British Leyland. A brand synonymous with failure, rust, strikes, and innovation. That’s right, innovation is one of the ideals that kept the Brits from imploding even further. They’ve already lost an empire so why don’t they try propping up something they should be decent at; motoring ingenuity. The British were the one’s that gave us quirky little cars and exciting sports tourers but that was in the 1960s and before. In the seventies, things were changing in the form of the Japanese invading the ports of Dover. With cars that are reliable (SHOCK!) and cost less than what is offered by the local companies (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?) and not kamikaze pilots.
Cars Time Forgotten will be a weekly article which focuses on cars that were completely forgotten by time. Some are bad, some are pretty good, and a few that are bonkers.
By the seventies, British Leyland was failing. Miserably I might add. Along with the words pathetic and did I mention about the strikes earlier. The company was plagued with a horrible reputation with reliability and every day there is news about ongoing workers strikes which affected production. Britain was not the cosmopolitan, hipster, cool country it is today. It was bleak and dark in the seventies. Heck, everything was bleak and dark in the 70s apart from the music and movies which were surprisingly among the most beloved in decades.
The other issue BL was facing was weak sales. Austin was selling cars dating back to a decade ago and if you think that is bad, wait till you see what Morris decided to do to replace the Minor? Things were going bad but BL decided to launch a new car anyway because as the saying goes, the show must go on! Or at least a pantomime of a show. Enter the Princess. Initially, it was badged as an Austin or a Wolseley but BL decided “Fuck it” and just made a new brand instead.
Thus, the Princess brand was born and initially sales were strong. BL finally had the moment of triumph they have been waiting for. But it did not last long. Soon the reliability issue popped in and the car gained a reputation for being a hassle due to its reliability. Then there was the design. BL literally redesigned the wheel with the Allegro, now with the Princess they decided to fuck the whole convention of the word hatchback. The Princess looks like a hatchback, feels like a hatchback but it is anything but a hatchback. The rear window is fixed to the car and boot is placed separately below. In other words, it opens like a conventional sedan, Heck even the designer initially wanted it to open like a normal hatchback but the
dumbasses executives in BL thought otherwise for fear it may affect sales of another hatchback from another car company under BL.
By the time the eighties rolled in, BL went from miserable to just shitfaced. What remained from a conglomerate of nine car companies in the 1970s is just a husk of what remained at the the turn of the 1980s. Jaguar was sold off and as the eighties come towards an end so did almost all the companies in BL and BL itself died out in 1986. The Princess brand did not make it pass the big eight-zero but rather continued on as an Austin. While the Princess received much fanfare when it was launched, the Ambassador’s launch was muted.
At least they got one thing right, the car now has an actual hatch. Even that wasn’t enough to save the Ambassador or whatever reputation the car had when it was a Princess. Many fans of the Princess (and there are some) thought the Ambassador lacked charisma and is merely the same car underneath with a newer, more modern grille and a hatchback. The Ambassador only lasted for two years in production and was not exported overseas.
As such, the Ambassador is very rare car and by rare, I meant endangered. According to Honest John, a pretty reputable British car buying guide, there are only 73 remaining! Do remember, that almost all 43,500 made were only available in the UK and few were exported overseas. The Ambassador is not meant for long term production as BL were pretty broke and although it has significant changes, this is truly a Car Time Forgotten.