In memoriam : Austin 1800/2200HL

Keith Adams

The continuing series of features about cars on the endangered list in the UK, according to data supplied by the brilliant How Many Left? website based on DVLA data.

10: Austin 1800/2200HL

Austin 2200HL

One of the most enjoyable aspects about researching the In Memoriam series of articles is searching through lists and lists of obsolete cars, and that sheer Eureka! moment when I stumble upon something that’s supposedly vanished from the UK’s roads. After all, who really mourns the loss of the Dacia Denem or Colt 1400 Turbo? But rifling through the Austin entries and finding that the wedge-shaped 2200HL became extinct in 2001 was actually a surprise and a shock.

The story of the Austin 2200HL is actually quite tragic, as it’s the most potent reminder of what a mess British Leyland’s marketing strategy was in the mid-1970s. When the ADO71 was launched in the UK, British Leyland was still in possession of independent Morris and Austin dealer networks, despite the call of the Ryder reorganization to rationalise the organisation. And in order to cover all bases, decided to offer the car through both – in Austin, Morris and Wolseley forms. Of course, when ADO71 was in development, John Barber – BL’s second-in-command – wanted to simply call the car a ‘Leyland’ and be done with the whole Austin-Morris confusion… but he lost out.

So when the ADO71 was launched in March 1975, we were treated to the three different versions – with different grille and bonnet (as well as trim combinations). And the range was collectively known as the 18-22 Series. The Morris and Austins were the workhorses of the range, while the lavish Wolseley was a suitably middle-class option priced to worry the Rover 2200 and Triumph 2500.

Clearly, with its advanced specification and similarly engineered Allegro stablemate, the Austin badge fitted the ADO71 better than any other – and perhaps that’s why so many people still call all wedges ‘Austin Princess’ – but that didn’t stop British Leyland’s confusion and lack of marketing nous water-down its newest and most promising product.

They tried to make amends in November 1975, by doing the obvious thing, and giving them all the same marque name – but amazingly, not using the Austin or Morris name, but exhuming the old Vanden Plas ‘Princess’ name. Visually, all the cars became Austins with their simple grille and choice of trapezoidal or twin headlamps. With that, all ADO71s were then sold under the Princess marque name with the engine and trim levels becoming the model name, and offered through all dealers. Still with us? The real tragedy in all of this was the loss of Wolseley. The Wolseley Saloon was replaced by the Princess 2200HLS – which lost the ornate grille and illuminated badge.

We know of a number of Wolseley 18-22 Series cars still in existence, and at least a couple of Morrises – but it’s sad that it looks like the original 1975 ‘Austin Princess’ has slipped into extinction, aside from a lone 1800HL automatic. The unpretentious badge, the vinyl seats of the 1800HL – and that wonderful smell inside on hot summer days – would appear to have been lost forever.

Is that a worthy fate for one of British Leyland’s boldest and interesting cars of the ’70s? Well, given that there’s still a lively community supporting the ADO71 as a whole, it’s not the end of the world. But as footnotes in the BL soap opera go, it’s a sad one to lose…

Unless, of course, you know or think differently.

Austin 2200HL
Austin 2200HL


And here is a surviving Austin 18-22 Series car:

Dan Nichols' Austin 1800HL
Dan Nichols’ Austin 1800HL

This car belongs to Dan Nichols, who says the following about his 1800HL…

‘Well the attached pic is the only one I can lay hands on at the moment, sorry looking having spent the last winter in that very spot, round the back of car sales plot having not even been started up. That was before I pulled it out and towed it to a derbyshire garage who I’d talked into getting it mot’d. That was early August, it’s now a case of ‘if you want something doing…’, therefore this coming weekend I’ve arrange access to the garage for me to weld it all up, brake cyls oil leak etc. Watch this space.

‘On sad notes the car has clearly been modified – largely irreversibly ie sunroof, electrics, however beneath it is clear it was well built, good panel gaps, little wear/fade of interior. It isn’t going to be concours condition, but can easily be brought back to life again. It’s only today that I’ve clicked its day of registration is also the day of the cars’ launch!’

Keith Adams


  1. There was a white Austin-badged 1800 or 2200 at Cofton Park at the 100th anniversary thingy at Cofton Park in 2005. I have it on video.

  2. No Morris 2200 HLs either, and only 3 Wolseleys and 3 Princess 2200HLSs. Nice period pic by the way.

  3. Let’s hope that this not always too accurate “How Many Left” site is wrong on this as it would be a shame for ANY car no matter how unloved to become extinct.
    I totally agree about the absolutely shambolic way this car was marketed on its introduction, in my opinion it should have been badged AUSTIN and WOLSELEY. The only thing I disagree on is this long held notion that BMC and British Leyland should have combined their Austin and Morris networks. I agree that badging identical cars and selling them through seperate dealers was mad eg 1100 & 1800 ranges but selling Austin, Morris, MG, Mini, Wolseley and later in the Austin Rover years Triumph, Rover and sometimes Jaguar and Daimler in the same dealership seriously diluted each of these brands. You wouldn’t walk into a VW dealership and expect to find VW, Seat, Audi, Skoda and Bentley under the same roof and lumped together in one big catalogue. Each brand should have been allowed its own dealership network and marketing independence, the marketing departments at BL were always obsessed with the division names ie Leyland Cars
    or Austin Rover rather than the marques.

  4. How many left isn’t very accurate. Actually there is an article in Practical Classics this month discussing it. The records for cars pre about 1990 aren’t that accurate and were compiled from a number of sources and of course if a cars details are wrong on the DVLA database then that throws it out too, so a car could be registered as a Leyland Princess rather than Austin and various other inaccurate names. There are several cars listed as Extinct but they’re still known to be around. I know i looked on ebay for one a couple of years ago and there was one solitary car, beige as i remember. So there was at least one knocking around in 2009ish.

  5. Aye, Denis, you’re probably right. Nice to go on a nostaligia trip though, whatever the stats are.

  6. I never really understood the need for ADO71?
    Why bother replacing a model that you know is irrelevant in its market sector?
    The ADO17 was not the car that was needed- so the Maxi was created, then 10 years later Leyland spends a fortune replacing the 1800/2200 range with another car of similar size with the same range of engines!
    It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been a hatchback car (as shape shouted!) but it wasn’t.
    But, don’t get me wrong- as I like the Princess series, and it is a shame to loose certain derivatives forever.

  7. Looking at this series of posts I get the impression Howmanyleft is very inaccurate and some of these in memoriams might be premature. Better check with the appropriate club before mourining the demise of rare, but still existant vehicles.

  8. Probably all these cars died out in GB!
    In Austria there is still one 2200 and two 1800 alive. The car was only sold as Austin in 1975.
    Later cars which were sold as Princess will already exist in all four engine variaties.

  9. @Chris

    I’ll be delighted to be proved wrong and an Austin 1800 or 2200HL steps up to the plate. It means they’re not extinct, and I’m a happy bunny. It was great to see that there’s at least a couple of Alfa ARNAs out there – and I was happy to say so in my piece.

    As for asking the Princess and Ambassador Owners Club, I’ll send a telex to all the committee members and the registrar, and maybe I’ll hear back some time in 2013… assuming they want the publicity.

  10. Nope, these are not dead yet.. there is one parked behind a land rover specialist in chippenham. It’s a ’78 one on a T and apparently been off the road since the mid 80s and was in a showroom for most of that time. It is very original and rot free as well! The carbs need balancing and some bush on the rear needs replacing (apparently its a common failure?)

  11. To be fair to Olly Smith, author of the excellent “How many left” web site, it’s not his site that is the problem it’s the inaccuracy of the DVLA data which, as one of the previous commenters has said, has only recorded the details accurately with some consistency in relatively recent times (1990s on).

    To Stewart above, a 78 on a T would be a “Princess” and not an “Austin” or “Morris” as described in this article.

  12. It appears that dads old 1800 HL went in ’86

    The vehicle details for LEL 607P are:
    Date of Liability 08 05 1986
    Date of First Registration 03 09 1975
    Year of Manufacture 1975

    I remember it well, white, dark blue almost black vinyl with patterned inserts that always marked the back of your legs when wearing shorts, silver dash, and bouncyness!

    The how many left info isn’t 100% accurate, there are many discrepancies and with many entries being handwritten room for error in transcribing what is actually written, not everyone has perfect handwriting, and mistakes happen, but I think it’s great there is a site that gives us an IDEA of how many are still about, especially with Firm stuff that could be badged as anything!

  13. That picture is a loveley representation of my childhood. It could almost be the small estate I grew up on.

    I love the Princess and feel it looks as good, if not better, than it ever did. Harris Mann is vastly underrated.

    As for the ‘How many left’ website I doubt its accuracy – can I really own the only Rover 75 1.8 Auto Conn SE Tourer? in existance?

  14. “To Stewart above, a 78 on a T would be a “Princess” and not an “Austin” or “Morris” as described in this article.”

    Although they were actually an ‘Austin Princess’, i know my parents used to have an HLS one when i was little, that was called an Austin Princess. Again though this depends on what the original dealer put on the registration form, in the manufacturer box he could write Austin, Austin-Morris, British Leyland, Leyland, or Princess. In the model box he could have written Princess HLS, or if he’d used Princess as the manufacturer then the model could just be HLS or HL etc. One of the reasons the old DVLA data is such a mess.

    I could never understand how people complained in the press about the Princess’ shape, i always thought it had good lines, although should have been a hatchback. Always thought the Wolsely ones with the Grille were spoilt a bit though. Maybe the shape was a little ahead of it’s time?

    • And it should be noted, in New Zealand, this really was an ‘Austin Princess’ (and wore an Austin badge at the back). The car in the advertisement was a Princess 2, in 2000 HL trim (the only one available in New Zealand at the time).

  15. So my Austin 1800HL manual doesn’t exist! Date of registration 26 03 1975, last keeper change 17 07 2010! It’s in Derbyshire awaiting mot work right now.

  16. I suspect Top Gear wrecked one of the last Princesses in that episode where they trashed a selection of BL cars.

    Incidentally, the Wolseley name is still trading, but nothing to do with cars, it is in air conditioning amongst other things!

  17. @Dan

    Nice one, that’s great news. I’ve altered the story accordingly. One of the joys of the Internet, as opposed to the printed word 🙂

    Don’t forget to send in some images; and just out of curiosity, what is it listed as on the V5C? 🙂

  18. My father had a 2.2HLS Princess. It was a superb car.

    The cars should have been hatchbacks but I think I read somewhere that the view was taken that a large Austin could not be a hatchback, that it had to be a four door saloon.

  19. The Princess was probably the best looking Austin-Morris saloon since the 1100- and best in house design from the time BMC was formed. Its biggest failing as a modern large saloon was its ancient drivetrain. Had it been designed as an AUDI, Lancia, Peugeot or Renault with a modern V6 or fuel injected engine and 5 speed box it would have been considered world beating.

    As an executive saloon the whole range should have been named Wolseley Princess from launch. As far as the lack of fifth door- in 1975 the hatchback concept- particularly on large cars were mis-understood, often unfavourably compared with estates. It is only with hindsight that this is considered a serious ommission.

  20. @Spyder

    “As for the lack of fifth door – in 1975 the hatchback concept – particularly on large cars were misunderstood, often unfavourably compared with estates. It is only with hindsight that this is considered a serious omission.”

    I disagree with that statement. Contemporary opinion questioned the lack of a fifth door. Being a car mad teenager at the time of the 18-22 series launch I remember comments in the motoring press about the car not being a hatchback. Individuals did too. BL itself launched a large hatchback in the SD1 as did other manufacturers. Large hatches might not have been desirable in the executive sector of the market but the 18-22/Princess was not competing in that area really. The Allegro and the Princess (which eventually became a hatch as the Ambassador) should have been hatches. That was the way the market was going. Even Ford and Vauxhall ended up building hatches.

    It would have been simpler if the car had just been launched as an Austin, but I’d have kept Wolseley as the top line, luxury model and called it the Wolseley Six like its immediate predecessor.

  21. Although I also like the “How many left” website, it can be pessimistic. I have flirted from time to time with buying a 114 convertible and there is a very definite mismatch between the number supposedly left and the number appearing on ebay (which implies many more).

  22. My Dad had a Princess 2 1700HL in Pageant Blue. ATC763V where are you now?

    I always thought the 18/22 and Princess models vastly underrated. Of course, they did suffer due to BL’s usual policy of letting the customer do most of the R&D. I know the Princess and Princess 2 were much better but the damage was done.

    Torcars did a hatchback conversion on the 18/22 series and the Princess IIRC.

  23. Mark: Actually, the numbers of 114 Cabriolets are pretty much right, as the car was launched AND discontinued in the sweet spot of mid-90s organisation and pre-SORN mess.

    So if you look at both 114 Cabrio AND 114 Cabriolet, you get a total of 423 cars registered by 1998, by which new car sales were pretty much done for. A few late entrants are probably re-imports; similarly it’s possible the cars registered as 114 Cabriolet (rather than Cabrio) are the alleged “sold via Jersey to avoid taxes” cars.

    423 UK mainland registered RHD cars, PLUS ?? known Channel Islands hire cars which have been steadily returning to the mainland, plus Ireland (including North, which isn’t covered by DVLA), plus Isle of Man…

    The discrepancy is not in the number of cars produced, or surviving (which at around 160 off the top of my head), but in the figures muppets on eBay (and on forums) insist on repeating having been told them “by a Rover dealer/technician/magical genie that appeared when I rubbed the wingmirror of a Mini Open” – usually around 250ish.

    The number of cars registered between 1994/5 and 1998 is, I believe, an absolutely trustworthy amount. The nature of the DVLA data at that time would make duplication of a car pretty unlikely; they were all new, mostly within the MOT so will have been licensed and in use. As such my estimate for RHD production – if it HAS to be in round 100s, which I’m pretty sure it doesn’t – is 500.

    For all I know there were 423 cars in mainland UK, 50 in Jersey, 86 in Irelands, and maybe even some in Malta or elsewhere. Who knows. If there are fixed numbers, it’s probably in the numbers of shells produced for the cars, which may well have been ordered in batches of 100, 200 or 250 and then, as Keith’s story on Topaz suggests, were slotted into production when required. The 114 Cabrio chassis numbers are not in tight little blocks.

    Just to add to the confusion, I’ve come across at least one Metro Cabriolet which is actually a 114 Cabriolet made to look like a Metro, and the few actual Metro Cabriolet registrations I’ve found come up as the base 8v or 16v Metro they’re derived from – no Cabrio bit mentioned.

    They’re undervalued and not owned by enthusiasts in the main. It’s entirely feasible (and apparent) that of the 110 or so remaining vehicles, the same 20 or so will keep reappearing on eBay. This year I think I’ve seen about 25 distinctly different cars offered for sale, including mine. Bear in mind some have been projects, so the pool of survivors may be a little bigger, and for the well-heeled the Jersey cars are coming back here.

  24. Manufacturers in the mid 70s had different ideas as to whether their large fastback saloons should be hatchbacks or not.
    The Lancia Gamma and Citroen CX were saloons
    The Renault 20/30 was a hatchback.
    BL went both ways with one saloon (Princess) and one hatchback (SD1)!

  25. Just to confuse things even more, in New Zealand they were badged as the Austin Princess (after the initial Austin, Morris and Wolseley models, which NZ didn’t get). Kiwi Princesses were built and sold alongside Honda Accords by the New Zealand Motor Corporation. I owned one of the last models assembled there, a 1982 reg. Austin Princess 2 ‘R’ (a NZ only model to commemorate the final production of Austin cars there). I always loved the Princess – probably one of my favourite cars, along with the SD1 Rover (which I owned before the Princess. I think there are still a few good Austin Princesses around in New Zealand (I live in Australia now…) Interestingly, they were still on new car price lists in NZ in 1983. NZ never got the Ambassador, but the Montego came in 1984.

  26. Good to hear Dan Nichols Austin 1800HL is getting partially restored. Also interesting to note its famous registration date… 36 years ago, makes me feel old – I was only 19 back then and remember the introduction of these cars pretty well

  27. Darren #8: the perception at the time was that ADO17 was a sound car with awful styling and driving position. If only these problems were fixed, it would sell like hot cakes. I worked on Princesses in summer 1975, they looked and felt like quality vehicles, with huge interior space and boot, and a cossetting ride (helped by fitting 185/70’s to 4.5J rims – Ambassador rims were an inch wider).
    Unfortunately the problems with 2200 CV joints disintegrating dispelled the quality image; also the wings rotting rampantly (see also: Chrysler Alpine). Sadly, the plastic liners which were designed to keep the insides of the wings dry, trapped moisture behind them.
    The 1800 and later 1700 were frankly underpowered, and both were excluded from company car choices because they were over 1600cc.
    With a hatch from the start and 5-speed boxes, it could all have been so different – they were handsome and prestigious cars in their day. The Wolseley was the best looker IMHO, with a gorgeous interior, but quality problems killed it.

  28. Here is an example of a car that was susposed to have gone the Scrapyard which it did but was sved by a guy from southport, car is a Morris Marina Estate which my late father once owned

  29. Stewart said of a laid up model: “The carbs need balancing and some bush on the rear needs replacing (apparently its a common failure?)”

    I think this will be the suspension mounting known affectionally as a “sandwich plate”. Two pieces of metal joined by rubber and also used on the Allegro. The part itself was a weak point and, I believe it was redesigned a few times. Certainly the BL part number changed (I think) from FAM 67 to FAM 5602 to FAM 8101. At this stage I left the garage I worked for so it may well have changed agaain …

  30. I remember that car! The owner used to live near me in a place called Southwold, Suffolk. As a long time Princess fancier (who can’t afford one!) I used to gaze at it when it was parked on the seafront. Good to know its alive!

  31. Just looked up my dad’s 1979 Princess (AAX 6T) and I’m amazed to see it survived to 1989. The only odd thing – the DVLA has the colour as silver, when it was definitely sort of bronze-y.

  32. Hi I still have a Princess 22 HL in my garage I have kepet it off the road as I had a few more cars in my business. Now retired I need to find a buyer who will pay the right price as it is in exelant condition so who is interisted!

  33. My Dad had two 1800 models a Tahiti blue 1800hl lla81p and a white princess vgh713r . fond memories as my Dad is no longer alive . I know vgh713r ended up at Kingston college of further education , lla81p was sold on ,would be great to know if its still about

  34. I think it’s definitely time to revive the Wolseley style illuminated badge – modern LED lights mean it would use very little power and 1 bulb would probably last the life of the car..

  35. Hi everyone, just yesterday i bought a 1977 Leyland Princess 2200 HL manual in Sandglow with Sorell interior. The car came with all it’s original books and paperwork including the original sales reciept for £3382.12 !

    Included in the original sale was Dinitrol Protectol underbody and internal seal and treatment which explains why the car is still in such good condition. Also head rests were a £23.05 option and fitted mud flaps were £8.00 !

    Apart from a small fuel leak from the hose between the carbs the car runs perfectly and after i’ve fitted the electric fan i’ve ordered from ebay i’ll be using it everyday hopefully.

    I’ve owned a Triumph TR7 DHC so the Princess seemed like the perfect choice for my next classic car and being from the 70’s myself i just love wedge styling !

    Mine was quite expensive but after a long time looking it was the only one i could find in good condition and not too far away and the thought of maybe never finding one again made me go for it and i’m so glad that i did !

  36. Also fitted to my Princess by it’s first owner is a strange trip computer called The Mobelec Maximiser – ” the fuel computer ” which still works pefectly and i have the operating book for it. I think the readings are a bit optimistic though !

    It’s also got Mobelec ” Max – electronic ignition ” which doesn’t seem to be working as it has an immobilisation setting which it’s stuck in and the car runs fine !

    So far i’ve replaced the leaking fuel hose, replaced the tiny bulb that operates the fibre optics for all the dash switches and taxed it and that really is all it seems to need. It’s missing one hub cab and the chrome embellisher from one wheel but i’m sure i can find them at some point and now i’m just looking forward to enjoying it 🙂

  37. I still have an Austin / Leyland Princess 1800 which has been stored in a barn for the last 25 years, should anyone be interested in saving it ?
    The car does not have current type registration documents but does have it`s original V6 registration document which was never updated.
    The Princess is white, has a factory sunroof and blue velour upholstery.

  38. Ever thought the Wolseley name should have been retained for what became the 2200 HLS, and the Six name continued from the ADO 17? This would have attracted more attention as the Wolseley badge meant a more upmarket car than an Austin and Six would show the top of the range Princess had an engine as big as a Rover. Also other models could have been badged Austin Princess and promoted as Austin’s top model.

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