The Austin Princess was a series of luxury cars made by the Austin company from the 1940s to the 1960s.
The first Austin Princess was launched in 1947 as the most expensive flagship model in the Austin range. Based on the Austin Sheerline, the Princess (model code A135) featured a body by the coachbuilder Vanden Plas and was a fairly large saloon or limousine. Not a popular model with the general public, most Princesses (and Sheerlines, for that matter) were bought for civic ceremonial duties or by hire companies as limousines for hire.
The Princess model was updated over the years through Mark I, Mark II and Mark III versions, the variations being fairly minor: the bodywork didn't change much, nor did the 4-litre straight-6 engine. The radiator was fairly upright in old-fashioned style and the car had separate front wings.
During the life of this model (in 1952), Austin became part of the British Motor Corporation (BMC).
A long wheelbase version tested by The Motor magazine in 1953 had a top speed of and could accelerate from 0- in 23.3 seconds. A fuel consumption of was recorded. The test car cost £2480 including taxes.
In 1959 a new Austin A99 Westminster-based Princess was launched. These vehicles were soon changed to bear the Vanden Plas name which became a badge-engineered marque in its own right (rather than being known as coachbuilder for the cars of other marques). The car was smaller than the previous Princess and was largely identical to the Austin A99 Westminster and other models using the same Pininfarina-designed bodyshell. It featured a Vanden Plas grille (fairly square, with a thick surround and vertical slats), round headlamps, and horn grilles on the front. The interior was lavish in typical Vanden Plas style, featuring burr walnut wood trim, leather seats and panels, and high-quality carpeting. Power was a 3-litre unit developing .
This model was replaced in 1961 by the Vanden Plas Princess Mark II. Styling was similar but the wheelbase was longer. The engine was uprated to . Better brakes were fitted, and interior improvements included built-in drop-down "picnic tables" for the rear seat passengers. This model lasted until 1964.
The Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre R lasted for 4 years, killed off by BMC in 1968 (just ahead of the transition to British Leyland) after about 6,555 had been built.
The final use of the "Princess" name was for the Princess 1800 / 2200 of 1975–78 and the Princess 2 1700 / 2000 / 2200 of 1978–81. This was not badged as an Austin on the home market (although it was badged as such in New Zealand), but was sometimes confused with one because for the first year of its life it was marketed (variously) as the Austin, Morris, and Wolseley 18–22 Series. It was succeeded by the Austin Ambassador in 1982 and thus marked the end of the Princess, although Vanden Plas would continue as a model name in the Rover SD1 range.
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