Cohort Capsule: Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre R – International Brougham?

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I wouldn’t classify it as such.  I think it’s important to limit the Brougham classification to those primarily American (and sometimes foreign, usually Japanese) cars which really do it justice.  This car–spotted in California by CJCars–has a gussied up style for sure, but it stops short of true Brougham.  What is it, then?  Well, m’dear, it’s nothing less than proper British luxury–in the form of one of its rarer exemplars.


Built from 1964 and 1968, and based off the ’61-’68 “A110” Austin Westminster, the Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre R was powered by an F-head Rolls Royce engine and pitched as a somewhat of a performance sedan.  Traditional, yes, but powerful and dynamic.  The aluminum six’s 175 bhp was routed through the BorgWarner model 8 transmission, giving the car a top speed of 112 miles per hour (or as the Brits would say, rapid progress on the motorway).

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Now for those who would like to insist this special sedan, beyond being merely British and conservative, is a Brougham, I won’t argue too vehemently.  After all, more zealous fans of that sensation include seemingly any car they like in the category, much as some members of the Brown Car Appreciation Society will argue all varieties of beige and gold cars fall under the umbrella of brown, and it’s important to pick your battles.  To that end, this front clip, with its ornate, intricate grille, makes a strong case.

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Aside from real wood making the interior less typical, a lack of loose-pillow or otherwise tufted upholstery drags this Princess away from Brougham orthodoxy.

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…but that’s okay, Brougham fans, you can still love this car anyway!  Check out the vented quarter-light and other details like the (thick) fold-down armrest and leather storage pockets on the door; intimate and cozy, but clean and airy.  A less notable change over the Westminster is the new roof line, which allowed the rear seat to be positioned back by about three inches.  It does looks roomy from this perspective.

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This very European-looking rear end, with a model designation referring to engine displacement, is decidedly un-Brougham.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of a Mercedes W108, actually.


The Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre and Austin Princess 3-Litre that are related to this car, in addition to the Westminster upon which they were all based, had essentially been in production since 1959 (well, 1960 for the VDP).  The 4-Litre R was actually the result of an abortive collaboration with Rolls-Royce (called Project Java) in which Bentley was to receive a clone which look like the car pictured here–a sort of entry-level, sporty Bentley.  For whatever reason, the project was canned, but it resulted the only production car outside the Rolls empire to receive one of its engines and reportedly taught the company a lot about monocoque construction, helping in the development of the Silver Shadow.

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The Austin models were succeeded by the Landcrab-derived Austin Three-Litre, while Vanden Plas as a brand was discontinued under the industry’s increasing consolidation. Had that not happened, however, the Vanden Plas would have also been Landcrab-based.

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As it turned out, the sort of upper middle-class customers who bought this car would now be directed toward Rover (a decision I understand; I’d prefer a P5 or P6 over the li’l limo pictured here).

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But Rover, Rolls or Landcrab, the sight of either of those marques would be less special compared to this very rare 4-Litre R at curbside.  It’s an incredibly lucky find, Brougham or not.

Related reading:

Curbside Classic: 1962 Austin A110 Westminster – Junior Jaguar Or English Fintail?

Cohort Classic: The Austin 3-Litre – Landcrab Imperial

Curbside Classic: 1965 Austin 1800 Mk1 (ADO17) “Landcrab”: Was it Best in Class, or Just Plain Ugly?

 Automotive History: The Curious F-Head Engine