The cars : Princess 1.8D missed opportunity?

BL’s most important mid-sized car for a decade was a mid-1970s technical tour de force, but what the Princess lacked was a diesel version. But 50 were built, and went out testing.


The diesel Princess

Princess 1800HL - also offered (to a select few) in diesel form.

Princess 1800HL – also offered (to a select few) in diesel form.

The Princess went on sale in March 1975, it wasn’t actually called a Princess at all. The wedge shaped saloon arrived in Austin, Morris and Wolseley forms and was collectively known as the 18-22 Series. It seems confusing now, but back in the mid-‘70s, it was all about supplying cars for competing Austin and Morris dealer networks. Yes, they might have been built by BL, but they were sold by rival companies.

By November 1975, it was clear that BL was a contracting company and could no longer afford the luxury of such a ridiculously diverse retail set-up. Austin and Morris were merged, and their garages went under the Leyland banner. The Princess was created, and a streamlined new range went on sale to go fighting Ford on the marketplace. The car was offered with two petrol engines, a 1.8-litre four (also used in the MGB) and a silky-smooth 2.2-litre six (related to the Maxi engine).

Both Princesses were powered by petrol – and given that diesel accounted for less than two per cent of the UK market in the mid-‘70s, no one really noticed. Shortly after the arrival of Princess, the engineering team at Longbridge started working on a diesel version of the car – it was a straightforward conversion of existing BL hardware, and like so many of the company’s car at the time, did a very good job of making the most of the parts-bin.

Its engine was a dieselized version of the 1.8-litre B-Series. Commercial operators might have been familiar with this engine as it powered the Sherpa van, but as a car power unit, it was an all-new proposition. Its forerunner, the 1.5-litre B, also sired a diesel unit, and this found its way into a small number of export market Marinas, Cambridge and Oxfords, but with 40bhp on tap, these cars were sloggers, suited for little more than urban taxiing.

And it was for the cab trade that the diesel Princess was conceived. A run of 50 cars was built at the Cowley factory and distributed to a number of hand-picked trade customers for evaluation as a full-scale production proposition. Several of these cars were pressed into the trade and were clearly excellent at job in hand: the Princess possessed a huge interior and a magic carpet ride, and with the B-Series diesel under the bonnet, it was capable of 40mpg all day long.

In the end, all 50 Princess Diesels were returned to BL after their trials, and never saw the light of day again. Why didn’t the Princess Diesel make it into full time production, given its excellence as a taxi? The market for big diesels in the UK was tiny, and BL simply couldn’t justify the expense of homologating a new car with a potential of a few hundred units a year. Besides, the company was in crisis, having just fallen into government control, and with public funding every new model programme was put under fresh scrutiny. The Princess Diesel fell by the wayside, making way for what would later become the Metro and Maestro – so perhaps that was no bad thing.

Either way, it was another missed opportunity for BL – albeit a minor one in a catalogue that’s so packed with them that there’s enough material to fill a book… or a website!

Specifications
1976 Princess 1800 Diesel
Price in the UK: N/A
Engine: 1798cc four-cylinder diesel
Power: 50bhp at 4000rpm
Torque: 69lb ft at 2000rpm
Maximum speed: 88mph
0-60mph: 18.7 seconds
Fuel consumption: 42mpg

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

94 Comments on "The cars : Princess 1.8D missed opportunity?"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Alastairw says:

    The only time I ever came across the 1.5 Diesel was in a 50 foot narrow boat. 40hp was about right for chugging along the canal at 4mph, but my abiding memory was the amount of smoke it made at startup each day, much to the discomfort of nearby boaters.

  2. Darren says:

    A Marina diesel would have made more sense, especially the estate.

  3. DeLoreans Accountant says:

    Definately a close shave, IMO. As the article states, the diesel market back in the ’70s was tiny. 50hp? Not really enough to push it along. I don’t think that the development costs would ever have been recovered and the final product wold not have been that appealing.

    Now, what I DO think was a missed opportunity was seeing if the Rover V8 fitted in sideways…

  4. alexscott says:

    I wonder what the fuel consumption of a petrol princess would have been….about 38 to 40 mpg wouldnt surprise me. I remember reading an aritcle in mini magazine I think it was, Alex Moulton was asked what he thought of the new (BMW) mini I think his answer was something like its heavier than an Austin Maxi alex

  5. Nick Chung says:

    One of the 50 Diesels ended up in the hands of an Austin Rover Engineer I worked with in Quality Reliability at Cowley. He owned the car for about eight years or so and always had comments about it when filling up for diesel and not petrol at the pumps! The car was eventually scrapped due to corrosion. I asked the Engineer what the performance was like, he said that it was not very good and the car needed further development work on NVH but the fuel economy was amazing.

    I too came across a marine version of the B-Series diesel engine whilst working at a summer job on the River Thames in Oxford. It was installed in a passenger boat that I would regularly take out every hour five times daily. The engine was of unknown age & I was instructed to check the oil on it before every excursion as it would use a pint every 45mins! The engine was very loud, rough and unrefined.

    Looking back its a shame that the Perkins developed O-Series was not developed earlier on during the lifetime of the Princess, then it may have been a different story

  6. Chris C says:

    The BMC 1.5 litre continued in production in India and was imported into the UK for canalboats, etc – there is a link to Thornycroft. Small BMC/Nuffield tractors using these engines were apparently licence built (by Autotractors?) in India until at least the early 1980’s but I have not been able to find out much about them.

    http://nacnud.info/elysianboats/pdf/bmc.pdf

  7. Stewart says:

    Thank god it never happend, the sooner diesel is dead the better. Fortunatly the world was not so obseesed with tractor engines in cars in those days. The question should not be why didn’t it happen, but why did it get as far as wasting money of building the 50 in the first place as no one would have dreamed of buying one anyway in those days!

  8. Will M says:

    Sounds like the spiritual grandfather of the likes of the BX and Xantia diesels.

    Back in those days, a lot of garages had you queueing up for diesel in the corner, like some sort of outcast, jostling in the queue with the vans and lorries.

  9. David 3500 says:

    Darren – I have heard that a diesel-powered Marina was also evaluated, although I have no further details on how many were built etc. I am guessing it would have been using the same engine as found in the Austin Princess.

    About four years ago a friend of mine spotted a number of B Series engines in a boatyard in Norfolk when he went to hire a canal boat for a week. Could these have been the diesel powered versions mentioned by Chris C?

  10. Mark Pitchford says:

    Stewart: When was the last time you drove a diesel engined car?

  11. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    I agree with Mark Pitchford

    My company Civic 2.2 diesel is one of the most entertaining cars I have ever driven.

    Things have progressed since the Peugeot 504 diesel or the Ford Sierra 2.1D

  12. Adrian says:

    An engineer told me once that 1.5 litres was about as small as a diesel engine could me made, oddly enough..

  13. Engineer says:

    Umm, sounds like a bad idea to me. Diesel engines in the 1970’s were very poor compaired to a Petrol engine of the day.

    Fourty years later the gap has closed and the best Diesels are just as good to drive as their Petrol siblings.

  14. Hilton Davis says:

    I remember the Austin/Morris/Wolesley 18-22 series before re branding as the Princess. Never heard of diesel versions of it till reading this though (just goes to show how useful AR online is!). Nice photo of that LHD 1800HL

  15. Mike Bushell says:

    I saw an 1800D when i used to deliver paint to a BL plant in Acocks Green (I think). Never heard it start up though.

    A really good diesel, like what is made now would have been excellent. My Dad had two 2000 HLs and they were wonderful cruisers, so the diesel would only add to the enjoyment.

    Princesses were very good to have a crash in by the way. I know, I walked away from a humdinger totally unscatehd. as did my grandmother.

  16. Kev Davis says:

    The diesel Princess was also packed with extra sound deadening to help with refinement, particularly around the bulkhead area, but it would seem there were too may reasons for it not to be a good idea to put it on sale.

    Back in them days diesel engined cars really were at the poverty end of the market and you were lucky to get vinyl seats and a door mirror to go with it. No one was hard up enough to have a diesel in their life even if it was the three-day-week ’70s.

    Too many people get excited about diesel, which is fine if you drive 20, 30 or 40,000 miles a year, but if you only drive around 6,000 miles a year like me then a diesel makes no sense at all.

  17. Stewart says:

    @Mark Pitchford
    last week.. A C6 citroen 2.7 V6. They are STILL awfull.
    when you compare like with like diesle are noisey and slow. When comparing perfomace, make sure you remeber to comapre a turbo diesel with a turbo petrol of a similar size.. Compareing a NASP petrol to a turbo diesel is not fair (and even the the diesel has to struggle to make any case)

  18. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    It’s easy to mis-compare diesel with petrol and there are many parameters to compare against:
    – Cost
    – Performance
    – Efficiency
    – Reliability
    – Refinement

    So, for example, you’d compare equal cost diesel & petrol cars for performance or economy i.e. For equal parameter 1, how do they compare for parameter 2.

  19. Hilton Davis says:

    All of my cars over 35 years of driving have been petrol powered. I realise there is a trend towards modern turbo diesels and they have improved hugely in terms of performance & noise. My brother has a Jag XF 2.7TD. I guess I may be cajoled into buying a diesel at some point – but havent made that move yet.

  20. daveh says:

    @ Stewart
    I have a Volvo S60 D5 and although its about a second slower than its petrol brethen in 0-60(if 0-60 in 7.8 seconds and 185 bhp is slow) its in gear accelaration is pretty close and I get 40+ mpg compared to 25 at the best from the petrol – and its pretty quiet.

  21. Jorge Santos says:

    There was a large number of BL diesel Cars in Portugal, naturally in the Taxi service or other commercial purposes, and the marina itself was an excellently clever conversion. Knowing that there was a BL CKD operation in Portugal it’s odd that it is seldomely mentioned in this site. Keep up the good work lads!

  22. Richard16378 says:

    How early in the O-series development was the diesel
    preposed?

    I guessed BL wern’t looking to mainland Europe for diesel sales, as the market for them seemed to be a few years ahead of the UK.

  23. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Stewart: I think the C6 part might have distracted from the rather good 2.7V6 diesel. The engine in the C6 is great in a Jaguar XF.

    I’m a confirmed “fuel economy is pointless, my old V8 SL did 30mpg on the motorway, who cares” person at heart, but I have to say I find having a car which does up to 78mpg on the motorway rather liberating. It also belts along at motorway speeds and still does 60+ mpg, it’s not slow or noisy. I’d like the Citroen 1.6 DPFS engine in a Fiat X1/9 or a BX.

  24. Marty B says:

    I have actually seen Marinas with 1.5 Diesel badges in Malta. Hmmm.

  25. Simon Hodgetts says:

    @Stewart – I’m glad you can afford the fuel for your petrol motor. I fill up with Diesel at least 6 times a month, at a cost of roughly £75 per time – last month’s fuel bill then was around £450. My car (an Alfa 1.9 Diesel), although driven hard, delivers 150bhp, tons of torque, a petrol-like snarl when floored, and can give me roughly 50mpg. I borrowed a comparable 2.0 Twin Spark, which offered only slightly better performance, but, when driven in the same way, required filling up three times in a WEEK at marginally less £ per tankfull – maybe £70 per fill – making a monthly fuel bill of £840! Anyone who needs to do heavy mileage (virtually everyone I work with) must use a Diesel, or face having no money left at the end of the month for anything other than more fuel. Factor in higher company car tax and road tax, and petrol shows just how uncompetitive it is for business users. Would I ever run another petrol car day-to-day? Not on your Nelly!

  26. marinast says:

    Luckilly for all our sanity BMC never fitted their A series diesel unit to any of their production saloons.

  27. Richard16378 says:

    I remember someone mentioned an A series diesel unit, which was used in some industrial machinery & possibly some LCV’s.

    Spare parts next to none-existant IIRC.

  28. BobM BobM says:

    For high mileage then diesel is obviously a no-brainer. But if you’re like me, and your monthly fuel bill is only around £40 well I’ll stick with petrol ta very much. The aspects of derv drinkers I dislike is firstly the smoke when accelerating; it seems to me that everyone who drives a diesel thrashes the nuts off them to go anywhere, causing said smoke… and the awful strangled clatter they make when doing so. Economy is fine, but where’s the soul? 🙂

  29. Darren says:

    Diesels have vastly improved during the last decade, but are not right for everyone.
    If you do a lot of short journeys is one example, because all diesels underperform until hot, and take longer to reach optimum temperature than a petrol.
    Refinement is another area.
    The overwhelming argument for diesel is lower running costs, but ask the question what car people would buy if they won the lottery? and the answer is often a petrol!

  30. Simon Hodgetts says:

    @BobM – Drive an Alfa Diesel – bags of soul, and not that much smoke either! It even growls as an Alfa should when you put your foot down…….As far as the lottery question goes – well of course we’d all go petrol – when you have a few million in the bank you’re not worried about running costs – silly argument!

  31. Darren says:

    Not silly at all, It shows that Petrol is still regarded as technically superior by most and the fuel of choice when cost is taken out of the equation.

  32. Simon Hodgetts says:

    @Darren – not really, it only shows that when money is no object people will plump for cars not usually offered in diesel form…….most premium car manufacturers, with the exceptions of BMW, Audi & Mercedes don’t offer a diesel alternative to their high performance cars because at that price point cost of fuel doesn’t figure. I wouldn’t say that petrol is the superior fuel – it obviously isn’t when the average motorist cannot afford to run a petrol car owing to the inherent higher fuel consumption of petrol engines. How is pricing out your market superior? And how is it a majority decision, when the majority of road users run diesels? Finally, if diesel is so inferior, then why are Audi and Peugeot running competitive diesel cars at Le Mans, and SEAT winning WTCC races in them?

  33. David 3500 says:

    Simon Hodgetts – “when money is no object people will plump for cars not usually offered in diesel form…”

    I have to disagree with this as if money was not an object for me, I would still want to find the 3.6-litre or latest 4.4-litre TDV8 under the bonnet of a Range Rover. The supercharged 5-litre petrol engine in such a heavy car seems wasteful when compared to the greater torque of the TDV8. Also the smoother and more progresive power delivery of two turbochargers than a supercharger is more civilised in my book.

  34. Mike Humble mike humble says:

    Now now…. settle down!

  35. Stewart says:

    @David 3500
    No you would not, have you actually driven both? the Petrol on is still the better car. But at the same time as this princess was being built there was a far superior alternative in every way, the ‘Stratified Charge’ petrol engine. It was cleaner (Honda used a crude form of it in the CCV Civic, which was the only car to be sold in california at the time with NO cat). Offerd diesel like economy, so much so ford in the late 70’s were experementing with it in HGV tractor units. However the fueling was an issue and required very expensive electronics (at the time) and so it has been ignored.. Untill now.. the VW FSi engines are using it although it’s seen near no develpment scince the 70’s I think the mitsi GDI engines are also a form of stratified charge engine but not sure. Had they developed this insetad of wasting time of diesels things would be far better

  36. Stewart says:

    @Richard Kilpatrick
    Actualy is the other way round.. the 2.7 turdo diesesel ruined a very nice C6.. Curiously the 3.0 litre petrol version is in a lower road tax band which would say it has the better fuel economy.. would love to know what tests they do for C02 emissions as I don’t belive that!

    I did have a 2.1TD XM Auto for a while and found it quiet nice till the glow plugs failed in november. My TCT xm is nicer though, but the 2.1 did conform to me that all diesels should be Auto.. the fewer dealings one has to have with it the better!

  37. Mark Pitchford says:

    @Stewart
    Ever considered that you might be fighting a losing battle?

  38. Stewart says:

    @Mark Pitchford
    possibly.. but its not the war. If I take the 1.6 VW FSi engine that in a Mk6 golf weighing 1400kg returns an avg of 50 mpg (on petrol) and happens to have the same power and torque rating as my Mk2 8V golf Gti weighing near 900kg and fit it to that I will have somthing better than a mk2 GTD, in every way in both economy and power. Be intersting to see how it compares to the current golf deseisel

    But to the original question, at the time in the 70’s this car can’t be seen as anything other than a total waste of effort, resources and money

  39. Jonathan Carling jonathan carling says:

    They were after quite an upmarket feel with the Princess – not really looking for the taxi market. A diesel with such sluggish performance and the full vinyl interior could have killed such aspirations.

  40. Kev Davis says:

    I think some drivers have been tricked into thinking that as diesel is more economical therefore they can thrash the nuts off them and still get good MPG. So if they drove a petrol model less aggresively they would probably find it almost as economical. Everyone thrashes diesels; you have to to get the buggers to go as that wave of early torque soon fizzles out. But hey, you get 40mpg! Cheapskates!!

  41. Kev Davis says:

    And if you lived in America, you wouldn’t even consider diesel. Americans haven’t been clamoring for diesels because their fuel is so comparatively inexpensive–and diesel engines cost so much more to manufacture. Diesel engines cost more because they require added equipment such as a turbocharger to make power levels close to a petrol engine.

    So the only real reason Europe loves the diesel so much is an economic one, but it’s not better than petrol.

  42. Richard Moss says:

    @alexscott.

    If you think that a B or E series petrol engined Princess could average 38-40mpg then I would like a puff of what you’ve been smoking. You might, if lucky, get 30mpg or so on a cruise but in mixed driving there’s no chance.

    This was around the time that European manufacturers were starting to get serious about diesel cars – Peugeot’s 305, 504, 505, 604 for example. A diesel powered Princess could have been a boon for European sales because the fuel was a lot cheaper.

    Princess diesel taxi? Why not? After all, the Germans seem to have no trouble with the concept of Mercedes making both diesel taxis and luxury/sporting cars – often variations on the same model.

  43. Simon Hodgetts says:

    @Kev Davis…..errrm, no. Not with the miles I do. And I actually prefer the power delivery I get from my diesel – somehow a comparable petrol engine feels guttless in comparison.

  44. Darren says:

    Well said or written Kev, diesels have to be thrashed petrols don’t!

    My father has a new 1.6 diesel engined car and is getting 44MPG no where near the 65 claimed, but driven carefully I can get 47MPG from my 214si (R8).

    Diesels are more popular in this country than they deserve to be because of tax breaks, the system is loaded against Petrols.

  45. Richard Moss says:

    Actually, it’s now quite often the other way around – modern diesels have so much torque that the petrol engine have to be thrashed to match the performance of the diesel.

    Maybe in the days of the first generation VW Golf, for example, it was true – but even then the diesels had the edge. I had extensive use of mk1 Golfs, both petrol and diesel, and found that no matter how hard I drove the diesel I could not get the fuel consumption down below 40mpg. Driving 1.3 and 1.6L petrol engined Golfs (and a couple of mk1 Sciroccos) I found that you had to drive like a granny to get above 30mpg and driven at similar speeds, the diesel would always win.

    I found a similar story when running Citroen BXs – my 1.7 TD was faster across the board than the 1.6 that preceded it yet, driven at similar speeds, was a good 10mpg better on fuel. On a similar not, try getting 50mpg out of a petrol engined Montego on a 400 mile round trip. Not possible, but my parents’ J-reg Montego TD could do it again and again and again – despite my mum’s “heavy” right foot! The mk1 Mondeo TD that replaced it was just crap, though, and my mum was really miffed that dad had sold the Montego and gone backwards with the next car.

  46. Richard Moss says:

    Darren: “driven carefully” – there’s the key phrase. Try a like for like comparison – your R8 driven at the same speeds over the same roads at the same time of day with the same load on board and report back with the results.

    By the way, what “modern diesel” car does your dad have?

    As for tax breaks for diesels – nonsense. The opposite is true with higher road tax and higher fuel duty.

  47. Kev Davis says:

    30+mpg is quite attainable on a run with any Princess engine, but it’s the low 20’s around town, but that was considered reasonable for a car of that size back in the day. 16 gallon fuel tank is useful, but no one can afford to fill it up these days!

  48. Darren says:

    Richard: my father has a Volvo C30 D2, which has a £30 RFL- that is the tax break I am talking about.
    As for the R8- driven normally I average 41, which is not a lot different to the 44 attained by the Volvo, on the same roads.

  49. Stephen says:

    I remember back in the 70’s my dad converted his Marina 1.8 petrol into a diesel. It was a 1.5 litre out of a Commer van if I remember rightly. He had to make quite a few mods including shortening a gearbox from an austin Cambridge.
    Back then when diesel cars were so rare we used to get some crazy looks off people. The best was when we went to fill up with diesel as nearly everytime we would get someone yelling from the kiosk warning us that we were at the diesel pump 😀

  50. Steve Lee says:

    “then why are Audi and Peugeot running competitive diesel cars at Le Mans, and SEAT winning WTCC races in them?”

    Because the rules favour the diesels.

  51. Dennis says:

    Trouble with diesels is to get the best performance and economy from them you have to adapt your driving style.

    Diesels propel them selves along with torque rather than revs, it’s always been the case. Try driving an ancient tractor and it becomes obvious.

    My brother in law can’t get on with diesels, simply because he’s used to changing down a gear to overtake and accelerate, which is generally what you have to do with a petrol engine. He also changes up too late and lets the engine rev as you would with a petrol. However diesels allow you to just boot them and the sheer torque of them hauls you along, the same with changing up earlier than a petrol car the engine will pull from very low revs.
    This is why many people get poor fuel economy from a diesel, because they basically thrash the thing.

    In the main attitudes have changed, when the Princess was around if you’d told people a Diesel car could do 100mph all day long they wouldn’t have believed you. If you’d told them that one day Diesels would be winning at Le Mans they would have laughed in your face.
    If you had said one day someone would get a couple of digger engines and drive them at over 350mph they would have called the men in white suits… The simple fact is the technology has moved on, in the 70’s a diesel car just wasn’t an acceptable car to run.
    There are still those now (as this blog shows) who don’t believe in Diesels, mainly because they don’t know how and have never been taught how to drive them. But this is the same as there are people who still automatically think when a car has reached 100’000miles it’s only fit for the bin.

  52. Simon Woodward says:

    Mercedes W123 and Peugeot 504 spring to mind when looking at mid sized 1970’s diesel cars, its not done either of those companies any harm. Diesel has come along way since then, thanks to pioneering engineers at those companies. The days of slow sluggish diesels have long gone but to get a chicken you first need a egg.

  53. RussPigott says:

    A friend of mine has boat on the broads which is powered by two 1.5 l B series diesels. He is a big ford man and takes the P ouf of me for being a BL man! Everery time he does I remind him of his leyland boat!

  54. Big H Big H says:

    As someone who has worked with diesel engines for over 30 years, mainly plant and large marine engies. Im not going to enter the debate which is best, for automotive use. However im surprised nobody has mentioned the reliability issues related to modern automotive common rail systems. Problems with the complex electronically contolled injection systems are not uncommon. Then we have dual mass flywheels and diesel particulate filters to contend with. Ask any taxi driver how many dual mass flywheels/clutches he’s had. For an average VAG car it’s usually 2 to 3 per 50K miles. Dont get me started on particulate filters! to replace an injection system on a Ford TDCI syatem, due to the injection pump breaking down, then destroying the system we cost you £3k very often more that the car is worth. By all means have a modern diesel, get rid when the warrenty is up. Ok too if it’s a company car.
    The BMW Diesel fitted to the Rover 75 are known for injector problems at about £180 a pop
    My advice would be aviod modern diesels especially high mileage ones. In my view automotive diesels peaked with the peugeot/citroen XUD engine

  55. daveh says:

    Darren – your Dad’s car has the Ford/PSA diesel lump, which if you drive short distances and don’t get the engine up to temperature, will only do around 40 to the gallon. If you drive long distances, the engine warms up and you can get the mpg that Volvo claim is possible. I know this is true as I had a Focus TDCI (same engine) before my Volvo S60 D5.

  56. David Dawson says:

    Hmm… 50hp in a Princess. Seems too little even by 1970’s diesel standards. Still as a cab, given the car’s capacious interior and separete boot, a diesel Princess could have had a sizeable market.

    The whole Princess was a missed opportunity!! Still attractive today especially in its later pre Ambassador trim. How advanced it was compared to the ever successful Cortina!

  57. Dennis says:

    @Daveh
    One problem with modern diesels, is if used for lots of short trips the exhaust gas recirculation gets clogged up and restricts performance. It’s similar to petrol cars fillng up with mayonaise. It does any car good to give it a good long blast now and then, gives the systems a good clean out, if it’s left to get too bad though it needs to be mechanically cleaned.

  58. John Cremins says:

    As a young Jaguar Rover Triumph apprentice (1977-81) during those early years, I was working in the Kremlin at Canley and was tasked to take one of the Diesel Pricesses from Canley to Webb Lane i near Solihull in Birmingham. Having driven TR7, Spitfires and Dolomites around Canley, the Diesel Princess was very slow and underpowered. At nearly every junction or traffic lights, the other cars behind could not understand why it was so slow off the mark. This was my first taste of Diesel Power, how different it is today.

  59. Howard says:

    The UK just wasn’t ready for ‘oil burners’ in the 1970s.A lot of the diesel buying public today would like a basic diesel with good mpg,without all the complications of the modern derv engine:common rail,high-tech injection pumps,loads of different types of engine oils and multiple ecu boxes.

  60. Dennis says:

    At the same time though, most of the buying public don’t want their diesels dumping a pile of black soot out every time they booted it away from a junction. Or the clatter like a family of chimps under the bonnet with hammers.
    Even in the legendary PSA XUD engine, was a fairly noisy, you could tell it was a diesel, especially at idle and was partial to the odd black cloud from the back.
    The 2ltr HDi lump is basically the same engine but with the high tech diesel pump and electronic injection, it’s far smoother, quieter and cleaner as a result.

  61. Big H Big H says:

    @Dennis
    Yes and a lot more unreliable as a result, you pays your money and takes your choice.
    A 20 year old peugeot or early VW TDI (both almost bullet proof)?
    Or a 3 Year old common rail from any manifacturer? I know where my money would be if i wanted reliability.
    You still have the DMF & DPF Problems i have mentioned with modern diesels

  62. daveh says:

    @Dennis
    Yep – I know that prob. This winter the soot filter would not clear as the temperature was too low so it had to be plugged in and re-charged at the dealer – a whopping £75. Unfortunately it could only be done at the Volvo dealer as none of the local specialist had the kit to do it! Luckily the guy in the dealership told me how to clear it – as soon as the warning ligt appears drive at 3000 revs for 10 miles.

  63. Howard says:

    @Dennis,talk to most mechanics in the motor trade at the moment,most will tell you the modern diesel is far more unreliable & expensive to put right than the latest petrol engines.

  64. Dennis says:

    So a dead ECU on a Petrol engine is cheaper to put right than a Dead ECU on a diesel? Generally it makes no difference. Of course an old mechanical diesel doesn’t have an ECU to fail but then it’s more noisy and harsh, so you take your choice. It depends what goes wrong though doesn’t it? Snapped cam belt, it’s the same result what ever the fuel type. You can have a high pressure pump go pop which a petrol car obviously wont have, but equally some coil packs on petrol cars aren’t cheap either.

    Indeed DMF’s are a problem, although they are getting better, manufacturers all seem to be developing them ‘on the road’. We have 2 Citroen estates here, one has about 119k on it the other has 117k, both run fine, both on their original Clutch. Yeah the fluid top up on the C5 is going to be expensive when it comes, i already have the computer to do it, the dealer level tool was £100 from ebay. Although my old Sykes ACR will do it too. But in general we can compare DPF’s to Cat’s, when cat’s were a fairly new thing they were several hundred pounds to replace, now you can get them down to about £75 for a cheap one, simply because there are lots to replace and it’s old hat now.

    Basically my opinion is if you aren’t made of money and need a largish car or go on motorways for any length of time then diesel is the way to go, if you only need a small car to use around town then petrol is probably a better option, as you’ll probably never do the mileage to pay for a diesel.

  65. Big H Big H says:

    @Dennis Some Ford ECU;s are failing reularly costing as much as 3x a petrol units. They are much more complex than their petrol counterparts. I can’t remember the last time when ive heard of a petrol ECU fail
    Oh and by the way Dennis I would rather change 10 catalitic converters than 1 clutch!
    How abaout a simple pressure sensor? On a modern common rail the pressures are quite stagering. The sensor is imbeded in the fuel rail. Cost to diagnose 2 hrs labour New part a new sensor imbeded in the rail £300 (The sensor i would guess would be cheapish. But its imbeded in a cast iron fuel rail) plus fitting 1 x hrs labour. This is not an imaginary scenario. Happened 2 days ago. Plus in the same garage a 4 years old builders van got towed in. New ECU £800 than you very much!
    I think you do need to be made of money to run any CRD or make sure its a company car.
    I run a old mechanical injection 4×4 Plus a 1.6 petrol hatchback. Just done a 500 mile round trip 3 adults and luggage in the hatchback achived a very solid 42MPG thats good enough for me.
    I have to be honest as a engineer its not all doom’n gloom In a few years it will find its own level and reliability will return. However at the moment i thing the folks who are buying and running modern CRD’s are the gueinea pigs in terms of development

  66. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    Some people on this thread are on another planet!

    Let’s try some real world comparisons.
    FORD
    Escort 1.4, motorway trip Cwmbran to London and back, 42mpg.
    Escort 1.6 diesel van, 37-67mpg over 25,000 miles.
    Diesel +25%.

    VAUXHALL
    Astra 1.6-8V petrol, 1.5 mile trip to work=30mpg.
    Hard to get over 40mpg.
    Omega 2.5TD: the same 30mpg to work from a much bigger car and engine. So much for diesels being juicy on short journeys, Darren.

    ROVER
    216GSi:Honda 1.6-16V: 37-47mpg over 108,000 miles.
    218SLDT: Peugeot 8V turbo: 42-56mpg: diesel +17%.

    JAGUAR
    X-type 2.5 saloon, 4×4: 35mpg on motorway.
    X-type 2.2D estate, FWD: 50mpg on motorway.
    Do I drive slower than Mr.Petrol? Faster, actually.

    Anybody else trying to tell me that petrol=diesel for economy, please give me figures over at least 100,000 miles!!

  67. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    BTW regarding “slow” diesels: every overtake in my X-type is followed by backing off. Otherwise you are doing 75-80 on A roads, which is somewhat illegal and sometimes dangerous. Still, for +43% fuel economy over the 2.5, I can put up with it.

  68. Big H Big H says:

    @Ken Strachan
    Im not anti diesel befroe I go any further! (Just a MASSIVE question mark over modern CRD reliability IMO)
    However you diesel lovers always forget that diesels is 5 to 6 pence a litre more expensive.
    Ive just done a quick trawl and done this comparison
    Focus 1.6 Zetec Diesel version about £1000 more expensive to buy
    With the figures provided 60 liters with get you 632 Miles in a petrol £830 Miles in a Diesel. Pertol would cost you £81 diesel £85.
    I do less that 10K miles in my petrol 1.6 hatch I will stick with it. As am equivelent diesel for me would not pay for itself

  69. Claire says:

    The late 70s saw Autocar run a Mk1 Golf diesel for 100,000 miles and that seemed very exciting a prospect. However the B series was a fairly terrible diesel engine. I seem to recall a diesel Marina when I was on holiday in Malta in about 1980 although I may be mistaken.

    I did 7000 miles last year and I just changed to a diesel with a DPF (Skoda Fabia 1.6TDi 75bhp). Time will tell if I have made a mistake but the gap between petrol and diesel prices has narrowed and £20 annual VED is not to be sniffed at. And much better economy than the VW Fox that preceded it

  70. Iain says:

    @44 – In my experience, I’ve never had to thrash a diesel engined car, but have had to thrash most petrol engined cars I’ve ever driven, due to them being totally underpowered and riddled with flat-spots. I remember overtaking a lorry in a petrol engined Toyota Avensis, when a flat-spot kicked in, almost preventing me from completing the manouvre. With regards to changing down to overtake, surely that uses up a lot of juice?

    One of the worst petrol engined cars I have ever driven was an 07-reg Vauxhall Vectra 1.8 SRI, which was completely devoid of power and took an age to get from 20-40mph.

    With regards to DPF systems, they are the worst thing ever to happen to diesel engines – my local Peugeot dealer is now advising people to forget diesel engined cars – but I’ll still never touch another petrol engined car for as long as I live. I enjoy only having to fill up every 4 or 5 weeks!!

    Apparently 3870 Marina diesels were built, mostly for export. They were said to have decent handling, owing to the weight of the engine, but could only manage 70mph. BL missed a trick by not selling them here.

  71. Will M says:

    @Iain

    You’ve never had an XUD without a turbo then?

    Admittedly there was little point in thrashing it, I just had to work on momentum. There was a bit of a valley coming off the Forth Road Bridge onto the M90, you had to hit it right to build up speed on the way down to get back up the hill.

    M2 out of Belfast up the side of Cavehill was a no-go, just mix it in with the HGVs on the inside lane.

    That said, it was reliable. Unlike the HDi Peugeot I had. DPFs and DMFs!
    Though the Hyundai petrol 2nd car is not turning out as reliable as the reviews made out.

  72. Chris Baglin says:

    I can’t think of any diesel car that performs better by being thrashed.

    My then next-door neighbour Dodgy Dave, who was a petrolhead and a professional truck driver, was constantly amazed at the kind of speeds I got up to in a 1.8 non-turboed Fiesta Classic diesel. The secret (and its not much of a secret- just a modicum of mechanical sympathy) was that whilst I did often accellerate it foot-to-floor (once in second gear onwards) but I never actually thrashed it- I simply drove it on the torque. I find that drivers accustomed to revving the tits off a petrol engine who complained that diesels were ‘gutless’ simply weren’t driving them properly.

  73. James Godwin JAG75 says:

    1976 Princess 1800 Diesel with those performance/efficiency figures ain’t bad at all when put into context (Granada 2.1 or the much later hellish Sierra 2.3D). Still sales by the mid-80s were still low and the Ambassador would have killed any chances of prosperity.

  74. Ezeee says:

    Simply, Darren doesn’t know the chemistry of diesel:

    I can’t remember the exact figures but diesel contains about 23 Hydrogen atoms compared with approx 16 for petrol. It’s even less for LPG.

    Diesel contains more energy than petrol. It has a higher flashpoint so it’s less volatile than petrol BUT it does auto-ignite at a much lower temperature – and the burn is relentless. – These days, they’re refined to contain less sulphur.

    Diesels are getting smaller and as a result are much tougher – and of course lighter. Adanced NVH techniques mean they’re getting quieter.

    And if ever there is a nuclear shower when the bombs come raining down… at least I’l stand a better chance in an old diesel, passing all the petrol cars that got shut down because of the EMP… lol….

  75. steve M says:

    petrol actually has a very similar calorific value to diesel
    45>47kj/kg cf 46kj/kg

  76. Chris Baglin says:

    @75, steve M,

    So which of them is more fattening?

  77. Paul says:

    The only real market for the Princess was the UK and here there was no market at all for Diesel cars in the 70s. So not a wasted opportunity, but a total waste of time. Surprised scarce resources where diverted to this project. Oh hang on, we are talking about BL here – so not surprised at all!

  78. Yorkiebusdriver says:

    The gap in price between petrol and diesel is widening again & Which? have proved that it is pointless a private motorist running a derv, as it costs you more in the long run, and many modern diesels are having quite severe problems with DPF & emissions issues, resulting in expensive trips to the dealer. Whoever thought that a diesel Princess was a good idea, clearly had been putting something else other than tobacco in their pipe, well it was the 70’s after all LOL. Everyone back then was still wedded to petrol, and all the taxi trade where I lived had either Cortina or Cavalier 1600’s

  79. francis brett francis brett says:

    How slow would it have been? Anyone remember the torpid ital 1.5D?

  80. Will M says:

    @Ezeeeeee

    “And if ever there is a nuclear shower when the bombs come raining down… at least I’l stand a better chance in an old diesel, passing all the petrol cars that got shut down because of the EMP… lol….”

    Good luck trying to find diesel in a post-nuclear apocolyptic wasteland.

    Diesels were getting better in the 80s/90s, they were simple and therefore reliable. The XUD in particular was a gem, returning good fuel economy, reliability and with a turbocharger decent power. Back in the day diesel was a cheap fuel too.

    Unfortunately the modern diesels are too complex and expensive to fix, and uk.gov cottoned on to diesel raising taxes appropriately.

  81. IanS says:

    I did run a Princess 1800HL for a while in the dim and distant. Rough old thing it was too – could almost have been a Diesel!

    As for the petrol v diesel question, a lot depends on what you like. I remember comparing a circa 2002 petrol Mondeo 1.8 with a 150bhp diesel version from our company pool – the petrol was smooth and quiet but needed revving to make brisk progress where the diesel produced masses of torque from 2000rpm and was a whole lot more relaxed. I wouldn’t buy an older diesel Mondy now though without knowing that the clutch and dual mass flywheel had been replaced. You pays yer money…

  82. Yorkiebusdriver says:

    @ 81, a lad at work is trying to flog his 56 plate Mondy diesel that has only done 60k, and he is struggling to get offers of around £500, because they are such an unreliable money pit. They go through injectors regularly too, and having a go in his, something is not right with it, as it coughs every now and again.

    And I’ve experienced a Marina 1.5 diesel in Malta in the early 1990s. What a sluggish, crude, awful pile of donkey poop it was. I think glaciers moved faster, and the noise…Ear defenders would have been nice.

  83. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    Going in the other direction re. fuel consumption. I wonder if the Rover V8 would have fitted under the bonnet !!

  84. Joe Strong says:

    @66 , I live on the Planet Skint :

    New Chevrolet AVEO LT 1.3 VCDi 75 £12,345
    New Chevrolet AVEO LT 1.2 86 £11,295

    Diesel Premium= £1050

    Diesel, combined, 74.3mpg @ 1.42/ltr (£6.46/gal) =8.69 ppm
    Petrol, combined, 60.1mpg @ 1.37/ltr (£6.23/gal) =10.37 ppm

    So the diesel saves 1.68p per mile (£0.0168)you would thus need to do 62,500 miles simply to break even, and at the 100,000 mile point you would be just £630 up,and you would have been listening to a rumbly shaky diesel for 100k.

    For the record I have a 1.2 petrol Aveo and over 10,000 miles it does a real mpg of 48-55 mpg.

  85. Ross says:

    I must be the only person here who would prefer the driving characteristics of a diesel, but I drive a petrol because I believe it is cheapest for me! Diesel would save me maybe £15 a month on my mileage and another £10 a month on road tax, but it would only take one £3k repair bill to leave me without a car for a very long time, and this IS happening. My friend was stung for this sort of money on his 57 plate diesel Astra, and my neighbour on their Peugeot 407, both dual mass flywheels… Not worth the risk IMO.

  86. Kev says:

    Re 83: No. However, have you ever wondered why a Marina engine bay looks empty? It can take the SP250 V8 from the Dart. It was meant to be the ‘answer’ to the Capri. There were some built…I put one backwards off the roundabout on the A34/Southern bypass junction on a wet Tuesday morning – a red coupe on a J plate. They were being used as pool cars by that point.

  87. Will M says:

    @Yorkiebusdriver

    Would’ve liked a diesel myself. Had a look at an X type that had the same engine but the glowplug ‘check engine’ light was on. Have heard horror stories of injectors.

    Bought the Celica which real world gets surprisingly close to 40mpg.

    Remember the days of the XUD and Merc W123 diesels, when diesel was the reliable option?

  88. Nate says:

    In some respects it is a missed opportunity though in the Princess’s case, the car would have probably been better with the stillborn 1.8 B-Series Turbodiesel and 2.0 non-turbocharged B-Series diesel prototype engines or even a dieselized version of the E6 engine.

  89. Dominic says:

    Ford Granada MKII 1.9D taxi anyone? specifically built for the taxi trade, not exactly a sparkling success was it? nor the 2.1D that came a little later. The BL 1.8D was a horrible lump of pig iron, I drove several Sherpas with it fitted and every one refused to start in a morning without a large snort of easy start, and that was a two man job! Put it in a car? yeah right, “Off to work now dear, do the honours would you? squirt it up the trumpet when I turn the key – 3-2-1 – Go”.

  90. g scothern says:

    I had a 1800 diesel Sherpa for 3 years ,used as a family car ,it started up well in all whethers

  91. Nate says:

    While the diesel market in the UK was small at the time and the company was in crisis, wouldn’t the 1.8 B-Series diesel have been better served powering a car 200-300kg more lighter like the Allegro instead of the much heavier Princess, at least in the European markets where diesel is more popular?

    The reason being for bringing up such an absurd idea like an Allegro diesel variant are that the figures for the 1976 Princess 1800 Diesel, while still painfully slow do not look all that bad for a 50 hp 1.8 non-turbo diesel unit considering it is powering a car not known for its lightness (unless the Princess diesel’s Specifications above are somehow inaccurate).

  92. Graham says:

    I really am surprised they even bothered, its a shame money could no have been found to do something more useful such as making it faster or adding a 5 speed Gearbox.

    If they wanted to make a oil burner taxi, surely the Marina would have been a better bet along with the pick up and van?

  93. Richard16378 says:

    I was surprised the Princess didn’t have a 5 speed gearbox while the Maxi did, someone did mention this unit couldn’t cope with the E6’s output.

    The Marina did get an export only diesel, but only with a 1.5 engine rather than the 1.8.

Have your say...