There’s nothing quite as un-useful as an undocumented celebrity connection. My mother’s dog heard from the neighbor’s cat that the veterinarian said Barbara Stanwyck once owned this car. Do you really trust the cat, who you’ve seen trying to sneak into the bed when your wife’s in there one too many times, or the dog, who makes calculating looks every time you’re eating a steak? A one-time candidate for the RustyButTrusty fleet, a first-series Alfetta GT 1.8, was said to have been bought new by a US serviceman in Cambodia and then brought back to the states, but with no documentation, it’s hard to say how much of that was fabricated by a previous owner and then passed along by an unwitting current owner (and who was selling cars in Cambodia in 1975 anyways?). Anyhow, odd and unsubstantiated histories aside, check out this 1967 Van Den Plas Princess 4-Litre R for sale for $3500 in the hills of Palo Alto, CA.
Though it’s an Austin product, this looks suspiciously similar to some Mercedes of the same period. It’s certainly a handsome car – notice the vestigial fins and tailpipes exiting through the exhaust, as well as the lack of any perforation. A quick look at the smog check history website (even though it’s no longer required to test) shows it last passed its test in 1997, so you know it was semi-roadworthy at that point. But 1997 is now 18 years ago, and while Palo Alto’s climate is mostly dry, there’s nothing to say the engine still turns. Much is made of the fact this car runs a Rolls Royce engine, but the truth is it was a engine designed for military use. That aside, a 4-liter twin carburetor straight 6 with 175bhp and all-aluminum construction was nothing to sneeze at in 1967 – the 4-liter OHV V6 made by Ford through 2000 only put out 160hp.
Slap a diagonal chrome strip across the grill and people will think you’re driving an early 1970s Volvo 164. Unfortunately, the seller couldn’t get it out of the carport enough to get full passenger side shots, so you’ll just have to hope it’s straight. It looks just as stately and elegant as any luxury car of its time – if anything, it’s a bit derivative, but that’s good if you don’t want to stand out.
Argh, what happened here? Looks like someone poled the car, but since there are pictures with the fender intact and with it bent, which is current? The listing makes no mention of any body damage. The only hint given anything’s wrong is “BEST TO BE MECHANIC”. Well, that’s generally true with anything less than a fully restored classic – you should at least have some idea of what goes on in the hot and greasy bits.
While no engine shot is provided, there are two interior shots, which are telling on a car with such a costly interior. Split leather seats suggest you’ll need to buy a hide or two to get things back into shape. Curiously, the condition of the seat squab is significantly better than the back. Another shot shows wood trim with failing varnish – perhaps your best bet is to find someone in England who’s parted theirs out due to body rust. So for the asked price, would you rather go with this interesting oddball British luxury car (all of the expense but none of the glory) or a contemporary Mercedes? The Mercedes is probably the easier path, but you won’t get Barbara’s name with that one, eh?