If you’re looking for classic fun, may we suggest the Austin? JamesHunt loved his, so it’s probably good
When the Austin A30 arrived in 1951 it represented a brave new world for its maker, as it was the first Austin to feature monocoque construction. As a result there’s an element of over-engineering to the bodyshell. While these cute cars are easy to maintain and good fun to drive, as economy cars they can struggle in the cut and thrust of modern traffic, but upgraded engines and braking systems are easy to install – which is why many of the A30s and A35s available have already been modified, to make them more usable for the 21st Century.
The A30 was unveiled at the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1951, with an 803cc engine. It was marketed as the Austin Seven – a reference to the pre-WWII Austin that had saved the company. At first only a four-door saloon was offered, but a two-door saloon joined the range in 1953.
In 1954, Austin introduced an A30 van, a year before the Countryman estate arrived. But the biggest advance in the evolution of the model came in October 1956, when the A30 morphed into the A35, with two- and four-door saloons as part of the line-up, while the Countryman was updated. The A35 brought a larger rear window, separate indicators below the headlamps and a chrome grille surround. The A35 was fitted with a 948cc A-series unit.
This latter engine was also fitted to some vans, with others featuring 848cc or 1098cc versions of the same unit.
Once the A40 had been introduced in 1958 and the Mini a year later, the A35 was living on borrowed time. In July 1959, the saloons were discontinued, although the Countryman soldiered on until September 1962. This is when the van got a 1098cc engine, although two years later it also found itself with the less impressive 848cc engine option. It wouldn’t be until February 1968 that van production came to an end, more than 16 years after the A30 had first been shown.
Its diminutive dimensions, relatively demanding servicing requirements and limited performance mean the A30 and A35 aren’t suited to everyone. But these cars are far more fun to drive than you might suspect and superb ones are very affordable. With the right engine, gearbox and braking upgrades they become much more usable.