What makes a proper barn find? Lots of spiders and a thick layer of dust? Finding a gleaming car underneath it all? Or some rusty surprises?
Kevin Davis came to the rescue of the featured Princess 2200 HLS…
Words and pictures: Kevin Davis
Long forgotten… and revived!
As found after 15 years
I SAW THIS Princess 2200HLS for sale on the Car and Classic website, and as it was quite cheap and reasonably local, I thought it would be worth a look. Optimistically, myself and my dad decided to borrow a friend’s Vauxhall Zafira, hire a car trailer and set off for Swindon. Upon arrival we decided to drag the car out into daylight; the first time it had moved from its 15 year slumber. Luckily someone had the foresight to leave the handbrake off and it rolled out quite easily.
A good look around revealed severe corrosion in the sills, doors and wheel arches, though the interior was in pretty good order despite being a home for mice! We tried to start the engine with a good battery but it had seized. Still undecided whether it was worth saving or scrapping a price was negotiated, the wheels were swapped for tyres with air in them and it was loaded onto the trailer.
Next day we set about trying to get it started as this would be the deciding factor as to whether it was worth saving. Removing the plugs and spraying WD40 down the bores we carefully turned the engine over on the starter motor and with the help of a socket on the crankshaft pulley nut and a long handle we managed to free the engine. After several attempts we managed to get it started and after some intial rumbling, it settled down to a smooth idle. The suspension responded to a pump up and has remained so ever since.
The decision was made. This Wedge would be saved!
After a wash to remove 15 years of dust and cobwebs the true extent of work was revealed. A new offside wing, new rear arches and a new off side sill would all need welding on, and it would need a complete respray. We had a wing, but the sills had to be sourced and as luck would have it, a pair cropped up on ebay that very week!
The welding was completed by November 2009 but poor weather meant work came to a halt, so it was treated and left until the spring of 2010.
By July 2010 the exhaust was replaced, the brakes overhauled and the clutch was freed off and this meant it could now be put in for its MoT. This would be its first journey under its own power for 15 years! It was a bit scary but it seemed to drive well despite a clunky driveshaft, which was eventually replaced. It did fail on rear brake efficiency and an exhaust bracket, but we sorted that and it later passed! It was insured and taxed and was once again roadworthy. All we had to do now was make it look like a Wedge again.
Both front doors were replaced and prepared but sourcing rear doors proved difficult, but work commenced over the summer on preparing the bodywork for its respray in September. With weeks to go until the respray we were still struggling for rear doors, but as luck would have it I received an email from someone who had a complete Wedge available for spares or repair and, it was local.
When I viewed it all I looked at was the rear doors; nothing else mattered! The engine had seized due to overheating and so was deemed useless. A price was negotiated and the 1981 1.7HL was dragged home to be broken up. With only days to go until the respray the donor doors were fitted and prepared.
A week later we picked it up. It was all blue again!
It was now a matter of refitting all the trim, stripes and badges and trying to remember where all the screws were! I was very lucky being able to source the rear boot decal in the correct colour, and it was only a fiver!
All back together, I decided to drive it on a round trip of 250 miles up to Coventry and back for the leylandprincess.co.uk meet and it didn’t miss a beat. A smooth ride combined with a smooth engine makes this the ideal companion for a long haul. It really does drive so well.
So, it’s taken a year and cost a few quid, but I’m glad it has been saved. The intention was always to sell it once it was finished and I am pleased to say that it has been sold to an enthusiastic buyer and I hope it gives him many years of happy motoring.
Would I do it again?