The Austin Ambassador was introduced in March 1982 as a direct replacement for the previous wedge 'Princess' range. It was considerably different from the Princess with every panel changed except the front door skins.
Importantly the car received a fifth door rear tailgate. Rather than naming the top spec. model the 'HLS' British Leyland brought back the 'Vanden Plas' name to hopefully give the model extra prestige and to move it up-market. The Austin Ambassador Vanden Plas was powered by a twin-carburettor version of the 2-litre, 1994cc 'O' series engine which produced 100bhp at 5250rpm. A 4-speed manual gearbox was fitted as standard with a 3-speed Borg-Warner model 35 automatic available at extra cost. 'Hydragas' fully independent suspension provided an excellent ride quality.
The Vanden Plas was fitted as standard with power steering, servo-assisted brakes, cast alloy wheels, rear tail-gate wash/wipe, front and rear foglights, electric front windows, heated rear window, central door locking, radio/stereo cassette player, twin remote control door mirrors, manually operated slide and tilt sunroof, laminated windscreen and all-round tinted glass, bright bonnet and bumper finishers, fitted shag pile carpets, crushed velour seating with map pockets on rear of front seats, front seat headrests and combined slide/fold rear seat incorporating central armrest and integral headrests.
Initial criticism of the model included the appearance of the rather bland facia panel with no wood (expected on a Vanden Plas), lack of a tachometer and lack of a 5th gear as seen on many competitors.
In September 1982 a new coachline was added with a 'VP' motif on each rear wing as were rear inertia reel seatbelts.
October 1983 saw burr walnut veneer door and facia inserts added and a change of upholstery material to 'Raschelle'. A 4-speed transmission was retained and there was still no rev-counter.
Sales of the Ambassador were disappointing with only some 43400 of all models produced and, after barely 2 years, the model was dropped in March 1984 to make way for the new Austin Montego.