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Phil's 1977 Princess 1.8 HL - Time to Say Goodbye

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Great progress, Mr Lihp.  

I'm not sure I'd go too mental on the paintwork if it was mine.  I live in permanent conflict with myself over the Mini and Sierra.  One day I want them to look like someone loves them, the next I'm worrying about overdoing it.  Then I'll think "wouldn't it be nice to own something I'm really proud of" and then its "60 year old women look ridiculous with fake tits, and my car should look its age".  And we go on and on.

This seems to be a nice balance of "story" vs "respectability".  So don't worry what we might think, we all love it! 

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You're both right - yes, the holes are mainly from the Princess badges.  Fortunately they, plus all the stainless steel trim, came off perfectly intact.

This car will definitely retain its shabbiness - I have no intention of a respray or full restoration.  Bodywork isn't my thing and I only want cars to look as good as they can with the paint they have got, as you'll have seen from the magnificently shambolic XJ40.  Likewise the interior - as long as it's tidy and doesn't smell like a dead badger, I will be happy.  Like you say, I think it's great for a car to wear its history.

Oh, bonus good thing: the headlining is immaculate.  That's a relief, didn't want to get into that!

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Indicators should be on a second relay, it seems fairly common for them to fail and be replaced.  That loose one you found is probably the replacement and probably also dead.  The square Lucas ones are of very variable quality, I resorted to a more modern 'electronic' one that has actually been perfectly reliable since.  Rear doors can be very difficult to source, and replacements are rarely any better than you currently have fitted unfortunately.  I would recommend getting original panels repaired where possible, even though Princesses were mass produced, the variation in panel fitment could easily lead you to believe otherwise.  If the floor portion of the carpet hasn't torn when you removed it then it's probably tough enough to survive a careful powerwashing and that should bring the fibres back up again nicely.  A carpet shampoo machine will certainly work and now you've got it out it's a whole world easier to clean it up.  The inner sill carpets are lighter weight than the floor pieces and more prone to rotting, especially where screws and bolts go through them, so these tend to need a little more care.

Astonishingly, your car could be on its original sills, the seam between the sill and the rear arch is still there and this is usually welded/fillered over when replacement sills are put on.  That bodes particularly well if true because it means you're unlikely to be undoing bad bodywork repairs to put the rust right.  Speaking of, the rust you've got visible there since removing the vinyl is also much better than usual and really localised so shouldn't be too horrendous to put right.  Access for rust protection on the C pillars is pretty good when the inner trims are removed (they're on with spring clips so just pull off).  If all you've got is a little hole in the floor and the car has been letting water in, you've done remarkably well.  I can offer you a spare Allegro hubcap to replace your presumably missing Princess one, Princess hubcaps are specific to the Princess even though they're the same size as Allegro ones.  I just realised as well that the beauty rings it wore in the barn find pictures seem to have gone missing, they can be a very difficult item to source, I did have three waiting for the right car and since appear to have lost them, or sold them and forgot that I did.

For the paint, invest in a claybar, they work wonders on paint that otherwise looks shot.  Follow up with as nice a wax as you can bear to afford, even Turtle Wax will get a reasonable amount of protection on it.  Metallic paints on Princesses do have a habit of looking a bit flatter than modern paints, they seem more toward 60s pearlescent paints than modern sparkly paints, so they can look a bit dusty even when they're in excellent condition.

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Oh, and your waterpump theory is sound, they do fail without warning sometimes and because the fan temperature switch is in the radiator that would definitely explain the fan not coming on even though the engine is scorchio.  Also, the radiator temperature switches fail, seemingly not long after a car is put back into service, but they are cheap and readily available and very easy to replace.

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16 hours ago, vulgalour said:

 If the floor portion of the carpet hasn't torn when you removed it then it's probably tough enough to survive a careful powerwashing and that should bring the fibres back up again nicely. 

I'd second that; a vigorous scrubbing with concentrated soapy water then a blast with a jet wash should have it looking much cheerier.

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Thanks for the advice on the carpets, I will give that a go - can't hurt!  Alas some of the side trims on the sills were already too far gone to save, they were absolutely rotten and disintegrated when I moved them but I have saved what I can.

The rust is not as scary as I first thought and I have been assured by the seller that it's structurally solid - it certainly seems to be, that door is the worst part of it I have found so far.  There's some missing metal at the bottom back of the rear wheelarches but not a lot, so far I have found one repair to the end of the passenger sill and that's about it.  Once I get it up on ramps for the oil change I will have a good poke around underneath.  The floor under the carpets is much better than what I found under my last Puma which was 23 years newer!

Thanks for the advice @vulgalour - that's all tremendously encouraging.  Will any flasher relay work or do you happen to know what yours is?  

If you would like some extra good news, I have all 4 trim rings, they were in the boot, and have refitted 2 - they're grubby and a bit scruffy but intact and circular.  One is visible in the duct tape photo above.

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3 hours ago, Shite Ron said:

Following your thread makes me wish I had bought this:



That looks amazingly solid and a near identical clone of mine, right down to the tow bar.  I think that's the field full of classic cars that got auctioned off a while back, Smith & Sniff have an excellent walkaround video on YouTube, I'll have to revisit it to see if they looked at this one.

@RobT you're absolutely right - and ignorance is bliss.

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2 hours ago, HMC said:

PS -GK London registration?

Could be - the car's only had two owners from new prior to me, the first was Rank Leisure Services who seemed to be involved with motorway services and clubs from what I have found out.  They acquired the car brand new on 12/7/77 and were based in Surrey.  The second owner who had it until last year lived near Reading.  

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The flasher relay I fitted was like this one:  https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/12V-ELECTRONIC-INDICATOR-FLASHER-RELAY-CLASSIC-CAR-WITH-OE-CLICK-X-L-P-2-3-PIN/181922797997 Providing you find a decent earth point for it, they're plug and play.  Fitted mine in about 2016/17 I think and it's not given me any bother in all that time, they seem really well made and make a good click.

Rank used to do bingo hall stuff, probably still do in fact, I remember my late gran having a passport blue plastic wallet with the gold Rank logo on it which she kept a membership card in for when she went to bingo on holiday.  The last Rank bingo hall I remember seeing turned into a Mecca bingo hall (it was formerly a small cinema, as many bingo halls are) so I wonder if Rank rebranded, or merged with another company or something.

Good news on the wheel trims!  I'd managed totally miss the one that's fitted in your pics, must be all the excitement.  From what I remember the wheel trims are stainless like the waist trims, so they should clean up really well and really easily.  For the green on the hubcaps, etc. you can use a bit of white vinegar on a cloth, or brasso, or better yet some Autosol and they'll come up really well, should even work on the radio controls.  Fortunate that the rust treatment is a similar sort of shade to the paint, it's made the bonnet look much better.

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Thanks @vulgalour - very helpful.  I was wondering what might clean the trims up.  I'll get that relay ordered and see if it does the trick.

@RobT it has a certain poetry about it.  I'd like to imagine some dodgy geezer with a large moustache who manages a chain of bingo halls and slightly seedy clubs driving around with his duffle coat on, the back seat piled up with boxes of absinthe and Lambrini, making deals in dimly lit back rooms and popping in to the betting shop on his way home.  

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Ah, the nostalgia evoked by the Rank Organisation.

On the subject of fuel, not sure if an LRP additive would help with the pinking, or whether the B-series needs it.  I've been using one for years in the Metro, and have sometimes wondered if I've been wasting my money.  A proper tune up is probably a more effective cure (as if I know what I'm talking about).

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A quick tinkering session last night means Margaret now has new spark plugs and a NOS top radiator hose. 


At the weekend I will change the other two hoses I managed to get hold of along with the waterpump and thermostat and hopefully get the cooling system back where it should be.   While NOS rubber parts had me a bit concerned, they're still pretty flexible and a hundred times better than the rock-hard, rotten items it had before so for the tiny amount they cost, I'll take them.  I don't know about you but I find it really satisfying installing shiny new parts on an old car.


Old plugs looked ancient and very black, it starts and runs with a very brief test but I suspect the timing is off, it doesn't rev very cleanly and pops back through the inlet.  I'll have a play with that at the weekend.  It still has a water leak into the cabin when it rains, the old windscreen seal is very perished so I have bitten the bullet and purchased a brand new windscreen seal from the owner's club.  I hate damp interiors and it will just ruin the car if left unchecked.

I've also invested in a nice roll of black gaffer tape which has tidied up the rusty bits on the C pillars and boot lid for now, as well as making them more watertight.  Maybe I should just wrap the whole car in it.

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That was something I always loved about these cars was that there is so much room under the bonnet to work on them. With a modern car I open the bonnet and think 'nah, that can go down the garage'. With these you can see what you are trying work on and actually reach it! I do love these. Well done for saving it.

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Here is one for sale in S. Spain. Looks like a  UK holiday car that was rear ended then scrapped - not on DVLA database so poss an insurance write-off. Who knows what state the panels are in. Not sure if you can get a Princess door under the seat on an Easyjet flight!




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5 minutes ago, lesapandre said:

Not sure if you can get a Princess door under the seat on an Easyjet flight!




Quite possibly yes.  My friend moves all sorts of stuff between Ireland and Tenerife thanks to Easyjet.  He's moved a full 24 channel broadcast mixer before as "Sports Goods" so it's probably ok!  You have to pay, but it's cheaper and more reliable than shipping.

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What a shame, that would yield a few decent parts.  It'd be fun to go and get it on a trailer and bring the whole thing back but even if you could at the moment I doubt it would be remotely worth it.   Looks to be on its original numberplates just like mine so given the DVLA have forgotten about it, it has probably not seen UK shores in a very long time.  Another one for VA's Wedgister.

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They do keep popping up in the most unexpected places.  That one looks to be Reynard which is another of the really nice metallics they put on Princesses.  You probably could repair that one too, if you really wanted to, all the damage seems to be well behind the structural bits.

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Got a couple of hours on this today.  I ordered some new weather strips from Woolies Trim as recommended by someone on the Princess club site and they're a perfect fit - the old seals have lost some of their flexibility.

20200523_102638.thumb.jpg.4eb0e7b901bfbda47e2e58bd9cda6f7d.jpg  20200523_102650.thumb.jpg.6740f626036a5dad47fb4eb7cd395ec5.jpg

I only did the front passenger one today as a test - takes some fiddling as you have to cut out around the trim clips and the old seal was hard work to get off as it had gone rock hard and brittle and had glued itself to the frame.  It's not perfect but I'm pleased with the end result.


Just three more to do.  I had a tinker with the indicators as my new relay turned up but no life out of them yet, still working out the wiring and found a couple of issues including a chafed and very corroded wire in the loom by the bulkhead in the engine bay.  I cut back and repaired that with a heatshrink connector but no improvement, I have tested the wires and am getting some nice volts through the right wires but as of yet I've not got working indicators.  The hazards work fine so I know it must be the switch, the wiring or the relay, some further perusing of wiring diagrams in the Haynes is needed.

I've also refreshed the cooling system - I got a bit of a surprise as when I removed the crusty bottom hose, all that came out was dirt and some rusty powder, it was bone dry.  That would explain why it got stupendously hot when ticking over last weekend - I assumed a blockage somewhere as the header tank contained lovely green coolant and did not move a millimetre when the bottom hose was off.  Anyway, two new hoses, a new waterpump, tightened the belt correctly and filled it up.  The thermostat housing has welded itself to the block so I gave up and left it alone for now - the stat appears to be working fine anyway.


The old waterpump was definitely worn out, it span very easily whereas the new one feels much tighter, but it did work.  I want to sort as many things like this now for peace of mind anyway, once I get it out on the road I am hoping to pre-empt as many issues as possible by doing plenty of preventative maintenance now.


Just before I went in for some food I ran it up to temperature and to my surprise, after it warmed up the header tank started to bleed out air and changed from a lovely green colour to murky brown so I have no real idea why it stayed full when the rest of the system was empty.  It's good to see anyway, I will chuck some detergent in there tomorrow and bleed out some more air, the heater did sort of work but I suspect there's a lot of muck and air still in the system.  Leaving it running for 10-15 minutes showed no obvious leaks, it ran nicely and the temperature gauge sat nicely in the middle. 


I had a brief moment of alarm when I left it ticking over to talk to a friend who walked past when a loud whining noise suddenly started - I turned the engine off while I finished talking and then went back to find out what had happened.  I eventually found it was the radiator fan which evidently has not taken kindly to waking up from a 28 year nap, it was working fine last year as I have video of it running fine but now it turns slowly and makes a horrible noise so I will look out for a new one.

Annoyingly my new oil filter hasn't turned up yet so I can't change the oil and then get it out for a little test run.  Never mind, patience is a virtue.

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Today the mouldy carpets met with some G101, a brush and a pressure washer, most of the nastier bits look a lot better now and there's a bit more pile showing, not much I can do about the fading but it will match the rest of the car.  I'll give them plenty of time outside to dry but they won't be going back in until the windscreen seal has been changed.  All the insulation dried out so it should smell a bit nicer inside when it's all back together.


I've chucked some detergent in the cooling system which should clean that up a bit, I'll flush it through with a hose pipe and give it a few miles to check for leaks before it gets refilled with the correct green stuff.

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