Not by any account the first all-glass hatch, the 1978 Triplex 10-20 Glassback however brought glazing technology into the modern era.
BLMC’s AD071 Princess cleaved faithfully not only to Harris Mann’s original concept, but also to Donald Stokes’ vision for advanced engineering and ‘durable‘ styling in addition to time-worn BL tropes of skewed commercial ambition. Hailed (initially at least) as a visual success, the Wedge as it became known, never gained sufficient traction with the buying public; its styling proving divisive and with reliability woes poleaxing its reputation.
Removing folklore from the conversation, AD071 was, tail styling apart, a reasonably attractive shape, and some aesthetic weakness aft of the over-prominent C-pillar was (to some eyes) addressed by its 1982 gender reassignment. The Ambassador also added something that was missing from the car up to then – a rear hatch. After-marketers, Crayford and Torcars offered a hatchback conversion of the Princess, but in 1978, glazing supplier Triplex in conjunction with Carl Olsen at Ogle Design created a more radical re-imagining of the AD071 template – the shooting brake 10-20 Glassback.
Featuring innovations later to be taken for granted such as a ‘superlaminated‘ windscreen, what Triplex referred to as a hyviz coating on the screen glass with a built-in radio aerial and an electric demisting element. The driver’s door mirror could also be de-iced electrically. The built-in sunroof was made of super thin glass – (at 2.3 mm, the thinnest ever) which opened by bending the glass and perhaps the earliest usage of colour graphics fired directly onto the glass itself. The bumpers were impact absorbing polycarbonate mounted flush with the bodywork, similar in appearance to those employed on Rover’s abortive P8 saloon. All of which conjoined to make the existing car a somewhat dowdy looking thing by the close of 1978.
Stylistically, the Princess fell between identical twin stools as Lancia’s Gamma Berlina, offering a saloon in the silhouette of a hatchback; something that was all the rage when the shape was signed off in 1970, but had fallen decisively out of favour by the latter part of the decade. This raises the question of whether BL or anyone else made any serious attempts at a three volume variant – something which would undoubtedly have appealed more to the car’s target buyer. Not that BL’s volume car division had much by way of money, inspiration, or leadership by the late ’70s – (Michael Edwardes notwithstanding).
Regardless, the Triplex 10-20 concept remains an interesting curiosity and a marker towards a very 1980’s aesthetic in the use of of material and graphics. The prototype has survived and is on display at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, Warwickshire, which has recently been given a major revamp and is well worth a visit.