The Lost Princess: 1964 Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre R

BMC in the 1960s was well on its way to becoming the behemoth British Leyland, creating new badge-engineered models at a rate even GM would baulk at. The most radical however, was based on the large Austin A110 saloon, was this Vanden Plas. The bodywork was made more upright, removing fins and a higher roof, but that wasn’t the most significant change. That was left for under the bonnet, where a 4-Litre Rolls-Royce engine could be found, sourced from their Ferret military vehicle. Find this 1964 (or 1966) Vanden Plas Princess R for sale in Minto, NSW for $5,500 AUD ($4,150 USD at the time of writing) via gumtree. 

Of course, the Vanden Plas was more than an Austin with a Rolls engine in it. Vanden Plas had been a coachbuilder before it was taken over by the imperialistic Austin in 1949, and had built a reasonable reputation for building solid, luxury limousines during the 1950s. So, the Princess was designed as the pinnacle of the BMC A110 range, and the company had high hopes of strong sales, with a planned production of 100 cars per week.

That didn’t materialise. Although the 175hp Rolls-Royce six was powerful, and light due to its aluminium construction, the public didn’t take to the high price of the car, up significantly from the previous model. In 1967, the final year of full production, only a mere 200 cars were built before the model was quietly killed off, after a total run of 6,555. Then, BL proceeded to sully both the Vanden Plas and Princess names, the former adorning chintzy, chrome-plated versions of econoboxes like the Allegro and Metro, and the Austin Princess of the 1970s showing that sometimes it was possible to have too much brown and wedge styling in a car.

This particular example is an enigma though. The seller provides very little information beyond the almost oxymoronic “Tidy car, needs some work”. The interior and body work look largely clean, and straight, certainly not in any major need for work. So, since it’s got number plates (which owners are supposed to hand in on de-registered cars), I figured I’d check the RMS (Roads and Maritime Services – NSW’s DMV). The check reveals the car ran out of rego in June of last year. It also lists the car as a 1966 model, not a 1964. 

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Michael is a teenager who’s been obsessed with cars since he was able to talk, but has no ability in mechanics whatsoever. His daily driver is a manual transmission Nissan Maxima – the Australian Infiniti I30.