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Austin Ambassador
Manufacturer British Leyland
Production 1982-1984
Predecessor Princess
Successor Austin Montego
Rover 600
Class large family car
Body style(s) 5-door hatchback
Engine(s) 1.7 L O-Series I4
2.0 L O-Series I4
Transmission(s) four-speed manual
three-speed automatic (B-W)
Wheelbase 105 inches (2,670 mm)
Length 179 inches (4,550 mm)
Width 69.5 inches (1,760 mm)
Height 55 inches (1,400 mm)
Kerb weight 2,784 lb (1,263 kg)

The Austin Ambassador was a medium-to-large hatchback car model introduced by British Leyland (BL) in March 1982. The vehicle was a heavily updated version of the Princess, an ageing model that had lacked a hatchback.[1] Only the doors and inner structure were carried over, but the wedge-shaped side profile betrayed the car's Princess origins, and it was not considered a truly new model. The Princess had been out of production for four months by the time that the Ambassador went on sale.[2]

To some extent a competitor to smaller-engined models of the Austin Rover Group's own Rover SD1, sales were low and the model was discontinued in 1984.


Unlike the Princess, there was no six-cylinder 2.2 litre version; the Ambassador was offered only as a four-cylinder, initially with either a 1.7 litre or a 2.0 litre (single carburettor) variant in "L", "HL" and "HLS" trims. A benefit of not installing the taller E6 engine was that the bonnet could be made lower and flatter, although this meant that the wipers were now no longer concealed (unlike those of the Princess).[3] Instead of the previous premium 2.2 litre models, there were the HLS and later Vanden Plas trim levels, both with a twin-carburettor version of the 2.0 litre engine. In 1983, the 2.0 litre HL was upgraded to also use the more powerful twin-carburettor engine. A four-speed manual gearbox (and automatic) were the only transmissions offered, with commentators citing the lack of a fifth gear (available in other BL models) for the manual transmission, as one of the car's drawbacks.

Rear view, showing rear door

The Ambassador was only built in right-hand drive form and thus was not exported to continental Europe. Few remain on the road today in Britain; approximately 28 cars. This is out of 43,500 built, compared to around 225,000 for the Princess.[4] Aside from the Ambassador's connections to the lowly repute of the Princess, commentators point out that its sedate image and driving characteristics (and low performance) also militated against its success in a market where performance and taut handling were becoming ever more important.[3]

Being a bit of a bitsa, the headlights were shared with the Morris Ital. Other minor components, including much of the interior trim, was also shared with other BL products, such as the Allegro. The interior was generally not an improvement over that of the Princess, feeling cheap and lacking a rev counter, even in the top HLS model.[3] According to British Leyland, only the front and door skins were directly shared with the Princess. The rear part of the chassis was modified to accommodate the opening hatch, and there were windows in the C-pillars which did make for an airier cabin.[3]

The Ambassador only served as a stop-gap in the Austin range, and it was discontinued in March 1984 (after exactly two full years), with no official replacement.[2] The gap it left in the Austin-Rover range was effectively filled by the slightly smaller Montego, and by the new generation of smaller Rovers.

A 1982-83 Ambassador


The Ambassador achieved domestic sales of 43,427 in the two years which it was available. Of these 43,427, about 60 still in existence, of these only around 28 are thought to be still on the road (based on DVLA records).

UK engine and trim options L HL HLS Vanden Plas
2.0 twin carb

Special versions

As with the Princess before it, Ambassadors were converted by specialist coachbuilders into hearse and limousine variants.

Media appearances

  • A fleet of red Austin Ambassadors was shown on a production line in a 1982 Not the Nine O'Clock News skit – all the actor employees on the line, including Rowan Atkinson, were known as Bob. The end of the skit proclaimed "The BL Ambassador – Hand Built by Roberts". This was a parody of the current Fiat ad campaign for the Strada which owing to the robotised production line proclaimed it was "hand built by robots".
  • The Austin Ambassador was the subject of the song "Y Reg" by comedian Graham Fellows (as his alter ego John Shuttleworth), in which he speaks of how great the car is.


  1. 2.0 2.1 Bird, Chris (2011-07-31). "Timeline: Princess/Ambassador". AROnline.
  2. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Adams, Keith (2011-07-22). "The cars: Princess/Ambassador development history". AROnline.
  3. Koch, Jeff (June 2011), "Famous Over There: Austin Princess", Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News) 6(10): 92. ISSN 1555-6867. 

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