SOTW: AUSTIN AMBASSADOR AND PRINCESS
Shed schedules a British Leyland double bill
If we had offered you, the committed PHer, either one of these two beauties 15 years ago, you would have probably laughed in our face. Hard and loud. You still might be tempted to today. But at some point recently these cars hit a tipping point, where frankly crap has somehow become improbably cool.
We're not quite sure how or why this is. Perhaps it's because, of more than a quarter of a million Princesses and Ambassadors that were built, only a few hundred survive today. Or perhaps it's because of that God-awful phrase 'retro cool'. Whatever the reason, we like 'em, in all their naff, flawed glory. We hope you do too.
Here's a deeply odd fact about the Austin Princess that I didn't know until I found this Tahiti Blue one nestling on the internet (yours for £995): it isn't actually an Austin Princess.
Apparently, when the car was unleashed upon the public back in the summer of 1975, it was known as an Austin, Morris or Wolseley 18-22 series. By September that year, the Wolseley marque had been unceremoniously dumped, and Austin and Morris were effectively unified.
Thus, while you may technically talk about an Austin 18-22, or simply a 'Princess', there is no 'Austin Princess'. Unless you're talking about the chunky saloons of the 50s and 60s. Which we are most emphatically not.
But despite its brandless label, a parent company that was slowly disintegrating, and a reputation (whether well deserved or not) for quality and reliability issues, the Princess actually had quite a lot going for it.
Of course it shouldn't only be the searing performance that gets your juices flowing for this Shed, because it's got an MOT all the way until April 2012, has been owned by a car club member for the past three years, and has only amassed 69,000 miles in its 33-year life.
Tempted to say 'hello, Princess'? We know you must be, and if you're not, surely the only thing holding you back is the absence of a convenient and practical hatch, an issue solved by...
...The Austin Ambassador:
The Ambassador also bore the odd distinction of being the only British Leyland model to be built solely in right-hand-drive form (we know, we're full of facts today).
This particular car is the top-end Vanden Plas model, which means you get the 2.0-litre twin-carb engine (you're impressed, we can see), crushed velour seats, velour headlining (Ambassador, with this velour you're really spoiling us), deep-pile carpet, tilt and slide/steel sunroof, chrome inset bumpers, alloy wheels, front fog lamps, rear head restraints and a radio/stereo cassette player.
Princess advert reproduced below
1978 Austin Princess 2200 HL For Sale
This is the rare Princess series 1 model in Tahiti blue (non-metallic) with dark blue cloth interior, good condition 2 inside and out. Automatic transmission, power steering. MoT until April 2012, taxed September 2011. Present owner for 3 years (club member)
Ambassador advert reproduced below
1983 Austin Ambassador Vanden Plas For Sale
Very nice car. No mot although has no faults that I know of. I have owned it for a couple of years but I am moving south and it can't come with me.
I have now got a full MOT on the car