Why Queen Elizabeth was the Car Girl We All Want to Be

Princess Elizabeth In Trainging With The Ats. Photo- Imperial War Museum

Her mastery was intimidating–and she didn’t mind intimidating others, including the King of Saudi Arabia.

Queen Elizabeth II had a life full of notable events, milestones, and accomplishments. But sone of her best moments were behind the wheel and under the hood. She was a mechanic, masterful driver and always insisted on driving when she could. Her shunning of traditional roles empowered her, and in turn, all of us.

While taking in the pageantry of the time since Queen Elizabeth’s passing, and hearing the stories and legends of her life and leadership, her love of cars became a fond oft-told memory. Reporters, friends and Royal watchers told of how she  enjoyed cars not just as a passenger, or as a driver, but prior to becoming Queen, a mechanic during World War II.

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Then-Princess Elizabeth On The Cover Of Time Magazine. Photo: Time Magazine

Then-Princess Elizabeth on the cover of Time Magazine. Photo: Time Magazine

Learning To Fix and Drive Cars Empowered her Passions

Then, in 1945, Princess Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. During her time in the service, she learned not just basic maintenance, but how to take apart and rebuild engines. Her education also involved learning how to drive the vehicles she learned to repair and maintain.

In an oft-repeated quote about Princess Elizabeth from Collier’s Magazine in 1947, “One of her major joys was to get dirt under her nails and grease stains in her hands, and display these signs of labor to her friends.” We love this revelation. It showcases the sense of empowerment we feel from learning more about cars and doing more with them. Elizabeth wanted to join the military, she wanted to learn, and in doing so she had freedoms other royals who came before her didn’t have.

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The Queen Behind The Wheel Of Her Land Rover. Photo Royal Reviewer Via Youtube

The Queen behind the wheel of her Land Rover. Photo: Royal Reviewer via YouTube

Always Behind the Wheel at Home

Queen Elizabeth was often seen driving herself around her estates. Range Rovers took the brunt of the more rugged excursions and Elizabeth piloted them fearlessly. But she had a vast collection of cars. She had a Ford, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and more. According to GQ, her rumored favorite was a 1961 Vauxhall Cresta PA Firary Estate. For those not in the know, the Cresta was a station wagon. GQ specifies that the Cresta was specially outfitted for the Queen with “custom fishing rod holders on the roof, a dog guard for her corgis, and a gun rack.”

The Queen used her driving skills to send a not-so-subtle message to the then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Women in Saudi Arabia did not yet have the right to drive, and when Prince Abdullah was visiting the Queen in Scotland, she invited him on a tour of her estate. After he reluctantly agreed, a fleet of Land Rovers pulled up. Much to his surprise, the Queen herself got behind the wheel. She drove him around her property at a high speed, making him very nervous.

The Crown Prince asked her to slow down, not realizing he was being driven by a very capable woman throughout their jaunt.

It is this quote from Boris Johnson in his tribute to her at the House of Commons that moved me the most. He said, “Unlike us politicians with our outriders and our armor-plated convoys, I can tell you, as a direct eye-witness, that she drove herself in her own car, with no detectives and no bodyguard, bouncing at alarming speed over the Scottish landscape to the total amazement of the ramblers and the tourists we encountered. And it is that indomitable spirit with which she created the modern constitutional monarchy.”

May Her Majesty rest in peace.

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Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey