Princess 'Tarts Parlour'
Three ordinary BL production vehicles formed the centrepiece of the Custom Car show held at London's Alexandra Palace at the beginning of 1980 but they had all been significantly transformed since leaving the production line. It was the culmination of months of effort starting with a 1979 design competition; The Custom Car Magazine & Austin Morris Project 1979/1980. Entrants were given the task of coming up with custom styling proposals for an Allegro, a Princess and a Sherpa van. There were 190 individual entries but some of the entrants submitted designs for all three vehicles making a total of 269 drawings to examine.
The task was undertaken by a team from Austin Morris including Harris Mann and experts from Custom Car magazine. The judges were very pleased with the quality of the designs but there was a £2000 budget limit for customisation which ruled out some of the more attractive designs.
It's not quite clear how all this worked but it seems that each of the cars were presented to the winning designers by Austin Morris as well as the £2000 budget (approximately £9500 in today's money) and they were then left to make their designs a reality. The Allegro was the hardest to finalise but in the end the decision went to David Thompson and his semi pick up, semi notchback and MPV concept.
The Sherpa was the easiest of all to figure out and Tony Hatter was the winner and Harris Mann was particularly taken with this design.
The winner in the Princess class was Peter Birtwhistle with his 'tarts parlour' on wheels and doing so by merely adding to the existing lines of the car rather than trying to disguise or remove them.
It was taken to Graffiti Auto Art who set about turning Pete’s sketches into reality. First up was to cut slots in the front wings for the wrap around grille, made out of 16 separate pieces of tube, then at the back a ‘continental kit’ was added where the spare wheel stands across a specially contoured boot lid in an upright position. A re-profiled rear bumper was made and re-chromed and chrome wire wheels were specially imported from the USA and arrived at Heathrow airport the day before the show started!
The smaller rear door windows and vinyl quarters were trimmed and the inside of the rear window surround was also panelled in to match the rest of the interior, then it was off to the paint shop. Originally the car was sprayed pink but apparently it looked awful, so it was again repainted, this time in silver, which did look better, but was marred by the original pink colour showing through.
There's no information on what changes were made to the interior unfortunately. The Princess did get featured in Custom Car magazine, albeit just 2 pages and one photo and no extensive feature about the work that went into it. The Allegro and Sherpa were probably also featured in the magazine.
The car used was actually a Princess 2 development car built in 1977 with the O series engine. It was taxed until March 1993 so it's either been scrapped or is lurking unloved in a garage somewhere. What a find that would be!