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…