Myth Buster


Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - Richard Gunn

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.


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…


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.

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