Around the World : Austin Ambassador (in Ireland)

Chris Cowin explores the export story of the Austin Ambassador – the successor to the Princess launched in 1982.

It’s a short story, as the Austin Ambassador only got to fly the flag in one export market: the Republic of Ireland. Chris examines why.


The Irish Ambassador: Austin Ambassador

The 1982 Austin Ambassador
The 1982 Austin Ambassador

The role of Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland could be challenging in the 1980s. But one of the more pleasurable duties performed by Sir Leonard Figg KCMG was the unveiling of the new Austin Ambassador at the 1982 Dublin Motor Show, prior to BL’s latest model appearing in showrooms across the Emerald Isle.

Though Sir Leonard may not have known it, he was the sole Ambassador invited to perform this honour. For BL, itself 99% owned by Her Majesty’s Government in 1982, had elected against exporting the Austin Ambassador to anywhere other than the Republic of Ireland – a decision which rendered the car’s name a trifle inappropriate.

Decidedly handsome, diplomatically priced

The lucky Irish received a range of three models (compared with five in the UK) lacking the base 1.7 L and the range-topping 2.0 Vanden Plas. The Austin Ambassador 1.7 HL, 2.0 HL and twin-carb 2.0 HLS were advertised with the slogan ‘Decidedly handsome, diplomatically priced.’

A mere 110 Ambassadors were sold new in the Republic of Ireland over three years, representing 0.25% of total production of 43,500 cars.

Austin Ambassador
1982 Austin Ambassador advertising in Ireland. BL Cars Ireland would soon be renamed Austin Rover Ireland. Prices are in Irish pounds (no longer equivalent to sterling in 1982)

A stop-gap model

The Austin Ambassador was launched on the British domestic market in March 1982. Though closely based on the 1975 18-22 Series ADO71 cars, (later renamed Princess) nearly every exterior panel was new, as was the dashboard, and the car gained a hatchback. But the six-cylinder engine option offered on the Princess disappeared, and the four-speed manual gearbox was dated when most competing cars offered five-speed transmissions.

The hatchback opened up a vast 55 cubic feet load area that bettered many estates, but though a useful asymmetrically split rear seat appeared on the 1980 Austin Metro and the 1983 Austin Maestro, BL fitted a one-piece rear bench on the Austin Ambassador.

Austin Ambassador
Plenty of room in the Austin Ambassador

Unlike its predecessor which,from September 1975, was always branded simply Princess in Britain (like Mini in that era), the Ambassador was marketed and badged as an Austin.

Thoughts given (briefly) to Wolseley

There had been thoughts of resurrecting the Wolseley brand for the top model, but instead the Austin Ambassador fell into line with most other models from Austin Rover (as the BL Cars volume division was known from the spring of 1982), being capped by the Vanden Plas trim level. That was initially rather a half-hearted effort, although 1983 revisions added wood to the dashboard of the Austin Ambassador 2.0 Vanden Plas.

One reason Wolseley had originally been killed off by British Leyland in 1975 was a lack of recognition in most overseas markets. But if the Ambassador was going to be sold only in the UK and Ireland, that issue would have gone away.

The Ambassador’s role was principally to shore up BL’s position in the UK fleet market until the Austin Maestro and Montego, of which great things were expected, could take over. A high proportion of Ambassadors went to fleet customers, and were often allocated to their drivers, rather than chosen.

Underlining that slightly humble positioning, the Austin Ambassador 1.7 L was priced at £5106 at launch in the UK, which was exactly the same price as the soon-to-be-replaced Ford Cortina 1.6 L. And pricing shadowed the Cortina as you moved up through the range. That might have raised eyebrows back in 1975 when the original Princess (or 18-22 Series) was introduced as a car rather superior to Ford’s repmobile, with its sights set more on rivals like the Citroën CX.

Austin Ambassador
Austin Ambassador – the emphasis was on value for money

Lots to recommend the Ambassador

The Cowley-built Ambassador had many strengths, not least a huge amount of interior room and comfy hydragas suspension, and was a lot of car for the money, as British advertising tended to emphasise.

However, fleet user choosers and retail customers would make comparisons with cars like the front-wheel-drive Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 or the new Ford Sierra, developed with far greater resources. And though UK sales were respectable for the first year or so, they tailed off during 1983 despite minor revisions to the range. Production had ended many months before Austin Rover launched the Austin Montego in April 1984.

There are signs continued Ambassador production alongside Montego had been foreseen at one point. But it disappeared from the catalogue barely two years after introduction, never being offered in parallel with the Montego, even though the Montego estates, the only Montegos able to match Ambassador’s load-carrying ability, were not launched until October 1984.

Austin Ambassador
The Princess heritage is clear when the Austin Ambassador is viewed in side profile

So, why no Ambassador exports?

The stay-at-home Ambassador is taken by some as a sign of timidity within BL. The UK had been a member of the EEC for almost a decade, since 1973. That  development had been hailed at the time as opening up new export opportunities even as traditional Commonwealth export markets were being closed off, by encouragement of domestic car industries in some, combined with an onslaught from Japan almost everywhere.

But BL’s limited ambitions for Ambassador saw it built only in right-hand drive, with no attempt made to win customers in Europe or any other export market, except the Republic of Ireland.

How horizons had shrunk: a generation earlier the Austin 1800 had been available around the globe including Australia (where it was manufactured locally), South Africa (where assembled briefly) and Canada to name a few significant markets. And as 1965’s European Car of the Year it had been marketed across the European continent, even if only the Belgians, Danes and Dutch showed much enthusiasm.

From optimism to timidity

Roll on to March 1976, when the new Princess was centrepiece of an impressive 60-car display by Leyland Cars at the Geneva Motor Show, and Bert Lawrence, Director of European Operations for Leyland International, forecast 15,000 continental sales annually, with the car launched in almost every market. Though to put it mildly, success was patchy. The Dutch liked them at least.

Truth be told, a left-hand-drive Princess was a rare sight indeed on the Cowley production line by its final year of 1981. Just one model was listed in the few European countries still importing the car: a Princess 2.0 HL with a hybrid specification that borrowed some elements from the HLS. There were few takers…

Princess
‘The face of progress’ – in 1976, the Princess had been launched with great fanfare in European export markets. This is a West German advert

There were no export ambitions for its successor which, apart from Ireland, didn’t travel to either left-hand or right-hand drive export territories. Even New Zealand which had assembled the Princess – the only country outside the UK where that occurred – was denied the Ambassador. Instead, New Zealand Princess assembly from kits trickled on into 1982. Unlike the UK, it was called the Austin Princess from 1979 onwards, but demand was always weak.

It’s hard to imagine any other volume West European manufacturer launching a supposedly new car purely for domestic consumption in the 1980s – although, to be fair, Fiat and Lancia have come close to doing that more recently.

Pragmatism, 1980s style

In all honesty, it probably made sense to withhold the Austin Ambassador from export markets. It was more an end of life facelift than a new car, despite the marketing hype. It was probably better to keep the powder dry for the launch of Maestro and Montego overseas, with Montego (launched early 1984) aimed at a very similar market segment.

BL still believed its under-representation on the European continent could be corrected by the upcoming LM cars, with the Austin Montego expected a little optimistically to be an export star. As Harold Musgrove said at its 1984 launch: ‘Metro saved our bacon, Maestro pointed the way ahead but Montego will unlock the door to bigger sales at home, but also help us to build sales in overseas markets.’

In the UK there was still a big semi-captive fleet and company car market for BL which, though disillusioned with Princess, could be expected to buy the Austin Ambassador (as they did for a while) – but, in continental Europe, that wasn’t the case and it would have struggled to find customers.

The Princess was essentially dead in the water on the European continent by 1981, with the adoption of the Austin Princess name almost everywhere overseas by 1979 making little difference. The Austin Ambassador risked repeating its role of dust-covered backdrop in showrooms where the Metro and Mini were the star attractions, supplemented by the Triumph Acclaim which BL successfully launched on the continent in 1982.

Cost-savings and a pause for breath

Moreover, the decision to build the Ambassador only in right-hand-drive form implied cost savings in engineering, though to a limited degree as the Princess from which Ambassador inherited its mechanical elements had been built as a left-hander.

The new plastic dashboard designed for the Ambassador could at least be moulded in just one version, and there would be a useful reduction of complexity on the production line.

Austin Ambassador
The Austin Ambassador – roomy, with a modern plastic dashboard, but only in right-hand drive. They never had rev counters

Doing without a left-hand drive version was perhaps a little extreme for a British car as it ruled out sales on the entire European continent. But the same step in reverse was occasionally taken on volume cars from European manufacturers. The high-volume Renault Twingo of 1992 was left-hand drive only, and was not sold in the UK or Ireland as a result.

Probably the most important factor was simply that organising a press and dealer launch for the Austin Ambassador in each European export market was a cost and distraction those national organisations could do without in 1982 – a year when they were already busy launching the Series 2 Rover SD1 range in which BL showed more faith as an export prospect, the Triumph Acclaim (ditto) and new versions of the Austin Metro.

All the more so when one remembers the Austin Ambassador wasn’t expected to stick around for long anyway.

It should perhaps be added that even a right-hand-drive Austin Ambassador could have been exported to some of the many countries around the globe that drive on the left, if the will had been there. The high tariffs of Australia and South Africa ruled them out for imports of such a non-premium car. But New Zealand had taken the Princess as mentioned, and so had a sprinkling of RHD Asian markets like Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Austin Montego exports with right-hand drive reached countries including Japan and Trinidad later in the Eighties.

The Ambassador in Ireland

The Republic of Ireland was the exception to the no exports rule. The Austin Ambassadors sold there differed not at all from the models found in British showrooms, and the extent of media overspill from the UK in press and TV resulted in the Ambassador being brought to the attention of the Irish car-buying public anyway, simply as a collateral of the UK launch.

Overall, the Austin Rover range in Ireland, though a little streamlined, quite closely mirrored the UK. After Irish Mini assembly ended in 1979, all BL models for the Republic including Minis were imported built up from Britain (even though Ford and Chrysler/Talbot still assembled some vehicles in Ireland, partly for export).

Princess in Ireland
The Princess had a small following in Ireland

The tariff rationale for assembling locally had faded since the early 1960s when nearly every car sold in Ireland had been imported as a kit. Although Mini assembly was allowed to continue (with a hiatus during 1974-75) newer models introduced by British Leyland after about 1968, like the Maxi and Marina, were imported complete. Assembly operations thus contracted as older cars like the 1100/1300, Minor and Herald faded away.

The Princess was introduced to the Irish market in the mid-1970s and, although never a huge seller, it’s fair to say it was better known in Ireland than on the European continent. You could pick up Terry and June on BBC television across a lot of the country for a start. However, Irish Princess sales had slowed to a trickle by 1980 when 70 were sold compared with 4820 Ford Cortinas.

BMC 1800 advertising
The Austin and Morris 1800 were being assembled in Ireland in the 1960s. The Austin Ambassador could trace its roots to these cars, via the Princess

Going back further in time, the Austin 1800 and associated members of what we now call the Landcrab family had enjoyed moderate success in the Republic in the 1960s, at a time when one in four cars sold was a BMC model, the 1800 at first being assembled from kits by Brittains Limited.

But they were over-shadowed by the always locally-assembled Austin Cambridge and Morris Oxford which were wildly popular. Indeed, the Austin A60 Cambridge saloon continued to be offered in Ireland after it was dropped on the UK market in 1969 – something achieved by simply re-badging some of the Morris Oxford VI versions also being built by the Irish assembly plant through to 1971.

So, the Austin Ambassador was following in the footsteps of some illustrious forebears in Ireland.

The Mini was an Irish favourite and local assembly continued until 1979 (Picture: Dave Curran)

Cars being cars, they travel – and quite a few Ambassadors found their way to the Republic of Ireland having been supplied new originally either in Northern Ireland, the part of BL’s domestic market which shared a land border with the Republic of Ireland, or on the British mainland. An Austin Ambassador spotted on the streets of Dublin might not necessarily be one of the 110 cars sold new by Austin Rover Ireland.

Although the Austin Rover dealer network in the Republic of Ireland closely resembled its UK equivalent in the early 1980s, market share was much lower – 5.4% in 1984 compared to approximately 20% in the UK in that era.

It wasn’t automatic that cars marketed in the UK would be offered in the Republic of Ireland. The Maxi 2 of 1980-82, for example, didn’t appear in Irish price lists, and nor did many specific model variants, like the Austin Ambassador Vanden Plas. But the Irish could buy some models denied to all other European export customers, an example being the Morris Ital estate. And a little earlier, the Triumph Dolomite 1300, 1500 and 1500HL of 1976-80.

Who were the 100 or so customers for the Ambassador in the Republic? It seems quite a few went to the taxi trade, but if every dealer had taken a demonstrator, that alone would have accounted for a fair chunk of sales.

An Ital comparison

Interestingly, the 1980 Morris Ital – often compared with the Austin Ambassador and also a stop-gap model – was exported much more widely, and assembled under the old Marina name in Portugal.

Exports reached not only selected continental European countries, until the Triumph Acclaim took over in 1982, but also West Africa and South America. Itals could be found in Uruguay and Argentina, where there were problems – but that’s another story. But it seems likely the later Longbridge-built Morris Ital SL/SLX cars of 1982-84 were not exported – except again to the Republic of Ireland.

The bigger picture

The Austin Ambassador may not have been the car to do it, but Austin Rover desperately needed to improve its export performance in 1982.

In the early 1970s British Leyland had exported half of its car output, but by the early 1980s that figure had shrunk to a miserable 20%. The collapse in exports to North America was one factor, the failure to score on the level playing field created for British cars in Europe was another – with the underwhelming Austin Allegro at least partly to blame.

Furthermore, since 1978 the strength of sterling, boosted by the prospect of North Sea oil revenues and the sky-high interest rates of the Thatcher monetarist years, had made exporting increasingly difficult, which that slump in the export ratio reflects. That was true even in the case of Ireland, as the Republic had broken its link with sterling in 1979 – which is why any direct comparisons between UK and Irish prices, even pre-tax, should be avoided.

Giving up on serious exports?

When the Austin Ambassador was launched in the near-absence of any export ambition, some commentators doubled down on their despair over BL, taking this as confirmation the organisation could never be internationally competitive or viable.

They would be proved wrong, though. The years to come saw the company rapidly improve on that export ratio and, by the late 1990s, more cars were being built for export by Rover, as the company was by then called, than were being built for the home market.

The Rover car business (so excluding all Land Rover products) exported 187,000 cars in 1997, almost all to Europe. The comparable figure for 1984 was just 70,000. Thanks to that export renaissance, Rover was able to keep the factories busy, despite a loss of share on the increasingly fragmented home market.

However, none of that success can be attributed to the Ambassador and only a modest amount can be credited to the Maestro and Montego, which undershot expectations for exports to the European continent.

Rover 200 (R8)

Improvements, thanks to Honda

Instead, it’s the cars developed as part of the Honda partnership, of which the Triumph Acclaim of 1981 was the first, and the Rover 200/400 (R8) of 1989 probably the most successful, which deserve the laurels.

Building cars of partly Japanese conception, to a good level of quality and supplying them to markets like France and Italy, which restricted the direct import of cars from Japan, proved a masterstroke for Austin Rover and then Rover.

Looking at the even bigger picture, car exports from Britain, which had slumped dreadfully from a post-War peak of 824,000 in 1969 to just 225,000 in 1982, would then stage a remarkable recovery to reach an all-time record of 1.35 million cars in 2016, even if Austin and Rover saloon cars no longer played a part.

Despite the high level of imports – measured in value terms that strong export performance was enough to level the trade balance completely in 2012 – an achievement that received little attention at the time. Indeed, although it’s since swung back into deficit, the UK’s trade balance on cars looks a lot healthier, even in 2024, than in the early Eighties when it was a major drain on the economy, making us all poorer, and a major concern of Her Majesty’s Government.

That’s a development servants of the Crown like Sir Leonard Figg might view benignly but, in 1982, when the Austin Ambassador was new, it looked a little unlikely.

Austin Ambassador

With thanks to Dave Curran, Andrew Ryan, Partholan Joyce-Fenlon. 

Chris Cowin

27 Comments

  1. Life doesn’t get much better sitting in the pub, pint in hand, and reading another article on AROnline. :o)

  2. The Ambassador would have been so much better if it had kept the Princess rear lights and four headlamps on the front end, rather than the cheap looking lights that were introduced in 1982. Otherwise, an OK car if you wanted a car priced similar to a Cortina with a massive boot, room for five adults and a very comfortable ride. I can see the appeal to taxi drivers in Dublin for the few Ambassadors that were sold in Ireland for these reasons.

    • The rear lights? They were the nastiest bit of the exterior on the Princess, and the Ambassador units were a lot nicer. What they should have kept was the dash as the new one was so basic, with no rev counter!

    • I might be wrong on this but if my memory serves me correct I believe the front head lamps were the same as the Morris Ital.

    • I’ve no problem with the front or rear. I do though think it would be a much better looking car if they’d taken out the side crease line.

  3. @ daveh, I think the lights on the Princess were more distinctive as the ones on the Ambassador didn’t quite look right( I’m sure the headlights were lifted from the Ital).
    You are right about some of the car’s odd quirks like not having a rev counter, when this was standard on other family cars higher up the range, and the dashboard looked a bit cheap until a Vanden Plas model was launched. However, the Ambassador was a rather underrated car as no other car in its class, barring the Peugeot 504 estate, was so spacious, rode as well and was as good value.

  4. The Ambassador was very much a plain Jane car using what was available from the BL parts bin. However that tailgate access and huge internal space would always be useful back in the day. I agree the lack of rev counters was a mistake

  5. The Amassador, like the Ital, was a cheap attempt at updating an ageing model range and to act as a stop gap until the Montego came on the market. It was never a bad car, just not the best in its class, and was hobbled by never having a five speed option, though neither did the Cortina to be fair, and leisurely performance. Thousands of Ambys did live on as cheap family hatchbacks as used values tumbled when the Montego was launched.

  6. Nice to see Chris still doing articles,I miss the FB page. The Ambassador was a mistake, huge budget small sales. A Rover estate would have done better, maybe Maestro could have been launched fully sorted (with 3dr option).

  7. I purchased an ex reps Ambassador from my place of work in the 80s and was throughly satisfied with it.It was very comfortable roomy and certainly not thirsty for its size.In fact pond for pound probably my best car buy.

  8. The basic Ambassadors like the one at the top look very plain Jane, and with that rather spartan interior, they did look like a fleet car, rather than something you’d desire…

  9. Could the Allegro have been updated along the same lines visually as both the Ital and Ambassador, effectively being a shrunken four-side-window Ambassador?

  10. I always thought the front-end redesign of the Ambassador didn’t really make the grade; yes the round-the-corner indicators were kinda like those on the Cortina ’80’ and the Mk.2 Granada, but the headlights looked lost.

    Perhaps if they’d done a four-headlight front-end [with all four lights being active on both main and dip] it would have given extra ‘presence’.

    And cutting the middle section of the bumper out so giving a ‘quarter-bumper’ style like the Mk.1 RS2000 might have made it a bit more stylish too.

    At the back end, the smooth rear lights just highlighted the pudgy boring-ness; stealing the style of Mercedes and the Mk.3 Escort with their fluted rear-lights [which supposedly helped shed dirt thrown up by the wheels] could have injected a bit of fashionable style.

    Alloy wheels, too… rather than the strange ribbed [and non-carwash-friendly] plastic pie-tin wheel-covers.

    Pragmatically, the 18/22 and Ambassador found their natural home amongst rural taxi-drivers and suburban middle-class types. They were never popular with user-chooser company-car drivers who would still prefer to be seen in a Cortina-80, a Cavalier Sportshatch, an Opel Manta/Ascona or a Capri. The run-out Cortina ‘Crusader’ gave you lots of nice trim in a cost-competitive package which delighted fleet-managers; whereas the coming of the Mk.2 Cavalier for those who had to have a 4/5 door, or the Mk.3 Escort XR3 for those who could get a sporty 3-door ‘on the firm’ meant that the “Numbassador” as a friend used to call them, had nowhere to go.

    • I thought the higher end models looked better at the front. The VDP with its eggcrate grill, strip of bright trip above it and foglights below the bumper looked reasonably stylish to me.

      And base model Cortinas were hardly stylish, while the early base model Sierras had a horrible grey front!

  11. I was so happy with my Ambassador that I wrote a song about it. One of my best, according to my next door neighbour and sole agent, Ken Worthington (also known as “TV’s Clarinet Man” on New Faces in 1973).

    Maybe you’d like to look the song up? I made a lovely pop video of it, using some borrowed video editing equipment, back in the mid ‘90s. It’s been uploaded to YouTube by my son Darren a few years ago.

    • Was it Y reg? : )
      In my experience most people with an interest in Austin Rover – and certainly the Austin Ambassador – are very familiar with your song.
      Together with the Not the Nine o’clock news team and their TV sketch ‘Built by Roberts’ (also on Youtube) – you’ve done more to cement a place in the British folk memory for the Austin Ambassador than anybody. Well done : )

  12. Oooof! What lovely things to say, Chris and Keith. I remain a proud Ambassador owner. Though I’m onto my second one now. If you’ve ever watched the Rockumentary “500 Bus Stops” you’ll know that Ken rashly scrapped my first Ambassador after a minor breakdown. That led to a lot of tension on the tour, which Ken put down to my artistic temperament. All was forgiven though when he sourced another beige Y reg model for me in Huddersfield, and gave me a lift to view it in his Nissan Micra Wave. It needed a bit of work, but its purchase allowed me once again to become a proud Ambassador owner. I had to obtain a few parts from a scrapyard such as a parcel shelf and number plate light to obtain a fully functioning vehicle. While I was there I treated myself to a natty set of wheeltrims from a Maestro Clubman, which I think look better than the original steel wheels that had started to go a bit rusty. That car can be seen in my travelogue “It’s Nice up North”, where I venture to the northernmost parts of the UK, to test a theory that people get nicer the further north you go in this country. The Ambassador needed some repairs on that trip, but these were undertaken by a very reasonably priced and pleasant rural garage; further evidence indeed that it’s nicer up North.

    Anyway, thanks again for the nice comments. I’m off out in the Ambassador now – up to the reservoir to check the level, and then to the hardware store for some creosote substitute.

    • Hello John – we too had an Ambassador Y Reg – albeit gold in colour, and my dad’s name is Tony, not Reg. One thing that always puzzled me a bit about yours is the fitment of a non-standard steering wheel, which looks like a later Montego item……..now, I learnt to drive in a later Ambassador A Reg, and found the steering wheel quite nasty, so, did that prompt your upgrade?

  13. I made a few minor improvements to the vehicle as I went. My wife Mary was always remarking on how much time I spent on the vehicle, when there were household DIY tasks stacking up. The temptation to upgrade when presented with a wealth of other Austin Rover vehicles to obtain parts from in the various scrapyards of the wider Sheffield area was often too much for me. For instance I upgraded the stereo to a Philips one I found in a scrap Rover 213 – it only needed the head cleaning with some rubbing alcohol on a cotton bud to restore it to full working order, and had a lovely sound due to the Dolby noise reduction system, facility to detect chrome tape, and also a very handy auto reverse feature that played both sides of the tape in a continuous loop. This allowed me to make quite long journeys accompanied by a mix tape of contemporary music such as Erasure, Crowded House, and the Lighthouse Family without having to swap tapes. Use of a C120 gave maximum benefit in this regard, but they are more prone to snapping as they’re a bit thinner than the usual C90s I tend to use. The only hindrance to long journeys in the Ambassador was a lack of a fifth gear, which hurt the economy a little, and made the Ambassador a little noisy above A road speeds.

    Anyway, there I go again. Mary’s always saying people won’t be interested in that sort of thing so I better stop. All in all though it’s safe to say I was very satisfied with the vehicle.

    It’s my sad duty to report to the good people of AROnline though that the Ambassador was retired from daily driver duties just before the pandemic – I just couldn’t keep it on the road any longer. It’s been replaced with a lovely Jaguar X-type though, which I’m very pleased with. It’s the estate version with plenty of room for my keyboard in the back, and heated leather seats for cold winter mornings. Ooof! – Decadence! The Ambassador still lives on though, for filming purposes, and is kindly stored for me by my friendly local garage.

  14. Ooof John! Sorry to hear about the Ambassador’s retirement – however, the X-type is a bit of a step up in terms of luxury – it must make the trips to the garden centre very enjoyable. Must admit, I’m surprised you didn’t opt for the Ambassador’s logical successor, the Rover 600 – but without a hatchback, not practical for a versatile singer-songwriter on tour.

    Watch out for those C-120s – I had one snap once in my Aiwa twin cassette deck, and it was a bit of a job to get it unwound from the capstan…….

  15. Thank you Simon for the tip on the C120s. I tend not to use them now as the Jaguar has a boot mounted 6 CD multi changer. Quite a novelty, and one that Ken Worthington seems jealous of, given his current Nissan Note is not equipped with this feature. I change the CDs regularly and at the moment I have a varied selection in the caddy ranging from a collection of Pam Ayers’ poems (performed by the lady herself), and on up to racy fare such as the classic Bon Jovi album “Slippery When Wet”. I generally keep a copy of Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits in slot 3 as well- I like to support local acts, and Joe Elliott was briefly our paperboy. A bit of a claim to fame, is that!

    Given his jealousy of the vehicle, and the fact it’s a black estate model, Ken often sneeringly refers to it as “the hearse”. He’s a cheeky beggar at times.

  16. CD multi-changer – very posh! I’m surprised you don’t have a copy of Pigeons In Flight on the go…..after all, it’s still a mystery to me why you didn’t win Eurovision (although, I have a preference for Eggs and Gammon – but that might have been too fruity for the judging panel – I know that that the Belgians in particular have an aversion to flatulence).

  17. Just a thought, might John have been interested in a Maestro Clubman diesel when the Ambassador became too old. Well, not many electronic gadgets to go wrong, 60 mpg on a long journey, a nice radio/cassette to play my favourite songs on and hear Sing Something Simple in stereo, and none of those nasty joyriders are interested as the noise on start up would make them run off. It would be his ideal car.

    • It would need to be a Ledbury edition – a bit newer, and an R plate. Dark blue?

      Doesn’t have quite the same ring though ‘my Ledbury Maestro R Plate, R Plate, R Plate…….’

  18. After the whole debacle of Ken scrapping my first Ambassador as we embarked on a nationwide tour I was left without a vehicle. I must admit to being sorely tempted by a rather nice Renault 21 at a local car lot. A hatchback, naturally, as I’d become accustomed to this useful feature of my Ambassador. When Ken managed to find another Ambassador, in the same colour no less, and offered to take me to view it, the scene was set for the return of a Y reg Ambassador to the Shuttleworth home. I’ve always admired the Maestro, but never actually driven one.

    During my extensive research and test drive process when choosing my current daily vehicle I did briefly consider a Skoda Octavia estate, but when Joan Chitty remarked “a Skoda, give over!” I knew I would face constant ridicule from my fans, who would similarly reference a line from “Y reg”. Plus, I do like to buy British where possible, and I believe X-types were made near Liverpool.

    It’s not all smooth sailing with the Jag though. At its last MOT extensive corrosion was found in the passenger side sill, and had to be repaired at some expense. I now find myself in the position of having to apply Waxoyl (suitably warmed prior to application) to a relatively modern vehicle. Though I’m used to that with the Ambassador and several prior vehicles which were AROnline related. Immediately prior to my first Ambassador I had a natty bronze metallic Maxi HL for a number of years, and before that I had a blue Marina estate.

    From memory I’ve also owned an early Ford Escort, a Vauxhall Victor that someone wrote off by driving into the back of at a roundabout near York, a Hillman Hunter, and two Minis.

    I also drove, during my time as a security guard, a selection of vans such as Escorts, HA Vivas, Chevannes, and a Metro van. I always coveted the Maestro van driven by my Team Leader, Norman Jenkins, but never even got to sit in it as a passenger – let alone drive it.

    So there you go, good folks of AROnline – a bit of rock star car history.

  19. I’d like to say I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed that this website and forum now includes comments from a real celebrity from the world of entertainment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.