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Darling Buds of May Rolls-Royce to be auctioned for estimated £70k


A piece of nineties British television history is set to be sold to the highest bidder next month with the auction of the Rolls-Royce used in ITV comedy drama The Darling Buds of May.

The car, a 20hp Park Ward Landaulette finished in a stunning shade of yellow, was famously loved by David Jason’s character Pop Larkin in the series that ran from 1991 to 1993, which gave Catherine Zeta-Jones her breakthrough TV role playing eldest daughter, Mariette.

In a neat piece of timing, the car has come up for auction just as the show is reborn on television screens as the Larkins, starring Bradley Walsh as Pop. 

The Roller last changed hands in 2019 for £100,000, though the estimate placed by H&H Classics for its appearance at the Imperial War Museum auction on 17 November is far lower, between £50,000 and £70,000.

Nineties TV icon: This 1926 Rolls-Royce that featured heavily in comedy drama series The Darling Buds of May is to be sold at auction in Birmingham next month

Nineties TV icon: This 1926 Rolls-Royce that featured heavily in comedy drama series The Darling Buds of May is to be sold at auction in Birmingham next month

TV series 'The Darling Buds of May' was a nineties hit. The Larkin family pictured: Back: L-R Stephanie Ralph, Pam Ferris, David Jason and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Front: L-R Ross Marriott, The Twins - Christina Giles and Katherine Giles, Philip Franks and Abigail Rokison

TV series ‘The Darling Buds of May’ was a nineties hit. The Larkin family pictured: Back: L-R Stephanie Ralph, Pam Ferris, David Jason and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Front: L-R Ross Marriott, The Twins – Christina Giles and Katherine Giles, Philip Franks and Abigail Rokison

The auction house describes it as ‘arguably one of the most beloved UK TV car characters ever’, which is why the vehicle has changed hands for six-figure sums of £100,000 on its two most recent occasions.

When it goes to the block at the Duxford museum in Cambridgeshire, it will be offered with an MOT certificate valid until 5 May 2022.

The 20HP was first unveiled in 1922 and is instantly distinguished by its horizontal radiator shutters.

It was considered the second string to the Rolls-Royce bow at the time – a shorter, more economical sibling to the Silver Ghost which broadened the marque’s reach to span both the very rich and seriously wealthy.

It was built on a ladder-frame chassis with power coming from a 3,127cc straight-six-cylinder engine mated to a three-speed manual gearbox. 

The Roller has leaf-spring suspension with braking on the rear wheels only and ‘worm and nut’ steering. 

The auction house selling the vintage motor describes it as 'arguably one of the most beloved UK TV car characters ever'

The auction house selling the vintage motor describes it as ‘arguably one of the most beloved UK TV car characters ever’

The 1926 model features a 3.1-litre six-cylinder engine mated to a three-speed gearbox

The 1926 model features a 3.1-litre six-cylinder engine mated to a three-speed gearbox

When it goes to the block at the Duxford museum in Cambridgeshire, it will be offered with an MOT certificate valid until 5 May 2022

When it goes to the block at the Duxford museum in Cambridgeshire, it will be offered with an MOT certificate valid until 5 May 2022

The car, a 20hp Park Ward Landaulette finished in a stunning shade of yellow, was famously loved by David Jason's character Pop Larkin

The car, a 20hp Park Ward Landaulette finished in a stunning shade of yellow, was famously loved by David Jason’s character Pop Larkin

This example was supplied new on 20 August 1926, via a dealer in Nottingham, with chassis GUK-71 featuring Landaulette coachwork by Park Ward and was finished high varnished in Purple Blue with fine white line and matching blue upholstery. 

It remained in the first keeper’s ownership for 10 years before being bought by a second owner who kept it for almost another two decades.

In 1955, the car was sold to a Richard Edward Derington Fenning of the Royal Hotel, Ashby-de-la-Zouch who retained it for 38 years – in which time registration ‘RA 333’ would become arguably the most famous 20hp in existence thanks to its role in the TV series.  

The famed TV car last changed hands in 2019 for a sum of £100,000. The previous sale price was also £100k, according to the vendor

The famed TV car last changed hands in 2019 for a sum of £100,000. The previous sale price was also £100k, according to the vendor

David Jason as Pop Larkin as the feature character in 'The Darling Buds of May' TV programme pictured in 1991

David Jason as Pop Larkin as the feature character in ‘The Darling Buds of May’ TV programme pictured in 1991

The Darling Buds of May ran from 1991 to 1993 and famously gave Catherine Zeta-Jones her breakthrough TV role playing eldest daughter, Mariette

The Darling Buds of May ran from 1991 to 1993 and famously gave Catherine Zeta-Jones her breakthrough TV role playing eldest daughter, Mariette

The 20HP was first unveiled in 1922 and is instantly distinguished by its horizontal radiator shutters

The 20HP was first unveiled in 1922 and is instantly distinguished by its horizontal radiator shutters

Last changing hangs two years ago, the Roller has been stored in a ‘carcoon’ – a dehumidified unit – where it has been maintained carefully.

Included with the vehicle is a comprehensive folder featuring rarely seen documents, including the original order confirmation letter, bill of sale and specification sheet from 1926. 

As well as this, copies of pre-delivery inspections are also included, as well as the original logbook, a copy of the original guarantee and instruction manual.

When launched in 1992, the 20HP was considered the second string to the Rolls-Royce bow at the time - a shorter, more economical sibling to the Silver Ghost which broadened the marque¿s reach to span both the very rich and seriously wealthy

When launched in 1992, the 20HP was considered the second string to the Rolls-Royce bow at the time – a shorter, more economical sibling to the Silver Ghost which broadened the marque’s reach to span both the very rich and seriously wealthy

It was built on a ladder-frame chassis with power coming from a 3,127cc straight-six-cylinder engine

It was built on a ladder-frame chassis with power coming from a 3,127cc straight-six-cylinder engine

The Roller has leaf-spring suspension with braking on the rear wheels only and 'worm and nut' steering

The Roller has leaf-spring suspension with braking on the rear wheels only and ‘worm and nut’ steering

In addition, further documents include previous MOTs and invoices including a printed summary of maintenance post-1992, and of course, photographs and press relating to the hit television series. 

The Darling Buds of May was broadcast between 7 April 1991 and 4 April 1993. 

The first six episodes of Series 1 and the first two of Series 2 are adaptations of the 1958 novel of the same name and three of its four sequels, by renowned author H.E. Bates. The remaining episodes are original storylines based on the same format.

David Jason as Pop Larkin and Rachel Bell as Edith Pilchester in the Rolls Royce 'Darling Buds of May' TV 1991

David Jason as Pop Larkin and Rachel Bell as Edith Pilchester in the Rolls Royce ‘Darling Buds of May’ TV 1991

'The Darling Buds Of May' TV filming a scene on location with the car - registration RA 333 - at the heart of the footage

‘The Darling Buds Of May’ TV filming a scene on location with the car – registration RA 333 – at the heart of the footage 

The show was set in rural 1950s Kent and followed the life of the Larkin family, with Pam Ferris playing Ma Larkin alongside David Jason

The show was set in rural 1950s Kent and followed the life of the Larkin family, with Pam Ferris playing Ma Larkin alongside David Jason

This example was supplied new on 20 August 1926 via a dealer in Nottingham with chassis GUK-71 featuring Landaulette coachwork by Park Ward and was finished high varnished in Purple Blue with fine white line and matching blue upholstery

This example was supplied new on 20 August 1926 via a dealer in Nottingham with chassis GUK-71 featuring Landaulette coachwork by Park Ward and was finished high varnished in Purple Blue with fine white line and matching blue upholstery

Set in rural 1950s Kent, the series follows the life of the Larkin family.  

Pam Ferris played the role of Ma Larkin alongside Jason and Zeta-Jones – the latter marrying tax inspector Cedric ‘Charley’ Charlton, played by Phillip Franks.

David Jason said the message of this show was the same as Only Fools and Horses (1981): that the most important thing is what happens at home and with the family. 

The car will be available to the highest bidder just four days after the Mini Moke used in cult sixties series the Prisoner goes under the hammer at the Silverstone Auctions NEC Classic Motor Show Sale.

In 1955, the car was sold to a Richard Edward Derington Fenning of the Royal Hotel, Ashby-de-la-Zouch who retained it for 38 years - in which time registration ¿RA 333¿ would become arguably the most famous 20hp in existence with its role in the TV series

In 1955, the car was sold to a Richard Edward Derington Fenning of the Royal Hotel, Ashby-de-la-Zouch who retained it for 38 years – in which time registration ‘RA 333’ would become arguably the most famous 20hp in existence with its role in the TV series

Included with the vehicle is a comprehensive folder featuring rarely seen documents, including the original order confirmation letter, bill of sale and specification sheet from 1926

Included with the vehicle is a comprehensive folder featuring rarely seen documents, including the original order confirmation letter, bill of sale and specification sheet from 1926

The iconic Spirit of Ecstasy that is adorned on the bonnet of all Rolls-Royce cars old and new

The iconic Spirit of Ecstasy that is adorned on the bonnet of all Rolls-Royce cars old and new

The sale includes copies of pre-delivery inspections, the original logbook, a copy of the original guarantee and instruction manual, previous MOTs and invoices including a printed summary of maintenance post-1992, and of course, photographs and press relating to the hit television series

The sale includes copies of pre-delivery inspections, the original logbook, a copy of the original guarantee and instruction manual, previous MOTs and invoices including a printed summary of maintenance post-1992, and of course, photographs and press relating to the hit television series

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