The cars : Princess (ADO71) development story

The Leyland Princess development story tells a rather confused tale. It never actually started out as such – but as a marque-confused Austin, Morris and Wolseley mid-liner to replace the slow-selling Landcrab.

However, BL’s wedge-shaped odyssey didn’t sell that well, either, although that was more down to the poor reputation of the company which built it – and early build niggles – than any weakness in the product itself. Born at a different time to a more highly-respected maker, it could have ruled the roost.

Princess development story: wedged in the future

Princess model range

The BMC 1800 (ADO17) did not have a particularly distinguished career as BMC’s flagship front-wheel-drive range. Sales were disappointing because the car, which possessed a great deal of potential, simply did not appeal to the target buyers.

Even though the car was an unreserved sales flop, BMC did little work on replacing the car, which meant that it would be down to Leyland to formulate plans.

Because it was younger than the ADO16, it would have to take second place to that model. Once Donald Stokes had finalised the company’s plans in the lower-mid range, attention was finally turned to the ADO17 and how best to replace it.

First thoughts

Initial thoughts on the matter were put down on paper by Filmer Paradise on 27 February 1970 (some six years after the launch of the ADO17) which was contained in a confidential memorandum, submitted to the members of the Product Policy Committee.

Echoing the thoughts of John Barber, Paradise made it clear that the main growth in the car market would be in the upper-medium sector (referred to as the D-segment) and, as the ADO17 needed replacing, it made sense to pitch its replacement further upmarket. This plan was, in the opinion of Paradise, one that Austin Morris urgently needed to put in place and the design should be Euro-friendly to meet the challenges of the late-1970s effectively.

Marketing thought the car should be rear-wheel drive, but the decision to continue with front-wheel drive was swiftly made by the Product Policy Committee, which felt the ADO17 chassis and engine/transmission pack would form the ideal base for the new car. Besides, changing to rear-wheel drive would send out the wrong messages to buyers after the company had done so much to pioneer front-wheel drive.

Leyland christens its new car the Diablo

ADO71 sketch
Two of the first Diablo concept pictures, as penned by Harris Mann. The Princess character is already abundantly clear

ADO71 sketch

ADO71 clay model
By August 1970, the first full-size clay model is finished – and it shows remarkable similarities to Mann’s early sketches (above)

Leyland Princess development: slippery wedge

ADO71 wind tunnel test
Not a glamorous picture this, but it shows the ADO71 undergoing wind-tunnel testing at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) in Nuneaton. This is actually a one-third scale model and demonstrates that the air flow over this model was pretty good for its day. Drag co-efficient was Cd0.404 (compared with 0.44 for a Ford Cortina Mk4)

Three-box alternative

ADO71 design sketch
What do you get when you cross a coke-bottle design with a wedge? This proposal for a three-box saloon was ruled out early in the car’s development, with Saab and Rover P8 overtones. (Picture: John Capon)

Frontal treatments

ADO71 design sketch
Despite the fact that the new Leyland management charged their BMC forebears with excessively resorting to badge-engineering, they planned for their upcoming D-segment car to be available in Austin, Morris and Wolseley forms. (Pictures: John Capon)

ADO71 design sketch

ADO71 design sketch
Many frontal treatments were tried (Picture: BMIHT)
ADO71 design sketch
ADO71 design sketch
The trapezoidal headlights are coming through…

ADO71 design sketch

Interior designs

ADO71 design sketch

ADO71 design sketch

At this time, the car was given the project name Diablo, encompassing a number of Harris Mann designs already on the table. Once the mechanical package was settled, the new car became a much more serious study. Originally, the 1750cc E-Series engine was mooted as the entry-level power pack, as it had the advantage of a five-speed gearbox over the B-Series-powered ADO17.

The upper models would use the E6 engine, already used in the Austin/Morris/Wolseley 2200, but with the addition of a five-speed gearbox. The body of the car was allowed to grow, to compete with the Ford Cortina Mk3, Opel Rekord or Peugeot 504.

This enlargement would facilitate an improved driving position, allow a larger boot and improve the car’s crash-worthiness. More importantly, it would have class-leading passenger space.

Styling the British wedge

ADO71 design sketch
Original Harris Mann sketch shows just exactly where the lineage of the ADO71 originated. This drawing, produced for Project Condor in 1969, shows just how much Harris Mann believed in the wedge shape. The squared off wheel arches and air extractor at the base of the C-post also show hints of Allegro, which he had worked on the previous year

BL Board approval was given and development of the car continued apace. The man chosen to create a look for the ADO71 was Harris Mann. He had previously worked on the Morris Marina and created the Austin Allegro – and, since the BLMC Design Studio had been moved from Cowley to Longbridge in 1970,  he  had replaced Roy Haynes in overall charge of car design.

From futuristic sports cars to great family saloons

In 1969, after Mann had been asked to create a design for a futuristic sports car (which ended up as the BL Zanda, a good-looking design exercise for a sports coupe that had been presented to the press at the Earls Court Motor Show), he was asked to produce a saloon in the same vein. Unlike the Zanda, which became a full-size show prototype, the saloon car was nothing more than a paper study. However, the drawings were issued as part of a press release.

This saloon concept caught the attention of upper management and Mann was asked to develop the concept further. The idea was that the futuristic proposal completely captured the spirit of the upmarket aspirations that the company had for the ADO71 and so the styling work that Harris Mann had been working on was now transferred to this project.

ADO71 clay model
First clay model, completed in November 1970 at Longbridge shows that, unlike the Allegro, the lines of the Princess made it from concept to production reality without too much corruption from the Production Engineers. Harris Mann is stood to the far left in this picture

Harris Mann worked on productionising his concept and, within weeks, the Design Department had produced a full-sized version of the car. Even at this early stage in its design process, it was translating into an interesting and good-looking design. Notable Harris Mann trademarks were the pronounced ‘wedge’ shape incorporating a low front, high rear and fastback tail.

Thoughtful design points were the concealed windscreen wipers, as well as a raised section towards the rear of the roofline, which reduced aerodynamic lift at speed. The initial styling study for Diablo actually incorporated a hatchback, and this would have enabled the ADO71 to compete more effectively with upcoming rivals, such as the Audi 100 Avant and Renault 20.

By December 1970, the BL Board had viewed the clay model and digested the technical specification and marketing plans and, without too much procrastination, decided to give the ADO71 the go-ahead for full-scale production.

Board approval: Diablo becomes ADO71

ADO71 clay model comparison
Initial viewings of the ADO71 were conducted at Longbridge alongside its predecessor. This picture demonstrates just how much the contrast between old and new really was. One aspect of Harris Mann’s wedge design was that it afforded excellent interior room while maintaining relatively short overhangs – something that continued BMC traditions of old

Some fairly wide-ranging decisions needed to be made with regards to the production of the car at this point. The first was dropping the E-Series engine from the engine line-up. Easily taken, this decision came about because sales projections (in hindsight, ambitious) indicated the Allegro and Maxi would use all of Cofton Hackett’s production capacity. In its place, the safe option was taken and the ADO17’s B-Series unit would take its place.

The single carburettor version of the E-Series engine was also considerably less powerful than the B-Series and, because the ADO71 was nearly as heavy as ADO17, the newer engine was judged less-than ideal anyway.

Long-term planning also meant this decision was expedient in the face of the upcoming O-Series engine (at the time, still seen as a straightforward OHC conversion of the B-Series). Using the older engine meant that the conversion to the O-Series would be a relatively straightforward affair.

ADO71 clay models
Two stages of ADO71 development. Left: The final clay model is analysed by a DEA computer in order to produce an exact set of dimensions – this process produced the diagrams that then went to Pressed Steel Fisher so that it could produce the body panels for the new car. Right: This development model was used for producing a final interior. If you look closely, you can just see a proposal for ADO73, a frontally facelifted Marina that never appeared. (Pictures supplied by Kevin Davis)

So why no hatchback for the Princess?

The questionable decision to offer the ADO71 as a saloon and not a hatchback was taken at this time. As we shall see, there was a simple reason for this, but BLMC’s marketeers touted a string of alternative explanations, none of which got anywhere near the truth.

A statement released at the time of the 18-22 Series launch said: ‘Product planners felt that, in the class that the car was aimed at, a hatchback was seen as being somewhat out of place (despite what Rover was doing at Solihull with the SD1 at the same time). The hatchback concept was being seen exclusively as the province of the small car, whereas the ADO71 was conceived to replace not only ADO17, but the Austin 3 Litre as well. Besides, BLMC was already well-served in the middle market with its hatchback Maxi; it did not want the new car to take sales away from it.’

It added: ‘The Engineering Department was also encouraged to shy away from creating the car as five-door model because it would have added extra weight and complexity, with only marginal improvements in accommodation. Market research for BLMC also indicated that a saloon was what customers wanted.’ However, the reality showed that, by not producing a hatchback, the company may have done itself out of sales, especially in Europe – the subsequent popularity of the format showed how wrong Austin Morris was (certainly the sales success of the SD1 was not impaired because it was a hatchback).

A little bit of politics…

Torcars Princess Estate
Leyland might not wanted to have build a hatchback Princess, but that didn’t stop Crayford conversions building the Torcars five-door ‘estate’ version

The truth was (as always) more disturbing. The Princess never received a hatchback because, as one senior insider at the time put it, ‘…I believe there was some politics about not conflicting with SD1. [A bit odd really, given that we’d had the Maxi since 1969, and ‘executive hatchbacks’ were still a bit daring.]

‘There was a definite tendency to push Austin Morris feature levels down from whatever Rover were proposing, instead of letting each model range achieve its best level on straight economics.’

This story would also be echoed during the development of the Rover SD1 in relation to Jaguar.

‘lastic upgraded to ‘gas – a suspended story

Charles Griffin was placed in charge of developing the chassis of the ADO71 and the question of what system was to be used was an easy one to answer. Hydragas, as first seen in the Allegro was the obvious choice, differing only in detail from it in the set-up of its front suspension, which actually mirrored the Maxi.

To ensure a pliant ride, the spring rates in this application were exceptionally soft. To back this up, the unusual step was taken to design the ADO71 to use wide, low profile tyres on narrow wheel rims; relying on lower than usual tyre pressures and the resulting flexing of the tyres’ sidewalls to add further ride softness.

It has to be said that, if the intention was to achieve Citroën-like ride, the Chassis Engineers reached their aims very easily; the finished car had a ride quality that was almost in the same league as the Citroën CX – certainly, it had none of the bounciness that afflicted the Allegro.

Video: Leyland 18-22 Series development

Part one:

Part two:

Slicing through the air

Development work continued and some wind tunnel tuning of the shape was all that was felt to be needed, which must have been a relief to Harris Mann, who had seen his previous design, the Allegro corrupted on its way to production. The final shape that emerged was only slightly different from the original clay model of November, 1971.

Its comparatively clean aerodynamic shape (co-efficient of drag was cd0.404) was testament to the initial ‘rightness’ of Mann’s design. Accommodation was also marked out as a strong point; seat room was as good as the ADO17 up front, only slightly worse at the rear and, most importantly, the driving position was far more reclined than the sit-up-and-beg ADO17.

In development, it is fair to say that all the aims set out for the car in 1970 were met – and a great deal of credit for this should be laid at the feet of Charles Griffin, who ensured that the ADO71 project did not lose sight of its objectives.

The 18-22 series launch story

Austin 1800
Austin 1800 in launch spec. Trapezoidal headlights were an eye-catching innovation for British Leyland.

The press launch for the ADO71 was held on 13 February 1975 where Keith Hopkins, Managing Director of the Austin Morris division, spelt out British Leyland’s new upmarket policy for selling the division’s cars. ‘This upmarket policy may have been misconstrued by some people.

‘What we are doing is a recognition of the fact that with an Austin Morris output of below one million cars a year it is just not sensible or realistic for us to try to compete head on with those of our international competitors who have output potentials twice or three times as big as ours,’ he said.

Mr Hopkins added that the Austin Morris division’s policy was to improve product quality and refine engineering standards to a degree which justified the slightly higher price for each model: ‘We shall be seeking to create little niches in the world market place which are more profitable for us.’ However, he emphasised that Austin Morris was not opting out of the volume section of the market and indeed intended to consolidate its position as leader of this sector.

‘We set out to build a new truly international car, not a scaled down American car.’ – Harris Mann

When the ADO71 was unveiled to the public on 26 March 1975, just weeks before the publication of the Ryder Report, it did so to an embattled audience. Where there was a real sense of disappointment at the ugliness of the Allegro, the 18-22 Series, as it was named, emerged as a good-looking and interesting car. The dealers must have shared the same sense of relief, because whereas the Allegro sales never got close to matching the sales ADO16, there was a real feeling that the new car would comfortably outsell the ADO17.

Certainly, British Leyland’s own forecasts reflected this view and the production facility at Cowley North works was greatly modernised with an increased production volume in mind. After the launch, Harris Mann discussed the new cars style with David Benson of the Daily Express: ‘We set out to build a new truly international car, not a scaled down American car, but a car that would have a distinctive flavour and would sell well in this country and Europe.

‘The wedge shape was inspired by Grand Prix cars, but it is also very practical as it has been proved on the race track. It gives better penetration through the air and. in our case, better fuel consumption. I also wanted the car to look firm and eager even when parked at the kerb. It is built with its wheels out to the full width of the body, sitting firmly on the ground rather than pouring over the wheels as American cars do.’

Strikes and strife take hold

Unfortunately for BLMC, Cowley was arguably its most militant plant. In January and February 1975 production at the plant had been disrupted by a four-week strike of 250 engine tuners and rectifiers which restricted Cowley to 80 per cent of its normal output. Ironically, it was during this dispute that the public got its first glimpse of British Leyland’s forthcoming car.

In its 10 January 1975 issue, the Daily Express newspaper printed a photograph of an ADO71 car leaving the strike afflicted Cowley plant, a full two and a half months before its official launch. On launch day itself, The Times newspaper published a photograph of Lord Stokes with the top of the range Wolseley, for he was still boss of British Leyland as the new car appeared in the hiatus between the first injection of Government money and the publication of the Ryder Report.

Some 8000 Austin, Morris and Wolseley versions were in the hands of the dealers for launch day. With the help of a night shift, production at the Cowley factory was running at about 1000 a week, and the plan was to build up to 1400 by mid-year.

Leyland Princess: mechanically unsurprising

British Leyland 18-22 Series

Mechanically, the ADO71 offered no great surprises, with its choice of B and E6-Series engines, four-speed gearboxes and Hydragas suspension – the O-Series would have to wait for the first facelift. The press lauded the car for its impressive stability at speed, superior ride quality and well-sorted front-wheel drive handling.

Importantly, BL learned lessons from the ADO17 and fitted power-assisted steering to the car, offering it as standard on the 2200 version and an optional extra on the 1800 – the fact was that the system made a huge difference to the driving experience and the heavy, low-geared manual set-up which had dominated all driving impressions of the ADO17.

Interior accommodation was predictably praised and dashboard ergonomics – never a strong point of the ADO17 – were described as, ‘futuristic’ by one publication. The question of the styling was unanswered, but at the time few disagreed with the sentiment that it was considerably more appealing than the Allegro, Maxi and the ADO17.

When the morale at British Leyland, be it in the factories or the dealers, was at its lowest ebb, it was seen as genuinely good news that the company had something appealing to sell.

Testing times: what the papers said

After its test of the 2200HL on 29 March 1975, Autocar  summed up the car favourably: ‘All in all, this is a most satisfactory car, which should do much for Austin Morris. We wish it well, and are confident that it will find wide favour with both the business man seeking a refined, comfortable mile eater and the family man who needs proper space for a growing brood.’

British Leyland 18-22 Series
The new Austin/Morris 18-22 range together at launch: at the rear, the Austin, foreground right, the Morris and foreground left, the range-topping Wolseley. (Picture supplied by Kevin Davis)
British Leyland 18-22 Series
Interior of the top-of-the-range Wolseley model shows extensive use of plush carpeting and wood veneer. Also evident from this shot is just how much the new car had dropped the bus driver driving position of the old 1800/2200 model

What was left unsaid in the test was that the 110bhp 2200HL version was blessed with rather less than sparkling performance; much was made of the excellent stability, superb ride and strong brakes, but the straight line speed – or rather lack of it – was carefully glossed over. The figures told a rather stark story, though: 0-60mph in 13.5 seconds, a maximum speed of 104mph, 50-70 in fourth gear took a yawning 13.2 seconds and an overall fuel consumption figure of 20.7mpg. Most price rivals were significantly quicker and, to the customers that the car was aimed at, this was important.

Marketing the car did pose some issues for the company’s management, but the only problem was one of potential confusion in the minds of the car’s customers. It would seem odd that, after the proclamation given by Donald Stokes that the company would no longer enter into the practice of badge engineering, that the new car would appear in Austin, Morris and Wolseley guises.

Leyland Princess: off to a flying start

By the end of the first week the new car had been on sale, British Leyland distributors and dealers were reporting so much interest in the company’s new model that they were predicting that it would become the best-selling large saloon ever produced by a British company. A spokesman for Mann Egerton, one of the largest BLMC distributors in the country, said: ‘We are being offered Peugeots, Citroëns and BMWs in part exchange for the new car.

These are normally regarded as being up market of the Austin Morris range. We can sell every 1800/2200 we can get, but naturally we are being a little careful about the type of car we are taking in part exchange. We now have a car which, because of its advanced styling and comprehensive equipment, is more than a match for the importers. And at £2100 it is very competitively priced.’

A British Leyland spokesman added: ‘We don’t want to crow too early, but motorists’ initial response has been so good that we are all getting a little excited about the car’s prospects.’

…then it grinds to a halt

However, any illusion that the Cowley workforce would pull together and make the ADO71 a success were shattered on 18 April 1975, when 2700 workers walked out on strike. The latest trouble at Cowley stemmed from a management decision to curtail production of the Marina range by introducing a four-day working week in some areas of the plant.

This was the first day that the Marina lines were closed, with 1600 production workers laid off. The dispute arose when the management decided that another 150 indirect workers, who serviced the production lines, would also have to be sent home because there was no work for them. The Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) Shop Stewards then called-out the plant’s 2700 indirect workers, telling the management they intended to operate a policy of ‘one out, all out’. As a result, a further 3300 Cowley workers had to be laid off and all production, including the 18-22, was halted. Work resumed four days later.

Then, in early May, a strike at Dunlop, and a repeat of the 19 April strike restricted output – and, by the middle of the month, all production had halted again. After the Dunlop dispute was resolved, the 18-22 resumed production, but then, on 4 July 1975, a strike at a British Leyland components factory in Hemel Hempstead brought production to a grinding halt once again. It was to be well over a month before production could be resumed.

Wolseley dies, then a Princess is born

However, the marketing plan dictated that it was necessary to launch the 18-22 Series, badged three different ways because of the fact that, after seven years in existence, British Leyland still operated independent Austin and Morris franchises. At the time of the launch of the 18-22 Series, the ADO77 Marina replacement was still only in the early stages of development, but back in 1971 when the decision was made to offer the ADO71 in three varieties, the Marina had just been launched and the Product Planners knew that there would be no new Morris cars for a very long time.

Austin Morris Princess
No apologetic advertising by the company following the launch of the Princess marque in September 1975: The company’s management were still very proud of their newest product, even following the hasty name change. (Picture supplied by Kevin Davis).

The answer was to unify the Austin and Morris dealerships – a process that had slowly taking shape anyway since the formation of BLMC in 1968. The matter was finally brought to a close in September 1975, when the Austin/Morris 18-22 Series would henceforth be known as the Princess. The re-branding exercise sadly closed the book on Wolseley, with the last of the long, great line being produced on 11 September 1975.

In response to the recommendations of the Ryder Report and its wish there should be a single unified car company, the Princess name – a marque in its own right, apparently – was applied to the ADO71 range and used in much the same way as the Mini name had been since 1969. Now that the Austin/Morris Princess (or Leyland Princess, as it was known as by just about everyone) was firmly established on the market, it did not take long for the cracks to show.

Cowley stoppages mar the changeover

The first disruption to Princess production occurred in October. All production of Marina, Maxi and Princess (18-22 Series) cars at the Cowley plant was halted, and 2500 assembly workers laid off by a 24-hour strike of 66 car testers, who wanted to be regraded. Then, in November, the installation of a safety barrier provoked a stoppage on the Princess line at Cowley. One man refused to work because he said it prevented him reaching car parts he had to fit – and that led to 300 night shift workers being sent home.

A spokesman for Leyland Cars said the barrier was installed at the request of the factory’s Safety Committee. In early December, it was the turn of strikers at Oxford Radiators to bring the Princess line to a halt. Early 1976 was calm, and production was relatively uninterrupted, until a strike at the SU Carburettor factory brought production to a halt in April.

It would be easy to list the industrial disputes ad infinitum, and to continue would be repetitive – but the above only serves to illustrate how British Leyland managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The 18-22/Princess may have been the most desirable new car of 1975, but could you get one when you wanted it?

Leyland Princess: earning a poor reputation

Unreliability was a problem that had seemingly befell all British Leyland products since the Mini, but by 1975 the problem was so bad and so public – when the Princess started to develop faults, they became national news. Nightmare stories of collapsing suspension and driveshaft failures did not help BL at all and because the Engineers seemed to take such a long time to cure the problems, the company’s reputation plummeted further.

Because British Leyland was now controlled by the Government and funded by tax-payers, special attention was paid to all the negative aspects of the company. As the Princess was its newest product, it attracted the most attention. The problem was simple: BLMC rushed the introduction of the Princess.

One Cowley fitter put it in succinct terms: ‘The question of quality on the Princess was, in the beginning, really bad. The main problem was bad fit up of parts, and poor colour matching of internal trim. This improved fairly quickly once the launch of the car was done.’

Brigadier Charles Maple: in for quality

The company did all it could do, but it was hamstrung by now-limited financial resources. One positive action taken was to hire a new man, Brigadier Charles Maple, whose job it was to ensure all quality was as tight as it could be.

Because the Princess failed so spectacularly and so publicly, it was all the easier for Maple to get down to work and make his presence felt; to act as an effective quality overlord.

Like the ADO17 before it – and the Austin Montego after it – this initial unreliability had predictable effects on consumer confidence in the Princess. People did not buy the Princess in large numbers; the sales never lived up to the expectations that British Leyland management had for it, but unlike the ADO17, which BMC left pretty much untouched for the duration of the production run, the Princess was the subject of a programme of continuous development.

Continuous development

Austin Morris Princess

One happy side-effect of the creation of the Princess marque was simplifying the production variations. Now that there was not the plethora of Austin, Morris and Wolseley models to contend with, the quality soon improved. According to one assembly line worker at Cowley: ‘The other problem was the product mix, i.e. low-line, medium-line and high-line trim levels.

‘This was on the Austin and Morris versions. Many wrong parts were fitted to the early cars just to make up the numbers for launch. Once the 18-22 Series was dropped and the Princess name came in and the trim levels went to low-line [L], high-line [HL] and high-line super [HLS], things improved no end.’

Interestingly, a run of 50 diesel-powered Princesses was produced during 1977, with the sole intent of recapturing the private-hire taxi market, which had been all but surrendered to Ford. Although these B-Series diesels were trialled across the country, the plan was soon dropped. The one contribution the Princess 1800D did make to the overall story of the car was the improved bulkhead insulation, which would find its way onto the Princess 2, improving refinement levels considerably.

Princess 2: the first facelift

In July 1978, the Princess 2 appeared, sporting the long-overdue O-Series engine, which was available in 1.7- and 2.0-litre forms to run alongside the existing 2227cc E6 power unit (the six cylinder would be phased out before the Ambassador was launched).

Various running changes were also made to the Princess and, even though customers still found the car’s lack of pace a turn-off and its styling challenging, sales continued running at a reasonable, if unspectacular level. Due to this continuous tinkering by the backroom boys, the Princess did eventually come good even if sales in the UK took a dive in 1979 due to the Iranian crisis.

What Car? magazine tested the 2000HLS in 1980 and was quick to point out that the Princess had undergone a process of subtle improvements and did not hesitate recommending it (with reservations) against a couple of obscure rivals: ‘…to concentrate on the BL car’s faults – and it has all too many, still – would be to ignore its one overwhelming advantage, that of excellent passenger space and ride comfort, unrivalled at the price.

‘It may not be the most prestigious, attractive or advanced alternative available, but for the motorist who places practicality above speed and excitement it must be still the best bet.’

Austin Morris Princess

In conclusion…

Why the Princess failed was not because of its adventurous styling, its lack of a hatchback or even the fact that it was not fast enough; simply put, it failed because it had a lamentable record for unreliability, which once gained, could not be lost – no matter how hard they tried.

If Austin Morris had built it well from the outset, the story may have been entirely different – but the same could equally be said for so many other cars produced by the company before and since.

Its replacement, the Austin Ambassador, released much of the car’s potential, but in many ways, the point was moot because it was late and the opposition had moved on.

Austin Morris Princess
This immaculate Princess demonstrates perfectly the fact that the wedge profile made the transition from styling exercise to production reality without any major changes – contrast that with the sad story of how the Allegro was corrupted by the Production Engineers. This late Princess sports a strident yellow colour that suits the car perfectly. (Picture supplied by Kevin Davis)

Princess timeline

Austin Morris Princess

Year Month Details
1975 March 18-22 Series four-door saloon range introduced.

Available as Austin 1800, 1800 HL, 2200HL; Morris 1800, 1800HL, 2200HL; and Wolseley (2200cc) models.

1800 models have 1798cc four-cylinder overhead valve B-Series engine and optional power steering; 2200 models have 2227cc 6-cylinder overhead cam E-Series engine and standard power steering. 4-speed manual gearbox standard with three-speed Borg Warner (model 35) automatic transmission optional on all models.

All models share same unitary body shell with transverse engines, front wheel drive and Hydragas suspension. Austin versions with trapezoidal headlamps and low bonnet line; Morris and Wolseley versions with twin round headlamps, and humped bonnet and raised grille section (with illuminated badge on Wolseley). Standard instrumentation includes fuel and temperature gauges and seat belt warning lamp. Standard 1800 models (Austin and Morris) have vinyl trim, satin effect dashboard, heated rear window, multi-adjustable driver’s seat (240 positions) and inertia reel seat belts. HL models (Austin and Morris) have vinyl covered rear pillars, vinyl seats with cloth insets, satin effect dashboard, rear centre armrest, chrome embellishments (e.g. wheel arch extensions, window surrounds and wheel trims), centre console, clock and ammeter.

Wolseley models have full vinyl roof, velour seats with front centre armrests, front head restraints, wooden ‘canaletto’ dashboard, tinted glass, chrome front and rear screen surrounds, multi-adjustable front passenger seat (240 positions), fully carpeted boot with light, rear passenger compartment lamps, rear cigar lighter, push button MW/LW radio, velour roof lining and ‘hockey stick’ door grabs.

September Austin, Morris and Wolseley names dropped and range renamed Princess.

Range now Princess 1800, 1800 HL, 2200 HL and 2200 HLS.

Frontal styling as previous Austin models, with twin round headlamps (tungsten) on 1800cc versions and trapezoidal headlamps (quartz halogen) on 2200cc versions. New 2200 HLS derivative introduced to replace Wolseley models; trim and equipment as previous Wolseley.

1976 April HL models now have cloth (nylon) seats (previously optional on these models only).
1978 March Limited edition Special Six Automatic launched. Based on 2200 HL but fitted with HLS seats, wooden dash, rear courtesy lights and full length Webasto sunroof. Only available in Black and limited to 1200 units.
July Princess Series 2 models introduced.

New 1700cc and 2000cc (1695cc and 1993cc) 4-cylinder overhead cam O-Series engines replace 1800cc B-Series.

Revisions to all models include improved Hydragas suspension, Triplex 10/20 laminated windscreen, twin door mirrors in satin black, new style rear badges and a side indicator repeater lamp on each front wing. Model range now 1700L, 1700HL, 2000HL, 2200HL and 2200HLS. Dashboard insert now matt black on L models and wooden on HL.

1979 January 2200 HL discontinued.
May 1700HLS and 2000HLS introduced, with similar trim and equipment to 2200HLS (including trapezoidal headlamps). Power steering remains standard on 2200HLS and optional on all other models.
1980 March Radio standard throughout the range. Restyled warning lights. L models now have cropped nylon seat facings.
1981 February Revisions to all models include improved seats, reshaped controls, new front/rear badging (depicting engine size in litres rather than cc), larger door mirrors, revised control gear and better sound insulation. Doorframe surrounds now body colour on L models and matt black on HL and HLS. New coachlines below waistline now one stripe for L, two for HL and three for HLS. Alloy wheels now optional. L and HL have Marle fabric seat facings. HLS versions have power steering as standard on all engine sizes, restyled front seats and radio/stereo cassette player.
April 1.7 HLS discontinued.
November Princess range discontinued

Keith Adams


  1. The Princess had a difficult job in try to straddle two market segments; the upper echelons of the Cortina range and the lower levels of the Granada range and all the other manufacturers cars also in that segment. The Cortina was available in such a bewildering array of combinations customers were spoilt for choice, from a 1300 poverty spec right up to a 2.3 Ghia. The Princess only came with two (eventually three) engines and three trim levels, take it or leave it!

    BL’s attitude was that instead of maximising the sales potential of each model they had something across their whole range of cars to suit everyone, ignoring the fact that customers did want the modern and stylish Princess with a hatchback and didn’t want an out of date, poorly styled Maxi.

    Supply problems meant in some cases they were unable to supply their customers with the car they ordered but something ‘as near as’ instead. But then, BL did have a habit of launching cars before they were ready and the 18-22 Series was no exception, as supply problems with trim meant many cars left the production line with odd bits missing and mismatched trim. And then there was the drive shaft issue which brought about the Princesses notoriety thanks to its weekly appearance on the BBC’s That’s Life TV programme.

    The Princess was allowed to drift along without too much attention being paid to it by Leyland, and the lacklustre marketing only added to its image problem plus its full potential was never realised. ‘Not the car for Mr Average’, and indeed it wasn’t. He wanted a Cortina. Many critics blamed the advanced styling for the Wedges woes, but underneath it was all pretty basic stuff, but too many engineering aspects of the car were left to chance such as suspension interconnection pipes being of poor quality or being fitted incorrectly causing rather catastrophic suspension failures that were so easily avoidable and giving the car a bad reputation. So disappointing really. We won’t even get into the 5-speed gearbox issue, but it so needed it. Why give the Maxi and Allegro five gears, and your premium product only four?

    The Princess eventually came good in its final year of production but no one was really interested by this time, and when the Ambassador was launched no one fell for Austin Morris’s attempt at disassociating it from the Princess. Everyone wanted a Cavalier anyway!

    Today though, it’s different. With so few around now it’s surprising how many people remember how roomy they were, and most have forgotten its bad reputation and see it as a sharp piece of ’70s styling that should have been a success. The younger generation are particularly interested as they have no pre conceptions about British Leyland due mostly to the fact that they have never heard of it!

  2. I’ve just been told by a gentleman that the Wedge was the worst car he ever owned . The engine block had to be skimmed among its problems . At the time he was Parliamentary correspondent for the Daily Mirror…….

  3. My dad had a Princess, identical to the gold one on the right of the top photo. I remember the number plate was AAX 6T, which for some reason I thought was dead cool at the time (I was eight). My dad loved the car and eventually traded it in for an Ambassador. Oh dear…

  4. Its almost as if BL took a look at the 1800/2200 Landcrab and thought here we have a car that doesnt fit any defined market segment, sells badly, is misunderstood by the car buying public, is heavy to drive and has an overcomplicated mechanical layout that the market doesnt need. We need to build a modern version of this car for the 70s! They would have been far better cutting their losses and building a proper 3 box RWD saloon aimed sqaurely at the Cortina. It could have replaced the 1800/2200 and the Marina (already 4 years old by 1975) and formed a basis for a replacement Dolomite. Compared to the Princess they would have effectively got 3 cars for less than the price of one. Spend the money saved on turning the Maxi into the Aquila and something resembeling a coherant range begins to appear.

  5. I take slight issue with the statement under the Ambassador picture that says all attempts at facelifts detract from the original design. This may be true for BL cars, but usually other manufacturers improve their designs. Certainly the current trend, see the MkII Focus as a perfect example is that, the facelifts are given to the public in reverse order, i.e. the purest design is kept back and a toned down version is sold for the first few years. The “facelifted” model is then launched and the “full potential” of this design comes to the fore. This really is the way to sell cars, not fiddle with a good design.
    A lot of poor facelifting was done by BL, because the initial design was best but there was not a proper Mk II around the corner (no money) and just a tampering exercise was performed on already well worn designs.
    That sort of thing was done with all Jags more or less until 2005, just rehashing the floorpan and designing new panels for the virtually the same suspension and running gear, since the XJ6 first emerged…

  6. @5 Jamie,

    Yet the Jags got better looking with each restyle- with arguably the Series 3 and the X300 looking the best- and the XK40 being an exception.

  7. I’ve said this before… that shot of YBJ243X looks really good in yellow and makes the Princess look a nice car despite the adverse comments the series attracted. Never owned one but have been a passenger in some and they were comfy & roomy.

  8. Some time back I had the choice between buying a Princess 2200 or an Ambassador 2.0VDP, I went with the Ambassador as it had a hatchback against my Fathers wishes as he preferred the saloon Princess, I had the car for 4 years covering a high mileage, replaced the gearbox and then rebuilding a couple of valves when the cambelt broke before it should have, 3 up with 2 dogs and a trailer full of camping gear it was a joy to drive and even though it only had a 4 speed gearbox was surprisingly economical, Even my father who was more of a Ford man realised what a sound car it was and I always have regretted parting with it. Would I have another? The answer to that is resounding YES!!!! Funnily enough I used to prefer BL cars over other makes as I actually found them MORE reliable and on the occasions when they did need repairs parts were a lot cheaper than Ford Vauxhall etc. and not needed so many specialised tools.

  9. Some points have alteady been made, however, I owned a Ambassador 2.0 Vanden Plas manual, had it for sometime, although the gearbox went wrong, was a nice comfortable car. I like the fact it had a little logic circuit which detected a bulb failure and the the brakepad wear alarm, both nice touches on the revamped princess.I never worked out why they did spend time and money on a 5 speed gearbox, and also didnt have proper delay wipe like the Maxi did ( that was the previous car I owned before my ambassador) I wondered if BL made the car in too guises in the saloon and hatcback in the first place, may of temped some of the buying puplic to buy BL, and could of made a sporter model too perhaps. I own one of the very last Princess 2.0 HLS, and a rare 1978 2.2HL in vermillion red, Corgi Classics/Lledo have actually produced my car!!. Good feature, regards Mark

  10. I remember when the 18/22 came out first a Salesman friend of mine brought one along for me to try. It had been released about a week at this point and as we descended a steep hill he applied the brakes. The car made no attempt to slow down although there was a ‘whooshing’ noise. What’s that noise said I? That’s just the rear wheels locking up, said he. And then came the inevitable words “they are all like that!”
    Obviously there was a problem of some sort but it does add fuel to the history of problems that the company went through.
    If only we could all go back and do it again! Would we make the same mistakes? Would BMW be so mighty?

  11. A pity product planning didnt lsten to marketing. This car with rear wheel drive and steel suspension would have aligned far better with market expectations in the mid 70s. The car would have had lighter, higher geared steering and a snappy gear change. Both things the Princess lacked. Would have been a bit smaller inside and wouldnt have had as good a ride, but these things didnt matter to target Cortina/Granada man.

  12. Does anyone have the BHP figure for the Princess 1800ST by British Leyland’s Special Tuning division?

    While the following link below has the Princess 1800ST being 3.3 seconds faster from 0-60 (at 11.6 seconds) than the standard Princess 1800 and 1.9 seconds quicker than the Princess 2200, if it is the case that the engine of the 1800ST is in a similar state of tune to the MGB than how comes it totally demolishes the 110 hp Princess 2200 on the performance front?

  13. Time for a rant I’m afraid. That OUTLOOK advert bar that pops up on every bloody picture, over the caption in some cases is BLOODY ANNOYING. If you need to raise revenue by selling ad space fine, but just put it at one side of the page and NO right in the middle of what people are reading.
    Also, when I use the site search facility, and the list of results pops up, WHY does the top story picture still display OVER the results I’m trying to read?
    Please sort it out, it’s things like this that can utterly ruin a site and drive people away.
    Rant over.

  14. *Cough, cough* AdBlock, cough, cough…

    *Cough, cough* a little ‘x’ button on the search pop-up, cough, cough…

  15. No Michael, I’m not sure you see what I mean, unless there’s an adblock tab somewhere that I have to go looking for to stop the Outlook ad appearing at the bottom of each picture, and if that’s the case-why? just put it somewhere less intrusive.
    You can’t X out the picture that rolls to different stories at the top of the home page. When the search result pane comes up it remains over the top of it meaning you can’t read the search results. it’s as though it’s saying “You WILL look at this”.

  16. @19 Don’t feel embarrassed, you are not alone Phil. It looks superb, just goes to show what the right colour and wheel combo can do..

  17. The Ambassador became a fleet car for middle managers at a large chemical works near me and was also the mayor’s car in Whitehaven for three years. It might not have been perfect, but it was an improvement on the Princess and the huge boot made it popular with owners. Maybe with better detailing and a bit more power it could have delivered the fight to Ford more as it was a good car.
    The Montego, well, having owned one and experiencing a heap of problems from the underdeveloped new engines, the Ambassador was like a paragon of reliability in comparison.

  18. Carrying on Whitehaven’s love affair with these cars, prior to the Ambassador, the Princess was the middle managers fleet car at Marchon Chemicals, the town’s biggest employer. Also the Princess seemed popular with large families in middle class areas, who appreciated the huge space it offered over a Cortina( these being pre people carrier times).
    However, I still have to admit for all the Princess was a spacious and well equipped car for the money, unreliability on early cars and the lack of a fifth door held it back and the Ambassador addressed these problems.

  19. My Mother had an Ambassador 1.7L . As she was getting on a bit by then, the lack of performance was never something she mentioned , but it was a super spacious car with a wonderful ride and a very good degree of refinement – far better in that respect than the 2 litre Cavalier which replaced it . It was comfortable and reliable – all the things AR cars were supposed not to be . I think this lends credence to the view expressed on another thread at the moment , that it was the reputation acquired in the 1970s which it could not shake off which ultimately was fatal for AR

  20. I learned to drive in my father’s Ambassador,a late 2.0 HL twin carb model,(bought in early ’84 ,after production ceased,at a huge discount). In spite of owning several more up market cars subsequently,he maintained,until the day he died,the Ambassador was the most comfortable and relaxing car to drive that he ever owned. Personally,I thought it’s only failings were a lack of a fifth gear,and not enough sound proofing.In other respects it was highly satisfactory,and the power steering was better than most cars I have driven since(even though it did whistle and wheeze).The ride quality was superb,and it proved very reliable. I still remember the car fondly,as it had several unusual features,not least a fresh air vent system for the front footwells that I have never found on any other car.

  21. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing. When you compare the styling of the Princess to comparable 1975 models,(Cortina MkIII,Granada MkI,Victor FE,Triumph 2000Mk2 Rover P6,etc) How dated and old fashioned they all look in comparison. Perhaps Harris Mann was right after all,even if too few of the good old british car buying public appreciated it at the time. I think,perhaps,we were quite prepared to accept ‘avant garde’styling from more ‘exotic’ foreign manufacturers like citroen or lancia for instance,but not from our own, which would suggest that BL had underestimated the conservatism of the british buyer,possibly as an overreaction to the poor sales record of the ‘landcrab’,which was blamed on it’s bland(if not ugly)styling. This is strange when you consider the positive reaction to the Rover SD1,which was just as great a departure from it’s predecessor as the Princess was from the ‘landcrab’. Perhaps the Princess ‘ploughed a furrow’for the SD1 so that people were not so shocked by it’s styling. It’s only a theory…

    • Reminds me of the launch ad’, with a very stylish photo’ accompanied by the strapline, “If we were foreign, people would say “Why can’t we make cars like that?”

  22. The sad thing is, by the time the Princess 2 facelift came along in 78, the car was pretty much sorted out reliability wise. We had a 2.0 HLS for years, it never missed a beat and the ride was sublime. Seriously, nothing this side of a Citroen DS rides as well.
    Of course, what with all the tales of driveshafts snapping and engines falling out, buyers stayed away in droves and used values were on the floor.
    There really was a good car trying to get out with this one.

  23. @ Ol, it had come good by 1978, and new engines provided better economy and refinement. Also the Princess never seemed to rust that badly. Indeed in rust surveys of the time, Austin Morris products seemed to do quite well, as a Cortina that hadn’t been properly undersealed, could rust quite badly after a few years.
    Would I have bought a Princess at the time, if I had the money and the option of a trendier 2 litre Cortina? I would probably say yes as for all the Cortina had more power and looked more aggressive, the Princess was probably similar for reliability and build quality, but was roomier inside, rode better, had more space and traded a lack of out and out performance for a more relaxing drive.

  24. The princess is my all time favourite car, it may have have problems, but the ride, seats, engine, parts made it simple to fix, and I love the colours, l honestly wish I buy one and keep it for years, miles better than today cars, a all time great, my advice buy a true classic UK car, I would of love to own one

  25. Nothing, except probably a Jaguar or a big Citroen, rode as well and was as comfortable as a Princess or an Ambassador. Certainly it lacked the sting in the tail of the Cortina and the ride harshness of smaller Austin Morris cars. Rather like big American cars of this era, the Princess was designed for comfort and cruising at the national speed limit than outright performance.
    Even a 1.7 could prove to be a refined and acceptable motorway cruiser.

  26. I know they are flawed in many ways,but the gold one in the 3 way pic at the top of this feature looks spot on,just perfect,x.

  27. I’d much rather have had a second generation Princess 2200 HLS over a Rover 2300 in the late seventies. The Rover might have had a bigger boot and a more sporting image, but was a meanly specced car with hopeless reliability and didn’t ride as well as a Princess. A Princess 2200 HLS with its near silent engine, wood and velour interior, fantastic ride and massive interior space would do it for me then.

  28. I get your point Glenn… but I suppose there was more kudos of the “Rover” badge even in those days, like it is for BMW, Merc, Audi nowadays. I agree the later revised Princess range was getting more likeable though.

  29. @ Hilton D, Rover was the BMW of its day, but the base 2300 was fairly spartan for a luxury product, I’m sure early ones didn’t have a radio, while for similar money the Princess 2200 HLS came fully loaded and was a relaxing and refined car. Also the E6 didn’t suffer from the same sort of reliability issues as the Rover straight six and the Princess’s driveshaft and suspension issues were sorted by 1978.
    If you wanted more economy and only slightly less performance, there was always the 2 litre O series HLS to consider.

  30. The Princess more than any model illustrates all that was wrong with BL. Firstly it should have retained that landcrab wheelbase – an extra 1″ – and been a Wolseley model only. Secondly who decided a 6-pot engine with 4spd and vinyl trim was acceptable? Thirdly, by the time this car was launched BL should have known there was spare E-series capacity, the 1748cc was more powerful even in single carb than the B-series and gave a 5 spd gearbox. So with hindsight my model range would have been 1750 83 bhp or 95 bhp, the 2.2 E6 and possible the 2.6 E6 , all with plush interiors (inc a rev counter) xx

    • Only some elderly British Leyland executive could answer all this, but I’ll try. Firstly, there was a trend in the mid seventies towards basic cars with big engines, you could buy a stripped out 2 litre Cortina until 1974 or a 2.3 litre Vauxhall Victor in basic trim, as some people wanted the power, but didn’t want to pay extra for a more luxurious version. Also, nearly all cars were four speeders then, it’s possible the poor gearchange on the Maxi put BL off using this gearbox in the Princess. Another reason for using Wolseley only on the original range topping model was it carried more kudos than Austin or Morris, but mercifully branding all cars as Princess ended the badge snobbery and the costs of marketing the cars seperately.
      Basically the Princess was light years ahead of the ADO 17, it dropped the bus driver driving position, the diesel locomotive like styling( Princess was HST to the ADO 17’s freight locomotive)and ancient dashboard, but carried on the old car’s traditions of having a very desirable luxury version, an excellent ride and massive interior space. By the end of the seventies, with the introduction of more efficient O series engines, better reliability and an increase in equipment levels, the Princess was quite a desirable car.

  31. @daveh says:
    31 August 2012

    I doubt comment on many sites has such a long shelf life and, even better, the link still worked.
    I would buy that Saab 900-like saloon today.

  32. Had both 1.7 and 2 litre Ambassadors back in 1982-3. Both company cars. Very popular with my better half from both the comfort and usable space view points. Yes, spacious and ride quality superb too. Never had both very long but, both had the very reliable O-Series engines and every O-Series car I’ve owned since ( including currently owned 1985 MG Montego Turbo ) were and still are extremely reliable.

    When one went in for its first service I was provided with a loan car. A Princess 2200HLS? or some such spec. Like the Ambassador, Montego and numerous other cars i regarded as British, our UK Motoring media bent over backwards to bad mouth these cars. Typical in the land of the self inflicted. Had I not beliueved any oif their misguided prejudices and done what i have done ever since, ignored their bias and used my own judgement, I would have bought a new 2200 HLS Princess. I was so impressed with that loan car I seriously considered buying it. Did not but did buy a new ARG car taking delivery on 1.1.83 instead. A Cinnabar Red MG Metro mainly used by my better half.

    My lifelong close friend and keen car and motorcycle friend, queried why I had bought a “Tarted up” Metro. Like so many media “brainwashed” regarded what was a good seller back in 1982-3. I tossed him the keys of my new MG Metro and we took a ride. He drove it a few miles.

    Soon after he took delivery of a new MG Metro in black. Ideal for getting about the traffic density madness of the Metrollops where he lived then.

    Our UK motoring media’s negativity have a lot to answer for with clueless Clarkson in the spearhead. They most certainly played their part in my never again having the pleasure of being able to buy a new British Built MG or Rover.

    The Chinese picked up the asset stripped remnants of MG-Rover’s IP and tooling. I have fitted a low mileage MG6 engine to an MG ZT-T 1.8T. It has been re-engineered and improved by the Chinese to a much higher standard than Rover Group were ever allowed to do under foreign ownership and misguided Government decisions.

    It’s what we do as a nation. Just maybe all that has changed since June 23rd last year. One lives in hope.

    Only in the land of the self inflicted. … much rolling of eyes.

    • The Ambassador in some ways what the Princess should have been a few years earlier, in terms of styling & quality.

      Even without our motoring press “anti-bias” potential customers in too many export markets had long voted with their wallets against BL products.

      • Very true and not just in export markets either. A once strong home market became much diminished with many UK car consumers brainwashed “foreign is best” and voted with their wallets accordingly. It’s what we do ( or did hopefully ) in the land of the self-inflicted.

        Many subsequently regretting their decisions sometime later with huge negative impact on that same wallet. Not what I read or heard down the pub. Lost count of the times over the years friends, relatives, work colleagues and acquaintances approached me with their more serious car problems on a “John, you know about cars” basis.

        It is a strange trait with many Brits that when they have serious and expensive problems with their “superior” foreign product choices, go all defensive or they keep their heads down. Often the true story emerges later anyway. The son, wife or partner letting the cat out of the bag at a dinner date or pub quiz night… 🙂

        When a British car has even some minor easily rectified issue, up on the rooftops shouting Rovers are a load of … you know the rest or should do.

        It’s what we do… hopefully … did. Even all the UK harmful media thicko luvvies now understand the importance of a UK indigenous Industry in the overall balance of the nation’s economy. All too late I fear as they have shown signs of changing their ways although still stress they are really clever than most of us plebs and know best.

        Meantime lets all castigate the French and Germans for looking after and hugely supporting their own Nations Industrial assets. They’ll be sorry, mark my words :rolleyes:

        The BBC in their we’re ever so clever PC-riddled “balance” mode more than covertly accuse those like me having voting OUT last June 23rd on racist grounds. Conveniently forgetting the vast majority of Europeans are the same race as most Brits.

        It’s primarily about the UK economy you media dummies! Get it right before its really too late. Whilst banging “lots of job losses” drum by voting out, in the interests of “balance” I invite the media to calculate and tell us how many millions of UK jobs have been systematically lost as a result of forty plus years of EU membership. Never a mention of that. I wonder why as do millions of others who suffered that way.

        Apart from that, everything in the garden is lovely. :rolleyes:

        In a few days, I shall break the trend of a lifetime by voting for a party I have never done so before ever. TM is clearly the right man for the job. I strongly suspect even she has now seen the light despite previously having to toe the party line. The Nation must come first. Good for her despite all the U-Turn mullarkey media luvvies’ accusations always knee-jerk desperate to deploy.

        Big deal fake news vendors! Be advised media luvvies. Circumstances change and sometimes very rapidly. So an adjustment or change of direction for the better is often called for. Some folks will never learn. Not to react to an ever changing World is not best policy… ever.

      • I think the upmarket products like the TR7, Rover SD1 and Series 2 XJ turned a lot of export markets against British Leyland, but the mainstream Austin, Morris and Triumph cars were certainly no worse than some of the cars France and Italy were making, even if the Allegro was a very acquired taste. At least the Princess had the distinctiveness and the ride quality of a big Citroen and was a lot simpler to fix than a CX when things went wrong, and the Marina was simple, basic transport that sold very well in Britain.
        I do always remember someone who bought a Fiat Strada at the start of 1980 with Allegro like love it and hate it looks and from a company that had a rough time through the seventies like British Leyland. It certainly was quite a sprightly car on the road and was good value for money, with an FM radio when most were AM at the time, but it squeaked and rattled a lot from new and then started developing rust quite quickly. At 8 months old he traded it in as the poor quality and premature rust were unaccepable.

  33. The engine swap, MG6 into ZT-T 1.8T, was it a easy exchange or did it involve fabrication of engine mounts etc

    • Surprisingly easy transplant and no need for engine mounts or other mods. Even the MG6 Flywheel which is typical K-Series unlike the ZT/75 which is Dual Mass was a simple swap. The MG ZT’s Dual Mass Flywheel and Clutch was a straight swap onto the Chinese Unit which was convenient for the Crankshaft Sensor arrangement which uses raised parts of the DMF’s outer circumference for reluctor input to the ECU.

      One simple external mod was needed to the Cylinder Head of the MG6 Unit. That engine being later has additional Emissions gubbins which are not needed on the ZT engine management. So I made up a small blanking plate out of stout alloy sheet which did the trick.

      Delighted with the end result. I have yet to hear of any so called HGFs with the Chinese Unit which has been around now for what… six years? I use the term “so called” as cylinder head gaskets rarely actually fail, yes even K-series. Most invariably are first damaged by some other agency ( usually overheating following coolant loss for whatever reason ) and then are unable to do the job designed for and thus “fail”. Chicken and egg scenario.

      At first glance visually very similar. However, there are numerous improvements easy to see with the Chinese Power unit. Probably the best is “unseen” … that being the higher pressure casting process of the major engine components. Although visually the surface texture of the casting maybe a clue.

      Had Rover group been allowed to make a few simple changes, history could have been very different for the asset stripped remnants of the former massively asset rich Rover group sold off spiv-like cheap to the German outfit.

  34. Should the first sentence in “Wedged in the future” refer to ADO17 as the Landcrab, not Princess?

  35. The pic of the yellow car above show this un-molested Harris Mann design to be a certain-angle stunner. Especially in that colour scheme and with the four headlamps.
    What they were doing with branding though is anyone’s guess. If the manufacturer wouldn’t put their name on it after year 1 then why should the customers have any faith in it?
    The 10 year old 1978 example I had was mechanically worn out but bodily quite good. The B-series lump burned oil at a horrendous rate though, a 2-stroke Wartburg would have used considerably less!

    Heres the matching vintage joke, so Prince Charles calls his doctor and says ‘Do you have a coil for a 1981 Princess?’

    • A lot better looking IMO than the frumpy-fronted Ambassador.

      In this day and age of brand qualities, in which premium marques are expanding downwards without affecting the larger models, the decision to make the Princess marqueless was questionable. As said, it was a decision that was taken for Mini, and later for Metro (pre-Rover), Maestro and Montego.

      I seem to recall that the likes of my dad would refer to them as ‘Austin Princess’, which tied it into the earlier luxury car of the same name, the Austin 18-22, and also the successor Ambassador which was an Austin.

      • Perhaps British Leyland wanted to create some sub Rover upmarket car, but nearly everyone called them Austin Princess at the time. Naming the car a Wolseley would have made more sense, as this would make the Princess sit somewhere between Austin Morris and Rover, but the only Wolseley was the short lived luxury version in 1975.

  36. Anyone recognise others in the clay model team photo with Harris Mann?

    I thought I could see Roy Axe and Gordon Sked.

  37. I wonder if making Princess a brand in its own right was an attempt to seperate it from the tarnished Austin brand, in the same way Austin and Morris versions of the Mini had been phased out a few years earlier. However, since nearly everyone called the Princess an Austin, its successor carried an Austin badge as Michael Edwardes wanted to restore the fortunes of Austin, which was undergoing a mild revival with the 1980 Metro, and the volume part of British Leyland was renamed Austin Rover in 1982.

  38. Given Marketing thought the Princess/Ambassador should have been rear wheel drive, could the car have instead been derived from a slightly shortened lightened Rover SD1 platform thereby reducing the costs of the latter project as well as allowing for this RWD Princess/Ambassador to feature a wider range of mainly E-Series engines (sans Rover V8) compared to what eventually entered production?

    Then again if the car carried over the parts of ADO17, perhaps the latter could have been converted to RWD since the originally ADO17 were in fact RWD and drew upon Issigonis’s TA350 V8 project at Alvis.

    A smaller FWD Princess/Ambassador analogue could have probably been derived from the Austin Maxi in the same way the larger X6 was based on ADO17.

    • SD1 wasn’t really much of a platform. The body was expensive to make, was difficult to seal (especially the sills and E post), barely adequate in both bend and torsion.

      • I see, was envisioning Princess styling being carried over to a modified SD1 platform though it seems BL were only able to reduce the wheelbase by 5.8 inches for Project Bravo, meaning the latter would have featured wheelbases around 4.6 inches and 1 inch longer compared to the Princess and Ambassador respectively.

    • A shame to see an Ambassador Vanden Plas, the two litre luxury version, in such a poor condition, and I wonder if it was a car that was just left to rot after an MOT failure, judging by the state of it. it’s sad to think that for all the Ambassador could be restored, the state of the body would mean it would be a huge project,. and possibly the car’s engine and interior could be beyond repair, again costing thousands more.
      Sad, but would someone allow a Rover Vitesse of this era to rot away like this?

  39. Am I missing something or in the B&W advert pic with the 3 front end images, does the top car (with dualies) have a different bonnet, valance and wings from the bottom dual headlight car? It looks like all the angles are different..

  40. If ADO17 in retrospect should have received the 2.0 B-Series/B-OHC and 2.4 E6 engines from the outset, the same can be said for the larger and heavier ADO71 (including 2.0 O-Series / 2.0 O-Series Turbo) if not more so.

    The existing 1.8 B-Series and 2.2 E6 engines were obviously ill-suited and underpowered for both cars, the former should have just been utilized by the Farina Bs and the Sherpa then quickly superseded by the 2.0 B-Series, while the latter was basically an accident as a result of the 1.3 E-Series being dropped when the E-Series should have instead entered production as a 1.6 E4 / 2.4 E6 unit.

    • Such an engine was said to have been in development (including a dieselized variant) though never reached beyond the prototype stage due to the company’s financial problems, the point is such an engine could have been created had the E-Series appeared as a 1.6 from the outset allowing for a 2.4 E6 instead of a 2.2 E6 derived from the 1.5 E-Series.

      • The E-series engine was originally envisaged as a 1.3 L and 1.5 L four-cylinder, with a 2.0 L six-cylinder created by adding two cylinders to the 1.3 L block. However, as development continued it appeared the 1.3-litre E-series would not have any huge benefits over the 1.3 L A-series being developed at that time from the existing 1.1 L, so the smaller E-series was dropped. The result was a saving in development capital for BMC, but also meant the six-cylinder had to be developed from the 1.5 L block, creating its unusual engine size of 2227 cc. The slightly later Australia/NZ and South Africa only 2,622 cc version was created by increasing the stroke to the 95.75 mm (3.770 in) used in the 1,750 cc version. The power output was 121 bhp (90 kW) and torque 165 lb⋅ft (224 N⋅m). This variant was used in longitudinal rear-wheel-drive cars, the Leyland P76 and Marina 6 and South African Rover SD1 and S3 LandRover applications only. There was no real reason that the 2.6 couldn’t have been offered trans versely in the Princess. They wouldn’t have had to wait too long for the bigger capacity motor, it was installed in Australian Marina Sixes from 1973. 121 hp/90Kw would have given the Princess good performance. The SD1 installation was quite praised for being ‘livelier and smoother’ than Rover’s ‘own’ 2600 ohc six

    • The later S-series engine was basically a reworked 1.6 four cylinder E-series that was said to be the ideal size for this engine and its valves. A few years earlier, a 2.4 six would have been a no-brainer.

  41. The 2.2 E6 made the Princess into a very good motorway car, as it gave the car a bit more go than the B and O series engines, and was a very quiet car at speed. I’d imagine an automatic 2200 HLS to be the ultimate Princess for regular long journeys with its combination of luxury, decent performance, refinement and excellent ride.

  42. I quite like the Princess 2000 HL in British Racing Green on the front page. Never saw a BRG Princess, but they must have existed. The 2000 HL would be a compromise model for me, less expensive than the HLS and less thirsty than a 2200 HL, but better equipped and more powerful than a 1700 L. Also the four headlamp front end looked better than the trapezpoidal lights.

    • I’m not sure what shade of green the Princess is on the front page, but I agree, it’s a great looking car in that shot. Definitely its best angle.
      Even after 43 ish years, I still haven’t decided which headlamp set up I prefer!

  43. A three-box “notch back” Princess with a bit of oomph, tuned suspension and some Wolseley ‘illuminated badge’ effortless class could easily have been a British Lancia. There was potential for this car to be properly classy.

    • Yes, you’re right. Unfortunately, the internal politics at the time precluded any such ideas. Simply put, anything close to the perceived Rover market was not allowed. This affected ADO71, and Triumph salons especially.

  44. I often wonder what would have happened if the Princess was transformed into a hatchback and given a five speed gearbox in 1978 and fuel injection on the 2200 models. I’d imagine sales would have really picked up and there would be no need for the cheapened Ambassador version in 1982. However, such a car could have hurt the Rover SD1, and probably have been vetoed by Solihull.

  45. The Princess Estate should’ve made it to production, as it would have proved a useful extension to the model range in a useful load-lugger capacity i.e. family car, shopping car, trips to the DIY / hardware store to carry timber, doing house moves, trips to the tip, picking up furniture or antiques and any other requirement you want out of an estate car.

    • A 2200 HLS Princess estate, this could have really scared Volvo, as it would have been a huge load carrier and extremely roomy for passengers. Also the extra two cylinders would have given it the edge over the 2 litre fours used by Volvo, although I’d imagine there’d be a 2 litre entry model( the 1.7 would have struggled as an estate). Who knows what could have happened if an estate Princess and a hatchback appeared in 1978?

      • It would have raised the Princess’s profile and showed buyers that there is more to Princess than a practical standard hatchback, which would have increased sales for BL greatly.

        • The potential was there for the Princess to take on the Volvo 240, Audi 100 and bigger engined Cortinas, had it developed another body style. Remember, the Princess was one of the best riding cars in its class, the E6 was a very refined engine and designed for cruising, and it was being promoted as a product that was upmarket than Austin Morris. Also more development such as a five speed gearbox, which would have made cruising even more relaxed, and fuel injection on the E6 could have made the Princess into a very desirable car.

      • Quite like the idea of a Princess hatchback, estate or 3-box saloon / notchback with 2400 E6 or 2000 O-Series Turbo engines.

        As far as diesel Princesses go it deserved something much better than the 1.8 B-Series diesel, like a 1.8 B-Series / 2.0 O-Series turbodiesel or a production version of the experimental dieselized 2.4 E6 engine.

        While the 2.6 E6 is out of the question for the Princess, is it known whether a 90-degree 2.6 V6 (basically a cut-down 3.5 Rover V8 that was earmarked for a number of cars) could have been fitted into the Princess akin to the PRV V6 in the Renault 30?

        • I think the incredible thirst of a petrol V6 Leyland Princess would put many buyers off, it would need constant refuelling to satisfy the engine’s insatiable appetite for petrol at around 18mpg if you’re lucky. A good range of Princesses would be a hatchback, an estate and a saloon with a good range of economical petrol and diesel engines.

          • It is possible though the Volvo 200 Series also featured V6 engines (and was itself allegedly intended to be powered by Red Block based V8s), it also assumes a Rover V6 would not have received fuel-injection.

            Know the 2.6 V6 was to feature in the SD1 (or its Project Bravo replacement) along with other models such as AD077, etc.

          • I think a better idea would have been to use fuel injection on the E6, which would have given the 2.2 litre engine an increase in power and lower fuel consumption. Upping the engine size to a 2.6 would have interfered with Rover’s 2.6 six and damaged sales of this car, as some buyers would opt for the cheaper Princess.

          • Seem to recall Ian Elliott mentioning a few times it was not possible to fit the Australian-built long-stroke E6 2600 engine into the Princess, because there was not enough clearance in the transverse gearbox to accommodate the extra crank swing, meaning it was only able to be used largely in longitudinal rear-wheel-drive applications only.

            However others have mentioned of UK developed experimental 2.4 E6 petrol and diesel engines were investigated, though BL’s financial state meant there was little possibility of it entering production. Yet the 2.4 E6 could have appeared much earlier had the original E-Series been produced with a 1.6 4-cylinder from the outset as according to contemporary Austin-Rover technical briefings for the later R-Series (notwithstanding the R-Series unit’s issues), this were the perfect size for the unit using existing valves (being halfway between the 1.5 and 1.75 E-Series).

            Kind of wonder though how feasible it would have been for a 6-cylinder version of the O-Series (in place of the E6) to fit into the Princess and transverse layouts in general, at least from a path not taken point of view as it was much shorter compared to the SD1-Six / PE166.

          • Perhaps even more reason to use the Maxi 5 speed or a strengthened variant. 2.6 to 2.7 litres was a common maximum capacity in Europe, for taxation reasons(eg PRV V6)
            What would European sales of a 2.6 litre 5 speed Princess have been like? Audi and Citroen were four cylinder only, BMW was still getting started in sixes. Lancia had the endearing but flawed Gamma, Renault would have had the closest competition in the R30.
            Like so much AustinRover history, so many what ifs

          • A 2.6-litre E6 Princess was not possible since at most the Princess could probably only accommodate a 2-litre O-Series Turbo or a 2.4-litre E6, which in the case of the latter would not have overlapping with the 2.6-litre Rover SD1-Six.

            For larger engines in the Princess, only a V6 would fit the bill and the closest thing BL had to a V6 was either a 90-degree unit derived from the Rover V8 capable of displacing around 2.6-3.0-litres or a 60-degree unit derived from the Jaguar V12 capable of displacing around 2.65-3.0-litres (along with a 90-degree unit derived from the Triumph V8 capable of displacing around 2.0-3.0-litres given the V8 was capable of displacing around 4-litres).

            Interestingly the ADO17 which the Princess carries over much from was tested with the Rover V8 at one point, so it was capable of featuring a V6.

  46. I thimk the 2.2 E6 was a good enough engine, it was smooth and had potential to be made more powerful with fuel injection. Remember, the Princess sat between the Maxi and the six cylinder Rovers in the pecking order, and putting a bigger engine in the car could have hurt sales of the Rover 2300. I think had British Leyland looked to putting a five speed transmission and increasing the power of the E6, the Princess could have become a very desirable car.

  47. I thimk the 2.2 E6 was a good enough engine, it was smooth and had potential to be made more powerful with fuel injection. Remember, the Princess sat between the Maxi and the six cylinder Rovers in the pecking order, and putting a bigger engine in the car could have hurt sales of the Rover 2300. I think had British Leyland looked to putting a five speed transmission and increasing the power of the E6, the Princess could have become a very desirable car.

    • In a way that was what was wrong with BLMC. Thet were scared of internal competition among and between models, but at the same time, very expensive internal competition was allowed in design of engines. What would have been wrong with overlapping models of the Princess range and the SD1. And the SD1 should have had E series sixes, as they did in South Africa.

      Look how successful VW group has been using the same set of components between Skoda,Seat VW and Audi, all at different price and image points. Higher up the range Bentley, Porsche, Lamborghini Audi and VW do the same. VW has become the largest car company in the world by doing so. Getting the maximum value by economies of scale and internal competition.

      BLMC had it backwards with the worst of both worlds, and yet they had the best example of how successful internal competition could be with the Triumph and Rover 2000s, Those two cars had more than half of their entire market segment between them.

      • I agree, David, the Rover 2000 and Triumph 2000/2500 were by far the biggest selling executive cars at the start of the seventies, competition from Ford and Vauxhall was minimal, Humber had dropped out of this class in 1967, and imports were still rare. The Rover was the more conservative and upmarket of the two models, while the Triumph had more sporting ambitions and looked more aggressive( the six was also a better engine in the 2000). Both were excellent cars that were still selling well by the time they were cancelled in 1977.
        However, then came the Rover sixes, which were developed( or underdeveloped) at huge cost when the stretched South African version of the E6 would have been a lot better. These two engines probably caused the most damage to the Rover brand in the late seventies with their terrible reliability, and also the Rover 2300 was a meanly specced car with cheap cloth seats and few luxuries for the money.

  48. Not disagreeing on uprating the engine just unconvinced about the 2.2 E6’s potential even with fuel-injection, additionally a case can be made for the 2.3 SD1-Six to be scrapped in favor of larger 2.8-3.0 variants to cover the upper end of the SD1 range (below the V8), which would in turn allow for a 120-134 hp 2.4 E6 to slot between the 111-125 hp 2.2 E6 and 136-150+ hp 2.6 SD1-Six.

    It is not like the Rover SD1 never received E6s in certain markets and was actually a better performer compared to the SD1-Six, such a idea would reduce overlap and allow the SD1 to benefit from E6s between the 2-litre O-Series and 2.6 SD1-Six.

  49. The Ambassador was one of the few cases where the facelifted model was worse than the original. The Princess was an attractive wedge lacking a hatch. The Ambassador was a rather ugly sibling with a nasty corporate grille and some bodywork swage lines which didn’t really work.
    i loved the shape of the Princess and would have liked my father to have one after our aged Triumph 2000 succumbed to rust. In hindsight, probably a good job we didn’t get one as I was never a fan of hydragas suspension and the indifferent performance of the early engines was poor.
    I still love the shape, and would love to own one, preferably without hydragas suspension and with a 5 speed gearbox and some engine tuning.
    Another BL neraly car that could have been great.

  50. I had a 1977 S reg Princess 2200HLS in 1990, bought for the princely sum of £295!
    I loved it although my brothers insisted on unkindly referring to it a ‘the flying wedge’.
    It was very comfy, had stacks of room, was quiet & had an enormous boot.
    It had a shocking fuel consumption (no wonder it had a 16 imp gallon tank!) & the CV joints at the front were embarrassing on full lock too much of the time. The clatter was unreal.
    But I got a lot of car for my money at a time when I didn’t have that much money.
    Sadly she died when the engine mounts broke (the sight of the engine tipped forward in the engine bay at an unnatural angle was a sorry sight) possibly due to my pal (who was borrowing it at the time) taking speed humps a little too enthusiastically.
    Mind you he felt that bad about it he would always lend me his mk4 Cortina 1600GL anytime I needed it, and I have to admit it was a much better car.

    The sad thing I thought was it was such a ‘nearly’ car, it was nearly right. The interior was nearly ahead of the competition (how does a top of the line model not get a rev counter? I know it might not be the biggest loss but right away it’s a glaring omission you see every time you get behind the wheel).
    The engine was nearly right (but even in 2200 TC form it was far from actually being anyone’s idea of quick, Lord knows what the 1800 was like).

    I will say the suspension was excellent & the huge boot was much appreciated.

    I loved it & remember it very fondly….even though the cost of keeping it in petrol kept me broke a lot of the time.

  51. Oh yes & I forgot to say, even back then the lack of a 5 speed box on the 2200TC was a very surprising omission, it might have done wonders for the motorway fuel guzzling.

  52. Just speaking of looks, the Princess is so much more attractive and modern (maybe too modern for 1975…) than the bland Renault 20 with appeared at the same time. Should the Princess be put back on the market today, I might even consider purchasing one ! Certainly not a R20.

    • While the Renault 20 wasn’t perfect, being let down by it’s styling & smaller engines carried over from the 16.

      It at least had a hatchback from the start, which was becoming more popular in mainland Europe at the time.

      • I had almost forgotten the Renault 20. A useful big car with hatchback but not that good looking. I agree for all its faults the Princess ADO71 was more attractive and had it been available as a Hatch from day 1, the story might have been a bit different.

  53. The Princess was almost a good car, but like the Allegro, looked like it was crying out for a hatchback, but never received one, although an estate version could have remedied this. ( Nothing above the Marina was available as an estate after 1977). I could imagine a 2000 or 2200 HLS estate would have proven a decent alternative to bigger engined Cortina estates and the Volvo 245.
    I think as well, the Ambassador came too late, as the Cavalier had become a hatchback and the Cortina was due to be replaced by a hatchback, and for all it rode well, was huge inside and well equipped for the money, the 1.7 Ambassador was hamstrung by a lack of performance and a four speed gearbox. A top speed of 100 mph was no match for 106 mph in a 1.6 Cavalier, which was a more relaxed motorway car in five speed form and more economical. Also the cheap interior, compared with the more luxurious Princes interior, and cost cutting which involved deleting a rev counter from top models was ridiculous.

  54. Love that yellow Princess and they also did a baby blue colour. I prefer twin round headlight version but I dare say the rectangular headlights were far more modern at launch. Very confused by the poor marketing and available model choice (lack of) on the Princess. Such a shame. I too am also amazed it wasn’t a hatchback (seems a much easier solution for Cowley production) and obviously boot space. The more I read the more bizarre the development of the car seemed. No 5 speed gearbox (but Maxi did), power steering should have been standard and the vinyl C-pillar section should have been a glass window. As for becoming the Ambassador it gets stranger. Dashboard and front styling worse but rear end much improved including that glass C-pillar and hatchback. Ambassador front styling looks more like a Chrysler/Talbot era product than BL. I guess the perfect version would be a Princess 2 with Ambassador rear end in that lovely yellow or blue with a Rover/Buick V8 and automatic transmission conversion. All I ever saw were brown, beige or maroon coloured versions the did nothing for the design. They also sat far too high on the suspension (hence nice soft ride I presume) but gave a stance like a dog shitting. Terry & June had one.

  55. I forgot to add the most glaringly obvious fault of all but it may upset a few enthusiasts. This fault that surely crippled sales wasn’t the cars fault at all. The fault lies partly with product planning dept/manager in charge of choosing a name. It’s code name ADO71 actually sounds more attractive and masculine than any of its model/trim level nomenclature. The main offender being ‘Princess’ which is far too feminine in 1970’s Britain compared with thrusting Cavalier and Cortina rival model names. I’m not against the name Princess personally but Is like to have known the name shortlist and how they arrived at Princess. Was it because of Citroën DS translation?

    • The Princess name had been around as that of a premium product since 1947 and the original Vandenplas coachbuilt car. More recently it had been used on the highest trim level of the BMC barge ( 3 litre) which was very well thought of, and also on the very luxurious 1100/1300 top model

  56. I always remember Terry driving a Granada so I checked it out, In the first series, Terry drives a dark navy blue Mk2 Ford Granada. At the start of the second series, Terry receives a new company car, a metallic Tara Green Austin Princess (a Series 2 1700HL model, with fake registration NMO 49W). This Princess was not used in the following series as the next model Terry uses is an older Series 1 Brooklands Green 2200HL, but still with the fake and now incorrect registration. In the 1985 series, Terry keeps his “Wedge” theme with the updated Neutilus Blue Austin Ambassador. In the 1987 series, Terry goes back to Ford and drives a metallic red Ford Sierra. In the last series he switches to a briefly seen Mk3 Ford Granada.

  57. Does anyone else see shades of the ’70 Ford Pinto in the styling? Side profile for sure and maybe even a hint in the tail lights.

    • Not enough wedge in the form, but the scale is right. I see them as a 7/5 scale Lancia Delta. On the original release, Hyundai said the styling was to hearken back to the original Hyundai Pony, another design from Giorgetto Guigiaro, the Delta designer. Of course, in a nice piece of circularity relating to this site, the original Pony was based rather heavily on the Morris Marina through the work of George Turnbull

  58. Reading through this article, it appeared the Princess was to be fitted with a five speed transmission as standard when it was being developed.. Another case of British Leyland madness, offer a five speed transmission as standard on the Maxi and top of the range Allegro models, but not on the Princess, which was a more premium product. Also the five speeder could have done a lot to reduce the thirst of the E6, which could struggle to better 20 mpg around town.

  59. Many lament the way that BL products and the Princess were treated. Saying that if they were foreign products like a Citroen, their adventurous styling and comfortable ride would be appreciated. What those posters forget is that Citroen went bankrupt trying to buck the market by making cars that were different and comfortable.

    I owned a Xantia and loved it. Once you got past the quirks of hydro-pneumatic suspension you realised how uncomfortable and unrefined most other cars are. The road holding of that road was also superb, even if it did roll like an ocean linear. The problem was, that isn’t what the market wanted. Brain washed by motoring journalists, who too often tested cars on race tracks by taking them to their handling lime. The public decided they wanted power, performance and handling that they would rarely use and most, if we are honest, would never have the skill to use anyway.

    Alas it is futile to buck the market. The modern trend for SUVs and crossovers is a good example. They are hideous, awful, ugly cars. The tall designs unnecessarily add weight, compromise ride/handling and allot are surprisingly cramped inside. Alas those are the cars that the public, in its wisdom, desires. Companies that have tried to fight that trend have been burnt and most produce those vehicles.

    In a free market it is no good making a better car, if the market for it doesn’t exist.

  60. @ bartelbe, my parents owned two Chrysler/ Talbot Alpines, which were French cars assembled in England, and the seat comfort and ride quality were amazing, like typical French cars of this era. The Alpine seemed built for driver and passenger comfort and was light years ahead of the Marina we used as a stopgap in 1982. Also having driven and been a passenger in a Citroen BX, this was another car which made driving long distances pleasant due to the hydro pneumatic suspension and comfortable seats. I’d imagine the Xantia was just the same, if more spacious.
    However, the market now dictates that anything bigger than a Ford Focus, unless it has a premium badge, must be a crossover or an SUV, hence the demise of non premium large cars and Ford find making crossovers far more profitable than family cars and executive cars. Also the Puma name, which once adorned a sports coupe, is now used on a rather ugly SUV.

    • My brother had a Xantia company car in the mid 90s and it was very roomy and comfortable in the back seats. I agree with Glenn, the new Puma Crossover/SUV is not a winner in the beauty stakes. Still prefer the traditional hatchback or Estates

  61. The Xantia Activa was a fabulous car, beautiful ride with brilliant handling. It was a shame it never took off as it was a brilliant concept

  62. I never really understood why the 2200HL with the 110BHP six was so slow.

    A 1971 2-litre Cortina with 98 or 101BHP according to which book you read would do 0-60 in a gnat’s whisker over 10 seconds – indeed it was faster than a contemporary MGB.

    Was the E6 really that much of an underperformer? Or did BL horribly over-gear the thing to compensate for the lack of a 5th gear and so made it a slow cruiser rather than a thing with decent acceleration?
    [I suspect maybe the latter: after all, they afflicted the poor 18/22 with horribly soft jelly-on-a-plate wibbly-wobbly handling as well].

  63. Question whether Princess (or Landcrab for that matter) really needed to be straddling the D/E-Segment in heft and bulk or required a 2-litre+ 6-cylinder instead of a 2-litre 4-cylinder OHC, when it would have likely hit the bullseye had the FWD specification been more like the D-Segment MkII Vauxhall Cavalier with regards to size and weight?

    In the case of GM J-Body on the Cavalier although it was capable of featuring a V6, the European variants were equipped with 1.3-2.0-litre 4-cylinder engines as would also appear on the Maestro and Montego.

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