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Vehicle Guide

Printed in Sidelights Spring 2013

This is an opening guide to the different Austin models.

Future articles have been printed in the Club magazines focusing on individual models in more depth.

Many of you may have read the guides in the classic press that are often just an overview or sadly lacking in actual fact.

How many times have you been at a show and been asked if it’s an A30 when you own an A35 or vice versa? I can’t count how many times my A35 4-door saloon has been called an A30 because they see the trafficator blanking plates.

I’m sure there are some of you reading this thinking that I may be preaching to the converted or, even worse, trying to teach my grandmother how to suck eggs, both of which I fully take on board, but it is also true that each year a third of the membership of our club is new and many of those completely new to the marque.

Hopefully, new members in particular will find this article of interest. To start with we tend to list cars by their chassis prefix.

These tell you what model and body type the car is. A30’s for example were AS3, AS4 (4 door saloons), A2S4 (2 door saloons), AV4 (van) and AP4 (Countryman). This carried on through the range with the number changing to represent the model so A35 saloon’s were 5’s with the addition of the pick-up, AK5, and the vans that continued beyond the saloon production ranging from AV5 to AV8.

There is also a complete list here!

So where to start?...

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

When you read you begin with A B C.

When you Austineer you begin with A S 3!

AUSTIN A30’s

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The Austin A30 Seven, as it was originally called, was first launched at the 1951 Motor Show at Earls Court in London but was not in full production until the following May. It was the first car to have the now legendary ‘A’ series engine which was developed for the car. This was a small 803cc in-line 4 cylinder overhead valve engine which was a major improvement and a real technical advance on the side valve units fitted to many of its contemporaries. The A30 was also 12 volt when many cars of the period were still 6 volt.

AS3_dash All AS3’s were four door saloons. So this is why they have the chassis prefix of AS3 and no other variation. The variations came in with the later A30 models from 1953 but more of that later. AS3’s had many different panels and designs to the later cars, from the bulkhead to boot lids, bonnets, and even back wings but the most obvious and instantly identifiable difference is it’s the only model to have a completely different dash layout to all later models, with a round speedometer.

winged_badge AS3’s all had petrol fillers on the right hand rear wing, filling a tank that dropped into a hole in the boot floor, a smaller front grille with the Austin ‘winged wheel’ badge mounted above, inner door handles mounted centrally, below the opening drop window, different quarter light catches, no rear valance and the millboard door cards were held in by rubber strips. Early cars had bonnets with an ‘X’ member stiffener, cantilever boot hinges and a carriage lock rather than a handle, a single centrally mounted stop/tail light and a windscreen wiper on the driver’s side only. The first 750 cars had bolts retaining the wheels rather than the conventional studs and nuts. Under the bonnet the unpressurised radiator had a large header tank and the ignition coil was mounted on the bulkhead. All had wheels that matched the body colour.

Approximately half way through production the boot hinges were changed to the externally mounted chrome plated type of all later saloons, though at this stage a simple prop was used to hold the boot lid in the raised position. A conventional boot handle with key lock was added at the same time.

The car’s identifying chassis number can be found on a plate mounted on the bulkhead, forward of the battery and repeated on a plate attached to the driver’s sunvisor.

AS3_stats

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Some very early AS4’s have been found to be cross-over models having the earlier AS3 bulkheads for example but this quickly changed over to the bulkhead style that would run in our cars until the end of van production in 1968.

For the first time the A30 was made available in more than one body type.

  • AS4 - 4 door saloon
  • A2S4 - 2 door saloon

From August 1954 these were joined by:

  • AV4 - Van
  • AP4 - Countryman

flying-A All A30’s had the same flying A plinth and sidelights with the rubber block mounts as the earlier AS3’s. The grille was slightly increased in size and the Austin ‘winged wheel’ badge was dropped. All saloons now had a rear valance fitted and the petrol filler was located on the back panel from now on and the tank itself was mounted under the solid boot floor, which now had a recess to the left to retain the spare wheel.

a30 The interior dash design changed considerably, now having a trapezoidal speedometer in place of the round one. The interior door handles were now more conventionally mounted, as were the quarter light catches, and the leathercloth trimmed door cards were held in by clips. This continued on all models for the rest of production with the exception of vans where the door cards were screwed in. While the dash design was now set it’s worthwhile noting that an A30 speedometer only went up to 70mph.

Most A30’s had double tipping front seats, the rear back rest first folded flat and then the whole seat folded forward from the base into the front footwell. For the last few months of production a new design of seat was introduced. These were narrower than the originals and considerably lighter, having been designed for the Austin A20 which never got beyond the development stage. These now just pivoted forward and no longer folded, a backward move in many eyes.

With the introduction of the new 2 door model a new deluxe version was introduced, this was just the rear side windows that had chrome surrounds and could be opened on a pivot at the back and were hinged at the front. Other optional extras included ashtrays, heater, passenger sun visor, overriders, passenger wiper and a radio. From October 1954 rear reflectors were added to comply with the current lighting regulations.

All saloons had tube type 5.20 x 13 inch cross ply tyres fitted from new. The new van and Countryman A30’s were fitted with 5.90 x 13 inch cross ply tyres. Early in series 4 production the wheels were changed to Court Grey for all cars and Black for the commercials.

Two types of Zenith down draught carburettors were fitted to all A30’s. The first was the 26JS which was eventually replaced by the 26VME although it’s not impossible to find an A35 with the earlier 26JS fitted. The 26 VME then continued through the rest of the production run. The car’s identifying chassis number plate initially remained central on the bulkhead and continued with the plate on the sunvisor. Later a redesigned plate was used, carrying more information, sited to the left of the bulkhead, adjacent to the starter switch, and the plate on the sunvisor was dropped. In 1955 the chassis plate was moved again to the left hand side’ A’ post (the part of the car where the front doors are hinged). From August 1954 a unified chassis/engine number was introduced, starting from car number 73,000.

The first Van and Countryman bodies were initially produced for Austin by Briggs Motor Bodies but later examples were contracted to Fisher & Ludlow.

*CKD – Completely Knocked Down. These were kits shipped to Australia and assembled there.

AUSTIN A35’s

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The Austin A35 was introduced in September 1956. There are many changes from the A30 and not just the remote gearbox bigger 948cc engine and, most noticeably, the larger wrap around rear window. Indicators were now a standard feature of both the saloon and the new pick-up, although vans and Countryman would continue with trafficators throughout the ‘5’ series production. This meant that the car’s rear wings had to be remodelled to incorporate a second light and the front wings and front panel were also slightly modified to allow the same by the way of a hole. The front lights were then mounted on a small circular plinth type base. On the 2 door models the quarter panel section was adapted to remove the trafficator housing but on the 4 door this would have meant remodelling all four doors and the ‘B/C’ post so Austin opted for the cost saving approach and used a blanking plate instead. It should be remembered that by this time they were selling 2 door cars almost 3 to 1 over the 4 door model so this might not be the most elegant solution but made perfect business sense.

Another noticeable exterior change was that the front guttering along the roof was removed and instead this carried on down the windscreen pillar. This was to alleviate the earlier cars’ tendency to collect rain water in the front corner and shoot it through the unsuspecting driver’s window as he pulled away in the morning. It’s now interesting to note some 57 years later how much more A35 saloons can suffer from ‘A’ pillar rot compared to the A30’s. Could it be that this small modification led water down and into the pillar’s hinge supports so much more than the previous models? History would seem to suggest this is true. A lot of chrome was added and changed to make the A35 look more modern compared to the A30 although one major part was lost – the grille. This was now painted body colour although remained the same size as the AS4’s. To make up for this a chrome horseshoe was added around the grille. The flying A plinth was made longer and sleeker to match the new sidelight plinths that were introduced just for the saloons. All commercials, including the Countryman, which in effect is not a commercial at all, retained the rubber blocks of the A30’s and this would remain the case for the rest of the run. Internally the changes continued. To accommodate the remote change to the gearbox a new, much larger transmission tunnel was added with a new short gear lever and large rubber gaiter. The speedometer top speed was increased to 80mph to reflect the new top speed of 74mph. In February 1957 the door pulls changed from the leather strap type with escutcheon to a new chrome cup but again it is not uncommon to still find leather pull straps being used up for some time. For example my AS5 built on April 26th 1957 had pull straps from new.

The lightweight seats found in later A30’s were modified slightly to accommodate the new tunnel and remote gear lever position. Whilst the first few thousand cars continued to be fully carpeted a new full front rubber mat was soon introduced - these are now getting very rare in good condition, most being lost to the ravages of time and have been replaced by carpets. The wiper motor was changed during the production run of the A35. The earlier Lucas model (often mistakenly called the A30 wiper motor) which sits high between the bulkhead and bonnet surround, continued in the A35 well into 1957 and is not believed to have been changed to the new model until around chassis number 75,000. The new Lucas motor was mounted further down the inner wing in the engine bay making it much more accessible and infinitely easier to change. This of course needed a new longer rack to match and is not interchangeable with the earlier motor without this. The pre-war design of the horn was superseded by the Lucas ‘Windtone’, with an option on the second horn.

All A35 saloon wheels were painted in Court Grey while commercials had black wheels.

VAN & COUNTRYMAN

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The vans and countrymen had the same basic drive train and components as the saloons, though the engine was a low compression variant as standard. There were differences in some items such as the heater option, which was a cab mounted recirculating type, rather than the fresh air heater used in the saloons. This was done to keep the price as keen as possible. On vans, even the passenger seat and drivers sunvisor were an optional extra. 5.60x13 tyres were fitted.

Although the same basic body design there are differences and not just the rear side windows. Vans were fitted with a roof vent while the Countryman was not. Vans had just a front headlining over the cab while the Countryman had a full length one. It was also fitted with side trim panels and rear door cards too. Of course all Countryman vehicles were fitted with rear seats at the factory.

VanDrawing So many vans were converted to an estate like the Countryman but why? The simple answer is because commercial vehicles were not subject to purchase tax. On a four door saloon in May 1957 this amounted to a whopping £193 when the car itself only cost £381! Purchase tax was not payable on a van conversion if the conversion was not carried out within the first 3 years, so many bought a van, kept it for 3 years and then converted. Many firms made the kits so it was a relatively easy conversion and cost far less than the purchase tax. This is mainly why original Countryman vehicles are rare and so sought after today. When viewing a Countryman check it is genuine by the chassis number (it should read AP4/5/6), then check the side windows are the 2 piece sliding ones, that there is no roof vent and that it has a full length headlining. So many van conversions are marketed as Countryman so check carefully.

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VAN & COUNTRYMAN FACELIFT

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The figures listed above for the cars only take us to 1959 but then of course the vans continued until February 1968 and the Countryman until September 1962. The AV6 and AP6 were launched in April 1962. Finally flashing indicators were introduced the indented doors were dropped in favour of the smooth ones which had always been used on the saloons and a stainless steel strip was added around the waist band. Furthermore for the first time on commercials the wheels and front grille were now painted white. Production of this model was very short lived and now both are rare indeed with just 74 AP6’s being produced this is the rarest of any model of our marque. There is only one known survivor!

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In October 1962 the final version of the van was introduced, this was the AV8, the AV7 being the early Mini van. The van was uprated to a 6 CWT up from the 5 CWT of the previous models. The engine size was increased to 1098cc and the carburettor was changed to a single 1¼ SU. The clutch was increased in size to 7¼ inch to match the engine output, along with a 4.22:1 final drive ratio.

The kingpins were enlarged in size and are the only ones in our range that match the MG Midget, handy if you want an easy disc conversion done. The final changes were windscreen washers and a roof mounted interior light.

In 1963 Austin trialled the 848cc engine that was now widely used in the Mini, along with a 4.8:1 final drive ratio. Both versions of the engine were now made available until May 1966, when the 1098cc option was dropped. Production ceased in February 1968.

PICK-UPS

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Pick-ups were fitted to the same basic mechanical specification as the AV5’s, ie. low compression engine, 5.60x13 tyres. The trim included a vinyl covered felt flooring which, together with the tonneau and spare wheel cover, was edged in white. Seats also had white piping to match. The load area was trimmed to the same standard as the cab.

Although the pick-up may look like a converted saloon many of the panels are completely unique. From the two piece rear bumper to the cab and rear wings, lots of panels and trim were unique to the AK5. The small load area would ultimately be the pick-up’s downfall. Government regulations stipulated that in a commercial vehicle the payload area had to be at least two thirds the length of the vehicle and this was clearly not the case with the AK5. This, added to the occasional seat in the rear, allowed the Customs and Excise to class the vehicle as a 2 seater coupé and apply purchase tax. This effectively made it a very expensive utility vehicle with little load space and no tailgate.

AK5_stats

This figure is a matter of some debate. For years it was thought that 475 was the figure but further research has uncovered two more in the archives of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust at Gaydon. More recently, PU 494 has been verified to exist so that brings us up to 478 pick-ups built. Then there are some bodies that were never completed, rumours abounded in the 1980’s that there were still unfinished cars in the tunnels at Longbridge. A theory is that BMC probably ordered 500 bodies from Fisher and Ludlow. A long standing source within the club has heard of a PU497 but this has never been verified. If you then add on the 3 bodies that were said to have been found in Longbridge tunnels this would add up to 500. It’s still conjecture, and maybe we will never know, so for now at least the figure stands at 478.

All period photos courtesy of BMIH T and reproduced with their kind permission. Contemporary pictures by Paul Lewis and Henk Keulemans. Original drawings by Graeme Jenner of www.classicarportraits.co.uk, and used with his kind permission.

E&OE