All the cars I’ve owned : Princess 2200 HLS

In a driving career spanning more than 30 years and 250+ cars, Keith Adams highlights some of the highs… and lows.

Here, in the fourth of the series, it’s time to recall a Princess 2200 HLS bought in Blackpool and exported to the East Midland badlands… where it failed to cover itself in glory!


A cheesy friend in distress

Princess 2200
Princess 2200 HLS photographed in 2000 by Keith Adams as the former BL Foundry at Wellingborough. Amazingly, that tower survived a few more years and the site is still known as the Leyland Trading Estate, reflecting its former life

At the turn of the millennium, I was going through something of a nostalgic streak, and found myself picking up a few 1970s bangers and running them alongside my more modern cars. Whether this was because I was wanting to give the middle finger to my aspirational colleagues in IT fixated on running the nicest possible company cars, or a desire simply to drive something that stood out from the crowd, I really don’t know (and I suspect only my therapist can help me with that).

Anyway, the upshot was that, when all around me were running Mondeos, Xantias and Vectras, you’d find me hammering down the outside lane in a Cavalier Mk1, Allegro or rusty Citroën CX. How I came into possession of this remarkably beige Princess in 2000 comes down to a bit of happenstance, really. I was on one of my many visits to Blackpool after moving out of the area, when I decided to check in with the now-long gone Belle Vue Garage on Whitegate Drive.

It was a fascinating showroom, which boasted an art deco frontage, and was slowly mouldering away as its repair and sales business faded away. Skirting the disused petrol pumps and heading past the ramshackle collection of cars for sale, I wandered around to the workshop, which was round the back (just visible to the far right of the image below) to see what was going on. To my absolute amazement, there was a sad and dusty Sandglow Beige Princess 2200 HLS in there alongside a Woodhall Nicholson Kirklees Princess limousine.

Belle Vue garage
Belle Vue Garage, Blackpool (Photo: Alistair Parker via Flickr)

How did it go?

It took me a while to find the owner. There was no one to be seen in the dark and dingy workshop, which looked untouched by human hands since the 1950s. So, I trudged back up the ramp and wandered into what was the garage shop at the front of the premises. Opening the door, I was greeted by an overpowering smell of damp paper and used engine oil (lovely it was too), and coughed for some attention.

The owner seemingly appeared from nowhere, saying that I shouldn’t be in here. Contact made, albeit grumpily, I asked the owner if the Princess and the Kirklees were for sale, to which he replied – to my amazement – in the affirmative… The 2200 HLS could be mine for £350, and I could make an offer for the Kirklees. Although it was difficult not to be overcome by a fit of the vapours and try and bag both, a rare attack of sensibility hit me, and I went for just one of them.

So, there you have it – I bought the 2200 HLS on the spot, as I wasn’t sure even I could swallow a stretched Princess. It was one of those silly purchases, especially as I was only there on the off chance, with my partner next door doing some food shopping. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Princess photographed by owner Richard Gunn in 2011
Princess photographed by the then owner Richard Gunn in 2011

Was it mission accomplished?

The first time I drove it was on the trip home to Northamptonshire in convoy with my partner, who said she hated it with a passion and it reminded her of a Primula cheese wedge. But it never missed a beat on the 180-mile motorway drive, and soon I pressed it into service as my weekend plaything.

It looked well cared for, with an immaculate interior and, although it was missing its vinyl coverings for its C-Pillars, it was remarkably original.

The six-cylinder engine was smooth and silky and responded well to a comprehensive oil and filter service delivered on my drive. It never let me down and proved simple and pain-free to run. The biggest issue was cosmetic rust, which was creeping upwards from the bottom of the car. In the interests of keeping it tidy, I applied a liberal coating of black Hammerite to the door bottoms and front valance, giving it an interesting two-tone look.

Any breakages?

Princess 2200 HLS damaged wheelarch
Damaged wheelarch – after I’d attempted to tidy it up for sale…

Well, I say it never let me down, it did play a very BL-style trick on me. Heading home from a Sunday morning car boot sale with my two sons, I was ambling through the local countryside. As I neared home, I could hear a light clonking and grinding coming from the nearside front of the car – mindful of my precious cargo, I continued gingerly, figuring it would be OK for the mile-or-so remaining.

It wasn’t OK, though. By now, travelling at no more than 20mph, there was bang from the front, then the nose dropped to the ground. I jumped out, to find the wheel had dropped off and was rolling away… Quick as a flash, I chased after it, caught it and returned it to the car. Jacking it up, I found no mechanical damage, just a mangled front wing, missing chrome trim, and an absence of wheel bolts.

To get the wheel back on, I took a bolt off each remaining wheel and used the three to get this one back on. After tightening them all up, I drove home, ordered some more bolts, and put the car up for sale after a little tidying to make it look at presentable from ten feet. To this day, I still have no idea where the wheel bolts disappeared to…

What became of the Princess?

Princess 2200 HLS
Princess 2200 HLS alive and well in 2011, photographed by its then owner Richard Gunn

I sold it via eBay for the princely sum of £250 to a chap from Peterborough, and thought I’d seen the last of it. When he came to look at it, he made some positive noises about fixing it up and keeping it on, but as this was the year 2000 and I’d yet to create AROnline and wasn’t really that hooked up to the owners’ club scene at the time, I immediately lost touch with the car, and assumed I’d never see it again.

I was surprised, therefore, to see it again at the BMC-BL Rally in Peterborough in 2002 or 2003 sporting a ‘For sale’ notice, but didn’t get a chance to chat with the owner – I noticed that the wheelarch had been replaced, although it was still missing its chrome trim. Again, it disappeared from view…

Apparently it lay mouldering in a Peterborough garden until 2010, when Stewart Marsden extracted it for Karl Mullen, who then sold it as a project via the Retro Rides forum. And from there, it appeared again in the hands of classic car journalist Richard Gunn, who’d bought it as a project.

I think he kept it on for a little while, but ended up selling it to colleague and fantastic writer Sam Glover – although the DVLA is saying it’s on SORN, so the chances are, it’s still in one piece. I would dearly love to see it again!

Keith Adams

10 Comments

  1. Very glad you saved her Keith! Nothing like the E6 engine for smooth burbly BL sounds and effortless B road ambling 😉 Hope she is in good hands, and they get in touch and let you know.

  2. “So, there you have it – I bought the 2200 HLS on the spot. It was one of those silly purchases, especially as I was only there on the off chance, with my partner next door doing some food shopping. ”

    That must have been a *very* interesting conversation with your partner! Hey, look what I just bought…

    Good story though, and the garage you bought it from in Blackpool looked like an interesting place.

  3. Talking of odd purchases, my wife phoned me at work sometime in 71 or 72 and asked me to call round Faringdon Garage on the way home from Work. I turned up to find she’d bought a nearly new Citroen Ami 8 Estate ‘cos she just liked the shape. She already had a Sunbeam Alpine. And, she couldn’t drive and never has done!
    Ami was fabulous!

  4. And Annie’s just reminded me she had the £700 quid in her purse to pay but the garage refused to take it until I got there. Admittedly she was only 16 but……
    Happy days.

  5. Belle Vue garage, what a wonderfully awesome decaying art deco wreck that was…for a number of years in the mid 2000s, post police retirement, I owned Whitegate Motors, just south along Whitegate Drive on the left, opposite Tescos… we took in a fair few Austin Rover cars as part exes, and I remember the day a proud grocer from the shop next door came home in a new MGZS in silver, the last one at the dealer in the week MG Rover went under

  6. Showing my age when i remember the launch of the 18/22 series. Whatever their faults I always admired the huge passenger space in the back. I was more used to the lesser space in a Cortina Estate back then. That yellow Princess YBJ 243X is my favourite

  7. The Princess came good by the time the one in the article was produced. At the time, the E6 was praised for its refinement and ability to soak up the miles, particularly if it was automatic. Not a fast car, with a top speed of 106 mph, but one made for cruising at the motorway speed limit in relative silence with Jimmy Young for company on the radio( somehow the Princess was more Radio 2 than 1). Also the limousine like ride and armchair like velour seats added to the appeal.

  8. Belle Vue Garage reminds me of the garages you used to find in the eighties, often run down and vacated by franchised dealers for newer and bigger premises, where some older man sold what used to be called runners, older cars with 12 months MOT and 12 months tax, and a mechanic worked out the back making these cars presentable. I can remember one locally, which was a foundry until the recession in 1980, where the owner and a mechanic sold and repaired middle aged cars and became so successful they became an independent service and repair centre specialiising in VAG products.

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