Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
An Integrated Range
The British Leyland Princess is a difficult car to judge three decades after production ended. To our eyes, it was at least as good as the other British cars then being manufactured, which is arguably not such a good thing, but then when judged against its competition it should have been much more successful.
Built by Austin-Morris but known by the name Princess alone (apart from New Zealand, where it was sold as the Austin Princess), it was at the time both modern in appearance, technically sophisticated, not overly expensive to buy or run, and with a more than adequate performance, still - these qualities alone were not enough to help it sell in significant numbers.
Looking back today, it seems the shoddy build quality alone was the main reason the Princess was not the success it deserved. Early examples seem to have been the worst, and by the time BL managed to get the problems sorted, the competition had added a rear tailgate to their offerings and the "wedgy" Princess design was fast going out of date.
The Austin model bore the original "design intent", featuring trapezoidal headlights and a simple horizontally-vaned grille. The Morris and Wolseley cars had a raised "hump" permitting a larger, styled grille for each model; the Morris one was a simple chrome rectangle with Morris in the lower right-hand corner, while Wolseleys had a chrome grille with the traditional illuminated company logo, with narrower vertical bars either side set back within the chromed surround.
Both of these versions had four round headlights, and the Wolseley
model was only available with the six-cylinder engine and luxury velour trim. Apart from their bonnet and headlamp designs, and of course their badging, the Austin and Morris models were virtually identical.
In 1978 the Princess 2 was introduced; the two smaller-engined Princesses were given Leyland's new '0' series overhead cam engine, but the 2200 HL at the top of the range was considered good enough to continue with little change. It already possessed a smooth, overhead cam, six-cylinder engine displacing 2227 cc which produced 110 bhp at 5250 rpm, and 124lb ft of torque at 3500 rpm.
The Princess 2200 HL was aimed more at comfort than outright performance and in this respect it was well served by the all-independent hydra-gas suspension
which gave a very acceptable ride thanks in part to the intrinsically low unsprung weight of such a system. The handling
was what you would expect from a front wheel drive
car, being predictable and safe, easily matching the available performance.
One of the things that had caused people to fight shy of the Princess 2200 HL was its unfortunate tendency for the drive shafts to produce a disconcerting knocking after relatively little use. Thankfully the 1978 revision cured this annoying fault. Safety improvements on the Princess 2 included fitment of a Triplex Ten Twenty laminated windscreen as standard, and Dunlop Denovo safety run-flat wheels and tyres
were available as an option.
Austin Princess 2200 HL Quick Specifications
Front transverse six cylinder. 76.2mm (3. 0 in) bore x 81.28mm (3.2in) stroke 2227 cc (135.9cu in). Maximum power (DIN) 170 bhp at 5250 rpm; maximum torque (DIN) 1241b ft at 3500rpm; cast-iron cylinder block and heed. Compression ratio 9:1. 7 main bearings. 2 valves
per cylinder operated by overhead camshaft. 2 SU HIFC carburettors.
Single dry plate clutch and manual four-speed gearbox. Ratios 1st 3.29, 2nd 2.06, 3rd 1.38, 4th 1.00, rev 3.07. Spiral bevel final drive, 3.72:1.
Front-independent by trensverse links and hydragas suspension
, rear-independent by trailing arms.
Rack and pinion.
Discs front drums rear.
4.5in x 14in. Tyres 185/70SR x 14.
4 door, 4 seat. Integral.
Dimensions and weight:
Wheelbase 105.24 in; track - front 58in. rear - 57. 36 in; length 175.41 in; width 68.11 in; height 55.48 in; ground clearance 6.45in; weight 2558/b; turning circle 37.1 ft; fuel tank capacity 16 gal.
Maximum speed 105 mph; acceleration O-BO mph 11.8 secs; fuel consumption approx. 23 mpg.