Henri Vanden Plas, Coachbuilder of Brussels, was the Pininfarina of the period 1900-1914, and was famous throughout the Continent of Europe for his beautifully designed bodies on Continental makes of car chassis. Vanden Plas was founded in Brussels about 1870 and by 1900 had become famous as a carriage builder. In the early part of the century bodies of a most advanced design were built on some of the earliest motor-car chassis such as Daimler, de Dion Bouton, Germain, Panhard-Levassor, and Metallurgique.
By the outbreak of the First World War Vanden Plas bodies were undoubtedly supreme on the Continent. An English branch was formed in 1912 to deal with the growing clientele in this country, but in 1914 activities had to be changed from coachbuilding to aircraft construction as a war-time necessity. The Company became a subsidiary of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company at Hendon Aerodrome. In 1923 Edwin Fox and his two brothers took the Company over and brought it to its present abode At Kingsbury, London, where the high traditions of the past were maintained. They bat bodies particularly for Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Daimler, Lagonda and Alvis, with such success that the Company soon became known as One of the premier high-class London coacbuilders.
During the Second World War the Company played a major role in the production of the Mosquito aircraft, and in 1946 joined the Austin Motor Company as a subsidiary, for the purpose of producing a range of high-quality cars. These cars, thoroughly established in the 3-to-4-litre range, are now known as Vanden Plas Princess, and the Company has been established as a car manufacturer in its own right. At the Motor Show in 1960, Vanden Plas (England) 1923 Ltd. exhibited for the first time in the main body of the hall as a manufacturing company, whereas previously they exhibited as coachbuilders.
At the Vanden Plas Works in Kingsbury, London, major components are received from other units of B.M.C. for final assembly and hand finishing. In the case of the Princess limousine and saloon, these are built to a programme to match customers’ individual requirements. There are more than 100 items of extra equipment available ranging from heraldic crests to full air conditioning. With the announcement of the new Princess R model, the Vanden Plas Princess range of passenger cars is now as follows: Prineess 1100 saloon, Princess 4-litre R, Princess limousine and saloon. In addition, a Princess hearse .chassis and Princess ambulance chassis continue to be produced at Kingsbury. Like the limousine, they are powered by the well-proved B.M.C. 3,993-c.c. 6-cylinder engine. To accommodate the Rolls-Royce FB60 engine in the Princess structural changes to increase torsional stiffness were introduced, while smaller wheels reduced unsprung weight at each wheel by to lb. The front coilsprings are ¾ in. lower and longer and lower-rate elliptic leaf-springs are used at the back.—W. B.