News : Vanden Plas 1800 prototype stars at NEC show

The Vanden Plas 1800 prototype is one of the better-known near-misses in BMC and BL history, and it proved to be something of a showstopper in one of its rare pubic appearances. It’s certainly good news that the Vanden Plas Owners’ Club (VPOC) has showcased the car at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show in Birmingham.

The Vanden Plas 1800 was based on the Austin Kimberley, and was one of several mid-sized proposals that never saw the light of day. 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.

This one-off certainly looks better in the metal than any of the other ADO17-based cars built by BMC and BLMC. The Vanden Plas nose and tail treatments are particularly classy, while the interior is a masterclass of wood and leather in a way that few other manufacturers have been able to master in this sector of the market.

Other cars displayed by the VPOC included a 1978 1500 saloon, which has been in the same family since it was nearly new, and a 1989 Rover 216 that has less than 10,000 miles on the clock.

The Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, with Discovery, returned to Birmingham’s NEC and for more information about the show, and its star exhibits, visit

Keith Adams
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  1. The headlights look different/ nicer than the example shown in the “X6 based Vanden Plas 1800” story. This one looks more like an earlier VDP 1800 prototype.

    • The headlight treatment is similar to “DEV !” shown in the VDP concepts and prototypes section, which also has a wider grille than the later X6. So it would seem there were at least two X6 based VDP prototypes?

  2. Nice, well done VPOC! If only Rotterdam was a little closer to Birmingham…

    As asked elsewhere before: could someone tell if front and rear windows on the X6 were the same? They seem to be…

    • The windows on the X6 were the same as the 1800. Although front and rear look to be mirror reversed I think the top of the rear window has more slope on it. In my opinion the X6, out in 1970, was a brilliant and very cost effective update of the 1800 in terms styling. It had about 1.5″ extra wheelbase let into the front guard which improved the angle of the steering wheel. It failed on the market mostly due to a lack of development of the 2200 drivetrain, which was in any case too small for Australian tastes.

      • Thanks for your reaction and thanks for mentioning the 1800’s windows: I never noticed but how very likely… Seems though it would have been a typical Issigonis-treat to put the same windows front and rear, wouldn’t it? Anyone for sure about those windows?

        And agreed about X6, never understood why it wasn’t brought home.

        • Zebo the X6 turret is the same as the 1800, even the rear screen, except for the deleted rear quarterlights and filled in C pillar. Very clever update that could potentially have been applied to the mighty 3 litre! Not sure it would have worked as well on the land lobster though – photoshop anyone?

  3. A VDP Austin 3-Litre would have made more sense, the Kimberley/Tasman styling wasn’t an improvement on the 1800’s looks surely it would have been better to put the 2200 six cylinder engine in rather than the B series engine

  4. In Australia the E engine suffered from head gasket problems due to the bores being too close together.
    In addition it did not give good power.

  5. Though it was originally conceived as a Farina B replacement would have rather had the 1800 use 94-106 hp 2-litre B-Series and 110-124 hp 2.4-litre E-Series engines, which in Vanden Plas form would compare fairly well with the likes of the Triumph 2000/2500 and Rover P6.

  6. A ,lot better looking than the ADO17, if dated looking by 1972, but had the ADO 17 been restyled like the Vanden Plas in 1968, then it would have become quite a desirable car even in basic 1800 form. The ADO 17 had overcome its early reliability problems by 1968, but the locomotive like styling, high prices and basic iiterior had been a deterrent to many buyers, but the Vanden Plas restyle could have attracted more sales.

    • The rear end looks a lot better with a projecting boot, though the front could need a bit more work.

      For a car that size it could have done with smartening up both inside & out

      • Would the front have worked with a more Michelotti look similar to the latter’s proposals for the larger ADO61 3-litre as shown the ADO61 revisited article?

  7. Just thinking if the Maxi had been released as a four door looking something like that. It would have cleaned up in the mid sixties.

    • Only reason the Maxi wasn’t produced as a four door saloon was it would have taken sales from the struggling ADO17 and could have damaged the Marina’s prospects. Also a fwd hatchback was in the revolutionary tradition of BMC designs in the sixties.

  8. With the longer boot and short bonnet, it has the effect of making the car look rear engined!

    A definite improvement on the original 1800 though, though I can understand not launching a separate body style in the UK for such a low volume product.

    Why the whole 1800 range wasn’t replaced with a Kimberley type development is another question though!

    • Actually the ADO16 was supposed to be BMC’s family car and to replace the Farina cars, but due to low sales, the Farinas lived on until 1970 and then the Maxi started to encroach on the ADO 16’s territory. Surely the Vanden Plas upgrade in 1968 and marketing the ADO16 as an upmarket product that its price tag dictated could have saved the car’s case, as some of the elements were there, a very smooth ride, a huge interior, willing and smooth engines, and a large boot. Yet buyers were always put off by the very basic equipment levels, dated looking interior, ponderous steering and the styling.

  9. ADO 17, sorry, the ADO 16 was completely the opposite of the 17, a very popular small car that was good to drive.

  10. I always thought the 3000 rear end would have been good on the Wolseley (and meant only two rear ends being produced not three), but even better here.

  11. The best looking alternative was the X6 Tasmin/Kimberley with a matching front end. What an incredible transformation of the original ADO17 sow’s ear! I don’t know but I am guessing it was the work of Roy Haynes.

    • Hint of Mercedes hindquarters perhaps, but the designer must have been fixated with the derriere of the Simca 1301 !

  12. Some elements of this look like an effective update of the 18/22, but was this really a 1971/72 car as its K plate would suggest? Would this chrome laden mobile sideboard really have cut it alongside the likes of the Consul/Granada or BL’s own Triumph 2000? Maybe taking this cars core body but giving it a squared off Marina/Maxi front and an appropriate 70s interior may have worked, but then would BL not have been better off going with the abandoned Maxi saloon instead? It would have done much the same job and provided some much needed platform rationalisation.

  13. Given when the ADO17 2200s were released the biggest seller was the Wolseley Six does suggest that it was seen more as a luxury car than a Cortina rival. On that basis the VdP version would have made more sense than the Austin or Morris versions.

  14. I’m sorry to say that I don’t like it. The front is ok, but the rear doors are awful, the boot is not much better, and the chrome side strip is tacky – Ford style! Also the D post vent looks as though they bought it from a mark 4 Zodiac in a scrapyard . The interior is lovely, however

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