The Cars of Downton Abbey



February 11, 2014

The popular PBS Masterpiece drama about the lives and loves of English aristocrats and their servants in the post-Edwardian era is best known for its intricate plot lines, period costumes and over-the-top politeness. But there’s one more reason car lovers are down with “Downton”—the series also gives audiences frequent glimpses of some really cool old automobiles. Here’s a shortlist of our five favorites.      

1921 Ford Model T

1921 Ford Model T

Supposedly set in 1912, the first season of Downton Abbey got off to a bit of a rocky start with some eagle-eyed viewers who were quick to point out a number of glaring period blunders (including the Episode 1 appearance of this 1921 Ford Model T).  

1911 Renault Type CB12/16hp Landaulette

1911 Renault Type CB12/16hp Landaulette

The ride of choice when headed to the local Yorkshire train station, Lord Grantham's luxurious Renault has appeared in many Downton Abbey storylines. Totally original and one of the last of its kind, the Landaulette used in the show is reported worth over $500,000 according to the Daily Mail.

1927 AC Six        

1927 AC Six

Driven and (spoiler alert!) eventually crashed by Matthew Crawley in Downton’s season three finale, the AC Six was the product of the AC Car Company—one of Britain’s most beloved builder of sporting cars, and a company best known among American car enthusiasts for a much later relationship with Carol Shelby that produced the AC Shelby Cobra.

 

1924 Sunbeam 20/60 hp

1924 Sunbeam 20/60 hp

While the British company was better known in the 1920s for setting land speed records with its racing cars, Sunbeam also produced an impeccable line of luxury limousines. Lord Grantham’s Sunbeam 20/60 hp has made a number of appearances on the show since season two.

1924 Cadillac V-63

1924 Cadillac V-63

In season three, when the mother of Cora Crawley (Martha Levinson, played by Shirley MacLaine) sweeps in from New York to shake up stodgy Downton Abbey, this all-American, classic touring car is the perfect compliment to her character’s unflappable and confident charm.        


Comments

  1. David Browne Pa.

    Being a Ghost owner and Ghost lover, I did not see any Ghosts in your lineup of cars in the show.

  2. John C. Cargill Hanover Park Illinois

    It would seem that the Cadillac in the last photo is a sedan or Limosine, not a touring car. Otherwise thanks keep it up. One thing about that show that I like is they record the actual noises of the old cars.

  3. Noel Sabiston Melbourne Florida

    What about the truck they are using this season on the show. It an early 20s convertible pickup they are using as the farm truck. It's pretty cool.

  4. K. Phillips Inglis Fl.

    Those autos in "Abby" are one of the highlights to me. Being a British car enthusiast, and the owner of a Triumph TR.7, I am delighted to see these historic cares remembered. Hope we can get the time frame up to an MG Magnette . kp

  5. John Russell Traverse City, Michigan

    What about the multi-door bus, seen in scenes in the village/ What a machine! Does anyoneknow what it is, it's history?

  6. Bruce Earlin Florida

    Does not look at all like a Cadillac to me, unless all it's elements, body included, have been modified.

  7. Al McEwan Redmond, WA

    I believe the last photo is just a different view of the above Sundbeam.

  8. Donald R McClane Plano, Texas

    The cars make the series even better for me. The producers must be car people for sure.Thanks for the great pictures. Please post more.

  9. Laura Mellinger Colorado Springs CO

    I love this show and I absolutely love to see these beautiful autos. I cannot identify them but I read somewhere that most (ALL?) of them are driven by the car's owner, in costume for the show. Is this true? I'll bet the actors are scared to death when they have to drive them.

  10. Peter Hugo United Kingdom

    The final image is most definitely NOT a Cadillac V-63. !!! (Apart from anything else they run on Artillery wheels) It is Rolls-Royce 20 hp Six Light Saloon or Limousine (or possibly a Phantom 1) of the very early 1920s

  11. Ron Atherholt Fulton, Maryland

    Great cars for a great series. I often wonder if the owners of the cars get a little nervous over their cars being used. The Brits seem to have an endless supply of vehicles to use in their many period productions.

  12. Doug Wilson Omaha NE

    The cars are really great on this show. A couple of weeks ago, Tom and Mary got into a really nice '23 to '25 roadster pickup Model T Ford. I tickled me,as Tom started the car wrong. With a T the throttle and spark controls are on the steering column. To start the car, you are always supposed to advance the throttle maybe up to a quarter open (depends on the car), which is to move it down, and retard the spark, or move it fully up. Tom moved them both down about a quarter when he started the car. The car did start, and I suppose the car would, but they do start better when cold with the spark retarded Mostly the spark is retarded because if you are hand cranking the car, a retarded spark also helps prevent the car from back firing, which is where the broken wrist can come from in starting a T. In the last episode Tom was driving Mrs. Crawley in the T. He had the throttle correct, but the spark was fully retarded. A T with the throttle retarded will not run down the road as well as he was, if it would run at all.

  13. Chris Boston

    What about Edith's ex-fiancee's grey rolls royce?

  14. Michel Los Angeles

    What about all the Ford Model T with steering on the right side? Were they already made in England then?

  15. David Thomas Clearwater, Florida

    I have had a number of my cars used in films over the years. I have always been cast as the driver and fitted with cloths of the period. I would suspect since the onyl driver given any speaking parts is Branson, that most of the cars are actually being driven by their owners

  16. John Hedblom Glendale, CA

    Was an original 1924 AC car "crashed"? A replica? What was the outcome? A "lovely" car!

  17. Andrew Montpelier, Vermont

    And please tell us about the tractor that Edith pulls a stump with in Season One.

  18. Dudley London

    The Sunbeam 20/60 limousine was first registered in February 1925, which makes it a little out of place when it first appeared in an episode supposedly in 1919. Nevertheless it is a superb car and quite fitting for an aristocratic family of the 1920's. The bottom photograph is simply another view of the Sunbeam and not the Cadillac, which had white-wall tyres on wooden spoked wheels. The Rudge-Whitworth wire spoked wheels on the Sunbeam are also a bit premature for 1919!