It was recently announced that a classic Austin Maestro had been saved from being scrapped in Dawley Bank. The Maestro is a perfect example of the excellent engineering that the Austin Motor Company was known for. The marque has earned a reputation as one of the finest British car manufacturers in the world. We’re taking a look into the history of Austin to see how it was formed.
As a part of the original Wolseley business, Herbert Austin looked for products with a steady demand. He created cars in his spare time, building three in 1895. In 1901, his fellow directors couldn’t see any profit in motor vehicles so they allowed Austin to found his own car manufacturing company.
With the backing of steel entrepreneur Frank Kayser, Austin gained the funds to create his business. Austin bought a disused printing works and founded the Austin Motor Company in 1905. The first car to be produced was a four-cylinder model. The design featured a vertical engine that was similar to the English-built Clement-Gladiators assembled in the same factory. Austin cars were marketed as luxury vehicles and the published customer list included princesses, bishops and British nobility.
The business expanded rapidly and by 1914 there were a variety of Austin body styles. In the same year Austin became a publicly listed company, with capital increasing to £650,000. Expansion continued throughout World War One and Austin designed aircrafts, shells and heavy artillery.
After the war, a new financial director and work director were appointed. Ernest Payton, Carl Engelbach and Herbert Austin proved to be an effective team and steered the company forward. In 1922, Austin produced the Seven, which revolutionised the British car industry. The Seven helped the company stay profitable through the 1930s.
Austin partnered up with Donald Healey in the 1950s, creating a new marque called Austin-Healey. By 1970, Austin was a part of British Leyland. In 1973, the Allegro came out to mixed reviews, though it sold well in Britain. Another memorable car during this era was the Austin Princess, which received praise for its practical wedge design and spacious interior.
In the 1980s, Austin launched the Metro. This helped to make the company relevant again and the Metro became one of the most popular British cars of the decade. Interestingly, the Metro was meant to replace the Mini, but the Mini outlived it by two years. The Maestro was also crucial during this period, being another hit with the public.
The Austin name passed over to different companies, such as British Aerospace and BMW. In 2015, the ‘Austin Motor Company’ patent was purchased by John Stubbs in Essex with the intention of continuing Herbert Austin’s legacy.
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