Concepts and prototypes : Vanden Plas 1800 (1970)

The Vanden Plas 1800 was one of many prototypes based on BMC/Leyland products which was worked upon by the famous coachbuilder.

This one used the Austin X6 as its donor and, with a number of classy additions, the awkward-looking original was transformed into something quite special.

Vanden Plas Princess 1800: refining the breed

From the front, the car looks uncharacteristically handsome, especially considering its rather mixed parentage...
From the front, the car looks uncharacteristically handsome, especially considering its rather mixed parentage…

The Austin-Morris 1800/2200 (ADO17) variation that got away was the Vanden Plas 1800… Initially, the Vanden Plas Kingsbury works developed a badge-engineered version of the ADO17 similar in spirit to the Vanden Plas Princess and produced a luxuriously appointed car with a unique front-end style.

However, the styling of this car was not a great success, being too similar to the car it was based on, and its awkward styling resulted in a rethink by the Kingsbury stylists.

Soon after, the reworked Vanden Plas 1800 made an appearance – and it proved dramatically different to its forbear, being based on the bodyshell of the Australian Austin X6 Tasman/Kimberley.

Vanden Plas 1800

Vanden Plas 1800

Vanden Plas 1800
The Vanden Plas 1800 made a rare public appearance at the 2017 Classic Motor Show in Birmingham

Significant differences

Not only did this incarnation of the Vanden Plas 1800 look sufficiently different to the ADO17 to be adjudged a suitable Vanden Plas, but it also proved to be a styling success – and that was an achievement, given its rather mixed parentage.

However, like the ill-fated Riley version of the ADO17, the Vanden Plas version did not make it to the market – production volumes would have been small but, more tellingly, after the creation of British Leyland in 1968, it would have competed in the same area of the market as the upmarket stablemates produced by Rover and Triumph.

This one was cancelled by the management of British Leyland. Fortunately, it escaped being scrapped, and it went on to serve as a factory runabout before living in semi-retirement for many years. The Vanden Plas 1800 now resides in Scotland.

Rear view shows the car to be virtually standard X6 at the back - apart from the Vanden Plas script on the bootlid.
Rear view shows the car to be virtually standard X6 at the back – apart from the Vanden Plas script on the bootlid
Keith Adams


  1. BLMC management must have been very confused. Why didn’t they just stick a Rover V8 in an Austin 3litre shell and call it a Vanden Plas?

  2. I would have preferred the more rounded, cohesive, rear-end of the Austin 3-Litre with its vertical tail-lights (which would probably then have had to come with the ubiquitous six-window glass-house?).

    However, the front-end of the Vanden Plas 1800 is really something quite lovely . . . which having already mentioned the Austin 3-Litre, it would have been truly TRANSFORMED if it could have had this Vanden Plas 1800 front-end!!

  3. That 2 tone interior and wood dash looks excellent… everything a Vanden Plas car should be. Love the classy grille and front end treatment too. Thanks for sharing this item

  4. If they had produced this in 1965 at the launch of the 1800, it might have sold.

    (At least it didn’t have the nasty quarter-lights in the door windows that blighted the side profile of the 3-Litre).

    But by 1970 the 1800/2200 was seen as a dumpy and uninspiring market failure, so who would have bought it then, when they could be getting a Granada Ghia [or a Sweeney-inspired Consul 3000GT] instead?

    Vanden Plas was – in the mid-60s – seen as a bit of a Hyacinth Bucket brand – often driven by the sort of people who once would have had servants and a chauffeur but had fallen on hard-times after WWII and now had to drive themselves. Same went for Wolseley in the 60s. Vanden Plas 1100/1300s and the subsequent horrid Allegro-thing just crashed the label further.

  5. Truth be told they should have launched ADO17 as an X6 two-side-windowed three-box saloon from the start, even better if it was Maxi-sized as originally intended. It was around the mid-1960s that the front of the original Austin/Morris ADO17 (and arguably ADO16 leaving aside a few exceptions) was already out of step against the likes of the mk2 Ford Cortina, Vauxhall Victor FC/FD and Hillman Hunter.

    There is some value in retaining the front for Vanden Plas variants as seen with the Vanden Plas 1800 here along with the Vanden Plas Princess 1100/1300, they too however would have needed to feature a more modernized front-end to hold them over before being replaced.

    That is easier said then done yet not completely insurmountable with some creativity beyond simply taking a Vanden Plas 2200 type front grille to the Kimberley/Tasman front.

  6. I agree with MOWOG at Vanden Plas, as with Wolseley and a few other brands were beginning to get quite a stodgy image by the mid 1960s, like a tweed suit in a world of tuxedos, only really appealing to people like retired army officers or would be country squire social climbers.

  7. Vanden Plas was a respected brand up to the dreadful Allegro based car. The Vanden Plas 4 Litre was considered on a par eith a Rolls Royce for its refinement and interior fittings, and the Vanden Plas 1300 transformed a BMC 1300 into a miniature limousine. Also until the factory closed in 1979, Vanden Plas handbuilt the Daimler Limousine alongside the infamous 1500.

  8. This should have formed a refresh for the ADO17 for the seventies, making the front end more atttractive and giving the rear a more modern look. While a Vanden Plas version never made it into production, the excellent Wolseley Six that arrived in 1972 was similarly appointed inside and had the near silent E6 engine fitted. Also this had a slightly different front end to the Austin Morris ADO17s and different rear light clusters.

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