The converters : Crayford Princess Estate

And here is the car that the Princess should always have been: Crayford produced its own hatchback versions of the 18-22 Series/Princess, but at a time when the five-door saloon was still a rarity, it announced its product as an estate car.

Here’s what we know about the Crayford Princess Estate…


Crayford builds a better Princess

This car is based on a Morris 1800. The number plate reads '1822 SERIES ESTATE BY CRAYFORD'.
This car is based on a Morris 1800. The number plate reads ‘1822 SERIES ESTATE BY CRAYFORD’

Hot on the heels of the launch of the 18-22 Series in March 1975, Crayford unveiled its Estate conversion on the Princess. Well, they said Estate, but it’s clearly the hatchback that BLMC never made out of its wedge-shaped saloon which was soon to be rebranded as the Princess. The Crayford Princess Estate was unveiled at the British Motor Show in October 1975, and British Leyland soon took notice.

Crayford had form here – it built an interesting hatchback conversion of the BMC 1800, marketed as the 1800 Estate. According to the Crayford Convertible owners website, it was priced between £2799 for the 1800 to £3682 for the 2200 HLS version.

Functionally, the Crayford Princess Estate was all-but identical to the Torcars version and, as far as we know, none have survived.

Crayford continued to undertake conversions after the car had been relaunched as the Princess in September 1975; and later on, retro conversions for customers who didn't want to trade up to an Ambassador.
Crayford continued to undertake conversions after the car had been relaunched as the Princess in September 1975; and later on, retro conversions for customers who didn’t want to trade up to an Ambassador

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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16 Comments

  1. Much better than the booted version, though BL should probably have offered both. And stuck to the Austin brand. Any survivors?

  2. One wonders that if BL had offered a Hatch version of the Princess series from day 1, would it have been a more successful car and ahead of the field?

  3. BLMC were unlucky with timing, the Maxi wasn’t selling well against the Cortina in the all-important “rep” market, so they had no reason to force the hatchback issue with the Princess. When going for the mass market you have to copy the market leader to some extent.

  4. The single biggest improvement that could have changed the fortunes of the Princess was still noticeable by its absence, a rear hatchback. BL still saw the Austin Maxi as the five-door saloon in its range and saw no reason to produce a bigger version in the Princess; completely ignoring the fact that customers did want the modern and stylish Princess with a hatchback and didn’t want an out of date, poorly styled Maxi.

  5. Two estates are known of; one is in the Netherlands and the other is here in the UK, but that was involved in an accident several years ago and its status is unknown. There may well be a few more kicking about. Who knows?

  6. It looks much better as a hatchback, and looked far more practical too. The Maxi was fugly and dated, but good old BL…

    • At this time I worked for Bristol commercial Vehicles, the famous bus chassis manufacturer. Leyland must have had some right d***s at the helm given the often jaw dropping decisions they made. Things perculated through to BCV increasingly.The Maxi, almost as ugly as the Allegro. Ford led they way IMO when it came to eye catching design. The Princess, a friend had one and it was as sluggish as hell.Nothing but troube with it.
      At BCV when Leyland got a real foothold they stopped us selling the hugely succesful R.E. chassis to the British market…because it was better than anything in the Leyland stable. And then, closed us down in 1983. In the end they virtually gave the truck & bus division to Volvo. Those accountable…nobody as I can recall. Loss of jobs and future jobs…umpteen 1,000s.

  7. Anyone notice the appaling panel gaps in the second photo between the doors? It looks like the front door is open! Was that bad for then, or just by modern standards…….I think the former.

  8. The princess was a distinctive car let down by bad planning and shoddy build quality.If it was’nt for this it would have been a world beater. DS5 is the spiritual successor in my eyes.

  9. Yep that door panel gap looks bad… at least in later years Austin Rover / Rover Group and MG Rover’s build quality was much better – at least it was okay on the three I owned.

  10. That bottom pic looks to be a Torcars conversion, not a Crayford. The Crayford ones didn’t have the air vents in the C-pillars.

  11. Really this should have been an option on the 18/22/Princess from day one. It could have provided some real differentiation between Austin (Hatch) and Morris (Booted) versions and allowed the Maxi, then nearly 7 years old, to be pensioned off providing some much needed rationalisation. Although of course the Princess should never have seen the light of day at all. The company needed a 105 inch wheelbase (Cortina) sized rear drive saloon with TR7 based suspension to replace the 1800, Maxi and Marina.

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