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  MG Princess

 

The year is 1964, and the Vanden Plas Princess 1100 was about to go into production. BMC had sold only a hand full of the larger 3 litre saloons in the USA, and decided that it needed to bring in the "small" saloon to try and re-coupe some of the lost business. However, BMC would market the car as an MG Princess, this presumably was done to trick the customer into thinking they were really buying a more luxurious MG and not a top of the range Vanden Plas.

Sources suggest that there were only MG badges on the rear, on the hubcaps and perhaps in the centre of the steering wheel. However BMC marketed the car with the traditional MG grille badge mounted on the Vanden Plas grille. Even the publicity material appears to show the MG Octagon proudly on the front, but was this just added afterwards or did actually exist on some vehicles?

There were two body styles available either with, or without, a sunroof. The Princess was usually fitted with sliding roof and not the usual Webasto unit. It has been suggested that BMC, on occasions, fitted Webasto sunroofs that would normally be fitted to the MGB GT. These sunroofs differ in both size and style to that of the normal Webasto sunroof fitted to the 11/1300 range.


With or without? The choice is yours!


Even fitting the car with MG badges appeared to make no difference. BMC still only managed to sell 154 of them. Presumably the price tag, of around $3,000 put people off? Most of the MG Princesses were built around the back end of 1964, and early 1965.

So did the grille bar actually exist? It's hard to give a definitive answer. It may be right to think that some of the early vehicles may have the MG grille bar fitted, or at least some of the evaluation models did. Such models would have been used at Motor Shows and by press to gauge public reaction. Take a look at the images below. Real or fake?


Personally I think this one maybe be real. The reflection for the curves at the bottom of bar seem very realistic, and bearing in mind if this picture was "edited" in 1964 they did a good job convincing me. Even now you'd probably struggle to get the reflection in the chrome looking right. But, why does it look like it's parked on someone's drive?


Again, is it or isn't it? This one would appear to have more ideal surroundings that say it was perhaps used in a publication to gauge public reaction. Perhaps in the motoring press? Again, it's very hard to tell with black and white photos although the bar does look pleasing to the eye.


Sometimes people suggest that the hubcaps were fitted with the MG Octagon, but I can confirm they were fitted with the standard Vanden Plas "P" emblem. After recently purchasing a parts listing for the MG Princess, it states that on the hubcaps they used a "1D 6255" which is the item code for the "P" emblem.

The MG hubcaps were possibly an attempt by dealers to further remove the Vanden Plas element from the car, and try to reassure customers they were purchasing a trusty MG.


MG hubcaps can be seen clearly in this picture. There's no sight of the MG grille bar though. The original owner also chose the without body style (there's no sunroof fitted!).


This MG "Princess" turned up on eBay early in 2003. Many actually question its authenticity. It's got the MG hubcaps, but that's nothing to go by. The colour scheme is also a bit off the wall, and again the original owner chose the without body style.


Early in 2004, Graham Arnold thought he'd found the answer in the shape of an MG Princess brochure, apparently showing the with body style (it has a sunroof) but minus the grille bar.


I'm afraid we'll still have to be unsure. While going through some press photo's I came a cross a picture that stated it was for the Vanden Plas 1100. It's interesting because the angle is slightly different, but the background is exactly the same, the windows are wound down to the same level. The image on the left is how it was shown on the press photo.


The image on the left is shown the correct way round, I've reversed the image on the right. My suspicions were confirmed when I looked how the wiper blade on the drivers side is bent onto the windscreen rubber. Why this image wasn't rejected by management I'll never know.


 :: Additional information
 

Starting Commission number:

Finishing Commission number:

VG16 S 101

???? ? ???

 

Jargon buster: Commission number - Used to simplify control of production changes. Found on part lists to show which part you should use for your particular vehicle.

 

With thanks to: Graham Arnold, Scott Williams, and Mal Clark for supplying images.

 

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