It was a vast big-front car reminiscent of an old aristocratic lady in a Victorian dress. Its conservative design and magnificence caught the attention of then-Princess Elizabeth, who purchased several Vanden Plas for her royal garage. Not surprisingly, the model became so popular after that that it was featured in many British films, and today often flashes in thematic weddings and other events.
The Belgian carriage parts-producing Vanden Plas company was founded in the 19th century by Guillaume van der Plas. Soon his business went up, and the company began to produce bodies – 300 pieces a year. The best review for quality was an article in the London Times, followed by the opening of a British branch. After the First World War, the automotive future of Belgium was destroyed. Still, the English department survived: it passed to the British owners and, for the next twenty years, successfully built exclusive bodies for Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lagonda, etc.
Source: Craner Classics
The premium history page of the democratic Austin brand is similar to the well-known Cinderella tale. According to the fairy-tale tradition, a ball gown, luxurious shoes, and, of course, the attention of a royal person could turn an ordinary girl into a princess. When, after the Second World War, the founder of the company, Sir Herbert Austin, decided to turn his company from a “Cinderella into a princess,” he began by buying one of the best British coachbuilders – Vanden Plas. So, in 1946, Sir Herbert’s company, famous for folk hits like the Austin 7, decided that they would produce premium models. The first Austin and Vanden Plas hybrid was introduced in 1952. It was a limousine without an internal partition, with a 3.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Although the model looked aristocratic, the royal garage was still a dream. In addition, in the 50s, the number 1 royal vehicle was, of course, Rolls-Royce. It is still a mystery how Austin attracted the attention of then-Princess Elizabeth. Still, she unexpectedly bought a couple of new Austin Vanden Plas for her royal garage. In 1953 Princess Elizabeth became Queen, and the automobile turned into a full-fledged royal vehicle. Now Queen Elizabeth even bought four more in the late 50s. After five years of its first release, the automobile was already equipped with a 4-liter (version called A135 Princess II) engine and an American automatic transmission as an additional option. The rest of the vehicle was conservative.
Source: Baron’s Auctions
In 1959, as part of a badging engineering program, the Vanden Plas brand became a separate automobile brand. A year later, the model was sold as the Princess 4-Litre premium luxury limousine and the more modest Princess 3-Litre, which was a luxury sedan based on the A99 Westminster platform. The 1960 release was generally similar to the A99 Westminster but differed from it by a massive vertical grille in the Rolls-Royce style. The design was done by Pininfarina studio. Technically, the car almost stayed the same as the releases of previous years. The luxury sedan was equipped with a 3-liter inline 6-cylinder engine of 108 hp power and a 3-speed Borg Warner automatic transmission. Like the early automobiles, the salon was luxurious, with leather seats, expensive carpeting, and a walnut dashboard. By 1959-1964, 12,703 Kingsbury hand-assembled vehicles were sold.
The brand dropped the Austin prefix in 1960, and the car was simply called the Vanden Plas. Alas, the relatively independent flight was short-lived. The company became part of the British Motor empire, which widely applied the concept of “badge engineering.” Soon, British Motors merged with Leyland. Over the next ten years, most British Leyland brands used the “Princess” nameplate on countless models. Today, only history remains of this British auto empire, and Vanden Plas can be found only on exclusive versions of the Daimler brand sold in the States.
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