Blog : New openings, 30 years on

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Kevin Davis

Austin Ambassador: not a Y-reg...
Austin Ambassador: not a Y-reg...

It may not be the most revered product from Austin-Morris, but this month the Austin Ambassador celebrates its 30th anniversary.  Back in 1980 the marketplace was changing. Vauxhall’s next Cavalier would be a hatchback and Ford’s Cortina replacement, the Sierra, would also be a five-door. Austin-Morris realised that the lack of a fifth door in the Princess was costing sales and continuing with the Maxi as its premium five-door product was pointless, as it was completely out of pace with modern designs and was well overdue for replacement, and the new LC10 (Maestro/Montego) launch was almost four years away. A stopgap product was urgently needed.

Launched on 5 March 1982, the Austin Ambassador really was a last ditch attempt to answer all the criticisms of the Princess and its full potential as a family saloon was realised. The restyle, headed again by Harris Mann, sported the new Austin-Morris corporate nose in line with the new Austin Metro and Morris Ital (it shared the Ital’s headlight units) giving the Ambassador a cleaner frontal arrangement than the Princess, but much less interesting. The transformation from Princess to Ambassador was cleverly executed despite the limitations imposed by the budget but Princess drivers noticed that little luxuries like the leather bound steering wheel, the front central armrests and the six-cylinder engine were missing in the Ambassador, but welcomed other touches such as electric windows, central locking and a sunroof, and it was a lot more refined on the move.

The Austin Ambassador was rather pedestrian in its outlook, though it did sell considerably better than the Princess over its two years on sale so the changes Austin-Morris made were inherently the right ones, but once the trendy Ford Sierra came along in late 1982 the Ambassador was faced with a more direct competitor than the Cortina ever was. Mild tweaks were made to specifications during its life and it was always priced competitively and a total of 43,425 Ambassadors left the production line at Cowley over its two-year production run, and the last Ambassador, a Vanden Plas, rolled down the line in February 1984.

The Ambassador wasn’t a complete failure, but it was the least successful of all of the cars produced by Austin-Morris during its time on sale. Unlike the Princess, the Ambassador was indigenous to the UK and was never made available in left hand drive form.

This month, a celebration of the Ambassador will take place at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey on Sunday 11th March, coinciding with the national Austin-Morris day held annually at this fantastic venue. So come along and compare for yourself the differences between the Princess and Ambassador and judge for yourself which one was best.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up 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 Classics 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 unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

79 Comments

  1. The back end of the ambassador was how the Princess always should have been, but the front end, yeuch!
    The Ital’s headlamps look undersized and the chrome strip above the grill just don’t sit together to make an appealing whole.
    Shame really.

  2. “Unlike the Princess, the Ambassador was indigenous to the UK and was never made available in left hand drive form.”

    Indigenous? Don’t you mean endemic?

  3. Ital headlights make anything look frumpy.
    They really are modelled on 80s teacher-style glasses.
    The frontal aspect of the Princess was much more pleasing to behold (except for the Wolseley nose)

  4. That my Austin Ambassador Y-reg song is classic by john shuttleworth.

    Ambassadors like Talbot Tagoras you see one or two and they fade away.

  5. I quite like the Ambassador, shame the ditched so many luxuries and gave it that nasty dashboard.

    The thing in Surrey sounds quite interesting…if I’m free I may come along. Will anyone else be there?

  6. Nah, the front end’s all wrong. The sweeping wedge coming down should end in something pointy, not that slab. Somoeone out there: get your Photoshop out on the picture above.

  7. i owned one at 17 i had it after my dad passed away i restored it it was an a reg 2.0hl in oporto red metalic the reg was A219 EMY registered 19.12 1983 was a lovelt car but i wish they had given it a 5th gear there was a one 4 sale in classic car weekly in london a couple of weeks bk a vanden plas in black with 30 odd thousand on the clock if id of had 1800 quid that it was up for i wd of bought it.

  8. The car the Princess always should have been. Such a shame it took so long to come out. It would have taken the market by storm in about 1977, against the Renault 20 and the Audi 100 avant.

  9. @ Will M. I get what you mean about those headlights. It looks like it’s just woken up and hasn’t had a cup of coffee yet.

  10. When I was a young chap the company that I worked for used these as company cars. I always rated them, they were big comfy and very practical, when you folded the seat down the boot was huge. Lack PAS and a 5 speed box ( both rare on most cars back then) was the only worth complaining about.

  11. Was proud driver of a black Princess in late 1970s. What a stunning looking car. Great looking front end, great ride,roomy inside especially the back seat. Used to put our two daughters back there pull the arm rest down and they could keep out of each others way, in their own space. It was a head turner back then.
    Oh yes despite being a BMC/BLMC design supporter it had its silly little faults. Does this sound familiar……
    The daft little alluminum trim on the trunk lid, actually extended slightly beyond the bumper, everyones had little dings in it. In the end I think they replaced with a decal.
    Wheel trim that was prone to fly of if not fitted carefully and checked. So bad that some Tyre service places would not refit them and handed them to the customer to take responsibility.Several times I looked on in amazment has my wheel trim made it to the roundabout before me or went spinning down the pavement(scary).
    Try to do FTD through that tight twisty bit and just trying to find a gear, third to second and back was a nightmare.

    Oh yes good sized trunk but with that silly little lid things had to be posted thru. Often had stuff that would have fitted easily but you couldnt get it through the little opening. How I wanted a hatchback version.

    But love it? Yes I did, wish it was on my drive now.

    When the Ambassador arrived I was already living abroad, but got to use one several times on return visits. It was not the car I dreamed of. It always looked cheap, the front end never looked integrated in fact was a mess. I guess they had to make a lot of changes when they added the tail gate, but if they had kept it more like the Princess,would have looked and sold better.

  12. I had a red 2.0HL auto. It was the first really comfortable car I owned, and the auto box made it even more relaxed. Until about 60mph, when it really needed to change up to 4th gear. Pity it was only a 3 speed auto!

    But up to 60 the engine and ‘box worked very well together, unlike the Rover 820 auto that replaced it on my drive way…

  13. Working for Austin Rover from 1982 had a chance to drive many Ambassadors. Very, very comfortable, huge inside and practical. Only negatives were horrible cheap dash design with no rev counter, lack of 5th gear and only adequate acceleration. But miles better than an Ital. Shame there was no 5 door Montego even though Roy Axe penned a 5 door reskin called Rover 400. A good Vanden Plas with walnut trim from A reg onwards in black looked the best.

  14. My late father was a serial Princess buyer (his first had been ordered as a Morris 1800HL, after a satisfying road test in a Glacier White Wolseley). He had two Reynard Metallic cars (the aforementioned 1800HL and later a manual 2200HLS – which suffered from the dreaded driveshaft clonk) and finally a 2200HLS Automatic in ‘Oyster’ metallic. All were bought and paid for by Knowles senior so he was arguably the kind of customer the company wanted to court. So around the turn of 1981/82, an invitation came through the post to attend a market research event seeking feedback from Princess owners. My father knew that I would be far, far more interest in this, so off I duly went to a posh Dralon lined hotel in central London. We all sat around answering questions on what it was we liked about ‘our’ Princesses and then it came to a point where the hosts hinted that they had ‘something to show’. The curtains went back to reveal a big projection screen and there was an image of a new Princess sized and shaped car. Now as an avid reader of ‘CAR’ magazine, I already had a fair idea what this car was, and so piped up ‘is that the Austin Ambassador?’ The faces of our hosts were a picture – clearly they were not expecting a real ‘car enthusiast’ to be in their midst. ‘Umm – er – well we haven’t finally decided on the – ah – exact name’ one of them mumbled. I must say that even now I remember being somewhat disappointed at the style – the rectangular headlamps were boring, and the dashboard style atrocious – but the hatchback at least made sense. As for my father, he never bought another Princess and certainly wasn’t inspired by the four-cylinder only Ambassador…

  15. I always like the princess shape my aunty and uncle had one and it was a nice car, they looked after it. but the grill on the amby above is not great it looks like its been taken from the opposition. the princess grill/headlights looked better. the hatchback is a good idea and given the hatchback / wagon “maxi” in the family, it is surprising the princess wasnt a hatch back from the start. the princess were generally more nicely trimmed than they ford variants (ealier models anyway). alex

  16. Another example of Austin Rover making the best of what budget they had to update and relaunch a model. The hatch was useful and other additions like elec windows worthwhile. Pity that for every new feature added, they removed something else! Rev counters should have been included though.

    I still prefer the look of the orig Princess saloons but I guess the Amby did its best. 43,000 produced is not bad though

  17. A good modernisation of the Princess in many ways – The tailgate was the obvious advantage. New rear lights and bumper looked ok as did the extra side window. However, the new dash, although modern in feel, was a bit bland, a bit simple. Likewise the new front end – modern theme but bland and out of keeping with the wedge profile.

    Back in 1982 it was, though, a sign that things were happening, moving in the right direction.

  18. Chose a silver 1.7HL as a company car at a time when the choice had just been opened out to include Ford but the Sierra had not yet been launched. The change of policy was regarded as a really big thing, and / but BL cars’ reliability was regarded as so poor that the fleet manager had seriously not envisaged that anyone would ever go for BL again. It was spacious and a wonderful load carrier, including my young son’s first trip from hospital to home. But the front tyres wore out in less than 15000 miles, and the factory-fitted sunroof could never be positioned properly in its closed position (thanks for trying, Stratstones, but not hard enough) resulting in a slowly draining lake on the roof. My next choice after that was a Ford Granada hatch – near impeccable – followed by another four of the same, company and private. While not much of a driver’s car, I think that the Ambassador could have done well for a short time in the Cortina’s dying days, if only BL’s quality had been as it should have been.

  19. Not a bad motor, according to this account…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/triggerscarstuff/sets/72157629315055963/

    ..but you wonder if the £19m budget could have been better spent: the damn thing was only in production for two years.

    Could they have facelifted the thing, but kept it as a saloon and perhaps added an estate for that £19m?

    On the other hand the Ambassador programme must have diverted engineering resource from the vital LM10/11. Perhaps that £19m might have been better spent restyling the Montego (if the Maestro was too far gone.) Or on a seriously improved SD1. Or a restyled TR7/8. The LT66 transmission. An OHC A-series for the Metro. Hell, there must have been any number of things that £19m could have been spent on.

  20. I did wonder if the money spent of the Ambassador (& possibly the Ital as well) could have been ussed to develop & launch the Montego 2-4 years earlier.

  21. I always thpught the Ambassador was a very clever update of the Princess. Its that car that should have been launched instead of the Princess 2 in 1978.

  22. A few Ambassadors were exported to Ireland, which isn’t that surprising.

    I was very young back then, but I remember my Dad coming home with a brochure of the car at the time.

    He was a potential purchaser as he had had two Princesses, though the latter was an appalling car.

    In the end he bought a Granada and later a CX, though he narrowly bought a Rover 2000 (ARG’s refusal to fit a Trip Computer being the clencher)

  23. on the chris evans show 2nd of the 2nd chris ask j clarkson marina allegro or ambassador.jc chose the ambassador over the 3.ambassador hold your head up high.lol

  24. I actually owned a Silver Vanden Plas A285 KVC, it did go wrong a few times especially the gearbox, but like my 1982 Prinny, very comfortable car, shame it didnt have a 5 speed box, had a interesting ecometer, it worked after a petrol filter was fitted!, and was converted the autochoke to manual,still was a bit juicy on fuel. As previously mentioned the Ambassador was the Princess could of been, shame hey didnt refresh the Princess at an earlier point, it may had time to develop the car for the late 80s. I had the latest model with wooden trim which I feel bought the car in keeping with other Vanden Plas, other than without leather seats. Regards Mark

  25. In 1975 the 18-22 / Princess was aimed at the lower end Granadas (the ones that had until then been Consuls – The Firm didn’t have an exclusive on haphazard renaming…)

    Wind on to 1982 and the Ambassador’s a Cavalier / Sierra rival, but still as heavy, and probably even more expensive to make. It was part of a suite of cars aimed at the middle ground at the time – Ital, Acclaim, Ambassador, SD1 2000. All had their individual appeal, none was remotely a match for the mighty Cavalier.

    The Ambassador wasn’t a bad effort, but I will hate that pointless and shabbily detailed rear quarter-light to the end of my days.

  26. BL addressed the hatchback issue with the Ambassador, but not the power (lack of accelaration being a major complaint) and fuel economy.

    Look at the comments above, and it’s clear they should have used the 1750cc E-series in the Princess/Ambassador, not the O-series. The 5th gear is what most wanted, for relaxed motorway cruising and better fuel economy.

    That, and the 2700cc version of the E6 engine that the Ozzies and Saffas got in the Marina (same bore & stroke as 1750 E-series). The latter would have given the Ambassador the torque to compete with the Granadas and big engined Cortinas (and should have actually *helped* fuel economy, as it wouldn’t have been working as hard as the little engines).

    Say, 1.75L E-series, 2L and 2.7L E6 engines, and use the 5 speed manual/4 speed auto Maxi gearboxes in the E6 engines.

    The quibbles about styling are minor by comparison. Sort the engines (and build quality), and Ambassador would have doubled its sales… 😉

  27. Personally I thought the Wolseley version the most appealling and that (especially with it’s unique illuminated badge) was what the ridiculously named Princess should have become as the developed model.
    It had presence.
    It should have bee a slimmed down range with every extra and luxury aboard, but it needed power.
    Apart from the oh so necessary hatch, the inherent problem for the Princess was the lack of power and performance – a problem BL etc never quite managed to grasp, perhaps until the Z-cars. I don’t think they ever understood the attraction. MG Maestro and Montego were brilliant in 2 litre form, real drivers’ cars, but sold as niche products, never properly marketed. Real shame.
    The Princess/Wolseley needed to have the power (though not the performance image/marketing). Refined but more than capable would have sold. Far too staid for its own good

  28. Question for all of you? Has anyone ever actually attempted to stitch a princess front onto one of these?

    Looking at the very obvious princess doors, it surely would be possible.

  29. @Bob – I came across an old copy of Motor magazine from 1979 that had a feature on BLs new model policy. The question was asked why they didnt use the 5 speed box in the Princess. BL reckoned it was on the limit with the Maxi 1750 Engine and couldnt take the power/torque of the 6 cylinder engines. BL also acknowledged that shift quality was not good and that the box was not something they would want to include in their future plans.

  30. Terry Medford from Terry and June swore by Princesses and Ambo’s – can’t be bad!!

    Typical BL though, the Ambo had all the hallmarks of a really good car, PLUS build quality, and the Princess had all the hallmarks of a really nice looking car.

    Shame, add it to the list of missed opportunites

  31. Interesting coments from Bob 31, as you know the car had a good size engine bay, so other engines could fit and be more suited to the car. It didnt have delay wipe on the wipers for some reason, Maxi did for example, I made up a timer circuit and using the control for the front to back speaker on the center console as the speed delay control. Also lacking was front door bins, I obtained correct colour ones fron a local Austin Rover dealer which were fitted in the Metro.Buy this time I upgraded the car radio. Regards Mark

  32. My dad to my knowledge has never had a BL product, not once. Ford (every Cortina except the III, a Thames van and various Anglias – including one with a consul g’box), a couple of Humber Sceptre courtesy cars would you believe, Vauxhall to Renault and then finally when Renault graduated to building garden sheds (Avantime/Vel Satis), Mercedes which I dont think he is that impressed with to be fair. The seats on those are horrible.
    Citroens & Peugeots have also gotten into the picture with 2 C5 estates, a C3 and 306 hatch and estates respectively.
    The 306 estate will take more than the C class merc estate will amazingly.
    I will admit to liking the shape of the Princess/Ambassador – but the Ambassador front end looks pretty dismal, that grill looks like it would part company at the first pothole. The Sceptre had those sort of ‘metal pole’ trims on it and they were dent magnets too, once they were damaged they were unfixable.
    Beats me why they never put the V8 into the Princess… or even the I6 from the SD1, that would have made something very interesting.

  33. Talking of potholes, is it me or have the roads suddenly decided that 2012 is “Year of the Wheel Breaker” ?

    There are some potholes near to me, including some on fast roads, that are in the weirdest of places. Others are deep enough that you’d leave half your front suspension in them if you don’t manage to avoid them.

    Is anyone else noticing this?

  34. I have a huge soft-spot for the Ambo. I learnt to drive in a 2.0HL, and a nice car it was too. It wasn’t fast by any means, the gear-change was atrocious, (4th to 1st happened regularly), the PAS was too light, and the dashboard horrible to behold. But, it had loads of space, very comfy and well-trimmed seats, a smooth, refined engine, and that wonderful ride – I’ve not been in any ‘ordinary’ car since that offered a ride as good as the Ambo. I thought it was stylish, still very wedgy, at a time when the wedge was starting to catch on (the Mk3 Granada I always thought updated the wedge style quite effectively) certainly more so than some models of the Princess. And the boot was huge! My Dad and I called it the Ambassador ‘Sprint'(sic) – and both of us still hold the 2 he owned in high affection.

  35. We all know BL should have made the wedge a hatch from day one. They could have dumped the Maxi much earlier then. It would have given BL a car with a USP in the 70s. If it had been a hatch, BL/AM could have used the development costs for the Amby to fit things such as a 5 speed box, and a better dash

  36. Now I come to think of it, didnt BL already HAVE a 5-speed box sitting about in the LT77? Or is there some reason I am missing why that wouldnt have fitted?

  37. The Met police used black Ambassadors, am sure they were 1.7HLs for used at Lambeth to drive senior officers around, and am sure Princesses too. Regards Mark

  38. @Jemma – looking at the size of it, I don’t think it would’ve worked with a transverse engine. But I could be wrong……

  39. The Princess/Ambassador engine bay is nowhere ner as big as you think. It’s quite narrow, actually as it was designed for a gearbox in sump application, so anything like an O-Series from a Montego with a side mounted gearbox is a very tight squeeze.

    As for those Ital headlights, Mann told me he was dead against them, but he was instructed to use them.

  40. Is that a standard colour for an Ambassador? It looks like a brown that was used on Princess and Maxi, but I don’t recall it on an Ambassador.

    Russet brown?

  41. black vdp!! saw on a website a picof the last ambassador from gaydon sitting on someones driveway looking v sorry for itself!! A500KWK !!

  42. We originally engineered the ADO71 to have a hatch. It was prevented from going ahead due to pressure from Solihull. They were afraid that a large hatch would take sales from the smaller engined SD1 derivatives.

    Another masterstroke from Spen King!

  43. Anyone reading this and fancies a bit of a laugh should look at John Shuttleworths ‘Austin Ambassador Y reg’ on You Tube. These cars had at least one fan! Personally I did see the picture of A500KWK on the drive way looking a bit forlorn – but the present owner may be waiting for the right time to save it. I would be a great shame if it just rusted away. fingers crossed. I agree with the sentiment shown here – too little too late on the part of Austin Rover. By the time these car came to market the market had moved on.

  44. I’ve always wondered… Why did the Maxi and Allegro have a 5-speed gearbox but not the Princess/Ambassador? Was this stupid of BL or am I missing something?

  45. Re 49: The answer sounds really stupid now! The projected sales of Maxi and Allegro would take up available production capacity of 5 speed boxes. Hence the ADO71 was packaged around using the existing 4 speed. We simply didn’t have the money to expand manufacturing capacity to make more 5 speeds.

  46. I bought a 1.7L Ambassador from new in 1982 (at a very reasonable price!) and it was an ideal family car. It certainly met all our family needs and we kept it for 12 years.
    The only problem we encountered was the gearbox but, provided we did not rush the gear-change, it managed it.
    I feel that all the criticisms of BL etc were piled onto the products, but for their time they were not bad. The Jeremy Clarkson mentality and making fun of reasonable cars became a national pastime – most of the time the comments were incredibly childish.

  47. @ Rockabilly
    Is that the same logic that prevented using the Rover V8 in the Triumph Stag, as there wasn’t enough manufacturing capacity!

  48. @45 – It’s a dark pic, it’s actually Opporto Red (IIRC) – the colour always suited the Ambo best……

  49. Again not a bad car, just the usual bunch of BL bashers decided to rubbish it from day one. I do remember the Ambassador having a huge boot, a massive passenger compartment and a ride like a Rolls Royce, it was mayoral transport locally for 4 years and I can see why with these attributes. Also while no ball of fire, the O series engines were at least refined and reasonably economical. However, the rather cheap dashboard,lack of a bigger engine option and leisurely performance held the Ambassador back, but it certainly wasn’t a bad car and proved to be better made than early Montegos, which were a backward step with their saloon bodies and untested 1.6 litre engines.

  50. @53, thanks Simon. It looks brown on my screen, but a deep red makes sense.

    Mine was bright red and very lovely – worth a good polish now and then. 🙂

  51. @ Kiwi Mike – yep, the E-series is not much different in size to the O-series that went in there. You would need to make new engine mounts of course.

    @ Rockabilly Red – thanks for the info! But why on Earth did BL not change to the E-series for the Mk2 Princess once Maxi & Allegro sales were clearly below projections (so E-series production was below capacity)?

    Your comment about the management concern about marques overlapping on the big hatchbacks shows BL needed to eliminate the badge engineering far faster. Had they cut down to just 2 marques quickly, say Austin for mass market and Jag for top end, they would have cut such overlap to a minimum, with less models reducing development costs dramatically! (allowing them to be redeployed to polish reliability)

    @ Paul, comment 34 – true, true. But the high compression 1750 E-series already coped with its 100 lb ft of torque, so could have been used to give 5 speeds to the Princess & Ambassador, and was nearly as powerful as the 2L O-series… I was just suggesting BL use existing reliable products of more appropriate size & power to address the poor acceleration & fuel economy.

    Also, the same thing was said about the A-series gearbox in the Minis, but most failures seemed to be the diff pin, bearings (esp. drop gear ones) and synchro baulk rings, and things like the diff pin were cheaply upgradeable. Surely the same tweaks could have been done to get the E-series gearbox to handle up to 150lb ft of torque for the 2.7L E6? Though mostly the E6 just needed the higher capacity 2.7L version…

  52. A New BBC Four comedy drama series Dirk Gently has started and its the best thing I have seen since Ashes to Ashes and other BBC stuff like Mongrels.
    Dirks motor is an R-reg Princess thats a bit beat up complete with pizza boxes inside.
    Ok not an Ambassador issue here and that car is used for a prop the Princess looked tiny next to the modern cars in london traffic or a long time I last saw one the go too notice that.

  53. The O-Series waS their newest engine and would be fitted to all medium cars from Austin-Morris for the foreseeable future, so putting the E-Series in would be a step backwards and would show that they had no faith in the O-Series.

    The O-Series was leaps and bounds better then E.

  54. “The O-Series was leaps and bounds better then E.”

    Not with a 4-speed gearbox it wasn’t, rovamota! 😉 I’m not saying the E was flawless, just that using the E and E6 engines gave a full range of engine sizes from 1.3L (original size E was designed for) to 2.7L from the one family of engine components (which just happened to coincide with the eventual sizes of the K and KV6). Massive cost savings, which could have been used to develop the E family.

    The O was an answer to a question no-one posed. And wasn’t the odd 1.7L O size due to it not being able to be reduced in stroke any further? Meaning the O (and later – brilliant – M and T variants) only appeared in 2L form. A one-size only engine is an expensive way to build engines!

    But the killer is, the T-I-S gearboxes gave a transverse straight 6; cheaper and lighter than a V6, and already in production at the time. Develop what you have, and the Ambo could really have benefitted for the 2.7L E6…

  55. On the Dirk Gently theme… BBC4 at 9pm Monday (IIRMC)
    The car seems to be as much a character as the rest of the cast.

  56. @Bryan you beat me to it.

    Gareth Haylet and the boys at Torcars developed the hatch Princess back in the 1970s.

    Typical of BL not to take the R and D done in Torrington and put it into production.

    There was the other Torcars product ahead of its time. The Marina Utility, basically a 575 van with back windows and seats. Allbeit 2WD but a SUV practical estate ahead of its time.

    Yet another miised opportunity. 4 door Range Rover that only came After Montiverdi and others did R and D. There was the SD 1 estate. Triumph Lynx and post BL thevery pretty and practical Jag XJ40 estate. X Type apart, only now is Jag putting a 5th door on a big cat.

  57. Was a 6 cylinder version of the O-series ever considered?

    Though the resulting 2.5 & 3 Litre units might have been a bit big considering the slowing of larger car sales following the 1979 oil crisis.

  58. J H Gibson – Comment 24

    Good point. £19M would have been better spent elsewhere – especially considering the Ambassador’s short,and domestic only, life.

    Maybe a Princess hatch would have been a better idea, the only real change being the hatch.

    Always thought a late Princess in HLS spec was a fine looking car. Maybe the addition of the hatch only needed to be accompanied by some Princess 2 to Princess 3 style tweaks.

  59. A bit of a shame that there was only one Ambassador present at this celebration and nothing to indicate it was even taking place. Always nice to see and compare the cars though.

  60. Yeah, it was a shame. Unfortunately one Ambassador does not a party make! There were 30th anniversary posters in the Ambassador, though.

  61. I really liked my 2.0Hl auto. My only real criticism was the lack of headroom and complete lack of any kind of support from the seats. It was so easy to work on: less than half an hour to do a cam belt change, a minute (and no tools!) to change a thermostat. First car I owned that had the modern- type fuses, as still used.
    The thinnest Haynes manual I ever bought – a good indicator?
    I even sold the car at a profit.
    The bonnet line is a lot lower than the Princess, a big part of the new look. At the time it was said that the E6 was too tall to fit under the new bonnet.

    I can’t think of any car apart from the Princesses and the Ambassador where it was possible to tell a manual from an auto as the car was driven toward you.
    Weird fault with my car: after a long time at speeds of 70+, oil dripped from the back of the speedo onto my shoe. ATF coming up the speedo cable.
    Don’t you miss that fabulous ride?

  62. Trivia corner: Princesses had their 185/70×14’s stretched out over 4.5J rims to improve the ride.
    Ambassadors had 5.5J’s, so they steered better; and I don’t suppose anyone noticed the difference in the ride.

    I thought the limitation on the 5-speed box was not torque, but the weight of the body?

    A neighbour in Wales had a daffodil yellow Princess 1700, and complained that the engine was shaking about. I suggested replacement of the missing nut on #4 engine mount!

  63. I was working in the service dept of a large dealership when these were introduced. The question on everyone’s lips was ‘why this, why now’ ? It did address some of the shortcomings of the Princess. and was quite a good roomy and versatile design, but the feeling was the money could have been better spent while the Priness could have been allowed to hang on a little longer.

    They still suffered the usual BL quality niggles plus a few of their own, and they were competing for a while against cut price run-out stock of the Maxi which may traditional BL customers had an affection for. Too little too late.

  64. That front end looks like the soviet rip off of the mk3 tranny van was it a vaz?im sorry but regardless of hatchback versatility,the princess looks great even today,the harris mann photoshoots of the concept with dark windows are still knock-out images.

  65. Over two years it sold considerably better than the Princess did, but it was Austin Morris’s least succesful car. Confused. Looked far more contemporary than the Princess did in 1982. Pity they couldnt have got it on sale in say 1980 alongside the Ital and Metro.

  66. Should have come out in 1980 at the height of British Leyland’s woes with a five speed gearbox, the E series and the 2.2 to top the range. Also as diesel was catching on two years later, buy in the 1.9 XUD from Peugeot. This car could have been a winner, as it had comfort, a fantastic ride, a huge boot and acceptable quality, but came too late to the party. However, I still rate the Ambassador far more highly than Austin’s answer to the Nissan Bluebird( without the reliability), the Montego.

  67. I bought an Ambassador 1.7L for my Mother , who previously for many years had had an XJ6 but could not afford to replace it. Its ride was just as good, and whilst it lacked in performance, it was quiet, comfortable, reliable , spacious and economical . It was , in fact, a splendid car to drive and it was a great shame that it was so underrated . When she wrote it off ( !) it was replaced with a Cavalier 2.0 CDi which, although faster, was nothing like as nice a car . Come back BL, all is forgiven

  68. I love my Ambassador. I bought it last year… as it was for sale in a scrap yar.. it needed rescuing. After a bit of tinkering and re-commissioning she was MOT’d and taxed after being laid up for almost 14 years.
    Performance wise, im not in any rush… its no sports car, so it doesn’t get driven like one. But it is capable enough.
    Being an auto, I dont miss a rev counter, and it is very relaxing to drive.
    Comfort is where the Ambassador is head and shoulders above most cars, its as good as a Jag or Rover 75.
    I use mine most days and more so of a weekend… other than a broken drive plate within 3 months of owning it…. its been very reliable… And I love it..!

  69. I suppose for the middle management driver who liked comfort and a leisurely and quiet drive in the slow lane, the Ambassador was ideal. I can imagine motorists on the larger side appreciating the huge seats and massive interior as well. Having been in an Ambo on a few occasions, I found it far more modern than a Cortina and with loads more space and it rode better than a Cavalier, having more in common than the softly sprung French family cars of the era.
    As I’ve pointed out before if the Maxi was sacrificed in 1979 or 80 and the Ambo was launched with a five speed gearbox and with the six cylinder engine topping the range, I think Ford would have been worried as the Cortina was starting to date and in terms of quality the Ambo was similar. ( While not particularly well put together, I never heard any tales of gearboxes breaking early or premature rust and engine maladies like other BL cars).

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