Startins/MacNeillie Regency

Startins borrowed a suitably gracious-sounding name from the Daimler marque for their stretched 800…

THE Startins Regency was the first Rover-based limousine conversion to be aimed primarily (though not exclusively) at the funeral trade. Some three feet longer than the 827Si on which it was based, it offered seating for seven passengers, with traditional folding “jump seats” in the rear and the all-important glass division between the driver and rear passenger compartments. The prototype car, as pictured above, underwent a thorough test programme at Rover’s Gaydon Proving Ground before one of the first “production” examples was sold to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) at Birmingham, where it was used for ferrying around VIP visitors (effectively following in the footsteps of Coleman Milne’s one-off FL2-based limousine).

These interior shots show the folding jump seats and the sumptuous leather upholstery of the rear bench seat. The left-hand shot also shows off the high-quality paint finish to good effect…

This photograph shows the first examples of the Regency Funeral Fleet – comprising limousine and hearse – being handed over to the Funeral Director of the Co-operative Society (the leading British chain of undertakers at the time), at Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

R17 version

When the revised version of the Rover 800 was introduced in 1991, Startins promptly transferred their Regency conversion to the new design. They also decided to introduce a six-door version, aimed at more at the VIP market than the funeral trade, where the provision of dedicated access to each row of seats was seen as a clear advantage.

It was this incarnation of the conversion that ended its days in 1999 as the MacNeillie Regency, following the acquisition of the Startins coachbuilding business by S MacNeillie & Son Ltd.

As can be seen in the above side-by-side photos, the fact that the revised R17-series 800 retained the previous model’s door design meant that the Regency modifications could easily be carried forward to the later models. However, as with the Coleman Milne Rover Vanden Plas, the rather angular lines of the rear pillar’s leading edge sit less comfortably with the R17’s more rounded rump.

The prospect of a six-door version provided the opportunity to design a more harmonious treatment for the rear pillar, achieved by incorporating the R17’s slim rear quarter-light windows (making this a rare example of an eight-light design).

Here we see the six-door Regency in the metal, along with its R17-based hearse counterpart. The only significant difference from the sketched proposal shown above is the retention of a window guide-bar in the middle set of doors (does this make it a ten-light design?!). As for the hearse, it certainly seems that it would have provided a rather more dignified conveyance for one’s final journey than its main rival: the bug-eyed, gaping-grilled, Ford Scorpio-based Coleman Milne Norwood

Keith Adams


  1. Can anybody tell me how many Rover 800 hearses where made please.
    I have one that I am turning into a pickup and is registered on a 51 plate.

  2. I was making them at Startins for 6 years,making 2 hearse and 2 limo;s each month until the buy out by Mac Neille

  3. These special conversion limousines always offered excellent build quality (as one would expect). Recent funerals I have attended have used Mercedes or Mondeo automatic conversions and have provided a smooth ride for passengers.

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