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1977 Princess 1.8 HL - UnSaggy Brown Joy: Paint!

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Great buying there Lihp! You still up in Barnstaple? If so I'll have a fossick about, see if there are Princess parts still hanging about (I think the Haynes manual might still be here if nothing else) and wizz them up to you - while having a perv over the car of course.

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On 4/6/2020 at 7:08 PM, Isaac Hunt said:

My Dad fitted one of those kits to his 1800HL.  Twin 1” 3/4” Su’s and a LCB Fanimold.   I thought it was the Mutts Nuts, my Dad and bolT on go faster bits.

It sounded all-right as well


Years ago - early seventies in fact - my Dad used to service a dark green Austin 1300 that had a Downton engine conversion. It looked standard with the 1.5 inch SU but it had a gasfglowed head, different cam, freeflow exhaust and manifold etc. He maintained it was the best A Series he'd ever driven. He'd drop it back to the owner, jump in his 1275GT and it felt like the handrake was on.

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On 4/6/2020 at 7:47 PM, vulgalour said:

 parted out

"Broken for spares", please. We're not yet under Trump's sphere of influence. ?


The 1700 was/is a better engine. It has the same power as an 1800 yet is better on fuel and doesn't have the B Series valvegear clatter.

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Yeah but come on it was still a stinker. Thrashy and gutless, specially in a wedge. At least you could stick the 1.8 B series in top at 15mph and then forget about gear changes for the rest of the day, and it was fine with that. 1.7 Ambassadors are dire.

I remember towing a BL1300 on a 2-wheel car trailer behind my Ambassador 1.7 when I was about 18. I set off up this hill near Hadrians wall, I didnt have much of a run-up, and got about 1/4 of the way up then just ran out of steam. It just could not pull the trailer up the hill. Even in 1st gear. i was completely stuck. I had to give up, leave the 'rig' half blocking the road up and and ask a local farmer to help me out of the shit.

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The 1700 is great when you're on your own and you've a run up at stuff.  Pack 5 people in the car and try and go up hills in the Yorkshire Dales, not so much.  Lots of gear changes, which is pretty hard work.  Though, to be fair, when I did that my brakes, clutch, and most of my car was pretty much fucked and I was too stubborn to admit it.

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I too have a Haynes manual for a Princess - for a B-Series Princess/18-22 series.

I'm in New Zealand (And I'd like to keep the manual as I have distant hopes of owning a Princess someday) but I can send you photos of any chapters or sections from the manual if you like! Feel feel to drop me a message. 

This looks like a top-notch project.

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Blimey Phil, there's a blast from the past, how are you?  I didn't know you were back in the area, yes you'd be more than welcome to come and have a poke at it when it lands, I'm still in Barnstaple.

Thanks for the offers of manuals etc guys - I'll see what I can get my hands on in the next few weeks but if I get stuck I'll let you know.

I think the only way to settle this 1800 B vs 1700 O argument is on the drag strip.  

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The manual I have only covers the Princess 2 (so the 1.7 and 2.0, so potentially not a huge lot of use too you, although I don't think much that wasn't superficial changed in them other than the engines over the years unless anyone else knows better.IMG_20200408_165118.thumb.jpg.25ac37262695d85ad8a7e08ff31671ef.jpg

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Mechanically, the engine is different between 1 and 2, exhaust downpipe, and possibly the clutch.  Brakes, suspension, power steering, radiator are all the same.  Electrically they're pretty much identical with some minor differences like the location of the aerial requiring a longer wire on the 1 than the 2.  Cosmetically there's quite a bit of trim differences, different badges, dashboard insert, steering wheel pad, centre console, but it's all interchangable anyway if you're not fussed about originality.  They did another even more minor facelift for the very last Princesses like OKK where they changed the badges and door mirrors and little else, and then the Ambassador happened.

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Thanks Phil, it's better than nothing - I can always find a seperate manual for the engine if I need one, bound to be plenty of those about if I need one.  I had the same issue when I had the Rover 220SLi, Haynes only covered the 1.6 & 1.8 models but it was good enough for most things.

I am purely guessing at this stage until I see it and drive it but I strongly suspect it is going to need some work on brakes, fuel system and carb - I will be able to put into practice all that I have learned* from watching Mustie1 videos on Youtube with a carb strip down, clean and rebuild.  

I'll speak to the seller in more detail and find out precisely what he's done to put it back on the road - I know from the ad it has new tyres, new front brake calipers and rear cylinders, new copper brake lines, a new electric fuel pump and a few others bits but likely needs a bit of general TLC everywhere and a bloody good service.  The ignition system look a bit fossilised but I can't see a tremendous amount of evidence of oil leaks which is good - although once some miles go on it I expect that to no longer be the case.  I also spot a possible scotch block on the fuel pump wiring, that will be going in the bin!


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1 hour ago, philibusmo said:

The manual I have only covers the Princess 2 (so the 1.7 and 2.0, so potentially not a huge lot of use too you, although I don't think much that wasn't superficial changed in them other than the engines over the years unless anyone else knows better.

Still got the Fiesta, I see!

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Normally an in-tank electric fuel pump on these, they do fail.  The pump itself is the same as SD1 but the sender is either unique, or shared only with the Maxi (I've had conflicting info on that), so if you do want to go back to original there it's best to just replace the pump if you can get away with it.  However, a word of warning on removing the in-tank pump and sender is that the locking ring doesn't sometimes and it leaks afterwards.  It is a generic part of the tank at least, being shared with the Series Landrovers, but it's a faff to sort (everything is a faff to sort).  A beefier or secondary earth strap is a good idea too, these cars do suffer from earth problems when they've been stood a while and the braided earth strap isn't the best.  Brakes probably need bleeding properly, the fronts have a particular sequence to do it properly, there's 3 bleed nipples on each caliper, if you do it wrong it gets air stuck in them and you get a spongey or bouncy pedal and not much braking effort.

Expect an oil leak from the filler cap and the rocker cover, both easily replaced since it's shared with MG B.  In fact, if you're struggling to find engine bits then search for MG B stuff and you'll usually find it fairly cheaply, it's one of the big advantages of the B series in the Princess over the O series.  Radiators silt up too and are worth removing for a proper flush, replacements aren't readily available and they're an odd size so there's not really an off-the-shelf option.  They are all metal though, so they can be repaired by any reputable radiator repair type place.

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  • 3 weeks later...

While I wait for lockdown to lift enough to get this one home, I've been stocking up on cheap parts on eBay.   I've landed a NOS fuel pump, some ignition components and a couple of other bits and at the same time treated myself to some quality literature.  The brochure is from 1977, the same year my car was made and the Haynes is from 1976 so it's a perfect match.

IMG-20200427-WA0002.thumb.jpeg.87137d424d36b88c537be506a6c9d98e.jpeg  IMG-20200427-WA0000.thumb.jpeg.def3421c72cefb363b2c41670f1a339d.jpeg

I find the wording quite odd here - seems like a classic BL move to actively highlight what kit it hasn't got.







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Yes, the biggest job now is a bit of bodywork, we shall see how bad it is.  Short term might involve some gentle bodgery!

I have since found out a bit more about it, it'd been off the road since 1992 in a dry barn/lean to and was woken up last year.  I have a video of it running and it seems to be in rude health all things considered.

Collection may happen soon, I've held off as the principle of it bothered me, it really isn't important and the seller's in no rush, as has been pointed out though it will give someone work and income, I've got some quotes in.  Ordinarily I'd drive it home but as it's several hundred miles and the seller's advised against it, given the current restrictions as well it doesn't make sense.  It developed some electrical issues which he was going to investigate, the headlights and radiator fan stopped working and we both suspect a bad earth somewhere.

I now have a NOS fuel pump and water pump in my possession, so far it would appear that parts for this car are dirt cheap and easily available which is marvellous.

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On 4/7/2020 at 10:52 PM, Mr_Bo11ox said:

Yeah but come on it was still a stinker. Thrashy and gutless, specially in a wedge. At least you could stick the 1.8 B series in top at 15mph and then forget about gear changes for the rest of the day, and it was fine with that. 1.7 Ambassadors are dire.

I remember towing a BL1300 on a 2-wheel car trailer behind my Ambassador 1.7 when I was about 18. I set off up this hill near Hadrians wall, I didnt have much of a run-up, and got about 1/4 of the way up then just ran out of steam. It just could not pull the trailer up the hill. Even in 1st gear. i was completely stuck. I had to give up, leave the 'rig' half blocking the road up and and ask a local farmer to help me out of the shit.

That is why my Dad fitted the Leyland Special Tuning Kit, he reckoned in standard form the 78 Princess 1800 “wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding”

I thought it was great, i’d Got a ‘go fast Dad’

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The Princess was the first British car with plastic arch liners - In fact I can't think of any car that had them before 1975. That and wax injection meant that BL were paying more than lip service to rust protection, unlike Ford. They were never rot boxes like the Cortina and like the Allegro, they did last well. I don't recall ever having to do MOT welding on one.

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It's great until the pipes rot out, which many do, which is why mine are individualised now.  Handles better, doesn't ride as smooth.  If you fancy a carpet, I've got one in orange.  It's not perfect, but is very servicable.  Free if you can make use of it, at the very least it's a good pattern for making a new one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well look what the Transit dragged in...


I found a transporter on Shiply who not only brought it to me for less than it would have cost to go and get it myself - factoring in rental of a van and trailer etc - but also arrived a day early and stayed in regular contact throughout.  Top bloke.  All done safely and at a distance and I wiped down the handles, wheel etc afterwards as well just in case.

First impressions are...it's way more solid than I could have hoped for - there's some holes in the lower front valance and the top of the bootlid plus the bottom of one rear door and that's about it so far, although the tattered vinyl on the C posts is hiding uncertain amounts of crispiness which will have to be unearthed soon.  Sure I'll find a few more scabby bits before the week's out but the underside is slathered in underseal and it has done its job.  The 1800 lump looks horrible but runs surprisingly well in a noisy, slightly flatulent sort of way, starts easily enough with a bit of choke and there's no horrible noises.  I am certain the car's not been cleaned since some time before it was parked up in 1992, inside or out; the outside is dusty, stained and a bit green.  The interior mostly consists of dust and mould.

It's really quite marvellous.  I have had a quick pootle up and down my road in it but until I've sorted out what it might need in the way of oil, coolant and petrol it won't be going very far.  That said, it drives OK - or at least, it goes in a straight line, the gears function and the brakes work.  Pretty much as it was in 1977 really.

My to-do list is quite short for now but likely to grow every time I walk past it.

- wash it and polish the bits that still have paint on them
- clean the inside, seats and carpets out.  It's a nylon and vinyl biohazard
- find the wiring gremlin that is causing the lights, indicators and cooling fan not to work.
- sort the fuelling/carb issue that means it runs on pretty much forever until stalled when the ignition is turned off.  Probably also the reason why it pops and bangs on full throttle as well.
- get rid of the aftermarket fuel pump which has been "installed" with scotch locks and the rotten original fuel line, it works but it's not right and I don't trust it.  I have a NOS mechanical pump and will get some new lines and clips,  Might be related to the running-on issue.
- pump it up, don't you know, pump it up.  My tame mechanic has a hydragas pump hidden away which he's going to dig out for me.  It has a serious case of the hydrasags.
- the exhaust, which I'm told is a good one off another car, has a blown joint somewhere and is quite undignified.

As for less pressing items, the radio only produces parps and hisses, which is all very well but I'd like to get some LW tunes blasting out of my big crusty speaker so might have a poke at that and the bonnet struts, naturally, do not work.  One of them actually started spewing oil while the bonnet was propped up with a plank of wood.  Not sure on the bonnet's patinated finish - despite appearances it's very solid so I might just scrub off the loose paint and slap a coat of black or brown Rustoleum on it for now to keep it from deteriorating.  The noisy end will also get a full service including gearbox oil as the gearchange is somewhat challenging.  Will give the linkages a good lubing as well.

From photos I've seen and the evidence on the car, the barn/shed it was in had no door on it and the back of the car was somewhat more exposed to the elements than the rest of it.  Longer term will probably involve a replacement rear door and bootlid and some weldage on the front valance.  It desperately needs some new rubber window seals and if I were being picky I'd rather like a velour interior if I could find one - the dash top and parcel shelf need some new vinyl and the top of the back seat has disintegrated.   

I don't think I will be bored for a while with this one.  



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On 5/12/2020 at 7:26 PM, phil_lihp said:

I don't think I will be bored for a while with this one.  

I don’t think any of us are going to be bored for a while with this one!

Cracking purchase. All looks very doable for a man of your calibre, and well worth it.

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If you can make use, I've got a couple of bootlids going spare, one in white, one in metallic green.  They're not perfect, but they also don't have holes in them.  Happy to donate one to the cause if it's of use.  I've had a look in my stash and it looks like I'm all out of rubber seals, front light units, and parcel shelves.  The damaged bit on your dashboard between the top vents and windscreen is actually steel with textured paint or vinyl on, and it's removable from the car (if you're willing to dismantle the entire dashboard) so you just need to refinish that rather than replace it most likely.  It does look very solid where they don't normally, aside from the little bits you've already mentioned, door bottoms particularly look very good overall.  I do have at least some of the rear window chrome insert corner trims too, they're quite difficult to get hold of, not sure if I've got all four, I know I've got at least two.  Again, happy to donate to the cause if you're in need.

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That's extremely kind of you, thanks.  I'll have a good poke around the bootlid at some point and see how bad it is, it might be repairable.  In the mean time I think it'll probably have to settle for a bit of duct tape to keep it watertight.  Fortunately the boot seems bone dry so it's not letting water in yet.

Tomorrow's job is likely to be spraying the interior in vinegar solution to get rid of the worst of the mould before I attack it with my long-suffering Dyson,

Oh, I do have the missing light lens incidentally, it fell off on the journey over and fortunately was sitting on the trailer.

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Well this is an interesting one, she needs an unleaded conversion!  Having been sat since 1992 this is probably the first time unleaded fuel has passed through the carb.


That is likely to be the run-on cause.  Nothing I need to worry about immediately but something to keep in mind.  Given the mileage I'm likely to do, a fresh set of plugs and some timing adjustment should be all it needs for now.

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Brilliant! I know it’s too low but I think it looks like a swoopy concept car in the pics, right out of a 70s design studio. Harris Mann? 

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  • phil_lihp changed the title to 1977 Princess 1.8 HL - UnSaggy Brown Joy: Paint!

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