FANS of Oxford’s most famous princess were out in force yesterday to mark her 40th birthday.

Dozens of enthusiasts gathered at the Cowley factory to mark four decades since the launch of the Leyland Princess on March 26, 1975.

More than 220,000 of the cars rolled off the production line at the factory until 1981, when the vehicle fell victim to a sluggish economy.

But many owners of the car affectionately known as ‘The Wedge’ never fell out of love with their Princess and held a celebration at the plant, which included a tour of the buildings where it was built.

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Harris Mann, who helped design the car in the early 1970s, turned up to mark the occasion.

The 76-year-old former Wallingford resident said: “The shape of the Princess is what makes it so distinctive.

“It was such a dramatic difference from its predecessors, it was a big step forward.

“It was a great family car with a lot of room in it and when you speak to people they say ‘my father had one’ or ‘my father had three’.

“It is quite amazing to be back here today really because a lot of water has flowed under the bridge in the last 40 years.

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The cars on the assembly line at Cowley in 1975.

“I have designed parts of the Eurostar, racing cars, things for BMW and I have had a lot of these 40th anniversaries.

“I am pleased to see that people still like the things I have designed.”

Despite its iconic design, Mr Mann said he had not set out to create a style icon.

“When you are designing something you do not get inspiration, it is sort of inbuilt.

“It is a natural thing.

“You have the ability to sketch out the design and the ability to work out what it will turn out like.”

The Princess is increasingly rare on British roads but the organisers of yesterday’s event managed to track down 11 models in a range of vibrant colours.

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The three men with a Princess.

Kevin Davis, co-president of the entthusiasts’ website, brought his 1980 model along.

He said: “The Princess is a unique piece of 1970s style.

“It was different for a family car at the time.

“Mine is a limited edition snapdragon yellow, apparently it is the last one left.

“It has been nice that we have got these cars here, it is quite good to get such a good number.

“We have had birthday cake and we sang Happy Birthday and it was good to come together and celebrate with Harris.”

Organiser Tanya Field said: “It is great to have 11 cars here, the vibrant colours are fantastic.

“They are all those 70s colours and they look great.”