When ba­sic meant ba­sic at Austin

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drivetime - Ian John­son

I al­ways smile when I see the term base or en­try model in mod­ern car ranges.

The rea­son for the mirth is that these days we do not know what ba­sic is.

Being lucky enough to re­mem­ber the cars of the 1950s and 60s I never cease to be amazed at the spar­tan ap­proach to bread and but­ter bar­gain base­ment mo­tor­ing in those days.

One car in par­tic­u­lar was very humble in its spec­i­fi­ca­tion and that was the Austin A30.

This lit­tle car was the suc­ces­sor to the fa­mous Austin 7 and was mas­ter­minded in-house at Austin by Dick Burzi.

The body struc­ture was in the hands of T.K. Gar­rett, who had been an aero­nau­ti­cal en­gi­neer be­fore join­ing Austin.

The curvy body de­sign was very mod­ern, being of fully stressed mon­coque chas­sis­less con­struc­tion which made it lighter and stiffer than most con­tem­po­rary ve­hi­cles.

But for the driver and pas­sen­ger things were pretty woe­ful.

For in­stance, there was only a sin­gle wind­screen wiper, cen­tral com­bined stop/tail/ num­ber­plate lamp and a sun vi­sor in front of the driver only. A pas­sen­ger-side wiper and sun vi­sor, and a heater were avail­able as op­tional ex­tras.

Orig­i­nally only of­fered as a four-door in 1951, two-door vari­ants were in­tro­duced in late 1953, and in 1954 a van and van­based “Coun­try­man” drove onto the scene.

One of the then mod­ern in­no­va­tions which was fea­tured was the traf­fi­ca­tor. These il­lu­mi­nated de­vices popped out from the door pil­lar when op­er­ated by a knob mounted on the cen­tre of the dash­board and in­ti­mated to other road users which way you were turn­ing. I re­mem­ber you re­ally had to watch out for them as they were quite small and usu­ally dim. And more of­ten than not they did not work at all.

The car’s newly de­signed 803cc four-cylin­der en­gine re­turned 42mpg which was ex­cel­lent for the time.

How­ever it strug­gled to at­tain 70mph and 0-60mph took a dreary 42.3 sec­onds due in some part to the low grade fuel that was only avail­able at the time.

The A30’s tall, nar­row body caught on and a de­cid­ing fac­tor with many was the fact that at £507 it was cheaper than the Mor­ris Mi­nor by £62 – a tidy sum in those days.

De­spite its spar­tan out­look, it was a ro­bust lit­tle car and has a de­voted fan club so many years after it came onto the scene.

It is a last­ing re­minder of the days when ba­sic re­ally meant ba­sic.

MOD­ERN The curvy body was unique at the time

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