Last revised: 1-12-2006

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Car of the Month - October 2006

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Owen Sedanca - coupe body by Jankel Design - manufactured in 1983

The practice of creating custom designed bodywork on readily available platforms is an art that has almost disappeared since the 1960s. The limited market and the high cost of manual labour and complying with modern safety regulations for cars produced like this make it an unattractive investment. Nevertheless once in a while there is someone who tries to revive this practice which was so common in the classic days of motoring. One of these entrepreneurs was luxury car dealer H.R. Owen from London in England.
In the early 1970s H.R. Owen decided to create a luxurious 4-seater coupe based on the floorpan of a Jaguar XJ6. The design was made by Chris Humberstone and very much inspired by the Lamborghini Espada. The first prototype of this Owen Sedanca appeared at the 1973 London Motor Show. It was a large but attractive car with a price tag that surpassed that of a Rolls Royce. The car featured hand-beaten aluminum bodywork made by coachbuilders Williams & Pritchard, pop-up headlights, rubber bumpers and a practical hatchback in the rear. It found much appreciation at the show and some 80 orders were taken.
H.R. Owen planned to make 100 Sedancas per year but nothing came of this. The start of the oil crisis soon after the introduction of the car meant that most orders were cancelled and also Jaguar's refusal to supply bare platforms resulted in H.R. Owen cancelling the production of the Sedanca. By then only two prototypes had been made. This should have been the end of it, but the Sedanca made an intriguing comeback.
One of the people who saw the Owen Sedanca at the Motor Show was an Arab Sheik and he was so impressed by the car that he ordered H.R. Owen to build him one about four years after the production plans had been cancelled. The body of this car was made by Panther Westwinds in Surrey, a company lead by Robert Jankel who was renown for producing what wealthy customers wanted. It was delivered to the Sheik in 1978 and was used by him to drive round his Oxfordshire estate. He apparently liked it so much that he ordered another one five years later. This one was delivered in 1983 and built by Robert Jankel Design, since Robert Jankel had left Panther after its failure in 1979, and it proved to be the last one.

So ultimately only 4 Owens Sedancas were made, of the hundreds planned. One of the two original prototypes has been destroyed and the other, a gold colored one, is in a bad condition. The two which were made for the Sheik are still alive and well however. The car which was delivered in 1978, in white with leather interior, still resides in Britain while the most recent one, in blue metallic with cloth upholstery, the car you see here, is in Holland.
The great thing about coachbuilt cars is their uniqueness, just imagine to be the owner of a car no one else in your country has. This is certainly true for the Owen Sedanca, virtually unknown but practical and attractive and one of only three in existence. These days the interest in custom designed bodywork is again rising judging by recent examples of coachbuilt Aston Martins and Ferraris. New production technologies makes this more feasible and affordable and the attraction of having a car built to your own taste has never really disappeared. Maybe this will be the beginning of a new era of creative designs produced on a small scale which has so much livened up car history in the past.

© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland

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