Vanden Plas Coach Builders
Vanden Plas originated in Belgium, although the name is derived from the Dutch, and should actually be pronounced as Van Der Plas.
In 1870 the company started up with a workshop in Brussels making at first wheels but later on they started producing axle units for carriages. But in 1884 they decides to move to Antwerp where they earned a reputation making horse drawn carriages. Because of increased orders in 1890 another branch was opened back in Brussels. They exhibited their products at various trade fairs through out the world, and in 1900 received the highest award give to a Belgium coach-builder. This was a turning point and orders came rolling in from various European car manufactures.
By the year 1908, Vanden Plas workforce had increased to about 400 producing around 300 special bodies a year. Production continued to increase year on year, so that by 1913 it had reached the figure of about 750.
It was decided to set up a subsidiary in the UK, so in March 1913 Vanden Plas (England) Ltd was formed. Various changes were made over the years until in 1923 when its name became Vanden Plas (England) 1923 Limited and was based at Kingsbury London. All the major luxury motor manufactures, such as Bently Alvis and Logonda had coach built bodies by Vanden Plas.
Vanden Plas body on a Leyland 1923
The Austin Motor Company decided to purchase the company in 1946. So when the Austin Sheerline was announced it was available as a Princess with a coach built body by Vanden Plas. (see A125/135) Various body styles were produced on the Austin chassis including specialist Ambulances and Hearses. With any new model announcement made by Austin, a Vanden Plas version usually followed.
Also they often made one off's for wealthy clients. Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II had numerous models with Vanden Plas bodies at the Palaces. So various luxury versions of the following, Austin A105 saloon, Austin A99 Westminster and the 3 Litre Princess were introduced.
Vanden Plas 3 litre Princess
It was in 1964 that the Vanden Plas 4 litre R came out, this was based on the Princess 3 litre. body and suspension. The development of the car was a joint project with BMC and Rolls Royce in the early 60s.
Vanden Plas 4 litre R
Vanden Plas Princess 1300
In 1962 the Morris 1100 was announced, Fred Connolly the founder of the company that supplied leather to the motor industry commissioned Vanden Plas to make a special version. A prototype was exhibited at the 1963 London Show and aroused a lot of interest so it was put into full scale production by BMC management with deliveries starting in the winter. In 1968 the model received the 1300 cc engine and continued been made until May 1974.
In the the preceding years various other motor manufactures in the Leyland Group had Vanden Plas versions produced.
Vanden Plas 1500
September 1974 saw the launched of the Vanden Plas 1500 Saloon based upon the Austin Allegro, it was not called a Princess as British Leyland had decided to use it on their new 18/22 series of wedge shaped cars. Sadly the Kingsbury site was closed in 1979 and production was transferred to the MG factory at Abingdon, which then closed in the following year.
From 1980 onwards the Vanden Plas name was added to the most expensive luxury versions of the Austin Metro, Maestro, Montego and Ambassador, as well as the Rover SD1 and 213/216 models.