Marques : Vanden Plas

The name of Vanden Plas is one of the oldest in the motor industry, dating back to the end of the 19th century.

Here we look at how it came to be part of the sprawling BLMC combine and how, despite its mixed fortunes over the years, the name has never really gone away…

Vanden Plas: BMC’s pinnacle flies the flag

Vanden Plas

The coachbuilding firm of Carrosserie Van den Plas was formed in Belgium in 1898 by Guillaume van den Plas and his three sons, Antoine, Henri and Willy, with bases in Antwerp and Brussels. An English subsidiary was established in 1913, named Vanden Plas (England) Limited.

However, following the 1914-1918 War, this firm gradually foundered, entering receivership in 1923. A manager at Vanden Plas, Edwin Fox (along with his brothers Alfred and Frank), successfully acquired the name and goodwill of the company, relaunching it as Vanden Plas (England) 1923 Limited with Alfred as Chairman and Edwin as Managing Director.

Operating from a former aircraft works at Kingsbury, north London, Edwin built an enviable reputation for the company, forging close links with Alvis and Bentley in particular. In 1932, his 21-year-old son, Roland, joined Vanden Plas for a brief spell, before being head-hunted by Alvis later that year.

Vanden Plas joins forces with Austin

However, he returned to the family business in 1940 as Production Engineer, progressing to the post of Works Director during the war years. Alongside its car-building activities, the company had also formed an association with De Havilland during the 1930s, taking on work for the emerging aircraft industry and later making a valuable contribution to the war effort.

However, in the immediate post-war period, times were tough for Vanden Plas. A failed contract with Rolls-Royce had left them scratching around for work, when in 1946 Austin’s Leonard Lord made an offer of £90,000 for the company.

Lord was looking for someone to design and build the bodywork for Austin’s new six-cylinder chassis, and saw Vanden Plas as the ideal candidate. The Fox family accepted his offer, and Vanden Plas became a subsidiary of Austin, with Lord taking over as Chairman and Managing Director, while Edwin and Roland Fox became Directors, along with Austin’s George Harriman.

The first Princess emerges

The new car was launched the following year as the Austin A120 Princess, although within a matter of months its engine size was increased from 3½ to 4-litres, earning it the new designation A135. A programme of steady development followed, with the Princess II arriving in 1950, followed by the Princess III in 1953. In 1952, a long-wheelbase limousine version was launched, which quickly found favour with the royalty, both at home and overseas.

Following the death of Edwin Fox on 26 February 1954, Roland Fox was appointed as Managing Director. In 1956, the Austin A135 received all-new bodywork for its final incarnation as the Princess IV.

The following year, BMC decided to delete the Austin A135 prefix from the Princess IV’s name (and also that of the Limousine version) in an apparent attempt to give the car a cachet of its own, but the inescapable truth was that demand for cars of this size and type was waning in the post-war years.

Austin A105 Vanden Plas upgrades

In 1958, Leonard Lord reacted to market forces by sending a batch of 500 Austin A105 Sixes from Longbridge to Kingsbury, to be retrimmed to coachbuilder’s standards and sold as the Austin A105 Vanden Plas.

This toe-in-the-water exercise paid off, and from then onwards far greater emphasis would be placed on the re-trimming side of the business. 1959 saw the launch of the Farina saloon-based Princess 3-Litre, with distinctive new front-end styling devised by Roland Fox himself.

This car effectively replaced both the Austin A105 Vanden Plas and the Princess IV saloon, although the long-wheelbase Princess limousine would continue in production for another nine years.

Vanden Plas becomes a marque in its own right

Then, in 1960, BMC launched Vanden Plas as a brand in its own right (see ‘The Princess name’, below, for the reasoning behind this) and, by the middle of that decade, a credible range of three prestigiously-trimmed models had been formed:

  • The ADO16-based Princess 1100
  • The Austin A110-based Princess 4-Litre R (successor to the Princess 3-litre)
  • The top-of-the-range Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre limousine (the former long-wheelbase A135)

Indeed, the range could have been bigger still if some of the proposed prototype models had ever reached fruition.

On 2 June 1967, Vanden Plas (England) 1923 Limited lost its status as a subsidiary company when it officially became the Vanden Plas division of BMC, sitting within the Austin-Morris group.

Following BMC’s acquisition of Jaguar/Daimler the previous year, plans were now well-underway for Vanden Plas to assemble and trim the forthcoming Daimler DS420 limousine, which remained in production (latterly at Jaguar’s Coventry works) until the early 1990s. Launched in 1968, the DS420 replaced not only Daimler’s own DR450 but also the Kingsbury-built Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre Limousine.

Joining the British Leyland party

Of course, 1968 also saw the merger which brought Rover and Triumph into the fold, spelling the end for the Princess 4-Litre R saloon as well. Thus, as the Seventies dawned, Kingsbury was turning out just the DS420 and the Princess 1300, but Jaguar’s soon-to-be-Chairman Lofty England was already in discussion with Roland Fox about developing a new flagship model.

Within a couple of years, these talks came to fruition when the Vanden Plas name was applied to a Daimler for the first time, with the launch of the XJ6-based Daimler Double-Six Vanden Plas. Placed at the very top of the Daimler range (costing even more than the grandiose limousine), this car sat on a longer wheelbase than the XJ6, and had the advantages of the new silky-smooth, Jaguar-developed 12-cylinder engine and a Kingsbury-trimmed interior that was very plush indeed, even by Daimler’s standards.

Jaguar saw this model as being able to compete with the top-end Mercedes-Benzes, and felt that it might even steal some sales from the far more expensive Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. One thing was for sure, though: within the BLMC group, Vanden Plas was becoming far more closely associated with Daimler than its traditional mentor Austin, and in 1974, responsibility for it was formally transferred to Jaguar Cars Limited.

The Allegro joins the fray

It was 1974 that saw the end of the line for the last Vanden Plas car to carry the Princess name – the still-popular 1300. At the time of the aforementioned reorganisation, work was already underway to replace the Princess with an Allegro-based model, and these plans proceeded apace.

After all, the little car was still generating over a third of Vanden Plas’s turnover – a chunk that Jaguar could not afford to ignore. However, strict budget limitations imposed before the transfer had meant that only one panel could be altered in the process of restyling the car. And so it was that the Vanden Plas 1500 was launched in the summer of 1974 with a reshaped bonnet following the outline of its ostentatiously over-sized grille.

It has to be said that, despite its now-traditional walnut, leather and Wilton interior, this new car lacked the grace – and appeal – of its well-loved predecessor. Nevertheless, it sold steadily throughout the late 1970s and, when the decision was taken to close the Kingsbury plant in 1979, production of the 1.5/1.7 (as the 1500 had by then been re-designated) was transferred to the MG plant at Abingdon.

The car survived for another year or so, but plans to launch a revised version in line with the Mk3 Allegro were dropped.

The end of Vanden Plas?

With the demise of the 1.5/1.7, the Vanden Plas marque was laid to rest in 1980. However, the name hadn’t really gone away. For a start, Daimler’s range still had a range-topping Double-Six Vanden Plas model (in Series III form, and produced entirely at Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant).

In the USA, the Daimler models had long-since been marketed as the ‘Jaguar Vanden Plas’, so as to avoid any potential confusion with the Mercedes models of Daimler-Benz.

Moreover, before the year was out BL had decided to apply the Vanden Plas name to a Rover for the first time, launching the Rover SD1-based 3500 Vanden Plas to replace the V8-S. Over the next few years, new Vanden Plas-badged models in the Austin and Rover ranges followed thick and fast.

A brief resurrection

However, the tide started to turn in 1984, when Jaguar and Daimler were returned to the private sector and the Vanden Plas name was dropped from their home-market models. Then, in 1988, the Austin marque was consigned to the history books, and with it went any mention of Vanden Plas in the cars’ nomenclature.

During the following year, the sole remaining Rover car to carry the name – the 213/216 range – was discontinued, and the Vanden Plas name had finally disappeared from the UK. And that would have been that… except that in the spring of 2002, MG Rover announced a new, special-order only flagship model for its 75 range: the Rover 75 Vanden Plas.

The Rover 75-based Vanden Plas lasted a year until MG Rover rebranded it the 75 long-wheelbase – which left Jaguar the only manufacturer using the name, which it did until 2009, when the final XJ8 Vanden Plas was manufactured.

The Vanden Plas name

Why is Vanden Plas often abbreviated to ‘VDP’ (rather than just VP)? What does it actually mean? And how should the name be pronounced? These questions can be answered (or at least illuminated) by delving into the origins of the name.

Firstly, to dispel some fairly common misconceptions, the name is not French, German or even Dutch, but Flemish, hailing from the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. In plain Dutch it would have been spelled as ‘van den Plas’ (and alphabetically sorted under ‘P’).

However, Flemish capitalises the V (sorting it under ‘V’), and also contracts ‘Van den Plas’ to ‘Vanden Plas’ and sometimes even to ‘Vandenplas’. Incidentally, in modern Dutch usage one would say ‘van der plas’, but Flemish family names are never updated to reflect more modern spelling (whereas there used to be a tendency to do this in Holland).

Not just a name…

Next, the meaning. In his book ‘Vanden Plas – Coachbuilders‘, Brian Smith gives the literal translation as ‘of the pond’.

‘Plas’ is indeed the Dutch for pond, so this is probably correct, but it should be noted that it is also used for any body of water from a puddle upwards. For instance, the Dutch for ‘to pee’ is ‘een plas doen’, spilt water would be described as ‘plas’ on the floor, and even the ocean is sometimes referred to as ‘de grote plas’ (the great ….).

However, there is a further possibility that should not be dismissed: in a family name it could very well be a corruption of a similar-sounding word with an entirely different meaning…

How to pronounce it?

Many people in English-speaking countries wrongly assume that the final ‘s’ is silent, pronouncing the name as ‘Vanden Plah’.

The correct pronunciation (both in Flemish and in plain Dutch) has a rather sharp ‘s’ at the end, as in the English word ‘kiss’. Both ‘a’ vowels in the name are pronounced the same way, as in the English colloquialism ‘yah’, so phonetically we should say something like ‘Vahnden Plahs’.

However, Flemish will in this case put a slight stress on the first syllable of ‘Vanden’, whereas plain Dutch would stress only the ‘Plas’ quite heavily.

Many thanks to Hendrik-Jan Thomassen, Bert Vijn and Erik Nooij for their contributions on this topic

The Princess name

It started out as a model name, became a marque name, was then unceremoniously demoted to some kind of secondary marque status, before eventually being dropped altogether – only to re-emerge a year later with its marque status restored. Such is the history of the Princess name within BMC>MGR.

Princess was a rather unusual choice of name for Austin’s 1947 A120 model. Apart from Invicta with their Black Prince, no other British manufacturer was using royalty as the inspiration for its model names at the time, yet within a few years it seems that something of a trend had been set: Daimler introduced their rival Consort model in 1949, and would later use names such as Regina, Majestic and Sovereign, while at the other end of the scale, Reliant amusingly chose the name Regal for its 1952 three-wheeler.

The Austin model was nevertheless deserving of such a high-ranking name, its coachbuilt bodywork having being designed at Kingsbury, whose highly-skilled workforce also assembled the cars and fitted them out to a very high standard. Appropriately enough, Vanden Plas would soon be supplying Austin A135 Princess Limousines to royal households, both in Britain and overseas.

The limousine Princesses

In 1957 – by which time the Princess name had adorned four successive incarnations of Austin’s A120/135 saloon, as well as the long-wheelbase A135 limousine introduced in 1952 – BMC decided to set its flagship model apart from the Austin brand. To this end, the Princess name was promoted to marque status and the saloon model became known simply as the ‘Princess IV’, while the traditionally-styled long-wheelbase version became the ‘Princess 4-Litre Limousine’.

Two years later the A99-based ‘Princess 3-Litre’ was added to the range, effectively replacing the Princess IV. However, despite BMC’s insistence that these models were Princesses, plain and simple, the public had other ideas and invariably referred to them as Austin Princesses, such was the strength of the association between those two names.

In mid-1960, BMC hit back by establishing the Vanden Plas name as a marque, and thus the Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre was born. The Vanden Plas 1100/1300 and 4-Litre R models which followed also bore the Princess name, rendering it more of a secondary marque than a model name. Indeed, the lettering on the side of the HQ building at Kingsbury proudly announced it as the home of ‘VANDEN PLAS PRINCESS CARS’.

And to the ignominious end…

In 1974, the Vanden Plas Princess 1300 was replaced by the Allegro-based Vanden Plas 1500, and thus the Princess name had been dropped. Why? Well, by this time over 60 per cent of the Vanden Plas division’s turnover was being derived from Daimler models (the DS420 limousine and Double Six Vanden Plas).

Earlier that year responsibility for it had been transferred from BLMC’s Austin-Morris group to Jaguar Cars Limited; Vanden Plas’s new masters at Jaguar (correctly) saw the Princess name as having strong Austin associations, so it had to go.

Barely a year later, though, Leyland Cars would give the name a new lease of life, when it was chosen as the marque name for the former 18-22 series cars; it was finally laid to rest in 1982, when the Princess was transformed into the Austin Ambassador.

The Vanden Plas-branded models

Austin A105 Vanden Plas
This was the car that provided the inspiration for the Vanden Plas marque. In 1958 Leonard Lord decided to send a batch of 500 Austin A105 Sixes to Kingsbury to be retrimmed to a high standard. This represented something of a departure for Vanden Plas, which had previously concentrated on its coachbuilding activities, but the car’s favourable reception paved the way for an influential follow-up…
Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre
Originally introduced in 1959, this car became the first to carry the Vanden Plas marque name when it was relaunched the follwing year. It also set the style for the 1960s models which followed.
Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre Limousine
Dating from 1952, the long-wheelbase Princess gained the Vanden Plas tag (along with the newer 3-Litre) in 1960, by which time it was the last surviving link with Vanden Plas’s coachbuilding past. The Royal Mews took delivery of several over the years, one of which hit the headlines in March 1974 when it was ambushed and damaged in a failed attempt to kidnap its occupants: Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.
Vanden Plas Princess 1100/1275/1300
Despite having never been part of BMC’s product plan, the Princess 1100’s blend of a high-quality trim in a compact package soon won it many admirers. The 1275 model was available for a few months in 1967, before the MkII-style 1300 was launched that autumn.
Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre R
Replacing the 3-Litre, the 4-Litre R gained new rear-end styling, extra rear legroom and a Rolls-Royce engine. However, the 1968 merger rendered it surplus to requirements, so it was not replaced.
Daimler Double-Six/4.2 Vanden Plas
This came about on the personal initiative of Jaguar’s Lofty England, as a flagship for their new V12 engine. Introduced towards the end of Series I production, fewer than 400 were built before the Series II was launched a year later. From June 1975, a 4.2-litre became available, still trimmed to same high standard at Kingsbury. Meanwhile, in the US all Daimler saloons were sold as the Jaguar Vanden Plas – and still are.
Vanden Plas 1500/1.5/1.7
Less successful and much-villified follow-up to the Princess 1300, this was the last car to be made under the Vanden Plas marque.
Mini Vanden Plas
BL-offshoot Leykor pioneered the idea of using the Vanden Plas name purely as a trim level identifier when they launched the ‘most luxuriously-equipped Mini ever seen in South Africa’.More…
Rover 3500/2600 Vanden Plas
After the closure of Kingsbury and the subsequent demise of the VP1500, BL revived the Vanden Plas name on the top-notch Rover, replacing the short-lived V8-S. The 2600 version was added in mid-1984, but when the 800 series replaced the SD1 in 1986, the name ‘Sterling‘ was chosen for the flagship model (although Coleman-Milne later used the Vanden Plas tag on its semi-official long-wheelbase 800).
Austin Ambassador Vanden Plas
The next model to get the latter-day Vanden Plas treatement was the stop-gap Ambassador, and it could be argued that this had been a long time coming. Back in the mid-1970s, Kingsbury had produced a prototype Vanden Plas 2200 based on the Ambassador’s antecedent, the 18-22 series, but following the Ryder Report, the plug was pulled on badge-engineering and the range was relaunched as the Princess.
Austin Metro Vanden Plas
1982 was a significant year for the Metro. As well as introducing the sporty MG version, BL topped-and-tailed the range with the cheap-as-chips City and the plushly-trimmed Vanden Plas models. There was also a limited edition of 500 ‘VP500’ versions in 1983 to mark the 25th anniversary of the orignal run of 500 A105 Vanden Plas models. The Vanden Plas was replaced by the non-Austin ‘GS’ version in 1988.
Austin Maestro Vanden Plas
Such was the success of the Metro Vanden Plas that it was a foregone conclusion that the Maestro range would also include a VP version. Available from launch, the first-series models were more opulently trimmed, although the post-1985 versions were better-built. Former owners include one Keith Adams, who recalls a friend describing his example as the ‘Vanden Plastic’…
Austin Montego Vanden Plas
Like the Maestro on which it was based, the Montego was launched with a luxurious Vanden Plas version, available in both saloon and estate form; indeed, this was the first (and so far only) time the Vanden Plas name had appeared on a production estate car. As with the Maestro, the dropping of the Austin brand in 1988 spelt the end for the Vanden Plas version too, leaving the Mayfair with the top slot in the range.
Rover 213/216 Vanden Plas
Effectively replacing the Triumph Acclaim, the Honda-based 200-series was introduced as a smaller partner to the SD1 range. The availability of suitably trimmed and specced Vitesse and Vanden Plas versions helped to reinforce the message these cars were now Rovers. Gave way to the R8-type 200 series in 1989, by which time the ‘GS’ nomenclature was in vogue for the upmarket versions.
Rover 75 Vanden Plas
After the name had lain dormant within the Rover Group for over ten years, the reborn MG Rover company announced a new long-wheelbase version of its 75 saloon, to be called the 75 Vanden Plas. The conversion work, carried out by the coachbuilding firm S MacNeillie & Son, saw 200mm added to the length of the rear doors, and the car was to be available only to order, with a list price of just under £28k.


This page would not be complete without a brief mention for the German progressive rock band Vanden Plas; first formed in the late 1980s (just as Rover were about to lay the name to rest, incidentally), 2004 marks the tenth anniversary of their first album release.

When asked how they had chosen their band’s name, forty-something guitarist Stephan Lill replied: ‘It’s just a Dutch name like Van Halen or Vandenberg. We liked the name because it sounds different.’

So, not a tribute to the best that BMC could offer, then…

The official Vanden Plas website

Declan Berridge


    • It was one of the legacy brands which remained registered to MG Rover Group, and was transferred to Nanjing Automobile Corporation when they acquired the assets of MG Rover in 2005. According to, the original registration appears to have expired in 2012.

      In August 2016, a new application to register Vanden Plas seems to have been put in by Lunar Caravans Ltd of Preston, and it appears that SAIC/NAC tried to resurrect their right to the trademark on 24th January 2017 (presumably trying to head off the grab by Lunar, although it was already shown as registered to Lunar on 6th January 2017). This attempt seems to have been unsuccessful with the NAC registration being cancelled in September 2017.

      In October 2017, it was granted protected status within the EU.

      So, you will only see it on caravans from now on 🙁

  1. I always loved the mid sixties Vanden Plas Princess R – especially that two-tone one. Another car with “that look” like the Rover 75.

  2. I’m sure a 4 Litre Limousine was destroyed in an episode of The Professionals, along with a rare Australian Chrysler. Couldn’t they have destroyed their more usual target, an old Cortina, as these cars were rare even by the start of the eighties?

    • It’s normally big old Vauxhalls that are associated with being villain’s cars in the Professionals.

      Certainly in the 1970s big old cars were almost impossible to give away & I presume this carried on into the early 1980s. Rareness doesn’t work in their favour as this normally means high spare parts prices.

      The same could apply to old big Japanese cars, a lot of which have been used as banger racers over the years.

    • The episode in question has a very un pc stance to an Arab bodyguard, who Body & Doyle call Tinkerbell. The episode in question is called Blind Run and is from 78.

  3. BMC should have killed off the Wolseley and Riley marques in favour of an expanded Vanden Plas marque, which during the 1960s-1970s would have ranged from a Vanden Plas Mini (the traditional Hornet/Elf front-end becoming an optional pre-set exterior frontal treatment) and ADO16 at the lower end to a unique Vanden Plas only ADO61 serving as the range-topper (either powered by an Inline-6 from a properly developed C-Series or Twin-Cam version of the Rolls-Royce FB60 to a V8 such as a Rover V8 or potentially even an E-Series V8).

    That would have enabled BMC to engage in some much needed rationalisation of marques after the formation of BMC as well as allow them to greatly profit from selling upmarket Vanden Plas models compared to what Riley and Wolseley would have achieved in terms of sales, especially from the start of the Swinging Sixties onwards. Whether in more accessible Vanden Plas Pre-Set form (including stillborn traditional Riley/Wolseley proposals along with more stylish / modern exterior options) to Personalised Money-No-Object Bespoke form in the mould of Radford, Wood & Pickett and other converters plus exterior work by other stylists including Pininfarina with BMC getting a significant cut from the profits made on the bespoke Vanden Plas models.

    It would also allow Bespoke options such as Air-Con and Power-Steering / hatchback / etc to eventually appear on mainstream models.

    • The BMC/BL management seem to have been brain dead for a couple of decades, they let their production facilities lead the product ‘planning’ process, for example ” why did the Allegro have to share it’s heater with Sherpa van, madness. A sensible rational range of cars with just a couple of trim levels in each segment and then produce them properly !
      Did BL ever use galvanised, high tensile or stainless steels?
      The VdP 1300 was great, though they never solved the air intake double bulkhead problem.

      • Did not know the Allegro’s heater was from the Sherpa. As for the E-Series which also affected the Allegro’s styling could the engine have been made shorter?

        • Have since read others claiming the Allegro’s heating system also came from the Marina in addition to the Sherpa or was it used on both the Marina and Sherpa in the same way the Marina and Sherpa (along with the MGB) shared the B-Series engine?

          Also heard claims BMC/BL’s RWD vehicles like the Marina, Sherpa and MGB reputedly shared much more mechanically speaking (e.g. gearbox? etc), hence some going as far as to refer to the MGB as a Sherpa Coupe.

      • I don’t buy the heater was too high excuse, for the car looking like garbage. All companies have to raid the parts bin, all cars are compromised by what is available.

        It is the job of a good car designer to come up with something that will work based on the constraints of what is available. It is no good designing some fantasy wedge car which was impossible with the heater and engines that was going to be used.

        The Allegro is a bad design and that is down to the team that designed it, not the heater.

  4. @ Nate, Vanden Plas eventually became the range topping model designation for Austin Rover. Actually the Vanden Plas interiors in the eighties were the nicest thing about cars like the Metro, it really made the little hatchback stand out from cars like the Fiesta Ghia, which couldn’t pull off an upmarket interior in the same way, and the Nova, which never even tried. In the Rover SD1, though, the Vanden Plas model really shone, with its quality wood and leather interior which offered you the same ambience as a Jaguar for rather less money. You could forgive Austin Rover many things when you sat in a Vanden Plas model as no one else for the money could provide such an upmarket interior.

    • ARG may have done it better, but the 80s VDP versions were exactly the equivalent of the Ford Ghia models, taking the name of a respected coachbuilder and using it as a trim badge!

      • So true. See 1930’s Alvis Speed 20 SA Tourer with a Vanden Plas body. Or a 1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic Coupe with Ghia bodywork.


  5. @ Glenn Aylett

    Was thinking that it would have been possible for Vanden Plas to take over from the Riley and Wolseley marques, whilst at the same time becoming an in-house version of Radford and Wood & Pickett for range-topping / bespoke models (Austin, Morris and MG) with BMC profiting as a result, prior to Vanden Plas being reduced to a range-topping trim-level over time in the event a surviving BMC acquires Jaguar (or Rover) and avoid the merger with Leyland.

    Could Vanden Plas have grown to become BMC’s own range-topping marque in the absence of Jaguar / Daimler (or Rover / Triumph via Leyland), with its own unique models at the higher end of the range while largely remaining a range-topping trim-level on BMC-derived models at the middle / lower-end?

  6. My two favourite Vanden Plas models were the Princess ADO16 VDP and the 4 litre Princess R. The Allegro Vanden Plas was very unappealing to me!

  7. The Princess 4 Litres were the cars that The Beatles and their entourage, used to tour Britain in during the ’60s! Whilst driving into Scotland in ’65, George Harrison’s Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar fell of a luggage rack of his Princess, and was destroyed beyond repair.

    • Yes! I read about it in Hit Parader. The story said that they stopped to pick it up but it was getting run over. A lorry stopped and brought it over saying, “is this here bangjo anythink to do wif you?”

    • Hi I have a princess 4ltr I believe its a 1958 and its up for grabs if anyone is interested.

  8. Focusing on the marque itself as opposed to the circumstances with BMC/BL, curious to know how the Vanden Plas models could have transitioned away from Chrome front-grilles post-1970s whilst being differentiated enough from models they were derived from?

      • As in the mk2 R8s onwards or a version of the Vanden Plas Princess that utilizes the grille of the Wolseley variant? Cannot say if it would be much of an improvement short of later Vanden Plas versions of the ADO16. ADO17/X6, Allegro and Princess only being available in three-box saloon bodystyles. Even then more differentiation would likely be needed that is probably not possible.

    • If BL never happened, and BMC needed an upmarket marque (feeling that Wolseley/Riley didn’t cut the mustard), I can imagine a standalone Vanden Plas marque eventually producing cars similar to those produced by Rover under BMW ownership. Quite conservatively styled, with the emphasis on comfort, perhaps leaving the more aggressive sportiness to the likes of MG.

      • Can see an attempt being made to establish Vanden Plas as a standalone marque in a no BL scenario with an alternate Vanden Plas ADO61 resembling an upscaled X6 with a more modern front-end (compared to the Vanden Plas 1800 X6 prototype) to give it a production life up to the mid-1970s.

        Not sure it would be successful compared to just moving MG upmarket or whether they would be able to grow beyond making low-volume luxury versions of existing BMC models, without further differentiation from other BMC marques (whilst at the same time expediently using much common mechanicals as possible).

        Having Rover be a part of BMC (in place of Jaguar) at the top of the range would help to some extent as far as options go for a standalone low-volume flagship replacement for the alternate Vanden Plas ADO61 (that may or many not feature the Rover V8).

        Am imagining three different cars derived from an alternate P10 / SD1 platform from the early/mid-1970s.

        – Rover’s version would carry over the styling of a more refined / developed production version of the flagship Rover P8 featuring tasteful elements from the Range Rover and possibly utilize a development of the P6’s De Dion-type rear (or even P8’s) more sophisticated suspension. Engines from 4-cylinders to V8s would feature Twin-Cams, Multi-Valves and Fuel Injection (based on Rover’s unrealised plans to develop a common family of engines).

        – MG’s more sporting version would draw inspiration from the Ferrari Daytona-inspired Rover SD1 (plus ADO21 and Pininfarina 1100/1800), its suspension either being the same as the SD1, an all-independent variation of the former or less likely Hydragas (following on from a production version of the Hydrolastic EX234). Engines being Twin-Cam 4/6-cylinders and possibly a fuel-injected Rover V8 OHV.

        – Drawing some inspiration from the Daimlerized Rover SD1 project (that reputedly scared Jaguar and made them fearful of the Rover V8 being used in the XJ). Envision Vanden Plas low-volume version meanwhile either embracing a radical Citroen-esque like Pininfarina exterior or a more stylish yet still conservative Peugeot 604/Fiat 130-like Pininfarina exterior (which filters down to lower-end Vanden Plas models) with its suspension utilizing Hydragas (or failing that carrying over the similar layout of the real-life SD1). Engines being just a fuel-injected Rover V8 OHV (in 2.8-3.5+ forms) as well as a 2-2.6-litre+ E6 for certain markets.

        Unlike the RWD Rover and MG successors of the above however, can see the flagship Vanden Plas attempting to differentiate itself and reduce costs by embracing a FWD/4WD layout akin to the Rover 800 that is much more conservatively styled.

  9. Mk 2 R8 onwards – a saller discreet grill instead of the palladian monstrosity on the Agro

    • To be fair the grille on the Vanden Plas Allegro does quite suit it when photoshopped as a 4-door three-box saloon and 2-door three-box coupe.

      Seems the approach taken to differentiating Vanden Plas further from other models post-1970s could have either gone down an upmarket discreet yet conservative route or upmarket yet something more radical along the lines of the Pininfarina 1100/1800 whose aerodynamic looks preclude the need for chrome grilles (short of opting for a tacky TR7-based MG Boxer-like mini-grille).

    • Definitely agree with you on the Orange prototype, it makes the Green prototype with the tacky mini-grille in the twitter thread look good by comparison. Like the look of the look of the later White Broadside/TR7/TR8/RT061 proposals with body-coloured bumpers.

      Can also see in the thread how Michelotti basically recycled a number of elements from his Broadside proposal to his unfinished work on the Scimitar SS1, though rather unsurprisingly the original Michelotti Broadside proposal looks significantly neater and better compared to the Scimitar SS1.

      Makes one wonder if Reliant were to originally be involved in the project, possibly with the smaller 1.7 O-Series sportscar proposal to replace the Spitfire, Midget and MGB where the smaller BL sportscar and the Scimitar SS1 were to share the same platform given its dimensions but with different exterior styling and engines? Could see the production version of BL small sportscar replacing the planned 1.7 O-Series with the 85-103 hp 1.6 S-Series in such a scenario along with an entry-level 72 hp 1275cc A-Plus variant, despite the Scimitar SS1 sharing roughly the same wheelbase, width and height as the TR7 it was also shorter in length and much lighter (by some 160-260kg depending on the figures for both) compared to the TR7.

      • Agree with you on the white version. Always thought the Ss1 was a spitfire replacement and was based on a shorter TR7 (read this in a classic car mag about 20 yrs ago).

        • Seems there are a few elements of truth given the time period and Reliant’s own unrealised plans for expansion from the mid/late-1970s (with a 7 year product plan) had it been acquired at the beset of Ray Wiggin by a consortium of businessman involving Joseph Beherman, John Barber, Donald Healey and Andy Good.

          Apparently Reliant’s unrealised expansion and product plans also entailed a deal with British Leyland to switch from Ford to Rover V8 and Triumph Slant-4 engines as well as transmissions for the larger sportscars. Which would appear to further link Reliant to the Broadside project.

          Another related aspect would be John DeLorean’s attempt to acquire Reliant as well as spawn DeLorean versions of the Triumph TR7/TR8.

          • Reliant had quite time in the 1970s with the Scimitar & Robin selling at a steady rate so plans for expansion aren’t too surprising. I did wonder if a TVR style Scimitar replacement with a Rover V8 would have been more successful than the SS1.

            The DeLorean connection is interesting, I’ve not heard of a connection before.

  10. richardpd

    DeLorean’s involvement with the Triumph TR7 can be found online, while his attempt to acquire Reliant in the early-1980s can be found in Elvis Payne’s book on the Reliant Motor Company (along with other interesting tidbits).

    Think the Rover V8 was intended for Project SE82 to replace the Scimitar GTE, not sure it was envisaged for the Scimitar SS1 (apart from being used in the Scimitar SS1-based MG PR2 prototype) as could see the 2-litre Triumph Slant-4 or even the 2-litre O-Series being more likely (even if both would potentially be outmatched by the Nissan CA18ET). A V8 Scimitar SS1 would certainly be smaller and lighter compared to the TVR 350i yet the exterior styling would definitely have needed to have been on point from the outset via possibly the William Towns versions.

    Whether from BL or from Reliant however, am fascinated by the notion of a small 1980s Midget/MGB-replacing sportscar that is essentially similar in concept to the EX234 (by carrying over the 72-78 hp 1.3 A-Series, 85-103 hp 1.6 S-Series and 115-138+ hp 2-litre O/M/T-Series engines) yet using Wedge styling and no Moulton suspension.

    • The Reliant SS1 Scimitar was the last design by the great Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti. (Triumph Italia 2000/TR3 Conrero/TR4/TR5/Herald/Vitesse/Spitfire/GT6/2000/Stag/Toledo/Dolomite)

      Looking at it, I believe it was a rejected design he had put forward to replace the Triumph Spitfire / MG Midget / Austin-Healey Sprite, for the US market.

      If you look at the design of the Pop Up Headlights and look at the Frog Eye Sprite, you can see the connection.

      Clearly a 70’s design, with safety features, that the Spitfire could never be redesigned to take.

      The Triumph SC 1500 engine, maybe taken out to its max 1660cc, with or without a Turbo.

  11. Thanks for letting me letting my know, Elvis Payne’s website is a very good read for the history Reliant & the various restoration projects he has worked on over the years.

    I did wonder if DeLorean were interested in Reliant because of their knowledge of working with fibreglass, as the DMC-12 used a lot of composites in it’s construction.

    I’ve reread the DMC-12 feature here, which mentions that DeLorean considered buying up the TR7 tooling to make some at Dunmurry as DMC-12 orders were lower than expected.

    • The plan for the TR7 was to restyle it and give it a new name, be it DeLorean or Healey apparently.

      Seems Barrie WIlls initially approached a contact still at Reliant on a deal for the latter to re-hire a team of experienced recently redundant moulders both to assist DeLorean production on a temporary basis and to train the inexperienced local labour in the laying of composites.

      After hearing how Reliant manufactured and sold more 3-wheelers than any other company in the world, an impressed DeLorean planned to acquire the company and use it to built a range of new 3-wheelers designed by Brooks Stevens for the Californian market. The idea horrified Wills due to being well aware of several Californian entrepreneurs had similar ideas that never made financial sense and used the fact Reliant was loss-making to convince DeLorean it was a bad idea and soon faded away.

  12. I think the tr7 had lots of life still in it. Give it a restyle without the silly styling line down the side and the v8 as standard it could easily sold in a recovering US market in the early 80s.

    • Agree, and surely a 3 Litre V6 version of the Rover V8 could have been fitted to the 7/8. As well as a Turbo version for the 2.0 Litre.

      They were working on the Bullet project update for a TR9.

      The main trouble for TR7/8, was that SD2 never went into production. So it shared no parts with any other BL product. So costs were higher.

      Read about the redesign of the MG B, of the same time using the “O” Series engine and a 5 Speed Gearbox, and other items from the then BL products.

  13. Also…There were 154 MG Princess Vanden Plas 1100’s made for USA. They printed enough brochures to make them a dime a dozen on eBay still.

  14. Hope will follow up with a piece on the Mayfair Carriage Co, that also became part of BL / AR.

    I used to be in the Maestro & Montego Owners Club, and they did a feature on Mayfair in their quarterly magazine. Maybe use their piece for the website.

    Lent it someone and never got it back

  15. My Dad bought his LIMOUSINE PRINCESS which as I recall in 1957/8 and i believe was in
    Two Tone . Whether it was 3 or 4 Litre , i am not sure. He was a commercial traveller and travelled UK wide from late Sunday evenings or AM Monday returning to our home in Kenton, Harrow Friday afternoons. He always recalled that car as one of his most reliable ! As opposed to his bad
    luck with his Austin Westminster which no.plate ended with 3 unfortunate digits , convincing
    his suspicions for the reason of unreliability ?

  16. I have a princess 4 litre vander plas (england) 1923 ltd kingsbury london nw9 england body no 10446 chassis v-dm4-15651 that has been on my property about 15yrs the guy who owned it died trying to find out what to do with this car it also has 3 emblems in the front of the car

    • It is a VandenPlas limousine dating from the mid 1960s or thereabouts. There used to be a market for these as wedding and funeral cars, but it gradually disappeared with the market being taken over by its successor, the Daimler DS420 . You could try an advertisement in a British Classic car magazine, but if it produces no response then I fear that scrapping it is probably the only realistic option

      • IT is a Vanden Pla limousine and I believe it is from the 50’s I hate to scrap it , it drove out here so it did run that was many years ago now. thank you for your take

  17. The Vanden Plas 1500 probably was the killer for Vanden Plas as a brand in its own right. An Allegro will always be an Allegro to most people, and adding a Daimler grille made the car look particularly crass. Surely this exercise should have been avoided and Vanden Plas should have bided their time making Daimler Limousines until the Princess arrived. A Vanden Plas Princess with the almost silent E6, automatic transmission, black paint, and a leather and wood interior would have been the best use of the Vanden Plas badge.

    • I remember back in 1974/75 one of the magazines, possibly Car road tested a VP 1500 and their conclusion was you couldn’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear. In my opinion this was the most accurate description ever made on this model.
      My father ran a succession of VP 1100/1300’s all were elegant and reliable, in 1976 he purchased a VP 1500 it was none of those things. It had permanent water leaks, Wilton carpet sets were replaced at each oil change. During the first week of ownership when selecting reverse the gear lever came off in his hand.

      • The Vanden Plas 1300 always made a good looking car even better, and the engineers at Kingsbury made sure the car was quiet and dignified. Unfortunately with the Allegro, they had to work with a car that was anything but good looking, had the poor five speed transmission from the Maxi, and added the Daimler grille that made it look stupid. The automatic 1.7 model would probably be the best as it did make the car better to drive.
        As I’ve said above, the Princess was the ideal car for Vanden Plas to upgrade, and the name had been used by them before. A Vanden Plas 2200 would have been a very nice car and would have probably sold well to undertakers, wedding car companies and to local authorities wanting a mayoral car.

  18. Everything comes around again, and thanks to Asian buyers, big, indeed massive grilles are now back in fashion!

  19. The Vanden Plas version was quietly dropped when the Allegro 3 was launched. I think the closure of the Kingsbury factory and the cost of producing the car counted against it, and buyers were directed towards the Allegro HLS if they wanted some luxury, though without the wood and leather.

  20. Vanden Plas production was moved Abingdon in the last few months.

    I presume there weren’t any planned Vanden Plas versions of the Marina & Maxi.

    • Even more unusual, moving production from a factory that had closed to one that was closing, but this is British Leyland’s eternal soap opera. Also I would doubt a Vanden Plas Marina with the coarse engines and poor suspension would have fared much better. Possibly a Maxi 1750 HL given the VDP treatment, automatic transmission and better paint options could have just about pulled it off as the Maxi was a more upmarket car.

      • Try as I might, I can’t imagine a Marina or Maxi VDP being built, though the Rover 200 SD3 series was definitely a suitable candidate that did sell quite well.

  21. Are there records for how many CKD kits were sent to South Africa for the Vanden Plas Princess 3 litre 1960-1964 to be built there?
    Wikipedia notes how many of the 4 litre 1964-1968, which was just 312.

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