Torcars and Crayford Conversions
Although British Leyland was slow to see the potential of making the Princess available in hatchback form, it didn’t stop the body conversion companies, Crayford in Kent and TorCars of Devon, offering customers their take on the idea. Any purchaser of an 18-22 or Princess model could ask for it be converted, which added an extra £520 plus VAT to the cost of the car.
Once the order was placed the dealer would have the car shipped to TorCars of Plymouth, where it would remain for 4 weeks whilst the conversion was carried out. TorCars were the authorised converters and the car would still be covered under the Leycare or Supercover warranties.
The ADO71 bodyshell was exceptionally rigid, which made the conversion engineer’s job a lot simpler. The conversion consisted of converting the boot lid and heated rear screen into a single top-hinged tailgate. The tailgate was a specially made frame of Squarex 16 gauge seamless welded steel, which was plastic coated. Two alloy hinges were mounted at the rear of the roof and two gas filled struts took the strain of lifting the tailgate.
The rear of the car had to be strengthened due to the necessary removal of the cross bracing behind the rear seat backrest, this was achieved by welding a 20 gauge steel skin over the existing boot floor (without intruding over the tool space and spare wheel well). The floor was then trimmed with the appropriate matching carpet. Small ventilation panels were fitted to the rear D-posts (Crayford conversions didn’t have this feature, so the TorCars version can easily be identified) and a rear wash-wipe was fitted. A special badge was added that read Princess Estate by TorCars.
A removable parcel shelf of glass fibre was made and the seats were then fitted with suitable hinges and straps – the back seat base was pulled up towards the front seats, whilst the backrest, which was fitted with a sturdy back panel, folded flat to create the boot floor. But to carry out this manoeuvre, both rear doors had to be opened slightly to stop the door armrests fouling the seat movement.
The luggage space was now 54 cubic feet with seats folded down and the spare wheel removed (the same as an Austin Ambassador), a massive leap over the 21.1 cubic feet of the standard Princess boot.
The TorCars Princess is a very rare car indeed today and to date, only two are known to survive, one in Holland and one in England, though the latter has been involved in an accident and is not roadworthy at the time of writing. If you know of any Princess estates, please let me know, or contact the Princess and Ambassador Owners' Club.
With thanks to Terry Miller for the TorCars article. Additional material by Kevin Davis.