Is there anything more 1970s than a British Leyland Princess? Known during its development as ADO71, and initially branded as the Austin-Morris 18-22 series, the Princess was a development of the ADO17 Landcrab, the car that first suggested Sir Alec Issigonis was not getting all the direction he should have been.
The Princess was intended to build on the Landcrab’s talents of great space, comfort, compact size and strength with some added style, a bigger boot (Issigonis never did big boots–he took his weekly shopping home in the door pockets of his Mini, from the off-licence), maybe a hatchback and more crash worthiness (legally required by then). Issigonis was no longer involved, having retired in 1969, although he continued to do some consultancy for BLMC.
The style came pretty quickly, considering that BMC had nothing in the cupboard at all regarding a replacement for the Landcrab at the time of the merger with Leyland in 1968, four years its initial launch. The Wedge was the style of the time, and one of its key European exponents was Harris Mann, who designed the TR7 and the Allegro prior to the Princess. Among its advantages was the space it created as a consequence of a higher tail (which would have ideally suited a hatchback, letting this car also replace the Austin Maxi). But as it was in 1970 (when the decision was taken), the Maxi was still young and the Princess was expected to replace the Austin 3 litre as well, so a hatchback was ruled out. The potential (internal) competition with the Rover SD1, which was developed concurrently, may have been a factor also.
Personally I think, and always have, that the style was great, with real distinction and originality compared with its contemporaries. Not every one agrees, but the Princess in a strong solid colour (like the featured blue car) is something that has stood the test of time well–it is clearly of its era but remains attractive.
Underneath the dramatic styling, the car used a lot of a Landcrab technology. Engine wise, the car kept to the 1.8 litre B-series engine from the Landcrab, as well as the 2.2 litre six-cylinder version of the (Maxi’s) E-series engine that was added as an option for the Landcrab in 1972. Both came without the five-speed gearbox of the Maxi though. The E-series four-cylinder was not used, partly for speed to production and partly because the available capacity was expected to be fully committed manufacturing the more modern engine for the Maxi and Allegro, so the 1948 B-series was kept in active service. The car was assembled at Cowley in Oxford, historically the Morris factory, and now the home of the Mini.
The suspension was Hydragas, first used in the 1973 Allegro, and a development of the Hydrolastic used in the Landcrab and ADO16 (Austin- Morris 1100/1300). The interior was much more conventional than in Issigonis’s cars, with a less upright and more conventional driving position and just as much space. The interior was pretty well trimmed, with a visual plushness denied to the Landcrab and a modern, attractive dashboard with ergonomics a Landcrab driver would die for. No longer did the driver have to struggle with an umbrella handbrake under the dash or use his foot to adjust the heater.
There were several small but deliberately modern features in the car–a seat belt warning light, recessed windscreen wiper spindles, and a driver’s seat with (manual) adjustment to a total of 240 positions.
The initial advertising was based on the capabilities of the car, and seemed aimed at the mature driver-chooser, albeit with enough gentle humour to keep most people’s attention.
Of course, since this was the first new car from the British people’s own BLMC following the effective nationalisation, it became the centre of special attention. The fact that it was modern looking, even dramatic, and different technically from the competition (which was perceived to be cars like the Cortina, lower end Granadas, Opel Rekord, Vauxhall Victor FE, VW Passat, Audi 100, larger Fiats, Citroens and the Japanese saloons) just made the target easier. Added to this was the size of the car–like the Landcrab it was larger than the Ford Cortina but smaller than the Granada, leaving it in a bit of a no man’s land. Was it a Cortina competitor, in which case it was too slow and ponderous, arguably too big and expensive, or a Granada competitor, in which case it was slow and neither large nor upmarket enough, with only a 2.2 litre six-cylinder engine? Perhaps its closest competitor was the similarly odd size Renault 20, with a hatchback and less distinctive, and less polarising, styling. The UK’s most trenchant motoring magazine, CAR, even put a 2200 HLS up against a BMW 520 and Citroen CX, where it emerged with its honour intact, if not an absolute winner.
The car was originally launched in Austin and Morris 1800 versions, and in Austin, Morris and Wolseley 2200 versions. The Austin had large trapezoidal lights and a flat bonnet whilst the Morris had four round lights and a contoured bonnet. The Wolseley had the Morris’s headlights and bonnet, and all the plush trim you could ask for in 1975 (no electric windows though). The six-cylinder cars did have power steering, which they needed badly, and it was an option on the 1800. But it was still no sports saloon–the new car could be sold on space, comfort and style, but not performance. And like the Landcrab, it never got an estate derivative. It is only fair, however, to record that as device for moving five people about in comfort and safety with their luggage and with a bit of style, the Princess was a good as any of its main competitors, and better in many respects. It wasn’t sporty, but it was never intended to be.
Six months into its life, the branding was changed from Austin and Morris 18-22 series to Princess, in either 1800 or 2200 versions with 3 trim options, like a Cortina. The Wolseley name died, the ugly front of the Wolseley and Morris went, to be replaced a four headlamp version of the Austin front end on the 1800 whilst the 2200 kept the larger headlamps. So, BL reduced badge engineering by creating another brand.
Unreliability was a problem that had seemingly befallen all British Leyland products since the Mini, but by 1975 the problem was so bad and so public (at least in public perception, if not in statistical comparison with other manufacturers) that when the Princess started to develop faults, they became national news. Nightmare stories of collapsing suspension and driveshaft failures did not help at all and because BL were perceived to take such a long time to cure the problems, the car’s reputation plummeted further. And if a story is not true in the first place, getting a correction across is not easy.
In 1978, the Princess moved into series 2 with a new four-cylinder engine–the BL “O” series, which was an overhead cam engine, parts of which were traceable to a conversion of the OHV B-series to a more modern OHC configuration. This came as a 2.0 litre and 1.7 litre (an unusual size–it was going to be 1.6 litre but to save money the same cylinder head casting was used for both engines) and although more compatible with tighter forthcoming emissions regulations, it offered little that the B-series didn’t after being in development for seven years. The 2.2 litre six-cylinder continued unchanged.
As time moved on, the advertising had to get more contrived to get noticed, and to effectively use the car’s distinctive features and appearances to attract attention from those not instinctively opting to conform. It wasn’t the car for Mr. Average–you had to need something the Princess offered (space, comfort, style, British brand) to choose one over a Cortina, Cavalier or many others. It was a hard sell, never moving any more volume than the Landcrab had.
After seven years, the Princess got its hatchback along with a complete re-skin (except the roof and doors) and a new interior, becoming the Ambassador. Again, the emphasis was on comfort and space–it wasn’t plausible to put it on anything else. My personal view is that whilst the Ambassador may have had significant advantages such as the hatchback and additional windows, the car lost a lot of its appeal in this transformation.
But this was 1982–the year the Cortina gave way to the Sierra. The Mk2 Cavalier was also going strong, and cars like the Chrysler/Talbot Alpine, Renault 20 and VW Passat were all established, making the Ambassador appear slow, not that stylish, unsure of what size it was or what it was really competing against. Based on the old Princess and, frankly, seven years late to the party, it lasted two years, sold only 40,000 copies and was never built in left hand drive or exported from the UK.
The blue car featured is a 1978 Princess 2200HL automatic–the six-cylinder suited the four-speed automatic well, provided you weren’t in a hurry. The red car is a later 1981 Princess series 2 1700 with the O series engine. Both have recently been offered but not sold on ebay.co.uk.
BL never built a “courageous” car again. And that is a shame–BL were at their best when they did (Mini, ADO16, Rover SD1, Dolomite Sprint or Marina, Austin 3 Litre)–and because the elements that didn’t work out for the Princess were the bits that weren’t courageous: the old engines, the four-speed gearboxes, the odd size, the saloon-only configuration, the disjointed marketing and sloppy assembly.
I’d take one over any 1970s Cortina, though.
Very very rare cars here now they didnt sell well new mostly buyers were put off by already trying the original landcrab with disappointing results. I used to see new Princesses with sheets of cardboard underneath to catch oil leaks on the showroom floor of the local BL dealer where I bought gas when these were new, they had all the shortcomings of the landcrab with wedge styling, on top of the landcrab NZ had been subjected to the KimberlyTasman twins which were particularly awful before the Princess arrived so these cars really had an uphill struggle to lure buyers some of whom were still smarting from Leyland Australias lemons.
The Princess was really introduced into a hostile environment out here and it simply did not sell.
Another British what-if car. What if the build quality had been better than the competition. What if the size was right. What if a decent auto and 5 speed was available. But they weren’t and it deserved to die.
I must admit the styling was pretty cool,though!
+1 a warmed over Land Crab
The princess reminds me of a more stylish Datsun of the same era. That’s meant to be a compliment, for what its worth. I wonder how difficult it would have been for BLMC to contract with an outside supplier (maybe Datsun, who’d previously made Austin clones) for powertrains.
Datsun didnt try FWD until the mid 80s out this way and stopped using BMC engine blocks in the 70s the last being used in their pickup they learned from BMC they tried not to repeat the mistakes.
In the US, we received FWD Nissans quite a bit sooner. So did the UK, where the F10 was sold as the E10 Cherry and set the record for the highest customer satisfaction ever achieved by a car available in the UK, beating the previous record holding VW Beetle by a comfortable margin. The F10 wasn’t much appreciated here though, which explains why the US’ native auto industry outlasted the UK’s by a couple decades.
As a Landcrab “owner” for much of the 70s, I never cared for the Princess. It moved the game forwards in some respects and backwards in others. I would have loved an Ambassador though – I think the added rear quarter windows transformed the car.
One of my favorite BL cars, right up there with the Rover SD1 and Triumph TR7. Nice and comprehensive article! I loved the Wolesley version. The Ambassador revision reminds me of the Fiat Argenta, the final revision of the 132, in its detailing. Both were pretty unsuccessful
+1 good spot to link the 2 cars
Another unknown car to me, revealed by CC. Love the styling, loathe that vinyl roof thingy they put on it.
Those blacked out rear pillars… Now we know where Jaguar got them for the current XJ!
Another nail in BL’s coffin.Compare this with the Fiat from yesterday’s CC.BL was up against some stiff competition from home and abroad.Better cars which cost less were in the showrooms,BL was a dead man walking.Not enough money to develop new models thoroughly,strikes and poor build quality and horror stories in the right wing press about how much government handouts were costing the taxpayer outraged a lot of people.When Margaret Thatcher came to power BL’s days were numbered.Stop gap cars like the Ambassador and the Maestro abortion didn’t help much
BL also had an Australian division producing cars that while looking great on paper were not particularly good in the metal, that soaked up a lot of cash and produced very little in the way of profits and actually cost money with warranty claims on stuff like the Tasman Kimberly twins, They shuttered that sideshow after the P76 failed to sell in sufficient numbers but it was too late by about 10 years it shoulda been closed after the Freeway ceased production.
BL Australia – now there is a huge story there! In short, a case of local execs seeing that UK product was unsuited to local conditions, and trying to do something about it – and UK execs too-often saying “You’ll take it or else!” they held the purse strings, so they all too often shot themselves in the foot.
We had a victory of sorts with the late-fifties/early sixties Morris Major and Austin Lancer – restyled and de-contented Wolseley 1500s. They sold like crazy, and many were still going strong 15-20 years later. But that might have been our only success. The Austin Freeway was supposed to have had a wider body, but we got overruled – so people saw it for what it was, a three year old Austin A60 with two more cylinders. No more room inside, though the Wolseley version was at least comfortable. And the same tired old styling.
With the Mini, Morris 1100 and Austin 1800, we got them a year or more after their UK debut, and supposedly with local improvements. They were popular, and they did seem to last. But by about 1970, the public were turning away big time. Here in Australia we got Japanese cars from the mid-sixties, and if people could put aside their anti-Japanese attitude from WW2, they found much better-built and better equipped cars at a competitive price. So why put up with near-enough engineering and things falling off when the same money can buy better quality?
BL tried. The 1100 engine in the Mini was a natural. The OHC 1500 Maxi engine and box in the 1100 body was not. By 1970 that style was well past its sell-by date in this country, and the facelift that went with it was unsuccessful. The engine was smooth and revvy once off its very rough idle, but if the local BL dealer’s work was anything to go by, it was a pain to keep it in tune. Bottom line: you didn’t see many, and you see more 1100s now.
The Tasman and Kimberley? I’ve no personal experience of these, but they never sold in the numbers BL needed. Supposedly there was a Mark 2 version, but I don’t think I ever saw one. And the P76 was doomed from the start. Even if it had looked all right, people were wary of BL “quality”. When a car cost so much, who wanted to take a chance?
And I guess that’s the bottom line: Why take a chance, when you can buy elsewhere with confidence?
I liked the Wolsley/Riley 1500s a lot.Mr Watkins my music teacher drove a well preserved one til 1972 when he bought a new Hillman Hunter GLS.I’d like to see more Australian Leyland cars,it seems you had as many Deadly Sins as we got!
A friend had a blue one. Can’t remember which, but the grille logo was illuminated. Nice touch.
There’s plenty of information about BL’s Aussie deadly sins at aronline.co.uk – can I say that here?
Theres an Austin Lancer on the cohort I shot last year but Leyland OZ stuff is quite rare in NZ though I used to see lots of 1622 Morris Majors in Aussie some must still survive
Same thing in NZ the FWD BMC efforts left a sour taste in buyers mouths and they went Japanese next time they bought, A school friends parents parked their 66 Chev and bought a Kimberly it spent more time at the dealers than they did driving it lucky they kept the Impala as they were still using it in 76 the Kimberly never did run right Ive driven a Tasman automatic it was junk. Ive seen a Morris Marshall its just a A95 Austin with Morris badges nobody was fooled. Finding any now would be quite a trick Gem.
I didn’t mention the Marshall on purpose, Bryce. It was so rare they might as well not have bothered. Dad was a Morris man from way back – he might have bought an Isis if he had the money, but he knew the Marshall was just an Austin. Back in those days Morris men didn’t buy Austins, and vice versa.
Even the factory was an example, take the annual rainfall and design it as if in England. Too bad most of the rain falls not evenly through the year but in heavy storms over a month or two – resulting in frequent flooding.
Mind you Ford did the same pre-WWII, which is why the factory in tropical Brisbane will take 6′ of snow on the roof! Or at least it could, it was scheduled for demolition last year.
I have seen a Princess but I am not sure it wasn’t a private import.
BL cars of the era were really interesting and space efficient designs, but I always see them as “what if” cars.
“What if” the UK government had reorganised BL into divisions that did’t compete with each other?
“What if” enough capital were made available to actually design a world-class car?
And the biggest “what if:” What if the union actually wanted to preserve their jobs, instead of getting in some asinine pissing-match with the management on a daily basis? Here in the Wet Coast of Canuckistan, we had quite a few transplanted UK union bosses in the 1960’s and 70’s and for a second I could never understand their need for confrontation all the time. They ended-up doing themselves out of their jobs.
The union is an easy scapegoat. That fact is, the company as a whole wasn’t performing well, and poor development and outdated aspect of the cars’ engineering made it uncompetitive. A lot of other industries have had strong unions without cranking out miserable products. These discussions also rarely invoke any analysis of managerial practices within other cultures, nor the history that unions in Japan had in shaping their famously peaceful worker-management relationship. Of course, this is about cars, and that wouldn’t really be appropriate, but disparaging the unions opens up that can of worms.
One thing you can’t hold against BLMC is that they were ambitious in certain ways, as the hydragas suspension proves. I wish similar technology were available today.
A case in point. The union local in Speke argued that they were being blamed for a host of organizational problems that they claimed included a lack of tools (not simply tooling, but actual tools), poor production scheduling (the sequencing of parts not matching the sequencing of cars), and managers and foremen who (allegedly, anyway) were so determined to speed up production that they would not stop the line even to correct obvious and glaring faults. None of those things was within the control of the worker on the line, and for all the disparagement in the press, if those were the conditions in the factory, I would have felt “bloody-minded” as well.
The causus belli for the union local was that they had had a provision in their contract that management had to consult with union stewards about changes in the hourly production quota, but BL declared unilaterally that it would no longer respect that provision. That was the specific trigger for the strike, which was also the only industrial action Speke No. 2 had had since it came on line.
Whatever the workers’ ‘attitude’ — an argument, incidentally, that was more anecdotal than based in any kind of actual quantitative study — I think it was at least as much a response to the general organizational chaos and undercapitalization of BLMC as anything else. Even Michael Edwardes, who was hired largely to play tough with the unions, said that a lot of the company’s factories were like something out of a Dickens novel.
British Leyland lost five million man hours to strikes in 1970, doubling to 10 million man hours in 1971. They were dying a death of a thousand cuts before the walk off in 1978. The recorded and reported history of Speke seems to have changed in the last decade, but the TR7 wasn’t poorly received in the US. Demand wasn’t low until word got around about the quality Speke was producing. It was easy to find accounts of work stoppages at Speke #2, and it is still easy to find references to the workforce as strike prone and to their strikes being frequent. I’m sure British management was Detroit quality, but Speke labor as innocent victim is a recent invention.
The unions played a huge role in the demise of the car industry in the UK. Ford Degenham for example, was squeezed out since it lost so many days to labour unrest, it was simply easier to import the cars into the UK from the continent.
In 1979, Neil Kinnock called for the army to mutiny and support strikers, who were demanding an across the board 35% wage increase.
Interesting car , thanx for spotlighting it .
Having worked on English built vehicles when new back then , the primary fault of the Unions was : they simply didn’t care to do the damn job right .
Sloppy build quality is the direct fault of the assembly line worker and I say this as a proud Union Member who works for every dime I get .
Good design, poor execution- maybe that’s the story of Britain in the last quarter of the 20th century? I travelled in a Princess as a child and what I remember was the space, vision, wonderful ride and comfort. It was in many ways very ‘French’. It was one of very few cars where a child could sit plum in the middle of the back seat and see clearly through the windscreen! Issigonis may still lurk under the bodywork but on the outside he’s no longer, thankfully evident.
Didn’t know he shopped at the ‘offy’, perhaps that’s what led to the Landcrab and the 3 litre!
Are you calling the Marina and 3 litre ‘courageous’? Most people judge them as ‘rubbish’
I draw a contrast between the Marina and the 3litre to the SD1 etc
The only thing I recall about these was Top Gears James May boasting….INCORRECTLY, about how this was one of the worlds first cars with hidden windshield wipers, when GM cars had hidden wipers back in the 60’s already.
So these are like the British version of the aeroback A-bodies? Looks like a hatch, but no hatch.
Might be stretch… but I dont think the feminine name of the car really helped matters any from a marketing standpoint. Looks great IMO, inside & out, for a 1970’s British car. Too bad the drivetrains were based in antiquity, and built with no care whatsoever.
Indeed, that name never would have flown in the states. Every teenage girl wanted her own Princess phone.
Ma petite Chevette with her Princess phone.
The 240Z wouldn’t have gone over as well when it was called the Fairlady either, this continued into the 80’s when American Toyota execs had to coax the home office that MR2 was a better name for their new sports car than MRS, which is what they wanted to call it initially, until they explained that the name was “Misses” over here.
The Toyota MR2 was a Toyota MR in France. MR2 sounds (a bit) like “merde” in French. You know, like Mel Brooks’ “Rue de Merde”.
I wondered about that too. I’m pretty certain that the car would have not sold very well in the States with the Princess moniker.
Maybe it’s a Royalist thing, but did men buy the Princess in large numbers? Here in the US we have a phenomenon known as the “chick car”, i.e., cars purchased largely by (young) women…
Was the Princess a chick car? I’m really not being facetious. I’ve never been to or know anyone who lived in the UK during the time the car was sold…
Princess was an old Austin brand, they’d used it for limousines in the 50s and 60s, before the merger with Jaguar-Daimler made the idea of an Austin limo superfluous. (Old footage of the Beatles on tour in the UK almost always has them in Austin Princess limos.)
Reviving the name 10+ years later for a completely different class of vehicle, and expecting it to work as a standalone brand was asinine, but an illustration of the deep hole that BL had dug for itself – all those historic brands they owned, and they’d either sucked the equity out of them, or didn’t have the imagination to apply them differently.
Incidentally, Carmine, try saying MR2 in French, and ask yourself how well that name would have worked in that territory – they wisely shortened it to “MR”.
The same observation was made for the Brabham/Tauranac business; Motor Racing Developments.
Whatever the workers’ ‘attitude’ — an argument, incidentally, that was more anecdotal than based in any kind of actual quantitative study — I think it was at least as much a response to the general organizational chaos and undercapitalization of BLMC as anything else. Even Michael Edwardes, who was hired largely to play tough with the unions, said that a lot of the company’s factories were like something out of a Dickens novel.”
I guess you didn’t ever work on British vehicles built from the 1940’s through the end then as they began poorly built and got progressively worse .
FWIW , the BMC ‘B’ Series 1500 engine may well be 1940’s tech (I consider it 1930’s tech) but it is a sturdy and well designed unit that Datsun copied as a fork lift engine to 1992 that I know about and prolly long after ~ once you assembled it carefully it didn’t pi$$ oil out of every joint and being sightly stressed it took a hard beating to actually kill one ~ legions of MG’s Et Al attest to this , they’re still out there doing yeoman duty .
I will give the Brits their due and yes, the B series engine, with half decent servicing, was a reliable powerplant. It was also rough and noisy and not nearly as good as anything else even by 1965. The Ford Kent engine ran circles around it and could be hopped up easy as pie. BL’s engine lineup was dreadful and a major reason for their demise. Oh, and the cars were poorly assembled pieces of crap. After the Cortina came out, no BL car was worth buying.
Good article. I’ve never paid much attention to these, but the design has really grown on me. That blue example with the trapezoidal headlights and clean grille is the way to go.
Dad had THREE of them. Two beautiful maroon 2200 HLS’es one automatic with a Hollandia sunroof that could tilt and both 2200’s were disasters.
The six inline made a beautiful high pitch whistle when you floored it, but the automatic really chased the Leyland dealers mechanics out of the shop when they saw him coming in -again-
They were really beautifully made cars that looked impressive, the large trapezium shaped headlights, the vinyl roof in black, the beige ‘velours d’Utrecht’ upholstery, the two courtesey lights and the cigar lighter for the rear passengers, even the hubcabs on a 2200 HLS were just a work of art themselves.
But they were dogs, Always cooling problems and I’d drive the 2200’s with my buttocks close together; in the morning the radiator would give some damp when the moist on it vaporised, but you’d pull over to see if there were any cooling problems.
The automatic was delivered with one SU carb stuck (from new) and eventually the crankshaft bearings gave up, the engine was only working for 60% – this was NEVER found by those idiot mechanics at BL dealership.
He then got a pale metallic blue 2 litre, a four cylinder fitted with the then newly introduced ‘O’ series engine, a four cylinder.
The level of equipment quality got down dramatically, the only improved feature on the 2 litre’s interior was the leather steering wheel.
The 2 litre did its job.
In a very modest way.
‘t was one of those cars that could meet with anything ‘ze Germans’ made and was as comfortable as anything Les Francais made.
It was fast, quiet and very nice to drive.
Dad, being a Scrooge did over 200000 kilometers with it, driving on LPG.
But it came in too late.
People that had 1800’s and 2200’s of the Mk I series, dismissed the Princess en masse and returned to their Opels, Ford Granada’s 504 Peugeots and the CX by monsieur Citroën.
Till this day I am still in love with the Princess.
A love that will never ever go away, its elegant slightly arrogant but has a very distinguishable appearance, those large, no hughe trapezium headlights, the Rolls Royce ambiance of the interior ( I am talking 2200 series Mk I now); it had all those unmistakable British quality elements, with unfortunately a non-exisiting quality control and engineering to it, which made it horror for most owners.
But buying a maroon 2200 bodyshell and installing a 2 litre ‘O’ series is still on my to do list.
Or maybe I’ll make it black.
These looked a million dollars in black.
They were an immediate success in the Netherlands when they appeared, they were a fresh breath of air, espcially compared to Opel dull dull dull Rekord and Ford’s dull Granada.
Their prices were really competitive and people thought “Why not? ”
It is cheaper, gives me more room and it looks great.
Too bad BL did not appear with the ‘O’ series immediately, but as usual, they had a car that COULD do the job, like dad’s later 3500 Rover, but both cars just DID NOT.
By the way, an old schollfriend from dad had a really good position at BL in the Netherlands,so dad Always got these distributors demo’s at a steal.
Remember, we’re Dutch after all………………………
Oh, I am not the only Dutchman who loves them:
Fascinating car, Roger, I don’t believe I have ever seen one. Thinking about it, I’m not sure I even knew these existed.\
Can’t say I’m crazy about the look, but I would imagine that these would have been quite stylish in Europe and the UK at the time.
BL is such a long, sad story.
You don’t want one JP,believe me.If you really want a British 4 door sedan stick to the Ford Cortina.I’m pretty certain I saw a Mk2 Cortina on holiday in California in the late 60s.I know they went to Canada so maybe a few sneaked over the border
Theres a Princess on NZs trademe if yer keen asking bids over 1500 NZ pesos none so far its black clean automatic
there’s a great two-part BL-produced film up on YouTube… the writing, cinematography, and music production are just tremendous, especially when put in context with the car itself.
Cool movies but the Wolseley is a big come down from Wolseleys of old, I have some friends nearby who have a small collection of Wolseleys a 34 Hornett 53 6/80, 6/110 and a 1300 auto, they arent scouring the country seeking a highline to complete the set.
Those videos really pegged my schlock-o-meter, how can anyone talk about or even film such a horrid object for so long. I couldn’t make it through the first one.
Is it just me, or does anyone else see a resembalance to the Renault 12? Take the boot and make it into a wedge…
This is the article that started my fascination with these cars. Thanks, Roger, for the great read. Love the looks of these. A pity they were not good cars. I wonder if stylist Harris Mann ever owned or drove one.
It was so sad. BL was appallingly managed, the factories were antiquated, and there’d been minimal investment for years. It’s no surprise the workforce were utterly demoralised. So would you be if you had to assemble something that was so obviously full of massive compromises on clapped out machinery. There hadn’t been a new engine for decades. The disdain for the buying public was clear. Issigonis, “The public don’t know what they want; it’s my job to tell them”. That sheer arrogance was endemic. Well the public gave their reply by abandoning the company’s products. The management and their friends in the right-wing press tried to put the blame on the workforce, but they were just reacting to an intolerable situation and totally incompetent leadership. Those same workers in Cowley now build the new MINI, those in Sunderland the latest Nissans and the Honda’s are built in Swindon, with no industrial relations problems. The thing that’s changed is that they’ve got Japanese and Germans at the top. Draw your own conclusions.
Issigonis should never have been put in charge of design. BL were in awe of the propaganda myth they’d built around him and let the man run wild. His Landcrab was a disaster. The 18/22 an honourable attempt to rescue something from his shambles. The wedges, 18/22, Princess etc were good looking cars lumbered with rubbish engines and gearboxes and no hatchback, too little too late.
Roger Carr, this is an outstanding piece! Growing up in the ’70s USA, BL sports cars were common though still intriguing each time I saw one. It’s 2022 as I write this, and the most common classic car (and often only classic car) I see on local roads is the MGB in various bright colors. I had a deep fascination with BL, and remember an ad in National Geographic for the US Austin Marina. It honestly pains me to think that how some fantastic cars never saw the light of day here due to the disaster of a corporation BL. Perhaps it is primarily the futuristic Harris Mann designs that resonate with me as the TR7 was one I admired along with the Rover SD1 of which I saw only once in North America…..during a visit to Canada actually. Only today did I see the resemblence between the Princess and another childhood car that I loved to see: the Alfa-Romeo GTV. To me, these cars convey a modern, forward-thinking Britain of practicality and purpose rather than conservative, “ye olde English” styling. Don’t get me wrong. I love the some of the older British styling of a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, Bentley Flying Spur, or various Jaguars etc, but those luxury car companies boxed themselves in to a limited styling concept, particularly Jaguar under Ford ownership where inspiration was retro-styled cars inspired by the early XJ cars an the Mark II. Ian McCallum broke through that constraint with some attractive if not mold-breaking designs. The Princess was that type of clean break from the past. But the name “Princess” was a very bad choice as it just conveys an image of effete, dainty, and weak. Assigning a gender to a car is a bad idea, although I can see it more likely to sell a car with a male-gender name to a woman than a female-gender named car to a man. I bet the office colleagues had a good laugh when they heard the answer to the question asked before the sales meeting, “What new car did you end up purchasing, Ron?” How could a man answer with confidence and a straight face, “I bought a Princess.”