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Vanden Plas PrincesS 4-litre R (1964-1968)

Published: 24th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 3909cc/6-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 175/4800
  • Torque (lb [email protected]): 218/3000
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • 0-60mph: 12.7sec
  • Fuel consumption: 16mpg
  • Transmission: 3-speed auto
  • Length: 15ft 8in (4.78m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 8.5in (1.74m)
  • Weight: 3506lb (1590kg)
  • Books: The cars of BMC by Graham Robson. MRP, ISBN 0-947981-14-4 (OOP)
  • Clubs:
  • Websites: Cambridge-Oxford Owners’ Club. 07966 249 506, Vanden Plas Owners’ Club.
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Looking for some affordable and relaxed executive motoring but don’t want to follow the Rover P5/ Vauxhall Cresta/Ford Zodiac herd? Well this should be just the answer, because when it comes to stately transport, few cars deliver the goods like this Rollspowered big Farina. With its 3909cc straight-six, lashings of wood, leather and chrome, plus acres of space and great club support, these VPs make a lot more sense than you might think. Built for the new motorway era, these Vanden Plas Farinas offer the ambience of a Jag but without the fl ash exterior design – or the fl ash image. The cars are also immensely strong, which is why they’ve always been so popular with banger racers. Thankfully they’re generally now being saved rather than raced, but one or two continue to slip through the net – which is why you’ll need to act fast if you want to secure a good one.


What to look for?

The 3909cc straight-six is famed for its durability, as it’s unstressed. However, anti-freeze levels must be maintained if this all-alloy unit isn’t to corrode internally. Look for signs of overheating; the radiator gets blocked leading to head gasket failure. The transmission is durable so look just for the usual signs of wear (clonks, rumbles and whines from worn universal joints, gearbox and back axle respectively). Kingpins and bushes wear so check for vague steering; look for signs of the system having been greased regularly. The interior usually wears well, which is handy as it’s full of wood and leather. As a result, overhauls are costly so check everything closely; torn leather and delaminated wood usually have to be repaired professionally. Finally, check the bodywork; because lead loading was used and the panels are all welded on (no bolts were used), restoration tends to be involved. Focus on the rear spring mountings, the strengthening beams in the fl oorpan and the chassis members/ outriggers. Also check the inner, wings, bulkhead and the ‘trumpet’ panels under each front wing


All 4-Litre Rs were built basically to the same specifi cation, with no development of the model during its four-year production span. As a result, values are dependent purely on condition rather than specifi cation, with some free projects still around. However, banger racers will pay up to £1000 for rotten cars, so getting a project for free isn’t easy. Something that’s usable but not pretty is £1500-£2000 while the best cars fetch up to £6000.

Driving one

The Vanden Plas is not a car for the the enthusiast driver, but if you’re after something that cossets you for mile after mile, few classics are better suited – especially at the money. The torquey six-pot combined with the standard three-speed automatic gearbox (there was no manual option) means you just prod the pedal and go. The power-assisted steering offers virtually no feedback while the brakes also offer little in the way of feel – although they are very effi cient so there’s reassurance there. What makes the 4-Litre R so appealing is the smoothness with which it whisks you along; any example in good condition can give a lot of modern cars a run for their money when it comes to ride comfort and serenity, aside from the wind noise.


June 1964

The Princess 4-Litre R replaces the Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre. All cars have a Borg Warner Type 35 automatic gearbox as standard, disc brakes at the front and power-assisted steering. The body is similar to the Vanden Plas 3-Litre’s, but there are less pronounced tail fi ns, horizontal rear light units, a fl atter and longer roof plus fog lights in place of the horn grilles. Power comes from a Rolls-Royce 3.9-litre engine, originally developed for military use; this was hoped to be the fi rst of a line of cars from Rolls-Royce and BMC, but it proved to be the sole model.

May 1968

The fi nal Princess 4-Litre R is made, carrying chassis number 7187

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