. The Classic Car Show’s presenter of this “barn find” was Chris Routledge, now of Coys the Auctioneers’ fame.’

He adds: ‘It’s much the worse for non-use I’m afraid: with only 23,000 miles on the clock it’d been left outside under a tree for years with the inevitable result to its XJ6 Mk1 floorpan and other members. But I did start it, moved it back and forward a bit, and found the brakes still braking and the steering still steering. Although I’ll have the calipers renovated and all hydraulic lines changed. Just to be sure.

‘Currently planning to just bring is back to roadworthy for the end of this season and then see where to go from there.’

Richard sent us these images of the Owen Sedanca.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
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.
Keith Adams

20 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. 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

  16. RichardSEL says:

    I now own “Golden Girl” having eventually purchased from the lock-up’s keeper. And yes, it was in bandit country — Croydon, sarfeast Lundun innit…

    It’s a small world, this classic car game. The seller is a restorer of Lagonda and Alvis, but now retiring so clearing the decks. It’s now in the wilds of Hampshire. The Classic Car Show’s presenter of this “barn find” was Chris Routledge, now of Coys the Auctioneers’ fame

    It’s much the worse for non-use I’m afraid: with only 23,000 miles on the clock it’d been left outside under a tree for years with the inevitable result to its XJ6 Mk1 floor pan and other members.

    But I did start it, moved it back and forward a bit, and found the brakes still braking and the steering still steering. Although I’ll have the calipers renovated and all hydraulic lines changed. Just to be sure.

    Currently planning to just bring is back to roadworthy for the end of this season and then see where to go from there.

    I’ve got enough classic cars as it is: Citroen DS23 Pallas RHD, Jaguar XJ8 Sport, to name but two

    @Keith — did you ever get a scan of the original sales brochure?
    I’m picking up the fat file this week — but can’t remember it being in there

    Would post a current sad pix here if I knew how…

    • Keith Adams says:

      Feel free to email kadams@btinternet.com and I’ll post pics, updates, the lot here.

      Look forward to seeing them!

      • RichardSEL says:

        What with having a restorer that’s insisting on taking “Golden Girl” back to its original white — I’m a fellow OCD sufferer but would prefer the aluminum body be restored into its well known gold colour — and having to source Wicks kitchen unit magnetic fasteners for the petrol filler flaps, it’s going to be an interesting time. I’m told the chrome window surrounds are Lotus… Here’s hoping there’s stock…

        Hope to have Golden Girl (thanks for the name, Ox. Nicked!) on the road for August and will try and catch the last few shows of this year’s season
        Always assuming I’m still solvent 😉

        But if indeed this is HRO1 then there’s an argument for white. I’ll see what’s in the fat file this week

        Thanks for your update, Keith
        Bests, Richard (former NCTJ galley slave too)

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