By popular demand, all of the other variations of the Leyland Princess and 18-22 range!
The British Leyland experiment that went disastrously wrong!
In an attempt to claw back what little innovation they had left, British Leyland decided to go back to a previous idea and toy with the fitting of Hydragas suspension to its cars, their prior attempt being with the Austin 1100. Hydrolastic suspension (as it was previously known) is basically an attempt by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to give their cars the smoothest of rides in order to compete with the likes of the Citroen DX. Hydrolastic comprised of the following ingredients:
- 49% alcohol
- 49% distilled water
- 1% triethanolamine phosphate
- 1% sodium mercaptobenzothiazole
British Leyland later developed Hydragas from this original concept, using displaced spheres of Nitrogen gas to replace the conventional steel springs of a regular suspension design. The means for pressurising the gas in the displacers is done by pre-pressurising a hydraulic fluid, and then connecting the displacer to its neighbour on the other axle. This is unlike the Citroën system, which uses hydraulic fluid continuously pressurised by an engine-driven pump and regulated by a central pressure vessel.
It was a brilliant idea, and the ride was indeed smooth and comfortable, but let’s not forget that British Leyland built these cars. The terrible quality of the spheres and pipework that contained the hydraulic fluid meant that the Hydragas solution would always leak, meaning that the car would start to lean, or practically capsize completely, rendering the car undrivable.
Marry these problems with a car designed to emulate a block of cheese and powered by an engine that was already 5 years out of date, and you have a match made in Hell.
The Princess however proved quite a popular buy in it’s first year, but by 1976 the writing was on the wall as people turned to the far more reliable and popular alternatives. Eventually, after several relaunches, the Princess was replaced by the Austin Ambassador and construction ceased in 1981. Today it is near impossible to find variations of the Princess, as by the time 1980 came around most of them were long outdated and practically worthless. If they hadn’t rusted away by 1985, they had succumb to the failures of the Hydragas suspension, and since Hydragas components are increasingly hard to come by, replenishing the stock was difficult.
From left to right, all variations of the Princess can be seen:
- Austin 18-22
- Morris 18-22
- Wolseley 18-22 (also known as the Saloon)
- British Leyland Princess 1800
- British Leyland Princess 2200
- Vanden Plas 2200 Prototype
- Austin Ambassador (face-lifted follow on to the Princess)