You are, as a Curbivore, familiar with the BMC ADO16 (Austin America in North America, or Austin, Morris, Riley, Wolseley and MG 1100 and 1300 back home). Benoit clearly is, as he posted this example on the Cohort that he saw in Paris. I have described it as Sir Alec Issigonis’s masterpiece, as it took all he knew from the Mini, Morris Minor and before and made it work better at a precise market and size point, but did not have the weaknesses he was permitted to add, or enforced to adapt, to the Austin Maxi and Austin-Morris 1800 Landcrab. YMMV, that’s fine. Benoit clearly is, posting this 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 on the Cohort.
This, however, is a specific little diversion. The tree of BMC went from Austin or Morris – exactly the same, different dealer (Chevrolet, Ford or Plymouth equivalents), Riley for a bit of sports and luxury (Oldsmobile, approximately?), Wolsley for pure luxury (Buick?) and MG for a sports saloon theme (Pontiac?).
Many a word has been written (some by me, I admit) about Ford showing others, such as BMC, how to do it. This, though, is a case of BMC having “been there, done that”. In 1970, Ford bought Ghia, a respected coachbuilder and design house, and from 1973 added extra trim and the name to everything from Fiestas to Mustangs and beyond.
Austin had bought Vanden Plas, a respected London based coachbuilder and specialist converter, in 1946, and set them to work building limousines and later, in the late 1950s, taking bare Austin Westminsters and adding the full bespoke leather and wood interior. And not just leather and wood. West of England cloth ceiling trim, lambswool rugs, folding picnic tables….
Commercially, it obviously worked. Not only did BMC keep on doing it, the company allowed the pattern to spread to the ADO16. The Connolly leather heir, Fred Connolly, asked Vanden Plas to build him a special ADO16 with his products liberally used in it, in a similar manner to the coachbuilders who made special Minis in the early 1960s for Beatles and Princesses as that car was adopted by a fashionable set. Vanden Plas obliged, and showed the car at the London Motor Show in 1963.
It may seem remarkable now, but Vanden Plas had a separate factory in north London, close to maybe a hundred miles from Longbridge or Cowley. Bare body shells were pulled off the line at longbridge and shipped to London, where Vanden Plas completed the transformation from basic Austin to the mini-Daimler Vanden Plas Princess 1100, as it was formally titled. Princess was a name Austin had used for many years for limousines, many of which were trimmed by Vanden Plas, and also used on Vanden Plas versions of the large Austin Westminster.
Mechanically, it was pure Austin 1100, albeit with the slighter more powerful MG 1100 engine. The car ran to 1974, with not many changes.
A 1300 engine was fitted in 1967, alongside the option of a four speed automatic, and the rear fins were trimmed. A more powerful (65 bhp) 1300 engine was added in 1968 and that was about it. Still, BMC sold over 43,000 copies. And, yes, the Hydrolastic suspension did sag.
The summary of these changes can be seen on this example – a 1974 Vanden Plas Princess 1300 Mk2 seen in Milan, Italy by Anthony McAndrew.
Given that Alec Issigonis suggested an uncomfortable driver was an alert driver, turned his nose up at any science of ergonomics (as did many in the early 1960s, to be fair) and prioritised space over luxury, you do not have to pause for long to determine this would not have been choice. BMC liked it though, enough to not only build the Austin Allegro based successor, but also seriously contemplate Landcrab (Austin-Morris 1800) and its successor Leyland Princess 2200 variants on the same theme. Ultimately, Vanden Plas became a trim level on Austin-Rover products directly akin to Ghia on Fords, as well as on Jaguars in some markets..
We had a variation of BMC ADO16 for a few years in the late 1960s: MG 1100. The car was nothing but a huge headache for my father. He spent a lot of time tuning the engine and fixing here and there. It’s the automotive equivalent of Whack-A-Gopher. Then, he had enough of it in 1968 and traded it for a second-hand 1966 BMW 2002.
That’s my brother standing next to our MG 1100.
Not a bad swap, and an early warning that was missed, or ignored completely.
Hey, my 164!
Oh. Never mind.
No doubting the inspiration
Theres a few of these shrunken Van den plas ADO16s still alive over here they were of course imported built up which made the price prohibitive to the average Morry 1100 buyer, though the Westminster model is still around in reasonable numbers but often repowered back in the day RR engine spares arent readily available or cheap pre internet.
The classic British idea of Progress… add a new grill to front the 1940’s engine
Always had a thing for these.
I’m a bit surprised they didn’t do a land crab version.
A prototype was made using a Kimberley bodyshell (so had a longer tail) which still exists. Given in later years the Wolseley Six was the best selling version of the Landcrab, despite being the most expensive, it does suggest they missed an opportunity.
Yes, you would think the Kimberley shell, having all the 1800’s space with a normal prestige saloon’s three box profile would have been a natural. But knowing BL, they would have probably have had us press the shells for them and imported them from Australia!
That proto is a really decent-looking machine, because, for me, the big fail on the Kimberley was something too stiff or clumsy about the nose details. (Still, better than the orginal Crab, as most things are).
Yes, I also expected that they should have. At least there was the Wolesley version.
I love these up market variations of Issigonis’ designs as they are an antidote to the relentless minimalism and asturity of the mass market versions. Unfortunately I’ve rarely seen them in the metal except for private imports. Back in the day Australia a big market for the Issigonis cars cars (albeit locally assembled, and with modifications for local conditions) so I’m always a bit surprised there were not offered here.
One of the biggest markets for RHD smaller Princess saloons is Japan, they’ve always been popular there.
And the imitators https://www.aronline.co.uk/cars/bmc/1100-1300/11001300-international-variations/bmc-11001300-japanese-variations/
BMC continuing to do something is not, generally, an indication that it was a commercially successful idea….
Lugging empty bodyshells from Brum to London to be dressed up in fancy leather and wood like no other car at that point in the market doesn’t sound like a genius idea to me.
Yes, could be BMC motto – if at first you fail, keep on doing it.
Back about 10 years ago I was waiting for service at my Mini dealer and sat in probably the closest thing we’ll ever see to this again, the Cooper Goodwood, with an interior apparently “inspired by Rolls.” It was quite nice.
The idea of a small luxury is worthy although things like the Lancia Y10 show how hard it can be.
The ADO 16 actually makes sense for this role since the Hydrolastic suspension can be tuned for a nice ride and the angular styling wears the traditional luxury cues far better than the bulbous Allegro.
I’m amazed how fancy that interior is. It really looks lovely. They went beyond what I’d expect. They even covered the normally-exposed metal above the doors. And put metal-rimmed cupholders in the picnic trays. What a shame they didn’t upgrade the steering wheel though; a different badge in the middle of a normal Morris wheel just doesn’t do it.
On the steering wheel front, even Rolls Royce kept a cheap looking wheel that looked like it belonged on a bus.
Here is a photo of what is marked in pencil on the back as an ADO16 [but I think it could be a 3 liter Princes], that has a special 7 passenger extended body, only one was built. Soon after this prototype was constructed, the decision was made to build the Daimler 420 limo instead. That was a good decision!
I got this photo directly from the former managing director of Vanden Plas, and I don’t think this has ever been published.
A side view of the same vehicle, photographed at the Vanden Plas factory works.
Yes, that was a good decision!
Thanks for sharing them.
Never seen these before either. Definitely not a looker!
Was putting the above 2 photos back in the plastic sleeve, and realized another photo was stuck to the back of photo #2, so here it is, showing interior details with people seated to show available room. [Coachbuilder photos showing people in both the back seat and in the jump seats is rather hard to find.
Unlike the big Princess 4 liter limousine [known as the DM4], with a division window located directly adjacent to the center posts, VDP placed the sliding division window on this prototype, several inches rearward to allow the driver more room. But this photo also shows how close the division window is for the jump seat passengers.
I suspect this change was done to allow the use of the original split front seats, that meant the driver’s seat could be adjusted for the first time in any VDP car with a division window. The number one complaint from drivers of the DM4 limo is the fixed seat, and I personally can attest it’s one of the most cramped driver’s area I’ve ever experienced.
So adored in my neck of the woods that they make kits for Nissan Micras. But I’ve also seen (though not yet caught) the real McCoy-denPlas around Tokyo, so some folks have imported a few.
That interior shot really explains the appeal of these to anyone who doesn’t know about them, or only knows the Austin version.
I must be a suburban curtain twitcher – which, for the ornithologically inclined, might well be some finch species, but no corrections, please – as I have always loved these little sillies. They are gorgeously pretentious.
Actually, I like them as much for their historical manifestation of class-based demarcation as for the fact that they inadvertently stick a finger up Issigonis for his ridiculous masochism-for-the-masses approach to interiors. I cannot bear the insides of an 1100: the dash resembles some grim industrial machine, the seats a non-adjustable vinyl cruelty machine. The VDP says “Oh, bugger all that!” The wood and leather and cloth plus all the sound deadening applied must make the tiringly screamy 1100 a much nicer car, with the driver able to enjoy the great ride and handling. Perhaps just before going to sleep, if the great Himself was right.
Never knew a sliding sunroof was an option. Nice! The final Touch Of Class, just right for Mrs Sourplus nextdoor to better see one leave the street for a summer evening’s trip to dinner at Fawlty’s.
In 1960 I was in grade 6 and my teacher was a tall Englishman who drove a Riley One-Point-Five (love the name). I had the opportunity to ride in it a couple of times and I really loved it. At that time my parents had a 57 Plymouth so the Riley was a huge contrast. It was probably the first English car that I was ever in. I was enthralled by leather seats and wooden dash with all the round instruments. I have remained a fan of this British style of small luxury cars, and the VDP takes it to a new level.
I just spotted FOD666D in a Paris street today, all dusty and dented. Such a cute car, it deserves much better !