Princess Special Six

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The Special Six version of the Princess was a perfect range-topper…

And thanks to Stephen Harper, we have some new images of the design themes for its side graphics.

The sleekest of the sleek

The Princess had been on sale a mere two years when the Special Six Automatic made an appearance on the marketplace. As special editions went, it was nothing out of the ordinary – extra equipment, additional trim, and a full length Webasto sunroof. As 1970s special editions went, this was was pretty top drawer. However, there was a serious side to the Special Six – ever since the name change from 18-22 Series in late 1975, and the subsequent bad press the Princess received (simply for being produced by a government controlled car company), the new car was given the task of upping demand for autobox straight-six Princesses.

But why? By the end of 1976, it was clear that in manual form, the six-cylinder Princesses had developed a healthy appetite for driveshafts, and there was an underlying design fault at the root. The simplest solution was to withdraw the manual versions from sale while the engineers rushed to get a fix into production. The Princess Special Six Automatic was, therefore, concocted to drive buyers into self-shifters. In the end, the solution was to re-mount the engine!

According to the Leyland Princess website, its equipment tally was as follows:

· HLS seats available in all colours.
· Rear passenger courtesy lights.
· Wooden dashboard insert.
· HLS wheel trims and chrome rim embellishers.
· Standard black paintwork.
· Unique silver coachlines.
· Full length Webasto sunroof.
· Limited to a production run of 1200 cars.

Actually, it was a sensible decision, and offering the auto-only constriction as a positive was actually something of a master-stroke. As can be seen from the accompanying sketches by Stephen Harper, a fair amount of work went into the configuration of the side graphics, with some very bold options considered. In the end, the stripes chosen to go on the Special Six were quite understated in comparison with what could have been.

More interesting is the sketch below – also dating back to the same period. Clearly Harper was keen to use a six-light design to increase airiness. If nothing else, it predicted the side styling of the later Ambassador…

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams


  1. I knew someone who used to own a BL garage in the 1970s and they said that 500 examples of the Special Six Automatic were built.

    However, their own particular example did not have the Webasto sunroof, or any sunroof for that matter, but definitely did have the Black paintwork and special badging on the bootlid.

  2. Wow, what a good looking car with the six-light configuration, add a hatch and what could have been!
    I’d love to see one in the flesh (A special six) are there any left?

  3. I always thought they were such pretty cars. Not advanced looking, since I was still a little kid when the ambassador gasped its last, but just pretty. Something a little bit different and special (in the not dribbling during PMs questions sense of ‘special’ of course).
    I’d love another classic.

  4. what a depressing pile of rubbish,the “princess”looks like a cross between a peageot,at the front,and a semi detatched house at the back.ive noticed reading my real life crime magazines,the “princess”was a favorite car for peadophiles.the rover sd1 was such a better car.

  5. Going on the internet is a favourite pastime for Paedophiles, but that doesn’t make all of us Paedo’s. Stick to your crime mags.

  6. In 1978 I was a salesman with a BL garage in Wales and in July that year I had one of these – in November of that year I wrote it off in a big way! Wearing seat belts was optional in those days and after hitting a bank at about 100 I was thrown out. Broken ribs, punctured lung and fractured skull. Car was squashed and resembled a banana after somersaulting. I wasn’t very popular and never went back! Reg. No. PFF 353S – beautiful car!

  7. My dad had a lovely Princess special six when we were kids and always swore it was his favourite car. Even now he would take it back in a heartbeat! The reg number, if memory serves me right, was VOC 600S, anybody know anything about it? Especially if it still exists! Though I can’t imagine it does.

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