Austin Princess 18-22 (1975 – 1981)
The 1970’s are a fascinating era for the car industry. An experimental decade of outstanding designs and design blunders. The Princess was one of those cars launched in March 1975 to critical acclaim. For the first six months of production three badged engineered versions were created being Austin,Morris and Wolesley all cars were virtually identical with varying different headlight designs.
With “the car that has got it all together” as the Princesses tag line it was more like the car that didn’t have it all together. Its performance figures were a little underwhelming however it had gained credibility for its cabin size and luxurious ride. The “wedge” as it was affectionately known still retained the original four and six cylinder engines from the original which were a smooth ride especially the 2200cc 6 cylinder. Sadly production of the Princess ceased in 1981 but this car was a look into the future of British Motoring, but just a glimpse.
|Years Produced||1975 - 1981|
|Performance||0 - 60mph 13.1 sec / Top Speed - 99 mph|
|Power & Torque||93bhp / 112Ib ft|
|Engine||1994cc four cylinder / 8 valves|
|Drive-train||front engine FWD|
|Transmission||Five speed manual|
A Buyers Guide
Believe it or not Princesses do rust (just like every car built in the 70’s) so check sills and rear inner wheel arches where the rear suspension arm bolts to the body. Look out for filler in this area. Check door bottoms and rear arch finishers. Vinyl roofs can look tatty, budget for around £300 for a replacement. Front wings rot at the corners below the bumper to replace will cost £150 each.
Check the boot floor under the carpet, there is a deadening pad that absorbs water very well, give it a press, if it squelches then it is likely that the windscreen rubber has perished and water is finding its way in. Windscreen rubbers can be purchased from a club as a replacement.
The bonnet is supported by two gas struts make sure they are both fit for purpose check cars history for regular service documentation especially on the 2200 6 cylinder models as these are more fragile than other models. The engines in the Princess are sturdy and will run for over 100,000 miles just make sure the timing belt has been replaced every 48,000 miles.
Check the radiator for leaks and make sure Check the radiator for leaks and not just rust coloured water, which is a sign of a neglected car. Each engine size has a
different radiator, though the O-Series 1700 and 2000 share the same one. Interiors are hard wearing especially in HLS trim, look for sagging driver seats and make sure the adjustment mechanism functions correctly. On later Princesses the rear seat back rests can fade or even disintegrate simply check before you buy.
Leaking hydragas displacers can cause sagging on the affected corner, rear displacers can be troublesome to remove. None assisted steering is very heavy so you can retro fit power steering but it’s easier to hunt down a car with PAS already fitted. Powerful four pot brake callipers are up to the job just look out for seizing.
The Austin Princess was originally designed as a hatch-back, However management had decided that the Austin Maxi was to be the only hatch-back in the range. In fact Austin thought prospective buyers would not like a hatch-back, although the larger Rover SD1 was given one. Make of this what you will.
Mark Wilkinson (Managing Director of Heritage Insurance) says
Despite the fact the Austin Princess was never a hatch-back and was named 3 times it was a wonderful car to drive. Whether it was a Morris an Austin or indeed a Wolsley, all three gave a silky smooth ride with their hydragas suspension. A car ahead of its time.