Vanden Plas is the name of a company of coachbuilders for specialist and up-market automobile manufacturers. It originated in Belgium in 1870 as Carrosserie Vanden Plas.
The company first appeared in the United Kingdom in 1906 when Métallurgique
cars were imported with Vanden Plas coachwork. These were generally admired and in about 1910 Warwick Wright (now Peugeot
dealers), a British motor company, purchased the United Kingdom rights to the Vanden Plas name and established Vanden Plas (England) Ltd. During World War I the company became involved in aircraft production and was bought by the Aircraft Manufacturing Company based at Hendon
, London. In 1917 a new company, Vanden Plas (1917) Ltd., was formed. The company seems to have struggled to get back into coachbuilding and in 1922 went into receivership. The exclusive UK rights purchase seems also to have gone as in the early 1920s the Belgian firm was exhibiting at the London Motor Show
alongside the British company.
The rights to the name and the goodwill were purchased by the Fox brothers who moved the company from Hendon to Kingsbury and built on the contacts with Bentley that had been made. Between 1924 and 1931, when Bentley failed, Vanden Plas built the bodies for over 700 of their chassis.
In the 1930s the company became less dependent on one car maker and supplied coachwork to such as Alvis, Armstrong Siddeley, Bentley, Daimler, Lagonda and Rolls-Royce. The company also updated its production methods and took to making small batches of similar bodies.
With the outbreak of war in 1939 the company went back into aircraft work and coachbuilding stopped.
Austin, BMC and BL
With peace in 1945 the company looked to restart its old business, but a surprising new customer came along. Austin
wanted to produce a luxury car and approached Vanden Plas. In 1946 Vanden Plas became a subsidiary of the Austin Motor Company
and produced its A135 Princess
model. From 1958 this also started to involve chassis assembly and the Austin (by now British Motor Corporation
or BMC) board recognised Vanden Plas as a motor manufacturer in its own right and in 1960 the Austin Princess became the Vanden Plas Princess. Also in 1957/8, Vanden Plas were asked by Leonard Lord
to add luxury fittings to a batch of Austin A105 Westminster
cars, beginning the practice of using the company's skills and name for badge engineered (and genuinely improved) luxury versions of many of the BMC (and later British Leyland
(BL)) cars such as the 1100/1300
range and the Allegro
(known as the Vanden Plas 1500 and 1700).
From 1985 to 1989, Austin Rover made upmarket Vanden Plas models within its Metro, Maestro and Montego ranges.
Jaguar and Nanjing Auto
merged with the British Motor Corporation in 1966 to form British Motor Holdings
(BMH) which in turn merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation
to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation
in 1968. The Vanden Plas name continued to be used by Jaguar on its Daimler variants, and American cars. The name ultimately ended up with the Rover Group
, and Jaguar was forced to stop using it in the United Kingdom, though it continued to do so in America. The Daimler Double-Six Vanden Plas became, simply, the Daimler Double Six, and the Sovereign designation was transferred to Jaguar. Jaguar was subsequently acquired by Ford
as were the North American rights.
Production of the Vanden Plas Princess limousine stopped in 1968 when Jaguar introduced the Daimler DS420 Limousine (Jaguar had acquired Daimler in 1960). The DS420 was produced at the Kingsbury Lane Vanden Plas factory until it closed in November 1979.
Placed on Jaguar models the Vanden Plas label still signifies Jaguar's most luxurious variant. In addition, Jaguar uses the Vanden Plas name in markets where, for licensing reasons connected with Daimler-Chrysler, the Daimler name cannot be used. These include the United States and some Middle East countries. The last British car to have the Vanden Plas name was the Rover 75.
The rights to the design of the Rover 75 cars and the MG Group were purchased by a Chinese firm, Nanjing Automobile. Ford purchased the Rover name from BMW to protect the Land Rover name from Shanghai Automotive who wanted the brand. The Vanden Plas name (for outside North America) and many other Leyland names were purchased by Nanjing Automobile.
Cited in text
- Vanden Plas history & models at "The unofficial Austin Rover resource"