Car of 1958: Austin A40 Farina
Although anyone is going to shout ‘Mini’ when asked to name an important BMC small car of the late 1950s, one should never overlook the Austin A40 of 1958.
Although mechanically almost identical to its A35 predecessor, this stylish offering represented the first flowering of BMC’s collaboration with Pininfarina. This would continue through to many more BMC products, not least the best-selling 1100/1300 along with medium and large car ranges that, along with Mini, dispelled one-time criticisms that some of the company’s cars were rather dumpy.
Although the first A40s merely had a fixed rear window and an opening tailgate at the rear, the A40 Countryman of 1959 boasted upper and lower tailgates. In other words, it was effectively a very practical hatchback. An Austin A40 MkII followed in 1961 with a longer wheelbase, anti-roll bar, restyled dashboard and more brightwork. Engine capacity was increased from 948cc to 1098cc the following year. Production ceased in 1967.
But it’s the pioneering small hatchback concept for which the A40 Farina should be remembered, introduced years before the idea took root on other compact cars. It quite caught on, you know!