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1981 Austin Princess - [expletives removed]


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#1 OFFLINE   vulgalour


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 02:47 PM

Right, well, I've not got the car back yet but since I've actually paid actual money to an actual person that's actually going to deliver I suppose I should put some info up about it.
Like my first Princess, this second one was found entirely by chance.  Unlike the first Princess, I wasn't looking for a Princess this time and instead of being on my doorstep it's about as far away as it could be while still being in mainland Britain so I've been scrabbling around trying to get a sensible price for transporting the beast 280 miles from Plymouth to Derbyshire.
What really swung it for me with this car was that it was being offered free.  That's right, a complete car for no money.  Sure, I didn't really have the money spare for transporting it, and I already had two cars and I don't really have the space here to keep a third car and really I was after something sensible like a hearse or frugal like a 1.3 Maestro but I rarely get what I set out to get and this occasion was no different to any other.
I don't know a huge amount about the car's history.  I know that the chap I'm getting it from collected the car originally from Swansea where it had been in a garage for 10 years.  He put it into a garage in Plymouth for another 2 years with the intention of putting it back on the road but never really got around to it.  So it's been mostly out of the weather for 12 years and I can believe it, looking at the photographs I've received.
It's not too rotten, on the surface of things, though I'm expecting rot in the floors, sills, doors and boot because they always do.  I'm not expecting the rot to be too advanced though because the very late Princesses were the best having had all the problems pretty much ironed out.
Shall we have a look at it?  I know you're dying to see it.
There's some surface rust and a lot of storage dust as is to be expected from a protracted lay up in a garage.  Driver's side wing might be a replacement or could just be oxidised paint.
Dented rear door but otherwise moderately straight looking.  Sitting quite low at the front but that's pretty normal for a sleeping hydragas car.
Nice 0 series lump in here, it's the 2 litre with power steering fitted as standard.  Apparently, the 2ltr is slightly nicer than the 1.7 and I expect it's a bit more able to hustle the Princess along.  My only concern with the engine is that it had been seized but the present owner unseized it and believes it to run so I'll be sure to take the gentle approach to getting this running.  Engine bay looks quite tidy though.  There's nothing in here to seriously concern me visually.
If we take a look inside we see that there's been a good bit of rummaging and a lot of cleaning is required.  It being a beige interior means this probably looks far, far worse than it is in reality,  You can see the usual rot in the back door and the surface rust on the sill-arch juncture is quite normal and doesn't look too advanced.  The vinyl on the C pillar looks like it's hiding some bubbles but it's certainly not as bad as it was on the HL.  All in all, not too worrying and no real surprises here.
Seats are quite worn but they're probably still really solid.  Note the very late gear knob and shorter looking gear stick than on mine.  Also note the proper Princess steering wheel with period vinyl wrap which I shall definitely be stealing for the HL.  I don't know what's happened to the front carpet on the driver's side but I do know they rot around there so I'm expecting there might be a hole to fill.
Let's go back outside.  Really, this doesn't look like it's going to take a huge amount of effort (by my standards) to get looking super again.
Might be a little hole under the filler flap and the back door this side definitely has rot in it, but again it's not too terrible.  Vinyl is lifting at the end of the gutter but might be restickable.  The black vinyl roof covering was always better quality than the brown and always lasted better so hopefully it'll stay put on this one.  Of special note are the late model gold coach stripes and plastic boot badge, I believe this was only for the last year of production before the Ambassador was released.  Likewise, the rubber bump strip on the bumpers is a late model only thing as far as I know.  All the wheel trims should be a dark grey/graphite colour with chrome embellishers.  The driver's door window is intact, just not visible in the picture but I don't know what's happened to the door mirror which, as far as I know, is made entirely of unobtanium.
I'm cautiously optimistic.  There's signs of bodywork being done here and there and of general wear and neglect but it's not as bad as it might be.  The car is mostly intact and looks really original in the engine bay which is a strong selling point for me.  Originally, I was considering taking this on as a breaker to sort out all the problems on my HL but when I got the pictures and talked to the previous owner I very much got the impression it's going to be far too good to break and, given its rarity, well worth saving.  Weirdly, the late Princesses don't seem to be very desirable at all and I don't particularly understand this as they come with all the bells and whistles and are the most likely to not have rot problems.

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#2 OFFLINE   Conrad D. Conelrad

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 02:51 PM

Glutton for punishment!

#3 OFFLINE   PhilA


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 02:53 PM

That doesn't look as though it's hiding too much nightmare fuel. I'd be cautious and ask the question- why not reverse the roles? Make the HL the spares vehicle to get this one going?




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#4 OFFLINE   vulgalour


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 02:54 PM

@PhilA: see Conrad's comment above.

#5 OFFLINE   Wilko220


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 03:04 PM

Best of luck with this one, VA. Looking forward to reading about the progress.


Those great stripes could feature in the "Shite Factory Decals" thread!

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#6 OFFLINE   Ghosty


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 03:04 PM

This looks like there's a good car hiding in there somewhere - certainly worth saving! That weird black rectangle in the middle of the grille makes it look weirdly like a Maestro.

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#7 OFFLINE   PhilA


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 03:06 PM

@PhilA: see Conrad's comment above.


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#8 OFFLINE   Angrydicky


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 03:07 PM

This is utterly gorgeous and really needs saving! Love it.


Weirdly, I actually prefer the Ambassador steering wheel in your beige HL. Never really liked the late Princess wheel, although the early one with the Leyland plughole in the centre is rather nice.

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#9 OFFLINE   vulgalour


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 03:32 PM

Trouble with the Ambo wheel is that it doesn't feel very nice and it obscures some of the telltales on the dash.  It's also a little bit smaller than the Princess wheel (as far as I know) so a bigger wheel would likely make parking without power assist just a little bit easier.

#10 ONLINE   Lord Sterling

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 04:58 PM

Hey! That looks pretty solid to be fair. Although probably not what you were expecting but it does look savable and with your skills and patience, this Princess will look superb.

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#11 OFFLINE   Mr_Bo11ox


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:04 PM

That looks really ace, a great spec and colour and everything. Nice find. Loving those gold stripes and i don't doubt that within 24 ours of it landing at yours it will be looking 175 times better. I can confirm that a 2.0 with PAS will make the 1.7 with manual steering suddenly feel like a horrible gutless heavy tank of a thing (they are a bit TBH). Have you got a hydrolastic pump? Looks like someone needs to 'pump up the jam' on its ass a bit. 



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#12 OFFLINE   MikeKnight


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:14 PM

The smaller plastic steering wheel on the floor is for when the main one falls off.

#13 OFFLINE   vulgalour


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:23 PM

@Mr Boll:  I don't have a pump myself, but there's a hydragas specialist about 2 miles from home who also just happens to do MoTs so I'll be trundling over there.  He charges a tiny amount and is genuinely happy to work with hydragas cars, regularly working on Minis, Metros, Marcos and Maxis.

#14 OFFLINE   purplebargeken


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:31 PM

Love it, love it, love it. I actually prefer the look of this one over your first one. Doesn't mean I don't like the first one, I just like the new one better. You know what I mean. 


I really do not think that this will take you a huge amount of time to sort out. Damn, I'm starting to hanker after one of these now. 

#15 ONLINE   mercrocker


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:34 PM

well done for saving and good luck.   i should have got one when they were just shite instead of rare shite, ah well....A Wulzy wood have been nice!

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#16 OFFLINE   michael t

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:41 PM

Love this kind of thread, best of luck

#17 ONLINE   Skizzer


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 06:02 PM

You're bonkers!  Well done that man, really looking forward to seeing the pics of the clean-up.  Nice looking spec, this one, so I hope it's not too rotten underneath.  

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#18 OFFLINE   Vince70


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 06:11 PM

I had the 2 litre O series in an Ambassdor but it had twin carbs that were very troublesome so I would say having a single SU carb is a bonus.

#19 ONLINE   trigger


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 06:11 PM

Mad as a box of frogs, Good luck!

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#20 OFFLINE   Black_GT


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 06:27 PM

Superb - doesn't look bad at all considering.  Looking forward to seeing it given the Vulgalour makeover!

#21 OFFLINE   RedSparrow


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 06:32 PM

I agree this is a great colour scheme and bonus points for ARG badging in that 'one of the last' kind of way.
I hope it's not too rotten!

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#22 ONLINE   Grundig


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 06:49 PM

Love it! - My 1st motor was an Austin Princess 1800 HL 'P' reg, although the mileage was quite low, it had been fitted with a replacement gold seal engine  lol  :shock:

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#23 OFFLINE   Lankytim


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 07:44 PM



Lovely stuff!

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#24 OFFLINE   philibusmo


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 07:52 PM

You already know how jealous I am. Seeing those pictures has not changed the situation.

#25 OFFLINE   vulgalour


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:06 PM

Sorry! (I'm not sorry)  You're welcome to come play any time you fancy.

#26 ONLINE   Twiggy


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:11 PM

These are lovely cars. My mate had a few of them - he had a garage - including a diesel version. I found them great to drive, comfortable, and surprisingly economical. Could never understand why they didn`t catch on. An estate version would have been fantastic.

Looking forward to seeing how well it will come up - I thoroughly enjoyed the thread on the Princess, so best of luck with it.

#27 OFFLINE   406V6


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:39 PM

Good luck with it and hope there are no nasties hiding underneath. I predict that once you drive this more powerful version with power steering your view of it will change massively in favour. I drove a V reg 1.7 non-pas Princess once and my feelings towards pas changed immediately (previously I sided with the road testers in the mags who never liked power steering due to the lack of feel - they were talking b*****x in the case of a car like the Princess).

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#28 OFFLINE   vulgalour


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Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:54 PM

I only really have a problem with the lack of PAS when parking.  On the motorway where the car excels, the steering is feather light and once you start getting to 70 and over it actually becomes alarmingly light so I'm not sure I'll like PAS if it emphasises this effect.

#29 OFFLINE   oman5


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Posted 17 September 2013 - 02:22 AM

well done for saving it. I had a V reg 2.0 HLS with the folding armrests in the front seats. the PAS does not present a problem on motorways, its quite nicely weighted and the 2.0 is a much more satisfying drive than a 1.7, if you get the revs up it even feels quite sprightly and has noticeably more torque

#30 OFFLINE   vulgalour


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Posted 19 September 2013 - 07:49 PM

Without fanfare, this happened at about 3pm this afternoon.
Dad and brother descended like vultures telling me it was probably only good enough for breaking, should be a spares car, blabla.  I told them to shut up because I could see a car that was actually better than expected despite the shot paint, saggy nose and decidedly down-at-heel appearance.  Amazingly, the brakes even worked all be it not as well as I'd've liked and in very short order had the car on the drive.
I'm not old enough for a midlife crisis, so I can only assume I've actually completely lost the plot.  Doesn't look too shabby, I gave it a quick hose down to get rid of the worst of the debris clinging to the outside and found that the whole exterior of the car needs repainting on account of rust spiderwebs under the paint everywhere.  It's not a concern, it's something I can easily rectify, it'll just take a lot of time to get it how I want it.
The first job my brother wanted to do was the engine, because that's his thing, but I was desperate to get the interior cleaned out because that's my thing.  A compromise was had and we got the car in first gear and moved it to check nothing was seized which thankfully turned out to be the case.  There was no water in it at all so we topped it up, stole a spark plug from the HL because one of the HLS plugs was snapped, and stole the HL's battery.  The engine will turn over but it won't fire and it flattens batteries so when there's more light tomorrow we'll investigate properly.  I guess it's a problem with the earth.  Again.
I knew the interior was going to be a bit... fusty.  After all, this is a car that's been in storage for 12 years.  What I didn't know is that it was going to have been used to keep animals in for quite a long time and every surface is covered in dog/cat hairs and grease.  And cobwebs and a bit of storage mould and... well it's not too pleasant in there.
But in order to get a look at the floors I had to shovel out the two binbags of rubbish and actually get on with things.  The carpet is completely dead, having bits cut out of it and just being generally worn out but, happily, the floors are actually more solid than those in the HL.  The outer sills aren't perfect but they're far from knackered and the inner sills are actually in pretty good order.  Got the vacuum cleaner out and spent an age doing the driver's seat.
Then the rear seat that was in the car.  I did the base out of the car and then fitted it.  Unfortunately there's a tear in the rear seat bolster which has been repaired* with gaffer tape that has compounded the issue.  The fabric on the C pillar trims is dead and I accidentally tore the parcel shelf fabric when vacuuming it because it's become really fragile.  I shall likely retrim with some beige fake-suede or alcantara and try and get a bit of HLS beige fabric to repair the torn bolster.
Really, really need to shampoo this lot but at least a good amount of the smell has gone and the hairs are almost completely removed.  It's tolerable to be in the car now and apart from the dirt, the rear seat is actually in very good condition and very comfortable as one would expect.
Once I'd finished shovelling the detritus out of the front and vacuumed the seats that was looking much better.  Again, still lots to clean properly and the seats need shampooing and the carpet is utterly ruined, but it's looking presentable compared to how it did when it arrived.
All this came out of the cabin.  The Dyson was empty when I began.
I did find a few nice little details, like this sticker from just before the car came off the road in '97/8.
There was treasure too, some of it more valuable than others.
A few nice details survive.  I forgot to take a picture of the Supercover sticker on the windscreen, or what's left of it at any rate, but it's nice I still have the remnants of the dealer sticker.
The worst bit of rust on the entire car, and I'm not even joking about that.  This thing is surprisingly solid.
Correct type (as far as I know) on the driver's wing which does look a lot like a replacement now I see it in person.
But the limpet that Dad believes is from an Ambassador on the original wing on the passenger side.
All the door scrapers look like this, unfortunately.
All in all though, it's a surprising old boat.  Okay, so I haven't got the engine to start up yet and yes part of the boot lid has rotted through completely and yes one of the front tyres has split but is somehow still holding air... but I actually do believe this car is good enough to get back on the road.
It has done a frankly astonishing 145,000 miles.  Survivors all seem to have done between 50,000 and 70,000 and they rarely seem to be as solid as this one is.
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