1964 Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre R Saloon
|Engine||In-line 6-cylinder, 3909cc|
One of the great names in British coach building history, Vanden Plas bodywork was found on numerous high quality cars between the wars, particular those made by Bentley and Alvis. Based in Kingsbury, Vanden Plas was responsible for some truly outstanding designs of the pre-war period but, with the general decline in coach building post-war, was taken over by Austin in 1946 in order to assemble the large A135 Princess model. The Vanden Plas name itself was not used again until 1958, when Austin released an upmarket version of the A105 for sale. The following year BMC shuffled names around and the A105 was replaced by a new model, initially badged the Princess 3-litre and
based on the new Austin A99 and Wolseley 6/99 models. Loaded with luxury features, including a walnut veneer instrument panel and additional sound deadening, the Princess proved a worthy flagship for BMC. After 4719 had been made, an improved Mark II model was released in 1961, with a more powerful engine affording genuine 100 mph performance and longer wheelbase for additional rear legroom. By this stage, they were somewhat confusingly badged as the Vanden Plas Princess, VDP having been resurrected into a separate marque by BMC, and a further 7984 Mark IIs left the Kingsbury facility. The final development of this bespoke luxury car was announced in 1964, the result of a joint project between BMC and Rolls-Royce dating back some two years earlier, a liaison that saw the Crewe marque develop a short-stroke derivative of its six-cylinder engine, known as the FB60. Displacing 3909cc, the alloy engine developed considerably more power than the four-cylinder unit found in the Princess 3-litre, peak power being 175 horsepower at 4800 rpm and torque was equally impressive. Unlike the earlier 3-litres, where automatic transmission had been optional, the Princess R (it was rumoured this stood for Royal) was only sold with Borg-Warner's smooth three-speed self-shifter, while braking was once again via discs up front and drums at the rear. The Princess R's handsome lines saw changes to the roofline and more subdued tail fines, giving the latest Vanden Plas a discreetly refined air, while the interior was typically well appointed. Sadly the high price of the Princess R - it as roughly 25% more expensive than its predecessor - meant sales struggled after an initial surge and the model was withdrawn from sale in 1968, with just 6555 made in total.