Jump to content

Phil's 1977 Princess 1.8 HL

Recommended Posts


That is giving me flashbacks to 1983, where as an excite-able youth I embarked on my very first engine repair on a 1.8HLS just like that one (apart from the shiny bits).
It developed a running on three cylinders issue,

Pulled it apart, cleaned it up and it ran much better, my father wrote it off shortly afterwards.

The crux of the problem was actually a side effect of, lets call it valve bounce, the push rod had escaped from under the rocker whilst being driven by an excite-able youth.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fortunately these do seem to be very simple engines, nothing looks like a massive job on it.  Fortunately this one's in rude health and mechanically it needs nothing at all at the moment.  I have bought paint for the rocker cover but didn't want to get into that with no bonnet to shelter the top of the engine while it's off.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

I still can't drive it, the sender unit's leaking where it clamps to the petrol tank.  It's one where you hammer it around to engage in some tabs that are supposed to clamp it tight the harder it's pushed round but it doesn't seem to be working, I suspect the rubber seal is too hard to be of much use and besides which I am pretty sure it's not the right sender for the car, it has to be rotated round so the pickup tube is at the bottom of the tank but when you do that, the float is on its side and can't move, as per the photos from when I first took the tank apart a couple of pages back.  

I can live without the sender unit working but I do need to seal it, any suggestions?  I might have another poke at it in the next couple of days and see if I can get it any tighter but I think I might have to resort to some sealant.  I have a tube of instant gasket, would that be OK to use do we think?

Link to post
Share on other sites

The sender unit seal and the ring itself is the same as MGB and Land Rover Series.  I resorted to a petrol tank repair putty even after getting the locking ring on mine replaced and using a new seal, it seems the tabs that the ring is supposed to lock  into just go soft with rust/age and won't lock in any more.  I hope I never have to remove the sender, it's going to be a right war.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Cheers, I have ordered a new MGB seal and locking ring for the heady price of £2.99 and a tube of blue Hylomar - hopefully that'll all be here at the weekend and I can get enough decent weather to see if it sorts the issue.  Especially given that it has the wrong sender installed, I don't want to seal it in too permanently if I can help it but my main concern is to make it seal.  It did before so it can again!

Link to post
Share on other sites


The new seal and ring combined with a splodge of hylomar seems to have done the trick, no more drips.  

This is good, as it means her royal brownness is back on the road.  I celebrated by putting £20 of Asda's finest in it and then driving about running a few errands and apart from the alternator belt being a bit noisy, it behaved perfectly.  It's running superbly now that the fuel isn't 50% sand.

However,  it is a Princess so to redress the balance, the clutch master (slave?) cylinder started leaking. 


Looking at it, I cant understand why.  It looks immaculate and totally hasn't got mouse damage on the gaitor or any obvious corrosion.

I'm hoping an MGB one will fit.  Certainly looks similar but I'll try and find some part numbers first.


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

The clutch cylinder hasn't leaked again since so I'm currently subjecting it to a long term spectrum of tests and analysis.  Or ignoring it, either way.  The electrical gremlins it had last time I drove it, with dash lights and one rear lamp not working, have randomly fixed themselves using this method so I am confident I'll get good results.

I hadn't used the Princess for several weeks so as it stopped raining today I pulled the cover off, gave it a jump start off the Skoda and warmed it up, then ran an errand and enjoyed a decent little drive around to get some of the dampness out of the interior and stretch its legs.  Still runs brilliantly, the fuel pump started sounding a bit laboured so added £20 of unleaded which solved that, really would be useful to have a fuel gauge but I will just have to keep better track of fuel and mileage.

I stopped for a random photo op with some appropriately dated architecture as the sun went down, next to the charmingly hideous Barnstaple Civic Centre.  Built to much complaint in the 1960s, empty since 2016 and not likely to be missed at all when it finally gets demolished by its new owner.  The police have recently vacated the smaller building in front as it has severe structural issues, the whole lot is well overdue for a date with an explosive charge.  



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • phil_lihp changed the title to Phil's 1977 Princess 1.8 HL

Incidentally, someone contacted me on Twitter following one of my very infrequent updates on there, turns out he is the nephew of Pete, the chap who owned it from 1979 right through until he passed away in 2017.  He has given me a little back story on the car although he doesn't know a great deal, it was buried in the barn/garage from 1992 until 2019 as he replaced it - probably with a Sierra from what I can tell - but didn't want to part with it as it had no actual issues, it'd always run well and been reliable, in contrast to the guy's father who had a contemporary auto Princess which never worked properly, it really does seem like mine was an unusually well built one.  Perhaps he had plans to get it back out one day, I hope he'd be pleased with what's been done with it so far.

It's been nice to retain that link to its past, one day I'd quite like to take it back to where it lived most of its life over near Reading.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember seeing this on a Facebook classic cars group when it was listed for sale - the bonnet was pretty distinctive.

I'm glad to see it was in far better condition than a lot of naysayers on there and loved finding out here what's happens and how far its come along.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/3/2021 at 5:30 PM, phil_lihp said:

The clutch cylinder hasn't leaked again since so I'm currently subjecting it to a long term spectrum of tests and analysis.  Or ignoring it, either way.  The electrical gremlins it had last time I drove it, with dash lights and one rear lamp not working, have randomly fixed themselves using this method so I am confident I'll get good results.

And in the interests of retaining the correct equilibrium, the speedometer no longer works.  I suspect the cable's come loose or broken, will investigate at the weekend.  I do believe that the break/fix balance on a car like this is a seesaw, with all the work done over the summer I think I've just about found the perfect tipping point.  I now have to be very careful; the risk is if I blitz through it and fix all the remaining minor issues like the fuel gauge and clock, the gearbox will explode.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Really enjoying this thread - I’ve had two of these in the past, both were the Mk1 1800 version like yours. I bought them for a laugh in both cases when BL tat was still pretty cheap, then I was pleasantly surprised both times by what capable cars they were and actually they were pretty well designed (if not always as well built).

The one thing I remember is how tall the gearing in 4th is: It might not have a 5 speed box but 70mph is genuinely refined and comfortable, it was one of the few classics I’ve had that didn’t want for another / taller gears, this also made them pretty easy on the juice when cruising along.

If only BL had designed it as a hatch from the start and then not buggered up it’s rep by actually building them to a high standard every time, I think they would have a much more of a winner on their hands than they did.

By the way, both of mine had teething issues which I took as a protest in being put back into regular service after lay-ups (hydraulics and fuel pumps are two that come to mind); stick at it, they are reliable once you push through this stage!


My plan was to do a top-end rebuild on one of mine using a Peter Burgess “ecotune” head - for £340-odd they would give you a fully rebuilt, unleaded-friendly stage 2 head that had been properly gas-flowed in a proper bench; which to me seems like good value.
With a change of carb needle on the rolling road I bet that would make it a very rewarding car to drive as it’d be able to gather pace with much more gusto (and use less fuel if you could restrain yourself). Sadly I met my current wife and life got in the way of these plans!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Similar Content

    • By captain_70s
      I'm a masochist from Leeds who is running two rusty, worn out Triumph Dolomites as my only transport in rural Aberdeenshire. You might recognise me from various other forums and Facebook groups. Realistically I need to buy a modern car of some sort, but instead I find myself looking at £300 Citroen BXs and Triumph Acclaims on Gumtree and thinking "yeah, that'd fit right in with the rest of the broken cars I can't afford".
      On to the cars, the main attraction being my 1976 1850HL "50 Shades of Yellow" that I bought for £850 and is currently my daily driver, here is a picture of it before I sanded off some surface rust and sprayed it badly in the wrong shade of yellow with rattle cans:

      Within a month of purchase I managed to plant it in to a steel fence backwards after a botched gear change on a wet roundabout and ruined the N/S rear wing, although judging by the other dent that's packed with filler it looks like somebody had already done the same. I also managed to destroy a halfshaft and one of my Sprint alloys (good for an extra 15hp) in the incident, so now it's sitting on it's original steelies but painted black (good for an extra 5hp).
      It's only broken down on me twice. once with some sort of fuel delivery related problem which may or may not have been an empty fuel tank and once when the thermostat jammed shut and it overheated and blew out some O-rings for the cooling system. It has recently developed a taste for coolant and oil which is rather annoying, although it's done 89,300 miles which is about 80,000 more miles than BL engineering is designed to last, I'm keeping my eye on eBay for replacement engines... 
      I tried to keep ahead of the rust a bit by rubbing down the arches and re-painting them, but apparently rattle can paint isn't great when you are spraying it at -5C, it also highlighted how although my car might have been Inca Yellow in 1976 it's now more of a "cat piss" sort of shade. So I ended up with the wrong shade of yellow which has rust coming back through after 5 weeks. Did I mention I'm incompetent?
      The other car is the first "classic" car I bought, so I can't bear to sell it. It's a '77 Dolomite 1300 and it cost £1400 (about £400 too much) and has been nothing but a pain in the arse:

      It looks much prettier (from 100 yards) but that's most due to the darker paintwork hiding the rust. It lives a mollycoddled life in my garage, where it somehow still manages to rust, and is utterly rubbish. 0-60 is measured on a calendar, top speed is 80ish but at that point it uses more oil than petrol, it rarely ventures over 50mph and if you encounter an incline of any sort you can kiss that sort of speed goodbye, along with about £20 of 20W50 as it vanishes out of the exhaust in the form of blue smoke.
      One of the PO's had clearly never heard of the term "oil change" so it developed into brown sludge that coated everything internally with the next owner(s) blissfully pouring fresh oil on top of it. This lasted until about 600 miles into my ownership when there was muffled "pop" from the engine bay and the car became a 3-cylinder. The cause was catastrophic wear to the top end causing a rocker arm to snap:

      As this was my first classic car I'd assumed it was supposed to sound like the engine was full of marbles, it wasn't.
      I put the engine back together with second hand bits declared it utterly fucked and promptly did another 5000 miles with it. After about 3500 of those miles the oil burning started, valve seals have gone so it's been relegated to my parent's garage as a backup car and something to take to local car shows as the 1850 is now embarrassingly ugly. I'm keeping my eye on eBay for replacement engines (deja vu, anybody?) Oh, I also recently reversed it into a parked Ford Fiesta and royally fucked up the rear bumper, rear panel and bootlid. Did I mention I'm incompetent?
      There have been two other cars in my life. My first car, a 2008 Toyota Yaris 1.0 an it's replacement a 2012 Corsa 1.4T. I didn't really want either of them, but it's a long story involving my parents and poor life choices. Ask if you want to hear it!
      So that's a brief summary of my current shite. If you want more pictures or details of anything do say as I've got photos of almost everything I'd done with the cars.
    • By Zelandeth
      Well I've been meaning to sign up here in forever, but kept forgetting. Thanks to someone over on another forum I frequent poking me about it recently the subject was forced back into my very brief attention span for long enough to get me to act on the instruction.

      I figure that my little varied fleet might bring you lot some amusement...

      So...we've got:

      1993 Lada Riva 1.5E Estate (now fuel injected, as I reckon the later cars should have been from the factory...).
      1989 Saab 900i Automatic.
      1987 Skoda 120LX 21st Anniversary Special Edition.
      1985 Sinclair C5.
      2009 Peugeot 107 Verve.

      Now getting the photos together has taken me far longer than I'd expected...so you're gonna get a couple of photos of each car for now, and I'll come back with some more information tomorrow when I've got a bit more time...

      Firstly...The Lada. Before anyone asks - in response to the single question I get asked about this car: No, it is not for sale. Took me 13 years and my father's inheritance to find the thing.

      Yes, it's got the usual rusty wings...Hoping that will be resolved in the next couple of months.


      Next, a proper old Saab. One of the very last 8 valve cars apparently, and all the better for it. I've driven two 16v autos and they were horrible - the auto box works sooooo much better with the torque curve of the 8 valve engine. Just wish it had an overdrive for motorway cruising...

      Next up a *real* Skoda...back when they put the engine where it belongs, right out the back. In the best possible colour of course...eye-searingly bright orange.

      Seat covers have been added since that photo was taken as it suffers from the usual rotting seat cloth problem that affects virtually all Estelles.

      Then we have possibly the world's scruffiest Sinclair C5...

      Realised when looking for this that I really need to get some more photos of the thing...I use it often enough after all! We have a dog who's half husky, so this is a really good way of getting him some exercise.

      Finally - again, I really need to take more photos of - we have the little Pug 107.

      Included for the sake of variety even if it's a bit mainstream! First (and probably to be the only) new car I've bought, and has been a cracking little motor and has asked for very little in return for putting up with nearly three years of Oxford-Milton Keynes commuter traffic, before finally escaping that fate when my housemate moved to a new job. Now it doesn't do many miles and is my default car for "when I've managed to break everything else."

      I'll fill in some more details tomorrow - I warn you though that I do tend to ramble...
    • By cobblers
      Train tickets booked from a train station 30 miles away to save £9 on the recommendation of the Mrs
      Mrs booked and primed ready to drop me off at said train station.

      Mobile tool kit primed and ready, missing almost every vital component due to EU regulations about leccy tape and screwdrivers on trains (I left them all at my mums house yesterday).
      If I do break down, I should have something to listen to while I work out whether I'm with the AA or RAC or none of the above.

      Not pictured: pile of cash
    • By philibusmo
      After a year of very little vehicular tinkering, mostly due to lack of time and monies, I am just as broke but back fettling festering fucking heaps.
      If you've been here long enough to remember 'bump for a real thread', why the best Peugeot 405s have 20p stuck in the handbrake or the significance behind D701 SWL then you may remember me from such hits as welding up a chronically rotten Lancia Y10
      or pouring LHM all over the local area in an incontinent XM
      Between then and now I have been mostly quiet on here but have still been working on multiple cars in New Zealand which mostly made the scrap in the UK look showroom fresh, there's some good stories in that lot that I'll try and type up for your unenjoyment frm time to time if I'm running out of actual new content again.
      But onto the latest tat faffing:
      In 2009 an 83 Ford Fiesta with no MOT and a fair bit of rot around the edges turned up on the driveway of my great aunty. It was a bit grotty around the edges and the old lady who owned it had given up driving so it was just sat there waiting to be taken away an cubed. Being 17 and desperate for wheels, I spotted it and persuaded my Dad that we could take it on and fix it up, which we did and got it through an MOT.
      A year went by where the holes in the wings got filled with expanding builders foam and filler, the steels were replaced with RS 4 spokes from a SuperSport and the chunky bumpers were swapped out with earlier chrome ones. While it was slowly being improved I knew it needed more substantial work and over the year I got hold of a genuine pair of front wings and a pattern front panel, then in March 2011 I taugt myself how to weld, on the few holes in the boot floor before moving to tackling the very sad inner front wings and front panel. After a respray, I hurriedly chucked it all back together in 2 days and drove it to Glasgow for the annual Mk1 Fiesta meet at Loch Lomand.
      Its looked really rather snazzy

      That was 9 years ago now though. For a couple of years I tried to buy other cars to use through winter and keep it nice, but a combination of the Fiesta being amazingly good in snow and the general unreliability of my winter beaters meant that this got used in all weathers. Then I left for four years and it was left at the back of my parents drive. Time has not been kind, rust has been bubbling through on the seams on the front and rear panels, on the wings and the scuttle for some time. On coming back, I used it for a few months through last spring and from a distance it looked grand, but up close you could see it had been a bit neglected. I ended up getting a Ford Puma and the Fiesta sat languishing at the back of the drive again for a good 6 months or so while I tried to find the time to fix it, then lock down occurred!
      I started on the back, no photos of what it looked like before I started but it really wasn't pretty. Holes on either side of the boot floor, a big old hole on the passenger side of the rear panel and a very scruffy edge to the drivers side where it meets the rear quarter. After scrubbing back all the rust, trating the surface rust and welding in new metal, it looked like this after a first smear of filler.
      With a bit more work and some paint, it now looks like this. I've run out of paint and am struggling to get hold of any decent Ford 'Ocean Blue' at the moment but I'll get some more layers on as soon as I can.

      The corners of the boot floor have also had a tickle with the MIG:

      The seam behind the boot latch, under the boot seal had also rotted out, so that's also been ground out and new metal let in. I haven't got too prissy with the filler and how this edge looks, seeing as it will be hidden.

      On the original restoration I did have the good idea to make the wings bolt on as they were originally held on with spot welds and I wanted to be able to get behind them to clean out and rust proof behind. Obviously these good intentions never came to anything and they've not moved until I pulled them off about 2 weeks ago. The passenger side needed a bit of complicated work close to the leading edge of the door. leading into the inner arch and floor pan. No before pictures but it looks alright all welded up and covered in seam sealer, red oxide and Hammerite. I've got some proper Dinitrol stone chip stuff on the way which I'll spray around under here to try and protect it a bit better than it was before.

      The drivers side is probably a bit worse, a hole in an awkward spot at the bottom behind the wheel , a hole below the scuttle drain and a big old load of rust all around a box section that runs across the back of the inner wheel arch.

      Today I managed to weld up the majority of this mess There is no longer a big hole in the floor and the bit below the scuttle drain is solid. Just the outer edge down next to the door and the outside rectangle on the box section to fix up. Probably an afternoons work if you exclude waiting for paint to dry. I need to make a decision on if I try and find the spot welds for the front panel and take it off to de-rust it properly. It looks a bit nasty on the front edge, but behind, my cheap seam sealer and hammerite has cracked, letting water into the joints between the panel and the inner wings and cross member. I don't really want to take it off as it's going to be a bastard to line all the panels up again but it might be for the best in the long run unless there is some fantastic (probably Bilt Hamber) product that can creep into the joints and fuck up the rust.

      There's also this spot under the windscreen on the scuttle panel which I'm dreading, if only because the screen will need to come out which will almost certainly mean it will break and then it will start raining.

      I'll make some decision on this tomorrow. I've got some time on my hands because tomorrow the Fiesta will have to wait because it's chod collection time!
      To be continued.
    • By Peter C
      Woke up this morning, had a little time before I had to leave the house for work, had a quick look at what’s new for sale on Retro Rides and saw an ad for a W124 200E manual, located 15 miles from home. I had no intention of buying a car today but I had to have it! I called the seller and arranged a viewing.
      2 x rusty front wings (TADTS)
      1 x rusty rear arch
      Needs a polish
      Tracking is out because new track rod end was fitted for MoT
      Engine has oil leak/s
      Good points:
      It’s a W124 200E!
      5 speed manual transmission
      New clutch
      Brand new MoT
      Superb MoT history
      4 x as new Continental tyres
      Last owner for 15 years, her husband before that for 4 years
      Very tidy MB-Tex interior
      Drives well
      All electrics work
      The dealer kindly delivered the car to my house but I managed a pez station shot on route:

      Remove front wings, cut away rust and apply plenty of wob.
      In-situ similar repair for rear arch
      Clean and polish
      Service engine
      Adjust tracking
      Leave patina and enjoy the car as it is
      I will update this thread once progress is made.









      Hopefully these two will become good friends.

  • Create New...