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1960 Austin Princess Vanden Plas Limousine

Austin Princess Vanden Plas Limo.jpg

For a country known for its small space efficient cars, it is strange that the British Transportation Museum has been on the receiving end of the larger varieties. The latest is a 1960 Austin Princess Limousine with an Austin drivetrain and a hand built body by coachbuilder Vanden Plas from their Kingsbury works, North London. At a tad over 4000 lbs. and almost 18 ft. long, it can’t be missed.

This recent donation came to BTM from Sandra Beane Milton in memory of her husband William. After a visit to England in 1984 they purchased the Princess from Struan Erskine, a dealer in vintage and collector cars near London. It was shipped to New York and they drove it to Cleveland, Ohio. William already had two Corvettes and an old Ford Pick-up in his collection. The Princess was going to be a fun car and possibly lead into a limousine service.

The Princess would be a very regal vehicle for weddings and ceremonial functions. It is all white with chrome trim and wheel covers. A factory option was to have your monogram on the doors. Ours has “ES”, or is it “SE”? Could it stand for Struan Erskine from whom it was purchased? Was Erskine the original owner? They appear to be out of business so the trail has run cold.

The interior features a huge back seating area with two occasional seats that could be folded out of the floor giving a total seating for seven. It has a sliding glass partition between the driver and rear passengers with fold out picnic tables.

Our Princess has a soft fabric cloth interior in the passenger compartment and leather in front for the driver. It was thought the leather was too rough on the fine clothes of the wealth. Later on the thinking changed and leather was used throughout.

Power for the Princess was by an Austin D Series straight 6 cylinder 4 ltr. Ohv engine. With the single carb, it could accelerate to 60 mph in 20 seconds and reach a top speed of 90 mph.   

The suspension consisted of coil springs on the front and semi elliptic leaf springs on the back with a large anti-roll bar. A “jack all” type of built in jacking system was powered off the battery to allow changing a tire or other under car maintenance without hunting for a manual jack.

Interestingly only 3,238 DM4 Limousines were made between 1952 and 1968. Besides our 1960, we have on loan a 1966 owned by Giuseppe who does private auto repair In our shop. Yet a third Princess was in our area and it was the wedding car for my daughter Amy. It is now in Florida. Once you start looking at something rare, they seem to pop out of everywhere.

Our next adventure for the Princess is to get her running. Wish us luck!

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