Car of the Month : September 2005
Princesses have something of a fevered following among enthusiasts. None are more committed to the cause than Kevin Davis, who seems to be on a one man mission to raise the profile of this oft-maligned car…
Kevin has spent much time and effort tuning this ex-Peter Wood Princess into the car that BL should have always released.
Here’s the full story of the Princess ST as told in Kevin’s own words:
IT has been two years this August (2005) since I first purchased ‘Snappy’ from fellow BL fan Peter Wood, and in those two years Snappy has undergone a fairly dramatic makeover. The first thing that drew me to it was the colour; I have never seen and have yet to see another Snapdragon Yellow Princess.
Peter emailed me in July 2003 asking me if I was interested in ‘Snappy’, it was a runner but had a noisy water pump, though a new one was provided, and it needed an MOT as it had been stood for over a year, there was also the issue of the paintwork, which had deteriorated as far back as the primer in some areas so that needed attention. It did have a good service history, and all the old MoT’s to prove its 19,000 miles. Anyway, £200 was handed into Peter’s sweaty palm and I trailered Snappy to its new home.
The story of how this Princess was first restored can be found on the member’s page of this site, but I decided in mid 2004 that this Princess should be made a bit more interesting. After eliminating the idea of fitting a more powerful engine into the Princess engine bay, mainly due to technical problems which I felt were beyond my abilities and patience, my thoughts turned to making this Princess 2000HL into a sporting Princess that BL could have built and might have made available in the showrooms at the time. Also keeping the original engine wouldn’t compromise the cars originality.
More performance would be a good start, and the cheapest and simplest way to make the O-Series go better is to ditch the single SU carburettor and fit twin-carburettors, but I’d need an Ambassador Vanden Plas for those. A regular check on ebay eventually turned one up and another £200 later it was mine. It’s always a shame to have to wreck rare cars, but this VP was on life support and I decided it was best to put it out of its misery, so off came the carbs, and the engine and gearbox were saved to see another day.
The twin inlet manifold was fitted to Snappy, but I decided to use carbs from a Princess 2200 instead of the Ambassador as the latter have an ASU (Automatic Start Unit) which I wasn’t happy with. The 2200 carbs required a few modifications but went on without any problems. The Princess is some 150kg lighter than a fully specified Ambassador so performance is markedly improved, with mid range acceleration being particularly impressive – uphill isn’t a struggle anymore so it is definitely a worthwhile modification. I expect the power from the standard single 92bhp SU carb to leap to 100bhp with twin SUs. Fuel consumption has also improved considerably.
With all this extra performance now available the decision of what to call this sporting Princess was considered. First thoughts were to call it an MG, but it would have been a bit too early in 1980 for the MG name to be resurrected onto saloon cars. Other sub-brand names given consideration were Vitesse, Equipe and GT. Then I found the name I was looking for without looking for it. I was flicking through the Princess handbook where at the back I found a page about performance enhancements that can be bought from the BL Special Tuning division – and there was the logo, ST; that’s the one!
Next problem was badges, where would I get ST logos? Easy! I scanned the ST logo into my computer, printed it the size I wanted and placed it over some black vinyl of the type used for signs. I then cut around the letters and chequered flag with a trimming knife and, hey presto! 2 ST decals. I did the same for the rear decal using chrome effect vinyl, sticking it over a piece of matt black vinyl the same size as the HL badge on the bootlid. In a moment, the standard Princess 2000HL became the much more sporty Princess 2000ST.
Next to receive the makeover was the interior, the rather large standard clock on the Princess dash didn’t convey the sporting pretensions of this Princess ST, so an Allegro rev-counter was sourced and fitted in lieu – the face diameter and font match the Princess speedometer exactly – and it was easily wired into the system. A digital clock from an Ambassador was fitted to a slot cut into the gearlever console and it looks completely original. The steering wheel was replaced by a Maxi HLS 3-spoke drilled alloy wheel and instantly added an air of sportiness to the car.
Next problem was the seats. I was halfway there because the interior trim colour is black, but the seats had seen better days and weren’t by any means sporty looking. I had a set of seats from an MG Montego, but efforts to recolour the grey trim to black proved fruitless. The answer was to fit some Recaro seats from a Rover 800 Vitesse, which are actually ash grey but look almost black. Returning to ebay, a suitable donor car was sourced locally and I set about removing the Princess seats, ready for the Recaros. Fitting the front seats proved fairly straightforward, I just ground off the original Recaro bolt holes and had two pieces of angle welded to the seat runners to line up with the mounting points on the Princesses floor.
This works perfectly, you sit much lower in the Recaros but I managed to keep the drivers seat height adjuster on there. I also fitted the Recaro rear bench seat with a bit of modification, the seat is only slightly narrower but you won’t notice it. The seats were recoloured to black using ordinary scuff-coat shoe polish, which doesn’t come out.
I still think that BL missed a marketing opportunity by not having a sports model in the Princess range – all of its competitors did so, and when you consider the small amount of work required to make the Princess go faster it becomes even more of a disappointment. I suspect that BL just didn’t consider it a necessary addition to the range.
So, here we are in September 2005 and the original Princess 2000HL has become the Princess 2000ST. I’m proud of what I achieved with this car, and I think the enhancements are enough to make it stand out without going over the top, and people do believe that it was a factory standard model. It seems that others agree, and Paul Wager, the Editor of Retro Cars thought it was worthy of a four-page feature in the September 2005 edition.
But there’s more to do with Princesses – I’d still like to see a 200bhp turbocharged version with the T-Series Rover engine in place, that would be a very exciting car – all that’s needed is someone willing (and mad) enough to do it.