Few truly charismatic classics have a profile as low as that of the early Austin Westminsters, which is a shame because they have a tremendous amount to offer. They’re luxurious, practical and spacious... but they’re also rather unusual.
Selling alongside the more prosaic four-cylinder A40, A50 and A55 Cambridge, the six-cylinder A90, A95 and A105 Westminster featured a bodyshell that was both longer and wider than the Cambridge.
Introduced in 1954 to carry on where the A70 Austin Hereford took off, the A90 featured a 2.6-litre C-series engine, and while it looked much like the Cambridge, in terms of panels only the doors were interchangeable. With 85bhp on tap the A90 could manage 86mph, along with 0-60mph in a shade under 19 seconds.
Buyers could choose between standard and DeLuxe editions, the latter featuring leather seats, centre armrests, a lockable glovebox and bumper overriders. From late 1955 there was the option of overdrive.
Then, in April 1956, came the even more luxurious A105, which sold alongside the A90. The new arrival was fitted with twin SU carbs and high-compression pistons to raise power to 102bhp. Also standard was two-tone paint along with a posher interior, stainless steel hubcaps and twin spot lamps.
A few months later, in October 1956, the A95 replaced the A90. Its single-carb engine used the A105’s pistons to give 92bhp. One of the most important changes to the A95 and A105 over the A90 was the fact that the car was stretched by 10 inches, most of that extra length going into the rear wings and boot, which was much more capacious; the wheelbase was also two inches longer. To distance the A95 from its predecessor there was also a bigger rear window, restyled bumpers and extra chromework. Later on would come automatic and estate derivatives, the former being desirable but rare; just one is left and that car is now being restored by our sister magazine Practical Classics. But to many the ultimate edition came in 1958 – the A105 Vanden Plas. Just 500 of these were made, each with walnut cappings and dash, leather trim, a woollen headlining and deep-pile carpet. In 1959, the A95 and A105 were replaced by the A99 Westminster.
‘The range carried on where the A70 Hereford took off in 1954’