I’ll admit to having a guilt trip about this one. My dad loved her. I just thought she was old and smelly. There was something about the PVC upholstery that gave the car a very distinct chemical smell. So much so that my mother was convinced we were leaking fuel. But looking back our old Austin gave sterling service and later went on to be the family car for my sister and her new family until 1968.
And they must have been good little motors (223,264 produced in between 1951 – 1956) because despite my mother gripping the seat in fear of being blown to kingdom come ours never broke down, blew up or otherwise protested at my dad’s erratic driving. Somehow he never mastered the art of navigating, steering and changing gear but the Austin A30 was a very forgiving car. Which was more than his wife was when we got lost – yet again.
So what was there to be eight years old and embarrassed about? Apart from Uncle Ron’s brand spanking new Mark I Ford Cortina and Monica Moss’s gleaming black Austin Cambridge you mean? Probably it’s lack of speed because with three forward gears and a 0 – 60 time of 42.3 seconds she was never going to stun other drivers by skimming along the fast lane unless the road was empty and Dad had steered her into it by accident, the Austin I mean, not Monica.
Hills were a bit of a problem too. I remember one outside Hurstbourne Tarrant that nearly proved her undoing. That gradient was never going to be conquered in top (third), or by the time Dad had got the hang of it, second either. So up we crawled in first much to the distress of the people in the rear view mirror and the twenty odd bewildered drivers behind them. Was there a cow in the road they wondered? No just a man with no synchromesh on first gear, an angry wife sucking furiously on a Barley Sugar sweet and a son hiding in the back seat under his anorak.
Luckily a previous owner had modernised the car and fitted proper indicators and unlike the base model version ours had two wipers, two sun visors and a heater. She still smelled funny though, and continued to do so to the end of her life, a smell so strong that even the combined delights of my two nephews with full nappies and occasional projectile vomiting never managed to overcome it.
But hey! The Austin A30 had a floor mounted gear change, which should have made Dad’s job easier and a dash mounted indicator switch loud enough to hear at low speeds but over 40 mph often meant the car following wondered when and if we were ever going to turn left.
So why the guilt trip after all these years? Well, there’s something cosy about the fact that the A30 looks like it’s been designed by drawing round various sized jelly moulds and it’s cheeky little face always looks as if it’s enjoying itself. You don’t see that many now (somebody will correct me) which is a shame because in its day, at £507 it was £62 less than its Morris Minor rival. The van variant, boosted into A35 format, went on being produced until 1968. So where did they all go?
All articles ©Ian Ashley 2015