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.
Early British History
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, 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 dependant 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 and BMC
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. The name also became used for badge engineered luxury version of many of the BMC basic cars such as the 1100/1300 range and the Allegro (known as the Princess 1500)
Jaguar merged with the British Motor Corporation in 1966 to form British Motor Holdings (BMH) which in turn merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. This broke up in 1982 and the Vanden Plas name went with Jaguar Cars. Jaguar was subsequently acquired by Ford. The North American rights to the name were also sold on and also now reside with Ford.
Production of the Vanden Plas Princess limousine stopped in 1968 when Jaguar introduced the Daimler DS420 Limousine. (Jaguar had acquired Daimler in 1960)
Placed on Jaguar models the Vanden Plas label still signifies Jaguar’s most luxurious variant. In addition, Jaguar uses the Vanden Plas name in markets where, for licensing reasons connected with Daimler-Chrysler, the Daimler name cannot be used. These include the United States and some Middle East countries.