NEVER was a car better named than the Austin-based Princess of the 1950s.
These whopping two-tonners really were the royalty of the roads and although many ended their lives as funeral cars they did much to boost Britain's image as a purveyor of quality wheels to the rich and famous.
A name that goes hand in hand with the old Princess is Vanden Plas, a coachbuilder that originated in Belgium and strictly speaking should be pronounced Van Der Plass because the name was Dutch.
These days we associate the name with more upmarket Austin Rover products but this firm, in its pre-war heyday had a vast portfolio of clients including Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Alvis, Daimler and Lagonda.
The company was founded in 1870 to make carriage wheels and gradually moved into the world of luxury cars and in 1913 the name moved to Britain.
It later struck an accord with Austin and the Princess limousine became one of its trademarks. The first two in 1952 ended up in the Royal Mews and in 1954 one was supplied to a Sheik, painted scarlet with all the bright metal parts plated in 22 carat gold.
As from July 1960 the name 'Austin' was formally dropped from the title of Vanden Plas products which were then marketed under the name of 'Princess' so they could be sold by Nuffield dealerships.
One version tested by a motoring magazine in 1953 achieved a top speed of 79mph with a rather leisurely 0-60 'sprint' of 23.3 seconds. The test did reveal two of the car's weakpoints. It was thirsty returning only 15mpg and was massively expensive, even for a luxury limo at £2,480.
My favourite is the 99mph Vanden Plas Princess Mk IV, born in 1956 which featured more sweeping, if a little slab-sided lines. This was the model for the owner driver, being thoroughly re-designed, very handsome and large.
Regrettably in only stayed in the showrooms until 1959 because it was so expensive. It cost more than a Jaguar Mk VIII and was nearly seven times the price of a lowly Austin A40.
At this price there was almost no demand for it and it has now become one of the most sought after Princesses. In may have had the Vanden Plas touch but the red ruin of rust which dogged the old Austins was not discouraged by its posh stance.
The Mk IV was replaced in the catalogue by a much smaller model, an upgraded Austin Westminster which sold at little more than 40 per cent of the price.