Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling -


The West­min­ster’s in­te­rior isn’t as highly spec­i­fied as you might think, which re­duces the costs of restora­tion but slightly re­duces the car’s ap­peal. While you might ex­pect th­ese cars to have a cabin that’s swathed in wood and leather, the re­al­ity is that the dash­board and door cap­pings are painted steel. In­deed there are no fil­lets of tim­ber any­where, but at least the seats are trimmed in leather while the door trims are fin­ished in leather­cloth. There’s a good chance that the leather will have seen bet­ter days by now so look for crack­ing along with splits in the ma­te­rial and ev­i­dence of the stitch­ing com­ing apart. The sim­ple de­sign of the seats mean re­trim­ming is sim­plic­ity it­self for any com­pe­tent trim­mer, but if ev­ery­thing needs to be done the cost will be a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the car’s worth.


The in­ner and outer sills, front sus­pen­sion cross­mem­ber and the steer­ing box mount­ing are likely to be har­bour­ing cor­ro­sion. The front chas­sis out­rig­gers also rust. There are two on each side, one per­pen­dic­u­lar to the sill and the other meet­ing it at 45° to form a tri­an­gle with the chas­sis rails. Also check for cor­ro­sion in the rear out­rig­gers and the rear spring mount­ings. Fin­ish by scru­ti­n­is­ing the rear valance and cross­mem­ber.


The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered by th­ese cars is some­thing of a mixed bag. While there’s am­ple per­for­mance and the sus­pen­sion does a good job of soak­ing up the bumps (ably as­sisted by softly sprung seats), the West­min­ster rolls in cor­ners – but any bangs or jud­ders sug­gest some­thing is amiss. At higher ve­loc­ity there’s also a lot of wind noise, thanks to the up­right wind­screen. How­ever, this is how ex­ec­u­tive sa­loons were in the 1950s, so the Austin is no dif­fer­ent from its ri­vals.


The C-series 2.6-litre en­gines are tough. Chang­ing the oil ev­ery 3000 miles should en­able any West­min­ster en­gine to rack up 100,000-120,000 miles or more. The en­gine’s con­ven­tional con­struc­tion means the signs of wear are pre­dictable (blue ex­haust smoke is the key one), re­builds are easy to per­form and parts are also gen­er­ally avail­able thanks to this en­gine pow­er­ing a raft of other BMC mod­els, not least the Big ‘Healeys.


Th­ese uni­tary-con­struc­tion Austins can rust badly, so you need to an­a­lyse the whole bodyshell for cor­ro­sion, from bumper to bumper. Start with the front valance, the in­ner and outer front wings and all of the panel seams. Ex­pect rust along the top edge of the rear wings; re­pairs here are es­pe­cially awk­ward be­cause of the cur­va­ture.


The rest of the run­ning gear is tough, but the king­pins in the front sus­pen­sion may have seen bet­ter days if they haven’t been lu­bri­cated reg­u­larly. Kits are avail­able to over­haul ev­ery­thing; you’ll pay £76.65 per side from Earl­part. Lever arm dampers are £70 apiece on an ex­change ba­sis while re­place­ment coil springs are £122. More of a prob­lem is vague steer­ing be­cause if it’s the box that’s worn out you’ll be do­ing well to find a re­place­ment, or any­body to re­con­di­tion it.

col­umn gearshift pro­vides space for the fuller-hipped fig­ure in the front row.

all those curves make body re­pairs more com­pli­cated, so check for cor­ro­sion all over. The 2.6-litre c-series en­gine is more or less un­bustable, but watch out for smoke sig­nals.

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