Richard Moss wrote: ↑
Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:51 pm
The point of a VDP is that they were coachbuilt, in a separate factory, by the same kind of craftsmen that created Rolls Royces and Bentleys. This applies to every VDP up to the Maestro/Montego. The base car was just a canvas upon which the artists performed their magic. Hand stictched Wilton carpets, custom made for the car, hand made full wooden dash with walnut veneer (veneer has to be thin to do its job - the difference is the proper piece of cabinet making upon which it sat), luxurious leather arm chairs with arm rests and picnic tables made to the same standards as the dash and door cappings etc, etc, etc.
The Vanden Plas models, going back decades, were always exquisitely hand crafted, even if sometimes the base car was not top drawer. That said, the superb Hydragas suspension in the VDP 1500 gives it a beautiful ride, well ahead of the conventional springs used on its contemporaries.
The Sterling, on the other hand, although very nice, was mass produced. I have never seen evidence that Sterling carpets, door cards, "wood" and other trimmings were any better than any other 800 - other than the really basic ones that didn't even get the veneered aluminium trim pieces. The fittings for the Sterling were mass produced in their thousands and bolted onto the cars on the same production line as all the other 800s, in the same way that Marina L, SL and SDL all went down the same production line as each other - in the same factory as the 800.
Try sitting in a VDP 3 litre, 4litre R (with Rolls Royce engine) or even a VDP 1300 (yep ADO 16, just like the Austin 1100 driven by whole generations of secondary school teachers and cops on patrol in Panda cars). The quality difference is tangible - and a 1960s or 1970s VDP 3 litre feels a class above a Rover P5 and 2 or 3 classes above the spectacularly over rated ( and gruesomely fashionable) P6.
You simply can not create the bespoke feel of a REALLY classy car without employing true craftsmen to take it a few notches higher than a mass produced factory. The Americans have never managed it, the Italians like to think that they did once (but no longer) and the Germans were smart enough to realise that no BMW or MB was ever going to be really classy without being handed over to outside contractors. It's not about handling or performance, it's about being cosseted by a gentleman's club reading room on wheels.
In their time and in their sector, Sterlings were pretty much top of the pile but they were not exceptional and were an example of a decade by decade loss of true quality that all manufacturers suffered from throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s that has never really been redressed. The only reason that they're better than the P6 and SD1 is that all late 60s/70s cars suffered at the hands of stylists who thought that flares were cool and that a mullet and a mexican bandit moustache was a good look
I get all that Rich but with something that isn't "top drawer", isn't it akin to putting lipstick on a pig? I don't mean the £1.50 lipstick your teenage daughter buys from the Pound Shop but the really posh, expensive lipstick your wife buys once "just to experience it" but not applied by your wife but a professional make up artist charging £OUCH! per hour.
My Coupe always felt a bit different, i seem to recall some suggested it was because it was hand-finished. I'm not convinced though. Having been in a few different "moderns" recently (post-2000 modern), most of them feel like a giant Airfix kit with an engine and allegedly suspension.
Somewhere in the midst of all that is the VDP, regardless of whether it's an ADO16, Allegro or whatever. There was also the SD1 and Ambassador VDP models, don't think they qualified on your criteria of being a VDP though. Not so sure on the Daimler VDP (XJ6 shape) but the Sterling was never intended to be a VDP, possibly because VDP had gone by the time the Sterling was launched - suffered for their art so to speak. Wilton Carpets had also gone, again the victim of mass-marketed, mass produced, foreign alternatives.
Let's not forget a couple of other factors that may have influenced things, we had that oil crisis in 1973 (think it was 73) that meant bigger, more opulent cars fell from favour somewhat and to that end, people seemed to be buying "economy cars" and probably didn't want to pay extra for a real wood dashboard when the alternative worked just as well. Their cheap foreign carpet at home was doing the job so why did they need several sheep woven into a Wilton carpet in their car? After all, it was just a tool to get from A to B and back again. Or was it?
Obviously some thought not as the VDP models still sold but apparently not as well as previously.
Who knows the real answers? I doubt any of us know the exact answer, we can throw up suggestions as to why, how and whatever else but with the loss of Wilton Carpets, Van Den Plas Coachbuilders and the craftsmanship that actually put that lot together, we won't see the like of it again.
A couple of firms have tried, there was the Panther Rio from panther Westwinds that took a Triumph Dolomite and finished it to Rolls-Royce standards :
Yes those are Ford Granada front indicator/headlight units! They also built some based on Dolomite Sprint cars to give a high performance version.
Then the was the Avon Triumph Acclaim. Same idea but they also did a bespoke high performance version by bolting a turbo onto the 1335cc standard engine :
https://www.aronline.co.uk/cars/triumph ... n-acclaim/
Neither were that successful sadly.