Vanden Plas 4 Litre R

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Vanden Plas

Vanden Plas 4 Litre R

1964 - 1968
United Kingdom
6 cyl.
3909 cc
175 bhp
3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
112 mph / 179 km/h
Number Built:
3 star
Vanden Plas 4 Litre R
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


Born from a liason between Rolls-Royce and BMC (British Motor Corporation), the Vanden Plas 4-Litre R was a high spec luxury saloon boasting power steering, Connolly leather seats, walnut veneer dash, picnic tables and other luxury appointments.

But perhaps its best feature was the motor, an all-alloy seven-bearing Rolls Royce straignt six that gave the car exceptional performance for the time. Both companies were quick to point out that the Vanden Plas 4 Litre R was not competing with Rolls Royce, but rather an attempt to combine the experience of both companies in one product.

Although the Vanden Plas 4 Litre R was the cheapest car Rolls Royce had been associated with (being the only mass-produced car fitted with a Rolls engine), their strict quality on engine assembly was never compromised. Testament to this is the alarmingly quiet engine - even by todays standards - and the ability for the FB60 motor to clock up 200,000 miles between overhauls.

Fitted with heavy-duty front shocks, angled telescopic dampers at the rear for lateral stability and optional 'Selectaride' self-levelling suspension the ride of the car was quite simply superb. The brake circuit featured an inertia pressure limiting device to reduce the risk of rear wheel lock-up, and a new hypoid rear axle allowed for the extra torque of the Rolls Royce engine - with both improvements providing a very quiet ride.

Fitted with smaller 13" wheels and larger tyres to give a lower vehicle weight and a smoother ride, even quilted pads were placed under the bonnet and boot for sound deadening. Coupled to a Borg-Warner Model 8 auto transmission, the car could reach 100 km/h in under 13 seconds and had an astonishing top speed of 179 km/h.

Behind The Wheel

The Borg-Warner Model 8 transmission offered smooth down changes in response to use of the kickdown or lock-up, but the selector itself was prone to becoming 'sloppy' over time. Left unchecked, the sloppiness would allow you to start the engine with reverse enngaged if the lever was not moved fully to the 'Park' position.

Under full throttle low gear was held to 45 mph, and 2nd to 70 mph. Inside the ride was very comfortable, although attention to the leaf springs was often required on examples that have travelled only 50,000 miles. Left un-checked the Vanden Plas 4 Litre R would give a ponderous ride, and in corners the car would feel very nose-heavy with a lot of tyre scrub. Thankfully the power steering would make it easy to pull the front end round the bend.

Pronounced understeer contributed to good directional stability, but you would always be reminded of the insensitivity of the steering. About two inches of free play at the wheel rim had little effect on control of the car when running straight. At low speeds, the Hydrosteer assistance took most of the effort out of manoeuvring, so that parking was easy in spite of an over 40 ft turning circle.

Lockheed front disc brakes gave very good efficiency in return for low pedal pressures and the smooth retardation available at high speed was reassuring. On wet roads it was all too easy to lock the front wheels, which were originally shod with Dunlop RS5 tyres. Among improvements when the model was introduced was the lower positioning for the exceptionally large steering wheel, and even with the rather flat seat surfaces the driving posiition was comfortable and visibility a little above average.

Exterior and Equipment

The original finish in dark grey gave an imposing, dignified appearance to the car; inside the polished wood facia and trim worked well with the maroon door trim and cloth roof linings to provide an oppulent aura. The designers had an eye for detail, the beautiful dash containing a clock and thermometer, while a Motorola radio could be optioned. You could also option two rather unsightly but effective wing mirrors along with covers for the front seats are boot. The most expensive extra on the Vanden Plas 4 Litre was the Tudor-Webasto sunshine roof.

About the Princess

In the early sixties, BMC and Rolls-Royce enjoyed a period of technical co-operation which lapsed in 1968. The only model to evolve from this link-up was the Vanden Plas Princess 4-Litre R, which used a modified version of the superseded Princess 3-litre body and a 4-litre 6-cylinder Rolls engine. Introduced in August 1964, the Princess R has remained basically unchanged.

The first Princess was a 3-litre based very closely on the Pinninfarina-styled Austin A99, and was released in October 1959. The 2912 cc. 6-cyl. Austin engine produced 108 bhp (gross). Standard transmission was a BMC all-synchro. 3-speed gearbox with Borg-Warner overdrive, although a Borg-Warner Type DG automatic transmisssion was optional. Mechanically the A99 and the Princess were identical, the Princess having slightly different styling and rather more attenntion to sound-deadening and refinement.

Almost exactly two years later the Princess became Mark 2 as the A99 evolved into the A110. Maximum power output went up to 120 bhp (gross) by virtue of a modified cylinder head, a new camshaft and twin exhaust systems. Lead-indium bearings were adopted for the main and big-end bearings. The manual gearbox had a floor change, the wheelbase was increased by 2in. to 9ft 2in. and anti-roll bars were added to front and rear suspensions. Reclining front seats and rear seat picnic tables were added to the luxurious trim and new options included Smiths air-conditioning and a retractable divission. This variant of the Princess carried on unnchanged until the summer of 1964.

The Princess 4-litre R announced in August that year was a major redesign of the original car. The bodyshell received least attention, merely being altered by the re-styling of the rear end to remove the fins and by smoothing out the contours of the roof. The 3909 cc overrsquare Rolls-Royce 6-cylinder engine (with overhead inlet side exhaust valves) was a short-stroke version of a range in use by Rolls-Royce in certain military vehicles, and produced no less than 175 bhp (gross)-a big increase on the previous engine's 120 bhp. Borg-Warner Model 8 transmission (imported from the USA like the DG before it) was stanndard, as were Cam Gears Hydrosteer power steering.

The final drive ratio was much higher, 3.15 instead of 3.91-to-1; 13in. wheels with 7.50 section tyres were adopted, bringing the front suspension in line with the Mark 2 A 110 announced earlier in the year. A completely new engine/suspension subframe was linked to the bodyshell at five points to cut down even further on engine and road noises. The car continued in this guise for the three-and-a-half years. and remained in small scale production by BMC, however unfortunately for the motoring world production of the 4 Litre R ceased in 1968.
Venden Plas 4 Litre R

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