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1980 Austin Princess
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Vulgalour



Joined: 08 May 2018
Posts: 310
Location: Kent

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:09 pm    Post subject: 1980 Austin Princess Reply with quote

This is a car I've had for quite a while. It's a car I've wanted for quite a while too, ever since the early 90s when you couldn't even give a Princess away in fact. Growing up, our family and most of the families I knew, had a succession of less than stellar vehicles. It wasn't that the vehicles were necessarily bad when new, just that by the time they got to the people I knew they were one MoT away from the crusher. It certainly coloured my outlook on vehicles and what I enjoy and what I appreciate. Generally speaking, while luxuries such as electric windows were desired they were also avoided because "it's just one more thing that might break". So I grew up with things like the Morris Ital, the Nissan Stanza, Vauxhall Chevette, Skoda Estelle, FSO Polonez, and of course, the Austin Princess, to name but a few.

My first encounter with an Austin Princess was a neighbour who had one in brown. He also had an orange FSO Polonez, one car replaced the other, I'm not sure which replaced which. I'd never really seen anything like the Princess before, it left an impression, and they were getting to be quite rare so by the time I came to look for one in 2012 I hadn't expected to find one very easily.

A bit of pie-in-the-sky chatting with my brother is what set things in motion and when he ended up spotting a Princess looking a little unloved on a driveway we got the ridiculous notion into our heads that we should knock on the door and see if it was for sale. It was. To make a very long story short, I bought it and learned just how much was actually wrong with it and spent the next few years putting it right again. It's been my only transport a couple of times over the years and while never entirely trouble free, it's certainly proven capable for enough of the time for me to stand by it.

It was a cold and dark afternoon in February 2012 when we went to collect the car. Because of some oddity with the insurance, the car had to be driven home by my father and it's fair to say he did not enjoy the experience. The day we collected the car one of the sealed beam headlights burned out and none of the dashboard lights worked so I was holding a torch to illuminate the instruments. It was also abundantly clear that the gear selection was poor, it had a bad habit of wandering under acceleration and braken, the tyres were dreadful, and the engine was so badly tuned that it barely had any power at all. It also smelled quite damp inside.


Faults aside, this is the car I really wanted. Of all the Princesses available I wanted an HL with the the smaller 1.7 engine and manual gearbox and no power steering, whichi s precisely what I had. The only thing I wasn't keen on was the colour, being the compromise I felt I had to make. The interior made up for it, I quite liked the brown vinyl and cropped nylon interior.

After we got the car home we sorted out the issue with the dashboard (corroded switch connectors, a common theme with this car), the headlight, the tuning, and the insurance so I could take her out myself. I was absolutely smitten. Even though the driving experience was absolutely appalling because everything was so utterly worn out, I really enjoyed myself and I knew this was a car I'd be happy to keep for quite some time.




That was 3 house moves and 8 years ago now. What the car was then is quite different to what the car is now and I would learn an awful lot about just why these cars got the reputation they did and how some of that reputation was deserved because of shortcomings at British Leyland and how a lot of that reputation wasn't deserved and was, instead, the result of neglect and abuse of a car that was regarded as completely disposable.










I'll continue this story as I upload the photographs and dig out the information. There's an awful lot to catch up on and condense into something readable.
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Rick
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2020 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent, thanks for posting that. I often wonder how people came to choose the older vehicle(s) they now have. If anyone else feels inclined to introduce their vehicle(s), by all means do so Smile

RJ
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badhuis



Joined: 20 Aug 2008
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Location: Netherlands

PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 11:01 am    Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess Reply with quote

Always interesting to read about why someone is attracted to a car.
My father nearly bought a four year old Princess 2200 back in 1983 to replace his Triumph 2500TC. The dealer made him a good deal but he was fed up with Triumph Troubles and bought Japanese instead (Mitsubishi Galant 1600). I remember thinking at the time he will never have an interesting car again and I was right (lots of boring Toyotas etc).

Vulgalour wrote:
Of all the Princesses available I wanted an HL with the the smaller 1.7 engine and manual gearbox and no power steering, whichi s precisely what I had.

What is it why you wanted the 1.7?
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Vulgalour



Joined: 08 May 2018
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At the time, I was told the 1.7 was the least troublesome and most economical offering in the Princess, and that the 2.2 while smooth, offered no real benefit over the 2.0 while also being quite thirsty, especially when paired with an automatic gearbox.

Knowing what I know now, the 2.0 would have been the better option, it has just a bit more power while not really being any more expensive to run than the 1.7. There are times when the 1.7 is just a bit underpowered, especially if you've got a car full, and the 2.0 has just that bit more power to cope with that more comfortably

Having experienced the 2.2 and the plusher HLS interior I still wouldn't go for one of those. They're a nice thing, and I can well understand why the higher trim and bigger engines are desireable, they're just not for me.
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Vulgalour



Joined: 08 May 2018
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2020 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I bought the Princess I was still a bit green about what I was letting myself in for. I'd owned and been around older cars before, and I'd done some small amounts of maintenance and repair. I knew roughly what to expect and I knew the Princess wasn't perfect. Even so, it would be a learning curve understanding just why certain jobs should not be left and, since I was on quite a tight budget when the car was acquired, prioritising repairs and maintenance would prove frustrating at times.

The main thing I wanted to do with the car was to get it clean and that lead to finding out the problems it had that were visible. My tools were quite primitive and limited and I hadn't set aside a budget of any sort to acquire more tools, instead I was relying on borrowing from more knowledgeable peers and family members. I was one of those people. Still, I was nothing if not enthusiastic about my purchase and soon had the front seats out.


Then the carpets, so I could both clean them and inspect the state of the floor. There's only so much you can inspect on a driveway when you're buying a car so I couldn't very well go pulling carpets up and the like. I had looked and poked as much as I could and knew the carpets were wet in the front. I also knew the car had been used and it was winter, so the wetness could just have been from wet shoes. I'd later learn it wasn't entirely that at all, it was some historic repair work and a bad windscreen seal.


Most of the floor was actually not that bad, especially so for a Princess, so I mostly just covered everything back over when the carpet was cleaned and put any sort of remedial work here a good way down the list.


the initial inspection of the car did highlight a 'repair' that should have concerned me a lot more than it did at the time.


It certainly highlighted some questionable wiring. Fair standard stuff for an old cassette deck instalation, unfortunately.


This was also ignored in the short term. It wasn't affecting the functionality of the car so rather than pick at scabs, it was left alone. Instead, I turned my attention to such fripperies as rechroming the centre console trim, a job that turned out remarkably well. For my first attempt I was impressed and it's lasted almost unscathed for the last eight years, even after being removed and refitted several times.




The driver's door window wasn't operating properly, which was slightly annoying, on dismantling that I discovered it had worn excessively. Bear in mind, this is a car that had supposedly only done about 70,000 miles. There were a few signs like this all over the car that hinted that either the mileage had perhaps had a little trim, or that the car had been terribly neglected during its lifetime.


The bonnet rams didn't work at all, I carried a walking cane in the car for quite some time as an impromptu solution.


Many of the telltales had the lenses poked out too. I am told this was a frequent thing on these cars anyway, even quite early in their life, so perhaps this wasn't connected to the suspicion of a hard life.


There was a lot of dirt all over the inside of the car too. Now, I had a tiny bit of history with the car that said it was restored and won shows in the 90s. The approach to keeping it show-worthy inside seemed to involve spraying an extra layer of silicone spray over the dirt every now and then. It was really quite disgusting inside.


As you can see here from the partially cleaned headlining, everything was just covered in greasy grime.


The tyres were remarkable too. I had mentioned the car had a habit of wandering, there were various reasons for this and one of them was the tyres. Remember, this is a car with a current MoT in 2012, the worst of the tyres on it was easily this 1995 stamped Kingpin remould.




It's not a trick of the light, the sidewall does have deviations all over it.


Two of the tyres (Camac, dated 2004) were the wrong size for the car, one was the aforementioned remould, and the fourth, an Infinity, was another brand entirely from 2006. The spare tyre was a Kelly and the noisiest tyre I've ever had on a car. Obviously, at the time I simply couldn't afford a new set of tyres immediately so I did something I wouldn't do now which was to fit a set of part-worn tyres to see me through until I could afford better ones.

This was just the tip of the iceberg of discovery with this car.
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Penguin45



Joined: 28 Jul 2014
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2020 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've followed Mr V's trials, tribulations and endeavours with this car on several fora over the years and I have to say ten out of ten for sheer bl@@dy minded determination with it. Well done.

P45.
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Vulgalour



Joined: 08 May 2018
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2020 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It has certainly been, and continues to be, a journey. I begin to wonder if I should have a go at writing a book, people seem to enjoy reading about my misery and occasional joy.

What I hadn't mentioned until now is that at this point in time my everyday car had been a little Mk2 VW Polo, slightly modified. It's a car I miss very much, and I regret the circumstances that led to its sale. That's a story for another time. Unfortunately, my little Polo was broken and I didn't have the means to put it right so I ended up relying on the Princess for everything. The Princess, a car with a Reputation, a car which I was quickly learning had myriad issues and which I was coming to realise was not quite the smart and shiny thing I thought I'd bought.

I put these things from my mind by taking silly pictures and generally convincing myself that running this car as my only vehicle was perfectly rational and not at all a great way to set myself up for catastrophe.


I focused on what jobs I could do with materials I had while I was saving for the more important things. This meant I was learning how to do things I hadn't done before too, for example since the rechroming of the centre console trim had gone so well, I tried the same method out on the once shiny spacers that go under the seat rails, thinking they'd look fantastic and make the interior just that little bit nicer.







This simple wrapping of the parts in aluminium tape worked remarkably well and they looked lovely, until I fitted them and then they were practically invisible. They still look lovely, eight years on, on those rare occasions you get a glimpse of them.


I'd finally got all of the encrusted filth out of the interior and while it was really very tired it smelled nice and it was a pleasant place to be, feeling more like a comfortable living room than a car.


Since I was using the car regularly certain items that hadn't been done in a very long time became more apparent. Things like the wiper blades which were so old and worn they no longer held their shape. The Princess uses side-peg wipers too, which was a little awkward to figure out at first until I realised that most of the cheaper types of wiper blade actually had provision to swap the little pegs over. They're not a very good design, even with the nicest quality blades one of them always has a habit of juddering across the screen to this day. Perhaps one day I'll convert them to hook fitting arms instead.


Eventually, I had found a set of part worn tyres I could afford and drove several miles to go and get them fitted. The car behaved remarkably well until getting near where I was going, at which point it tried to cut out on me, stumbled, and then picked itself up. It was a beautiful day.




That is, it was a beautiful day until I tried to set off home again. The car just refused to start. I went to get some advice from the chap who had fitted the tyres and by the time we got back to the car to diagnose the problem, the problem wasn't there. The car drove perfectly fine all the way home right up until I got to the drive at which point it stalled, here, and refused to go again.


How inconvenient.
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badhuis



Joined: 20 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2020 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vulgalour wrote:
Obviously, at the time I simply couldn't afford a new set of tyres immediately so I did something I wouldn't do now which was to fit a set of part-worn tyres to see me through until I could afford better ones.

Why would you not do that now? I am still doing that.

Two months ago when the 2001 Mini of my daughter got a remark from the annual tester that one tyre needed replacement (small cracks in the sidewall) I went to the tyre shop. That shop, a two man shop which have been going on for decades, has a big inventory of used tyres. If a customer wants a new set of tyres all round, and they notice one or two of the old tyres with at least two thirds of new depth and visually look good, they keep it and sell to customers like me for next to nothing. Never got problems with second hand tyres from them. They found me an as new, and same make /model tyre for the Mini so what is not to like?

My "modern" (2004) X-type had a replacement from them when I punctured a tyre a year ago. In the past I got very good s/h tyres for my Citroen CX and Triumph 2500. Always #1 quality makes, not the obscure asian makes (although they might perform as well these days, who knows).
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peter scott



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2020 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks in very good shape in the photos.

Peter
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alastairq



Joined: 14 Oct 2016
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2020 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We all run part worn tyres...don't we?

Every time we get hold of a 'new' car, we're doing likewise with part worn tyres...
[Unless one is pedantic, and immediately fits a full set of new tyres regardless?]
I'm not sure having a 'name' as a tyre maker even matters these days? Seeing as most 'names' also make budget brands....and a lot of those 'names' get their produce from Asia....
In more recent years, remoulds were as good in terms of quality, as new tyres too..[they had more stringent criteria imposed on them, compared to some new tyres] Such a pity the family firm of Kingpin have decided to close down, call it a day..?
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ukdave2002



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2020 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

badhuis wrote:
Vulgalour wrote:
Obviously, at the time I simply couldn't afford a new set of tyres immediately so I did something I wouldn't do now which was to fit a set of part-worn tyres to see me through until I could afford better ones.

Why would you not do that now? I am still doing that.

Two months ago when the 2001 Mini of my daughter got a remark from the annual tester that one tyre needed replacement (small cracks in the sidewall) I went to the tyre shop. That shop, a two man shop which have been going on for decades, has a big inventory of used tyres. If a customer wants a new set of tyres all round, and they notice one or two of the old tyres with at least two thirds of new depth and visually look good, they keep it and sell to customers like me for next to nothing. Never got problems with second hand tyres from them. They found me an as new, and same make /model tyre for the Mini so what is not to like?

My "modern" (2004) X-type had a replacement from them when I punctured a tyre a year ago. In the past I got very good s/h tyres for my Citroen CX and Triumph 2500. Always #1 quality makes, not the obscure asian makes (although they might perform as well these days, who knows).


I agree, you run out of fuel, so you put new fuel in, do the same with tyres as they are the only thing that keep you and the road together, they cost you buttons per mile in the long term.

These cars were around when I was at school, never really looked at them then, but would now, probably in the same way that someone who went to school in the 60's would look at a Oxford or Cambridge, they must have been one of the last cars to have bumpers?

Dave
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Vulgalour



Joined: 08 May 2018
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2020 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My comment was not one that was intended to disparage the use of part-worn tyres, more that it is simply something I don't do now if I can at all help it. It's a personal choice. For years I was running on part worn tyres because it was cost effective and I could usually acquire decent tyres. In more recent years my situation has improved and I can now afford new tyres whenever the ones on a car are worn out, so new ones are what I fit.

There's nothing inherently wrong with part worn tyres providing you can get good quality ones, it's just that given the choice, I'd always go for new because I've had some abysmal part worn tyres on cars over the years. The last set of part worn tyres I had fitted to a car were on the Princess and they to all intents and purposes looked perfectly healthy, lots of tread, no cracking or perishing, until one day in the wet I found I had virtually no grip. Braking on approach to a roundabout, at low speeds, and having the tyres loose traction was not an experience I wished to repeat. All that was wrong with these part worns is that they were old, over ten years old in fact, and while visually looked fine in practice they had become dangerous.

I could have gone out and bought another set of part worn tyres, newer ones even, but instead I chose to go for new and did not regret it. That's not to say I'd never purchase part worn tyres again, they just aren't really that much cheaper than brand new tyres these days so I imagine I'd only buy used if I was in a bit of a pinch.

If part worns work for you then that's fine, if you'd rather go with new when you replace tyres, that's okay too. Horses for courses.
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Vulgalour



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where were we? Ah yes, the Princess stuck at the bottom of the drive, blocking the access road that ran down the back of the property. This was an issue, the drive was too steep to push the car up and the access road didn't have anywhere the car could be rolled to out of the way, so we managed to roll and push it up the access road and get my broken Polo out of the garage to miraculously tow the Princess onto the drive. The poor little Polo needed some help with this even so.


It created rather a lot of tyre smoke.


With the Princess safely on the driveway, we could see what had gone wrong. I was fortunate that the garage had power and that I had people who could help that had more knowledge of what might have gone wrong than I did, so we popped the top off the carburettor to find our first problem. That bit is not supposed to be bent. This was the first time we'd removed this too, so who knows how long it had been that way.


The oil in the dashpot was dirty and had sediment in it, and the dashpot itself had several layers of thickly applied silver paint, a common theme in the engine bay.


Unfortunately we didn't find the cause of the problem that evening and eventually had to call time on it and approach it again tomorrow. We did a more thorough strip down of the carburettor and that's when we found a big bit of grit in the float needle jet. There was also sign of wear on the float needle itself.


That done, on reassembly we found the throttle cable end was so badly frayed that it simply couldn't be reinstalled. Unfortunately, to remove the carburettor you had to disconnect that cable and we weren't sure it would go back on. I didn't have a spare either.


Improvisation was called upon and we acquired a Peugeot 107 throttle cable which was trimmed down to suit. The cable came with a little nubbin that screwed on the end to prevent it fraying and this worked very well until a proper cable was acquired.


The car still hadn't wanted to start so after going through the ignition components, finding the points and rotor arm, distributor cap and spark leads, and spark plugs themselves to all be fine, we purchased a condensor. We could have just fitted electronic ignition, but that wouldn't have told us what the problem actually was, and since a condensor was considerably cheaper than electronic ignition, this made more sense. Anyway, with the new part ready to go on we took another looking in the distributor and found the earth wire in there was... not great.


We wrapped the earth cable with some tape to prevent it shorting out on anything, cleaned up the connections, fitted the new condensor and... it tried to start. It couldn't quite manage it, but it tried. We then rechecked the timing, which we hadn't done until now, and found that was off. Once the timing was corrected the car finally ran again, and ran well.

The thing that's still amazing to me now is that the car ran at all when I got it. We knew it was slow, what we didn't know is that this seemed to be entirely down to all of the settings being off, from the carburettor running too rich, to the distributor being set wrong, to the static timing being off.

A few short runs were done that night, suspicious of everything working again, and once it had proven itself it was deemed fit to undertake the journey over to Sheffield the following day to collect a rabbit run that wouldn't quite fit inside the car. The Princess behaved itself impeccably around town and on the motorway.

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Vulgalour



Joined: 08 May 2018
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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With the car running once more and confidence restored I planned to not really use the car that much while I sorted through a few details. Of course, this isn't how things panned out, the Princess was often the most practical vehicle available and with the roof rack there wasn't really much it couldn't do when family and friends needed things shifting.

That said, I wasn't about to push my luck and there were certainly some things that were not as they should be. To this day I have no idea what was on the outside of the distributor cap.



The poor repair to the waxstat housing would be an issue that would continue to plague my ownership of this car. British Leyland did not use very good quality material for this particular component and they are prone to dissolving or just having chunks fall off.


The other issue is that a previous owner had fitted an electric fuel pump to the inner wing since the original in-tank pump had failed. This pump was not really up to the task, and it was noisy, and it had no suppression so caused interference with the radio. Added to all that is that it just looked really ugly. The wiring wasn't that great either.





Here she is moving more things for other people and finding weird cars.


All was well until the following day when on starting the car there was quite a loud backfire sort of a bang. Turned out one of the fuel hoses to the carburettor had burst.


That made an immediate check of the other hoses necessary and highlighted that the clamp for the radiator overflow was missing and under certain circumstances, leaking.


Regular use of a car will always highlight problems that have been ignored and it seems common for owners of cars that go out infrequently to do the barest minimum to get the car to function. I was using the car as a modern car, trundling around town and going up and down the motorway on a regular basis, and that's what was highlighting a lot of the failing components. One issue I had on the motorway was when in the outside lane I suddenly lost power, thankfully I had the time and space to move over to the inside lane and the car picked up again and seemed okay. I pulled over at the next services and could find nothing amiss so carefully made my way to my destination.

It turned out that the electric fuel pump couldn't keep up with the load that the engine demanded at 70mph, no fuel means no power, until you slow down and the load is such that the pump can keep up again. At this point, I didn't know that the in-tank pump could be replaced with a Rover SD1 item so instead we opted for a mechanical pump as fitted to Morris Marinas and other O-series equipped cars. It bolts straight on where there's a blanking plate on the Princess and it meant I could get rid of the electric pump and its wiring.

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alastairq



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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
To this day I have no idea what was on the outside of the distributor cap.

Probably the heat-dried residue of countless sparayings of WD40.



Quote:
This pump was not really up to the task

Looks like the pump was fitted in the wrong place anyway? These pumps work far better as pushers, rather than pullers. May not have had a supply issue if the pump had been mounted near to the tank?

I'd be on the look-out for the dreaded hot-starting issues with the mechanical pump? Today's petrol is a vastly different beast to that of the 70's and 80's...and earlier. [one reason for in-tank electric pumps being fitted??]
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