Vanden Plas was a coachbuilding company that originated in Belgium and was licensed in the United Kingdom from 1910. After various ups and downs the British company built Bentley bodies in the 1920s, then worked for various makers including Alvis, Daimler and Rolls-Royce in the 1930s. After World War II Vanden Plas was acquired by Austin, who gave Vanden Plas the job of fitting bodies to the upmarket A135 Princess.
From 1960 Austin successor BMC decided that Vanden Plas should be a stand-alone marque, so the Austin Princess turned into the stately Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre.
This hand-built luxury limousine went through two generations before the Vanden Plas marque was abolished, with the name subsequently being used for top-of-the-range models by various companies within the merged British Leyland Motor Corporation from 1968, including Jaguar. The Princess 4 Litre had a relatively short life before being replaced by the Daimler DS420, Leyland’s sole limousine offering.
The first Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre was the former Austin Princess IV, which had been restyled in 1956 to eliminate the car’s dated look though mechanicals were not much changed. These ceremonial limos were never big sellers (just 200 in nine years), but the Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R was a different story, with nearly 7,000 made between its launch in 1964 and the demise of Vanden Plas as independent marque.
This was an interesting vehicle as the Princess 4 Litre R had a Rolls-Royce straight six under the bonnet (signified by the ‘R’). It possessed more rounded styling than its predecessor and lost the tail fins. It had the distinction of being the only mass-produced passenger car ever to have a Rolls-Royce engine and was something of a favourite with politicians, senior government officials and up-and-coming businessmen.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1960 (until 1968)
3,995 cc or 3,909 cc Straight Six
Princess 4 Litre R — top speed of 106 mph (171 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The only other model Vanden Plas built in its own name was the Pininfarina-designed car simply known as the Vanden Plas Princess— it was a luxury four-door saloon built from 1960 to 1964 that had a 2.9 litre engine and was based on the Austin A99 Westminster.