Vanden Plas car logos and Vanden Plas history
Vanden Plas is the name of a company of coachbuilders for specialist and up-market automobile manufacturers. It originated in Belgium in 1870 as Carrosserie Vanden Plas.
The company first appeared in the United Kingdom in 1906 when Métallurgique cars were imported with Vanden Plas coachwork. These were generally admired and in about 1910 Warwick Wright (now Peugeot dealers), a British motor company, purchased the United Kingdom rights to the Vanden Plas name and established Vanden Plas (England) Ltd. During World War I the company became involved in aircraft production and was bought by the Aircraft Manufacturing Company based at Hendon, London. In 1917 a new company, Vanden Plas (1917) Ltd., was formed. The company seems to have struggled to get back into coachbuilding and in 1922 went into receivership. The exclusive UK rights purchase seems also to have gone as in the early 1920s the Belgian firm was exhibiting at the London Motor Show alongside the British company.
The rights to the name and the goodwill were purchased by the Fox brothers who moved the company from Hendon to Kingsbury and built on the contacts with Bentley that had been made. Between 1924 and 1931, when Bentley failed, Vanden Plas built the bodies for over 700 of their chassis.
In the 1930s the company became less dependent on one car maker and supplied coachwork to such as Alvis, Armstrong Siddeley, Bentley, Daimler, Lagonda and Rolls-Royce. The company also updated its production methods and took to making small batches of similar bodies.
With the outbreak of war in 1939 the company went back into aircraft work and coachbuilding stopped.
Austin, BMC and BL
With peace in 1945 the company looked to restart its old business, but a surprising new customer came along. Austin wanted to produce a luxury car and approached Vanden Plas. In 1946 Vanden Plas became a subsidiary of the Austin Motor Company and produced its A135 Princess model. From 1958 this also started to involve chassis assembly and the Austin (by now British Motor Corporation or BMC) board recognised Vanden Plas as a motor manufacturer in its own right and in 1960 the Austin Princess became the Vanden Plas Princess. Also in 1957/8, Vanden Plas were asked by Leonard Lord to add luxury fittings to a batch of Austin A105 Westminster cars, beginning the practice of using the company's skills and name for badge engineered (and genuinely improved) luxury versions of many of the BMC (and later British Leyland (BL)) cars such as the 1100/1300 range and the Allegro (known as the Vanden Plas 1500 and 1700). The proposed Vanden Plas version of the 1800 did not go into production.
From 1985 to 1989, Austin Rover made upmarket Vanden Plas models within its Metro, Maestro and Montego ranges; a limited edition of 500 only models were produced at Longbridge called the Austin Metro VP 500.
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