A Mostly British Obsession

Austin 12/4

Pre-war automobiles are fascinating. Relatively common American machines, like the Ford Model A, are still affordable and suited to the quiet roads here on the island. While I’d be happy with a Model A, I’d be really be thrilled to own something usable and British from the period, like this 1929 Austin 12/4 spotted on eBay.

After the Great War, Herbert Austin decided that the fortunes of his motor company lay in building a single model and building it well. He based his new car on a Hudson of the period which he admired–this was the genesis of the Austin “20”. (20 refers to the “fiscal horsepower” road-tax system Great Britain had in place for many years. This was based on the cylinder bore of the engine, not on its actual power output. To skirt higher taxes, long-stroke engines were typical up through the 1960s in British marques.)

The 20 was nearly the downfall of Austin, though, as it was too expensive for the masses and larger and thirstier than most people wanted or needed. The company was only rescued by the great success of a tiny imitation of the 20, the 7. Austin also introduced a medium-sized machine between the 20 and the 7, the 12, which is what you see here.

The 12 was built from 1921 through 1940 (though production tapered off in the early 1930s). The 1929 model you see is in its least expensive form, a four-seat tourer. This machine is powered by a 1.8 liter engine producing 27 horsepower, and while not a road-burner it would achieve 60 mph and cruise at 50. It also has four-wheel brakes, albeit cable-operated.

I admire how original this particular car appears, though the description is a bit fanciful and the “give her a wash and she’s restored” is certainly optimistic. The price seems very ambitious, as you can easily buy a nice, sorted car for less than $20,000–though you’ll probably have to find it in England.

As for restoration, I don’t think you’d have any change left from a $30,000 budget, and, indeed, might need to rethink that number a bit. If you relied on a professional to do the work, the bill would many times dearer.

It’s a neat machine, and I hope someone rescues it. Check it out on eBay.

1 Comment

  1. chuck goolsbee

    Look Roger!… rust. It loves you!


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