Car of the year : May 2008
Although we didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, the Princess was the most exciting new car of 1975 – featuring a racy wedge-shaped profile and a super-spacious interior, it had all the qualities it needed to succeed…
But we know the final outcome now… But for Robin Siggs, the Princess is all about nostalgia, and a healthy appreciation of all that’s fine about life. But don’t do what he did, and buy blind, as not everyone’s quite so lucky!
Words: Robin Siggs Pictures: Andrew Elphick
An impulse rewarded…
MY passion for the Princess is rooted in my earliest memories of childhood. Both sets of grandparents owned Princesses, and over 15 years, they dabbled with an Austin 1800HL N-reg, Princess 2000HL T-reg, Princess 2200HLS R-reg, and a 2200HLS W-reg. The reason for my passion for the Wedge, is that I liked cars from a young age, and nothing made me feel more special than being ferried around in my grandfather’s HL. Now I don’t need to tell you that the cropped nylon seats seemed like absolute luxury when compared to hard sticky vinyl seats of a base model Fiesta (like the one my dad had) even to four-year-old kid.
As well as that, I also have hazy recollections of helping to wash the Princess, and realizing just how the big it was, and how I placed extra effort in to trying to get all the chrome as shiny as possible. I also loved (and still do) the wheeltrims, especially with the Leyland badge in the centre.
However, now I am older, I can be more objective and have the distinct feeling that if we had owned a Cortina or perhaps a Cavalier, I would have one these now instead. I have read other Wedge stories and agree that much of the pleasure of driving and owning a Princess is down to nostalgia. But now I actually own one, I love driving it and believe the Princess is an apt name for such a Regal car.
I say this because it needs driving gracefully, and the combination of Hydragas suspension and that smooth engine and gearbox, means steady and stress-free progress. I personally love the soft ride of the Princess – it really is the most comfortable car I have driven, although it rolls in corners. The gearbox is notchy, but if you take a soft-hands approach, you soon forget all about that. I just wish it had a fifth gear.
Having decided on buying a Princess, I knew I’d need to spread my net nationally. eBay was the first port of call, and unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the right car to turn up. A Pageant Blue Princess 2 1700HL popped up with a description that defied belief. It was in showroom condition, had 23,000 miles on the clock, no rust, and a mint interior. It was also MoT’d, and taxed.
I decided to call the vendor to find out more, and was surprised to learn he had been let down twice already, and was keen to do a deal. A price was soon agreed upon, and before I knew it, I had bought a car without even having a look – oh, the joys of the Internet.
Because the car was located 300 miles away, it took a week to arrange collection, and in the end, the journey to collect it encompassed three train connections. Still, it was all worth it when I clapped eyes on my Pageant Blue Princess. I eagerly jumped into the car and the seller, Nick, and I then exchanged documents and cash, and on then did I have a look around the car. Of course, everything was as described – I felt it in my water that this was a good un – and all that was left to do was drive the old girl 300 miles home.
To begin with, I was very apprehensive, however I quickly got used to it – and the 300 miles slipped by without complaints.
Since then, I’ve learned to appreciate just why these cars are so special. The cabin is huge, allowing five adults to sit in genuine comfort, something that friends and family have often remarked on. Outside, I think it is one of the most beautiful cars ever made. For me the Wolseley and Morris 18-22 series are the best looking – the combination of quad headlamps, stylish grille, and raised bonnet give a look of graceful menace. However, the profile view of any Wedge is exquisite, unmatched by any normal car that I can think of.
I’ve now owned the car for three years, and my enthusiasm is still undimmed. I still take as much delight from driving it and watching for people’s reactions as I did when I first bought it. In April, it passed its MoT, and is now taxed ready for use over the summer for shows – but also, what it was intended for, a family car. It certainly makes mundane journeys more special.
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.