The converters : Torcars Princess Estate

The Torcars Princess Estate was sold through the franchised BL dealer network, and was covered by the BL’s Supercover warranty.

The text and pictures at the bottom have been taken from the Torcars brochures.

Torcars: hatching out new royalty

Torcars Princess

The Princess and Leyland 18-22 Series before it were crying out for a hatchback rear end. The shape implied that Harris Mann’s Design Team wanted one – and he pretty much said as much: ‘That was conceived as a five-door,’ he said back in a 2004 interview.

‘If you look at the rear, it’s the ideal shape for a hatchback. But we were told that would take away the major selling point of the Maxi. In today’s climate, you just can’t understand a decision like that. It was a boo-boo. By the time the Ambassador came along with a hatchback, it was all just far too late.’

Luckily for Princess fans who wanted a hatchback version from 1976, they were able to get in touch with either Crayford in Kent or Torcars of Devon, who were able to retrofit that opening rear end they so desired to their own Princess.

Torcars Princess Estate

Yours for just £520

In addition, you could order a new one from your Leyland Cars dealer for the princely sum of £520 on top of the list price. The dealer would then ship out the new Princess to Torcars in Plymouth, who would convert the car to hatchback specification – taking four weeks to do so.

According to the Leyland Princess website, there were extensive changes made to effect the conversion – the tailgate was made from Squarex 16-gauge seamless welded steel that was plastic coated. Two alloy hinges were mounted at the rear of the roof and two gas-filled struts added. Other strengthening included a 20-gauge steel skin to cover the boot floor (to compensate for the removal of the bracing behind the rear seat). Air vents were also fitted at the rear of the C-pillar, and a useful rear wash/wipe added. Finally, the rear seat was converted to fold forwards, and a fibreglass parcel shelf that lifted with the tailgate was added.

Such was the neatness of the conversion, it’s difficult not to conclude that BLMC really did miss a trick by not going with the hatchback from the outset. But it wasn’t alone – the Citroën CX and Lancia Gamma Berlina were similarly lacking, and you also needed to get one retro-fitted.

Caruna Citroen CX hatchback
This Caruna-converted Citroën CX hatchback shows that BLMC wasn’t the only company that ignored the obvious advantage of a hatchback (Picture: Citroënet)

Torcars Princess Estate

Torcars Princess Estate brochure

A Torcars conversion designed to meet the growing demand for five-door saloons – and what a fifth door this is! The original sleek wedge profile is completely retained, but raise the rear door, helped by twin gas pressure struts, and an enormous loadspace is revealed with what is probably the largest estate car aperture available on any European car.

The already impressive specification of the Princess range is further enhanced in estate form:

  • A fully-folding rear seat system transforms the car into an estate when needed, but the plush comfort of the original Princess seating is not lost – even the armrest is there.
  • External airflow extractor grilles are fitted to the rear quarter pillars to ensure effective ventilation throughout the car.
  • Electrically heated rear window.
  • Wash-wipe system for the rear screen is fitted as standard.
  • Fully carpeted luggage area.
  • Rear mud flaps complete the package.

The Torcars Princess Estate is ideal for all your needs. A family car, even five adults can travel all day in comfort, refined executive express, quiet, smooth and sumptuous, and a load carrier of generous proportions. With the rear seat lowered there is a load length of nearly six feet (yes, you can sleep in comfort too), a load width averaging four feet, a load height of nearly three feet, and an overall carrying capacity of 54 cubic feet (assuming Denovo wheels and tyres are fitted requiring no spare wheel).

The Torcars Princess Estate is available in 1800 or 2200 engine sizes, with manual or automatic gearbox to the customer’s choice. A range of optional extras are available to suit your requirements.

Torcars Princess Estate

Torcars Princess Estate

Torcars advert

Torcars advert

Keith Adams


  1. I once rescuced a Torcars Princess , A Russet Brown 2200HLS the original owner can remember that it was a northern area demonstrator car and was infact after the conversion more expensive than the SD1 so it was rather special, Its now in the hands of the PrincessAmbassador Spares Secretary and one day.. will be back on the road 🙂

  2. Torcars were a great little outfit. The conversions on Marina vans were ingenuous too. Shame they went under by 1980..

  3. My parents owned a small BL dealership in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire from 1970 until 1995. During the 70s dad had a series of Princesses as demonstrators and in late 1979 decided to have one converted into an estate by Torcars thinking it would quickly sell. YMW250V, a Princess 2 2000 HL in Denim Blue with Denovo wheels and a Rokee wooden dash kit was duly whisked off to deepest Devon where the job was completed. At the same time our sales director also put on a new 2000 HL, YMW265V; this was Denim Blue too.
    Within 3 months the standard car was sold but the conversion, YMW250V, defied all attempts to find it a new home and remained in our possession until finally departing to it’s second owner in June 1982, almost 3 years later! We took it back in again in November 1985 and subsequently lost track of it, according to DVLA it went ‘unlicensed’ in December 1992. We never had much luck with Ambassadors either, the 3 demos we registered all struggled to find buyers and lost us money. A pity as they were very comfortable cars indeed.

    • You would have had more luck in Whirehaven, where Princesses and Ambassadors were used as managers cars by a local chemical works. Made a change from Cortinas and Sierras that so many fleets bought in the early 80s.

  4. @Guy – perhaps the conversion didn’t sell because it was perceived as inferior to the factory product? And I wonder if the ambassador did as badly because they took a good design and beat it severely with an ugly stick and typically painted it beige or earwax brown.
    The conversion looks good but don’t really like the number plate so low – it looks tacked because it is, and neither the tailgate or the lighting panel are deep enough to take one. Factory tweaked this was a simple no brainer.
    A key reason the SD1 “failed” was not because it was a five door. People lapped them up, and then watched them fall apart to save £100-150 per cat extra spent and pitched it at a higher price the market would’ve paid. Irritates me beyond belief!

  5. You really cant understand BL’s logic. A hatchback Austin version and a Morris version with a separate boot would have made sense of the cars original badging. The Maxi was a market failure and also 6 years old when the 18/22 arrived so at the end of its lifecycle – The Austin version could have replaced that and even been marketed as the new Maxi providing much needed rationalisation.

  6. My father had a 2200 HLS Auto Torcars estate – brought from Cowie’s in Bury St Edmunds in red as your pictures show. One of the best cars he had – great drive – with the back seart folded we slept in it a few times !

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