Prince Philip’s custom Land Rover hearse decoded: heading out in rugged style

Published: 16 April 2021

► First pictures of Prince Philip’s hearse
► Modified Land Rover coffin-bearer
► The Duke designed it over 16 years

Prince Philip continues to surprise from beyond the grave: his hearse has been unveiled ahead of this weekend’s funeral and it’s a customised Land Rover Td5 Defender 130 that he’d been modifying for nearly two decades in preparation for his final journey.

His idiosyncratic choice of hearse provides the perfect vehicle for the funeral procession to St George’s Chapel in Windsor. The personalised Land Rover Defender reflects many of the Duke of Edinburgh’s personal values – it’s iconic, tough, British and exceptionally long-lasting. Probably a little gnarly and obstinate, too.

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What’s different on Prince Philip’s hearse?

Neil Watterson, the editor of our sister magazine Land Rover Owner International, talked us through what has been modified on this unusual chassis cab. ‘The Land Rover hearse that will be used to carry Prince Philip’s coffin to the chapel is typically understated, but totally in keeping for a military man with a passion for Land Rovers and British engineering. It’s not flashy and manages to maintain the Defender’s classless styling.

The Land Rover hearse is based on a Td5 military-spec Defender (Getty)

‘The deep sills are reminiscent of older Land Rovers and have presumably been fitted to make the Defender look less like an off-roader by obscuring the view of the chassis. A standard 110 rear body tub has been extended to work with the wheelbase of the Defender 130 chassis, but there is nothing extra on the Land Rover that needn’t be there.

‘The Deep Bronze Green paintwork is a colour once used on military Land Rovers, and manages to look distinguished, traditional and sombre.’

What’s the donor Land Rover for the Duke of Edinburgh’s hearse?

The pall bearer is based a Td5 Defender – one of many clues that this is based on a period military Land Rover. The Goodyear G90 tyres and ‘Wolf’ wheels are military spec through-and-through, while the standard black, rather than colour-coded, wheelarches are the type fitted to contemporary service vehicles. 

The Duke of Edinburgh started working on the design with Land Rover special projects teams back in 2003 when he was 82. He requested the respray in military olive paint and special spindles to support the coffin in transit (see below), continuing to oversee the project all the way until 2019.

Special coffin-bearing spindles to hold the casket at the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral (Getty)

Land Rover was the duke’s favoured brand and he was regularly seen driving Defenders, Range Rovers and even Freelanders – the car in which he had an accident in Norfolk in 2019, forcing him to stop driving on public roads aged 97. 

Thierry Bolloré, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief executive, said the company was ‘deeply privileged to have enjoyed a very long and happy association with the Duke of Edinburgh over many decades.’

Our sister magazine Grazia’s take on the Duke’s Land Rover hearse

The CAR magazine verdict 

Few people get the chance to design their own hearse, but it’s a mark of the man that he worked for 16 years on turning this one-off Land Rover Defender into his very own, unique coffin-bearing vehicle. Prince Philip had a life-long love affair with Land Rovers and the promotion of engineering skills. It seems fitting that he’s making his final journey in a vehicle that marries those two passions so effectively.

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By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet

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