We are living in bizarre situations. It is not extensive considering that a car like this week’s Courageous Capsule could have quickly been procured for a tenth of its £5,995 inquiring price tag. At times just a hundredth. I observed it occur. As a weak pupil in the nineties I made use of to often attend a car auction in north Manchester exactly where local traders used to offload no-hopers. It was an low-cost evening out, as lengthy as you held your palms in your pockets, whilst I did at the time break that rule and end up proudly owning a Ford Capri. But the most affordable vehicle I at any time observed limp by the ring was a identical classic Austin Ambassador to our Capsule, albeit in base 1.7L spec, knackered problem and finished in a deeply unattractive shade of what seemed to be British Rail Blue.
This was the time just before scrap values turned unfavorable, so even the nastiest banger would however fetch a pair of hundred quid if it experienced much more than a thirty day period of MOT remaining. But not this Ambassador, which inspite of even now owning a ticket (that was 1 of the auction’s several principles) captivated zero curiosity as it sat there in a cloud of exhaust smoke. The auctioneer was a loud character who would generally harangue the viewers when they didn’t display enough enthusiasm for his light wares, but with the Austin he was before long diminished to pleading – it was clear it experienced to be sold. When there was no curiosity at £100, then £50 he turned the tables: “okay, what will you give me for it?” “A fiver!” any individual shouted and the hammer arrived down. Even if its new operator experienced pushed it straight to a scrapyard and weighed it in he’d have designed a income.
Approximately three a long time later and matters have improved, most certainly for the reason that the grim reaper has been fast paced with his vehicle-cubing equipment. How Numerous Remaining reckons there are only 16 Ambassadors are even now on the road, with 68 on SORN. Set versus a complete manufacturing of 43,427 that signifies a survival fee of just .2 p.c. Which goes some way in the direction of conveying the price becoming questioned for this a single – the type of nu-common you could rock up to the Competition of the Unexceptional in with a honest possibility of bagging a rosette.
Of system, it is a awful car. Commonly I test not to be way too rude about any of our Tablets, on the basis most get savaged in the comments. But I cannot keep on the fence on this one particular, owning professional several examples and their quease-making suspension as a child. Yet the incredibly survival of this just one, which truly appears to be as good as they at any time obtained, has provided it the attractiveness of a thing vanishingly uncommon. And also turned it into a precious historic document to confirm just how desperate factors experienced got for British Leyland in the early eighties.
It is difficult to inform the Ambassador’s story devoid of looking at that of the car or truck it was carefully related to, the ‘ADO71’ that was offered variously in Austin, Morris and Wolseley versions, but which is ideal regarded as the Austin Princess. This experienced been introduced in 1975 to appreciable fanfare and predictions it would soon be competing with the Ford Cortina for sales volumes. It showcased Hydragas suspension, front-wheel drive – nevertheless a segment novelty – and a wedgy condition that suited the era quite perfectly. (Coincidentally it had originally been developed underneath the product title ‘Diablo’.)
On the flip aspect the Princess was slow, even the selection-topping 6-cylinder 2.2-litre version took a leisurely 13.5 next to crack 60mph. It also suffered from the high-quality problems widespread to BL’s strike-hit plants. Gross sales soon slumped to well underneath predictions. The Princesses’ other concern was that, although it seemed like a hatchback, it was actually a saloon with preset rear glass. As hatches were being getting significantly popular this deficiency of practicality was blamed for some of the failure, so the selection was taken to make a hatchback edition along with a major facelift.
The issue was that the company was close to broke, so the total point was carried out on a £29m funds that was limited even by early eighties criteria. In addition to its full-height tailgate the new car bought a redesigned overall body with further facet windows at the again, indicating that only the entrance doorway skins ended up basically carried about from the Princess. Lots of of the other revisions in fact produced it fewer excellent than the vehicle it replaced, with cracker-grade interior trim, more cost-effective and considerably less supportive seats and lights shared with the Morris Ital. The Ambassador’s new identify was the classiest issue about it.
Essential response was hardly tepid, and profits volumes were effectively under even BL’s gloomy predictions. The Ambassador was introduced into a globe in which buyers could decide on between a escalating variety of clever new hatchbacks, and few could be enticed by a little something so of course low-priced and horrible: it did not even get a 5-pace gearbox, inspite of Austin possessing formerly supplied this with the Maxi and even the more affordable Allegro. This was just one Ambassador that unquestionably was not spoiling anybody, and BL under no circumstances even bothered with a remaining-hand push variation for export. The successor Montego that followed it looked like a room-aged rocketship by comparison.
But if you do have to have an Ambassador, via masochism, insanity or an dependancy to not likely automotive kitsch, then our Pill tends to make an excellent scenario for alone. It is not rather the assortment topper – there was a Vanden Plas version higher than it – but as a 2. HLS it sits shut to the best of the tree. That intended it got – drumroll remember to – electrical entrance windows. While posher BL brand names like Jaguar and Rover experienced offered run glazing for several years, the Ambassador was the initial Austin to attribute them. It also acquired electric power steering, velour trim and a electronic clock that appears to be like to have been equipped to the dashboard with a hammer. (Which, as it was created in Cowley, is possible.) Surprisingly it doesn’t have a rev counter, as no Ambassador did. Which is not seriously an concern provided any O-Series’s choice for grumbling fairly than singing from memory of later versions it was genuinely difficult to persuade them to go past 5,000rpm.
The dealer marketing our Pill claims it has the 100hp motor, which would make it a twin-carb design. The under bonnet photos display it is only sporting a one SU however, suggesting it is essentially the somewhat considerably less mighty 90hp model it’s not likely this will make much of a variation to total overall performance. The vehicle has both been stored in timewarp situation via its 48,000 miles, or lovingly restored to it, boasting what glance like initial Austin Rover stickers and an first Unipart battery beneath the bonnet.
Provided it has previously proved to be unkillable above virtually 40 several years the bravest section of living with any Ambassador will be a willingness to be viewed in it. The major hazard for any BL product or service of this period is probably to be corrosion and the issue in changing rarer sections, but our Pill’s MOT background reveals a clean go in March and very little of main worry in before advisories – these reporting on occasional non-functioning lights, abnormal exhaust carbon monoxide and several other niggles. It wouldn’t be tricky to retain it on the road, though the larger dilemma is whether any one is well prepared to pay virtually five grand for the privilege of executing so.
However, the British enthusiasm for an underdog usually means there does seem to be to be an impressively lively social scene out there, with a video clip on the Enthusiasts’ Club site displaying that no fewer than 5 surviving automobiles turned up to the Ambassador’s 40th birthday bash at Gaydon in April, which is over a 3rd of the road lawful survivors, a stage of determination it is hard to envision any supercar club reaching. Possibly John Shuttleworth will transform up up coming time, Graham Fellows’ comedy development obtaining composed a catchy really like track for his Y-reg example. Really do not click on on that hyperlink or you’ll be buzzing it all working day.