Princess and Ambassador Owners Club
A Wedge in the British Motor Industry.
By Alex Sebbinger. Copyright MMI
Late March 1975 saw the launch of one of the most dynamic and exciting shaped vehicles the British Motor industry had seen to date. The new aerodynamic "Wedge" shaped ADO 71 (Austin Design Office's code for the car) was the replacement for the superb "Landcrab" range of 1800 and 2200 British Leyland Motor Corporation vehicles.
The 18-22 range as ADO 71 became known was available under three different guises; Austin; Morris; Wolseley which were all built at the Cowley plant. The Austin and Morris 18-22 vehicles were available with the well proven power units previously used in the Landcrab. The 1800 models used the B series power unit and the 2200 models were fitted with the silky smooth E series engine. There were a variety of models on offer:-
Austin 1800 Standard
Austin 1800 HL (High Line)
Austin 2200 HL
Morris 1800 HL
Morris 2200 HL
Wolseley Six (2200).
The Wolseley was the flagship of the 18-22 series; this car offered a full plush velour interior, wooden "canaletto" dash trim, power steering, fully carpeted boot with light, rear passenger compartment lamps, rear cigarette lighter, quality radio, fuel gauge, temperature indicator, clock, battery gauge, seatbelt warning lamp, and a full vinyl roof. All 2200 versions were fitted with standard power steering whilst being optional on the four cylinder cars. HL models had vinyl covered rear pillars, vinyl seats with cloth insets, the same instrumentation as the Wolseley, satin effect dash trim and a boot which was not carpeted. Standard models did not have a clock or ammeter, there was no vinyl roof or side pillars, and they were available with vinyl trim only. The 18-22 series was available with the new "Hydragas" suspension, as opposed to the "Hydrolastic" suspension in the "Landcrab". The 18-22 cars were virtually identical in their shape except for the front end, which was different for each "brand". The Wolseley had a raised grille complete with illuminated badge and featured twin round headlamps. Morris versions had a similar raised grille and also came with twin round headlamps. The Austin front was sleeker with a smooth bonnet and grille and new "trapezoidal" headlamps. Borg Warner model 35 automatic transmission was optional on all models.
By October of 1975, British Leyland were experiencing difficulties and was nationalised. Along with this change, the newly named Leyland Cars decided that its ranges required overhaul. The 18-22 series was re-named to Princess and the models revised. There was no more Austin, Morris or Wolseley, just a Princess. All new Princesses had the smooth frontal styling of the previous Austin, which was available with twin round headlamps on four cylinder cars and the trapezoidal lamps on 6 cylinder cars. The name of Wolseley was to be gone forever as the new flagship car was now the Princess 2200 HLS. The new Princess models on offer were:-
Princess 1800 Standard
Princess 1800 HL
Princess 2200 HL
Princess 2200 HLS.
The new cars were virtually identical to their 18-22 counterparts except for the HL which gained nylon seats.
In 1977 there were troubles noted with manual transmission six cylinder Princesses. Some cars experienced rapid drive-shaft wear and universal joints were prone to wearing out prematurely. This problem was so apparent that manual transmission E series cars were dropped from the range; only the Borg Warner equipped Automatics were available.
As a consequence of loosing the manual six cylinder models, Leyland Cars decided to launch a special edition Princess in 1978. This was known as the "Special Six" and was based on the 2200 HL. The car featured automatic transmission, an HLS specification interior, a distinctive silver coachline and a factory fitted sunroof.
In 1978 there was a special version of the Princess 1800, known as the 1800 ST which was developed by the Special Tuning branch of Leyland Cars. This "Pluspac" performance conversion comprised of twin HIF 6 Carburettors bolted onto the B series power unit, with a revised exhaust manifold as well.
By July of 1978 the Princess range received a facelift and new engines. The new Princess 2 offered a new four cylinder engine to replace the pushrod B series unit. The new O series power unit was a belt driven overhead camshaft engine and available in both 1700 and 2000 capacities. Another feature of all Princess 2 models was the standard fitment of a "10/20" laminated windscreen across the range. Other detailed alterations to bodywork included black-work on the mirrors and door frames, new style rear badges and a side indicator repeater lamp on each front wing. The hydragas suspension also received detailed changes. The models on offer were as follows:-
Princess2 1700L (New Designation for the standard model).
Princess 2 1700 HL
Princess 2 2000 HL
Princess 2 2200 HL
Princess 2 2200 HLS.
By the launch of the Princess 2 range, the drive-shaft problem on manual six cylinder cars was rectified by re-positioning the power unit. The manual cars were re-introduced as the Princess 2 was launched. January 1979 saw the deletion of a model within the Princess 2 range. The Princess 2 2200 HL was dropped after six months of production, leaving the only six cylinder car as the HLS flagship. By July of 1979, the HLS model was made available on all engine sizes. Despite being four cylinder cars, the 1700 and 2000 HLS models had the trapezoidal headlamps, previously restricted to six cylinder cars. The model range was now:-
Princess 2 1700 L
Princess 2 1700 HL
Princess 2 1700 HLS
Princess 2 2000 HL
Princess 2 2000 HLS
Princess 2 2200 HLS.
The cars remained largely unchanged until 1981 when there was a minor facelift to the Princess 2 range. The model designation changed from (for example) 1700 HLS to 1.7 HLS and the rear badging style was re-designed. In addition, the interior upholstery was changed, the indicator and wiper controls were turned around and the dashboard was slightly re-styled with a new wood effect on higher models. After the end of a seven year span, in 1982, the Princess bowed out gracefully.
hatchback was the most striking feature of the new model. Also now with standard folding rear seats, the car was now able to be used as an estate car. The Ambassador was a different car to the Princess which had preceded it; the front and grille was changed; there was a new bonnet; a new rear end style and there was also an extra rear quarter-light window. Interior treatment was vastly different with a new dashboard and revised seats. The engines available were the four cylinder O series units (either 1.7 or 2.0 capacities as before), with optional Borg Warner 35 automatic transmission. The E series units were not used in the new Ambassador. There were several models on offer:-
Austin Ambassador 1.7 L
Austin Ambassador 1.7 HL
Austin Ambassador 2.0 HL
Austin Ambassador 2.0 HLS
Austin Ambassador Vanden Plas.
Vanden Plas models were available with the two litre O series engine, matched with twin SU carburettors and Automatic Starting Unit (ASU). The interior was extremely plush with crushed velour seats, velour headlining, central locking, economy gauge, clock, electric front windows, deep pile carpet, tilt and slide steel sunroof, chrome inset bumpers, alloy wheels, front fog lamps and rear screen wash wipe. The HLS models had electric front windows, central locking, rear wash wipe, twin carburettors with ASU, uprated seating, chrome wheel rims, clock and econometer. HL models were either 1.7 or 2.0 single SU carburettor. These had velour seating, front door bins, side window demisters and side body mouldings. L models were available only with the 1.7 engine and the equipment lacked the door bins, side window de-misters and body mouldings.
In early 1983 the Ambassador 2.0 HL was uprated to twin carburettors with the ASU. At this time, all other models received upgrades; HLS and HL models received chrome inset bumpers and all models were given a clock. By September 1983 the Ambassador range was further improved with more equipment in lower specification models and the Vanden Plas was given wooden trim in a similar style to the Rover SD1. The Ambassador had become an extremely plush and well equipped car.
By 1984, the newly named Austin Rover was developing a new partnership with Honda which saw exciting new developments on the horizon and unfortunately this meant that the Ambassador had to be dropped. The Ambassador range was discontinued in 1984 and the spares supply was soon depleted.
The 18-22, Princess and Ambassador cars were well received when they were new. Despite problems which were experienced with the cars, they gained a good following. It is now many years since the last wedge rolled of the production line. With the development of a friendly and enthusiastic club, it is likely that the vehicles will last for many more years to follow...
(c) 2001 Princess and Ambassador Owners Club. All rights reserved.