austin & the austin 7
but a small part of the history of austin ...
sir herbert austin
1866 - 1941
herbert austin (later sir), the son of a farmer,
was born in little missenden, buckinghamshire, uk.
in 1884 he emigrated to melbourne, australia,
where he worked in diverse engineering enterprises
& attended art school to upskill on his drawing.
it was in melbourne that he met his wife, helen dron,
& they went on to have 3 children - a son & 2 daughters.
soon before his marriage he started work on
sheep shearing machines that were being produced for
the wolseley sheep shearing machine co.,
which he was later asked to join,
& went on to patent his own improvements to them.
in 1893 austin & his friend wolseley returned to birmingham, in the uk, where wolseley set up his factory.
with austin as manager they produced sheep shearing machines
as well as bicycles in quieter times.
during this time austin's love of cars grew - he built 2 different cars
- one, in a modified form was produced & sold by wolseley in 1900.
austin left wolseley's company in 1905, taking some of it's senior staff,
to form his own company based out of a disused print works in longbridge, birmingham.
by 1908 they had 17 different models in production.
with the advent of world war 1, they produced munitions
(for which austin received a knighthood in 1917.)
in 1921, with the difficult economic conditions following ww1,
the company was on the verge of bankruptcy.
it was under these conditions that austin dreamed up his ambitious plan
- to produce an affordable reliable small car to compete with
the motorcycle/sidecar combination so popular with the returned servicemen
who were on tight budgets.
history of the austin 7
a.k.a. the "baby austin"
1903 - 1990
using the advanced draughting & in depth mechanical skills of the largely unlauded stanley edge, work began on the drawings for what would become the iconic austin 7.
edge had left school at 14 to work in the drawing office of
the austin motor co. & had so impressed austin that he was asked,
at the tender age of 17, to live at austin's house, lickey grange,
& work on the drawings on the billiard table,
being directly paid from austin's own pocket.
edge designed the motor (loosely based on french four cylinder cars
of the time) & transmission & worked with austin
on other parts of the overall design.
in 1922, when austin approached the other directors of his company with his plans for the austin 7, he was treated with derision at this tiny car, however he tenaciously went on to get it produced, with the first prototypes appearing in that year as well as the first ones going on sale at £225 - making it affordable for those who had never previously owned a car.
the "baby" (as it was nicknamed) became one of the most popular cars
ever produced for the british market (& also sold well abroad) & had deletorous effects on most other british small cars & cyclecars of the 1920's
- it became britain's answer to the model t.
the standard austin 7, with 40-45 mpg fuel economy & top speed of around 40 mph,
was the go-anywhere car.
With it's large skinny wheels, lightweight 425 kg body
(2.8m long x 1.17m wide for the earlier models, a tad longer for the later ones),
small 747cc motor, & high power to weight ratio,
it went on to compete successfully
in a lot of different motor racing events - being particularly successful
in hillclimb races against far more expensive & powerful cars.
in 1932 a supercharged, lowered version set a class h record of 102 miles per hour,
and austin sevens took first place in over 200 hill climb, touring, and other races.
also, because of their cheapness & simplicity,
many of them were converted into "specials"
with an astounding variety of body shapes.
290,000 austin 7's were produced in the uk from 1922 to 1939
in a variety of body styles, including vans.
a further 100,000 austin 7's were produced internationally under license
- in germany, under the dixi brand (which later became bmw)
- in france as rosengart
- in the usa first as the american austin company & then the american bantam company. bantam went on to produce the first jeeps.
hey were also copied, without license, by nissan/datsun of japan.
sir herbert in the
1922 xl-1 prototype
stanley edge, late in life,
as the austin 7 name had become so popular it was also used
for the first austin a30's (in 1951) & the first austin minis (in 1959.)
nick mason, pink floyd drummer & car lover, had an austin 7 "chummy' as his first car,
& mick fleetwood, of fleetwood mac, shares his love of the wee beasties.
the story of mick's chummy is a fun one
- in a (possibly drunken) stupor one night
he left his chummy in eric clapton's orchard & forgot about it.
15 years later he remembered it & it was rescued, a lot worse for wear, & restored
- he now uses it for shopping trips with his mother in hawaii.
please note - all images on this page are not my own & have been gathered from
the internet to illustrate a small part of the austin history both in the uk & abroad.
"perfect freedom is reserved for the man who lives by his own work
and in that work does what he wants to do"
robin g. collingwood
the austin 7
& the cartoonist ...
some historic photos of austin 7s around the world ...