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This guide profiles classic Austin saloons from the BMC regime of 1952 to 1968. Ranging from the humble Mini to the powerful and well equipped Westminsters these famous models dominated our roads for at least two decades. During the mid-1960s Austin offered the widest range available from a British manufacturer with no less than nine different saloon models varying in price from £500 to £2500.
A30 and A35 (1951-1968)
One of the new models at the 1951 Motor Show was Austin's new small car, the A30. Called the new Austin Seven and fitted with the 800cc A-series engine, it was enthusiastically received by the motoring press and the public and began to appear on the roads in May 1952. Priced conveniently at £10 less than the two-door Morris Minor, the A30 was extremely economical and reliable, with just enough room inside for four adults. Never as adventurous as the Minor or in the same class in terms of handling or road-holding, the unitary-bodied A30 was nevertheless a runaway success. From 1956 the model was fitted with the bigger 948cc engine, becoming the A35, which in saloon form was discontinued in 1959 with the arrival of the Mini. The Countryman version of the A35 continued until September 1962 and the van version ran on until as late as February 1968. A total of over 550,000 A30/A35s, and commercial derivatives, were built by Austin between 1951 and 1968.
Austin's first popular medium sized six after the war was the 1954 A90 Westminster, which followed the lines of the A40/A50 Cambridge. The styling was the same but in fact the new Westminster was built 2 ½ " wider and had a longer front end in order to accommodate the new six-cylinder 2639cc C-series engine. Fitted with a single Zenith carburettor, the engine developed85bhp and gave the model a top speed of 85mph. From 1956 the A105 model was introduced with a high compression engine, twin SU carburettors and 120bhp on tap. It was better equipped than the A90 and was available in a range of two-tone colour schemes with fog lamps, whitewalls and fancy wheel trims. For 1957 a restyled Westminster was launched and designated the A95. It featured a new grille and a new, longer rear end. The A105 version of the car continued with these styling updates and now had overdrive as standard together with the option of an automatic gearbox.
1800 and 2200 (1964-1975)
The 1800 was not to be the hat-trick for Issigonis as the third successful front wheel drive model for Austin and BMC. There was nothing wrong with the concept of trying to redefine the large family car but unfortunately the model failed in many areas. It was intended to be powerful but was too big and too heavy and was no match for the performance orientated lightweights in the form of Ford's Cortina or Vauxhall's Victor. The model also lacked the style to compete in the growing executive car sector with competitors such as the Triumph 2000 and the Rover 2000 having a distinct advantage. BMC expected the car to sell in big numbers but it just didn't happen. There were plus points such as the superb ride comfort by virtue of Hydrolastic suspension and it was the roomiest family saloon on the market. Mark 2 from 1968 and Mark 3 from 1972. Six-cylinder 2200 from 1972 to 1975.
A40 Farina (1958-1967)
The A40 was the first project entrusted to the services of the outstanding Italian designer Pininfarina. As a direct replacement for the A35, the model broke new ground in that it was the first modern two-box car without a boot at the back, its general styling theme following Farina's then prevalent design brief, with crisp and simple lines similar to those of the Lancia Flaminia. On the mechanical side however, the components were fairly directly derived from the A35, with the 948cc engine in a similar state of tune and suspension, steering and braking systems similar too. The A40 was wider, had a longer wheelbase and was a great improvement on the older car in terms of roominess. The original A40 was introduced in the autumn of 1958.
Seven and Mini (1959-1969)
For 1959 BMC had an almost completely new range of cars in the popular classes. The Leonard Lord programmes of rationalisation by badge engineering had been successfully introduced, and the new Farina styled designs had brought Austin and other BMC marques into the new era. The best was yet to come as on the 26th August 1959 BMC launched the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor, two revolutionary small cars that were to change the face of motoring. Issignis's masterpiece used the existing BMC A-series engine, but to fit in the smallest possible four-seater car he turned the engine sideways and put the gearbox and final drive in the sump. There was also fully independent suspension using rubber cones. For 1959 there were only saloon models, in standard or deluxe forms and a choice of three colours for the Austins Tartan Red, Speedwell Blue or Farina Grey.
Launched in America and Canada as early as 1954 the Metropolitan was released for home market consumption in 1957. Basically a two-seater, with children's seats behind, it was available in convertible or hardtop forms. At first the engine was a 1200cc unit from the Austin A40, but in 1956 a change was made to the 1489cc BMC B-series engine. A three-speed, column change gearbox was used and suspension , steering and braking systems were borrowed from the A30 or A40 models. Most were finished in two-tone colour schemes and a heater and a radio were fitted as standard. Whitewall tyres were a popular option. The Metropolitan did very well for the company, enjoying the distinction of being one of the best selling British-made cars in the US at the time. Last of the line, the Series IV of 1960-61 boasted quarter-lights to the door windows and an external opening boot. The Metropolitan never wore the Austin badge, even for the home market cars.
A99 and A110 Westminster (1959-1968)
Soon after the A40 and A55 models, the new Westminster followed in July 1959. Styling followed the themes of the A55 Cambridge but the more generous proportions of the Westminster made the result more pleasing. The new Austin was fitted with a bored out 3-litre version of BMC's C-series engine complete with two SU carburettors coupled to a novel gearbox, a three speeder with overdrive on second and top. Suspension followed previous Westminster practise but there were now Lockheed front disc brakes with servo assistance. In the great BMC revamp of 1961, the Westminster became the A110, it used the same engine but came with a new twin exhaust system to give a few more bhp. There was also a new grille and revised facia. There were no Morris, Riley or MG versions of the car but for those in search of more luxury there was the better equipped Wolseley 6/99.
A60 Cambridge (1961-1969)
In the autumn of 1961 most of the BMC models received a facelift and the A55 Cambridge MkII which had been available since early 1959 was replaced by the new A60 version, Simliar in appearance to its predecessor, the A60 featured a modified radiator grille and small tailfins, although side-flashes contrasting with the body colour provided a distinctive new look. Under the bonnet was a 1622cc engine and now also the option of an automatic gearbox. Wheelbase and track dimensions were slightly increased which improved the handling. For 1962 the A60 Cambridges and their Morris Oxford cousins were offered with a diesel version of the B-series 1489cc engine. Most of those produced were sold for export markets, where different excise duties made diesel cars a financially attractive proposition. The A60 Cambridge continued in production until 1969 by which time a total of around 276,000 had been produced.
1100 and 1300 (1963-1974)
The second Issigonis designed BMC front wheel drive car was introduced in Morris form in August 1962, but Austin dealers had to wait over a year before the equivalent Austin 1100 appeared in their showrooms. Although the 1100 did not have the same influence as the Mini it represented possibly the finest small family small of its day and was the best selling car in Britain for a number of years. Derivatives were made in Italy, Spain, Australia and South Africa making Austin and Morris household names in some peculiar places. The trusty A-series was now bored out to 1098cc and developed approximately 48bhp giving a top speed of 78mph. (Mk1). The 1100 was expertly packaged by Issigonis, being a little longer than an A40 but offering roughly the same interior room as an A60 Cambridge. Pinninfarina's influence was also there to see in the form of the cropped tailfins.