Debunking the most common old wives’ tales PRINCESS 1 IT’S AN AUSTIN
It’s actually just a ‘Princess’ – a marque in its own right. When British Leyland launched the ADO71 – what was to become the Princess – in March 1975, it was sold in Austin, Morris and Wolseley variants, known as the 18-22 series. But they lasted just six months before BL renamed them all ‘Princess’ – a standalone badge with no marque prefix. The Austin name seemed to tack itself on because of the previous Rolls-Royce-esque 1947-57 Austin Princesses and the Austin-ish front-wheel drive and Hydragas suspension. Only in New Zealand was it officially an Austin Princess.
2 IT WAS INSTANTLY DISLIKED
It’s popular to criticise the Princess as a failure, with its Harris Mann-penned wedge shape often the main target of criticism. But this was an era when the wedge was all the rage, and the UK press seemed quite excited that a radical design generally reserved for more exotic machines had been translated into family car form. ‘A bold and exciting step forward by British Leyland’ with ‘a shape to turn heads’ trumpeted Autocar. It was much better than many of its rivals but compromised by dubious build quality and the lack of a hatchback. Speaking of which…
3 IT WAS NEVER A HATCHBACK
Not so. The 1982-on Ambassador hatch may have confirmed that British Leyland’s decision to not make the Princess a hatchback – because it might harm Maxi sales – had cost it a lot of sales, but you could buy a hatchback Princess… so long as you went to went to Crayford in Kent or TorCars in Devon, both of which offered a neatly-done conversion for around £520. The TorCars adaptation was even semi-official, and could be arranged by dealers without invalidating BL warranties.
Derided today, but the Princess impressed the press in period.