Founded in 1905 by Herbert Austin, The Austin Motor Company Limited produced many fabulous and innovative cars, from the company’s initial offerings through the inter-war motoring explosion of the 1920s and 30s that the Austin Seven and the other horse-power designated models, such as the 10, the 12 range to the large and stately 20hp chassis, helped to detonate.
Post-WWII saw a merger with Morris and the formation of the British Motor Corporation Limited. About the same time, monocoque, chassis-less construction was introduced and with it a range of cars including the Seven’s successor, the A30/A35.
Later, Farina designed models in the shape of the A40 and A55/A60 Cambridge range were introduced and of course one mustn’t forget Alec Issigonis’ masterpiece, the Mini.
Throughout the 60s, the main range included the Mini, the more conventional A40 Farina, other Issigonis spin-offs in the shape of the ADO16 1100/1300 range, the 1800 ‘Land Crab’, the ultra-conservative A60 Cambridge and, at the end of the decade, the rather groovy Austin Maxi.
There were even executive cars in the shape of the Westminster and to top them all, the Princess limousine.
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A range of engines was also produced by what was now the overseeing corporate structure of the British Motor Corporation, allowing a suitable power-plant to be plucked from the inventory to propel the cars. Throughout the 50s and 60s, the mainstays of the portfolio were known as the ‘A’, ‘B’ and C – Series, generally with displacements of between 803cc to 1275cc for the ‘A’, 1489cc to 1789cc for the regular, 4 cylinder ‘B’s and 2639cc to 2912cc for the straight six-cylinder ‘C’ series.
This last engine found its way into BMC’s gruff Austin-Healey 3000, as well as executive class cars, such as the A99/A110 Westminster types.
But if ever Austin produced a car that could be tagged a lemon, it was code name ADO18, known quite simply as the Austin 3Litre
Designed in the early 1960s, this car shared a similar central section to the overall smaller ADO17 – Austin 1800, introduced in 1964. Indeed, the car had a familial look about it. But whereas the 1800 utilised some of Alec Issigonis’ innovative transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive technology, the 3L featured a more conventional longitudinal, rear-wheel-drive layout, albeit with ultra-smooth hydrolastic suspension.
The 3L was unveiled at the 1967 British motor show as successor to the Westminster range, but production models didn’t hit the road until mid to late summer 1968 and right from the get-go, the hoped-for sales stampede never happened.
Truth was that the 3L was seen as something of an ungainly ugly duckling. Its long, low, wide bonnet was mirrored by a cavernous, but ill-shaped boot. The low overall height of the car added to the impression of its sausage-dog like appearance. Even Alec Issigonis was keen to relay that he’d had nothing to do with the design.
Sales figures were underwhelming, with just short of 10,000 being produced before the model was quietly dropped in May 1971. With handsome executive models in what was now British Leyland’s range, such as the Triumph 2000/2500 and the Rover P6B 3500, there was no need to directly replace it.
However, nowadays the 3L provides an interesting sight amongst crowds of more popular classics and as such can at last find itself the centre of attention.
Throughout the 70s the Austin badge found its way onto many cars within the BL portfolio. A car which famously polarised opinion was the Allegro, with its gimmicky quartic steering wheel. Another was a vehicle that was to only carry the Austin badge for a few months – the Princess, although its belated, hatch-backed and unloved successor was proudly badged as the Austin Ambassador.
The 80s saw the end of Maxi production and the introduction of the Metro, Maestro and Montego models. All did well to start with, but a lack of investment in new designs saw these cars looking rather long in the tooth by the end of the decade.
But the 80s signified another big change, with the merger of the Austin and Rover brands to produce the Austin-Rover Group. Within this, the Austin name was used for budget models, but as high quality imported cars started to become the norm’ on British roads, a last gasp attempt to make the range more appealing saw the Austin name unceremoniously dropped and with it a legacy stretching back over 80 years.
If you are looking to insure your Austin, insurance policies through Carole Nash include a number of features as standard, including:
- Salvage retention rights
- Discounts for club members
- Choose your own specialist repairer
- UK and EU breakdown recovery, including home start – worth £100 when compared to other providers.
- Up to £100,000 legal protection if you’re in an accident that’s not your fault
- European cover up to 90 days
- Dedicated claims team available 24/7, 365 days a year