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A Brief History of the Austin

Herbert Austin (1866–1941), later Sir Herbert, the former manager of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company founded The Austin Motor Company in 1905, at Longbridge, which was then in Worcestershire (Longbridge became part of Birmingham in 1911 when its boundaries were expanded). The first car was a conventional 5 litre four cylinder model with chain drive with about 200 being made in the first five years. In World War I Austin grew enormously with government contracts for everything from artillery to aircraft and the workforce expanded from around 2,500 to 22,000.

After the war Herbert Austin decided on a one model policy based around the 3620 cc 20 hp engine and versions included cars, commercials and even a tractor but sales volumes were never enough to fill the vast factory built during war time and the company went into receivership in 1921 but rose again after financial restructuring. To expand the market smaller cars were introduced with the 1661 cc Twelve in 1922 and later the same year the Austin 7, an inexpensive, small and simple car and one of the earliest to be directed at a mass market. At one point it was built under licence by the fledgling BMW (as the Dixi) and Datsun, as well as Bantam in the U.S., and as the Rosengart in France.

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A largely independent United States subsidiary operated under the name American Austin Car Company from 1929 to 1934; it was revived under the name "American Bantam" from 1937 to 1941.

With the help of the Seven Austin weathered the worst of the depression and remained profitable through the 1930s producing a wider range of cars which were steadily updated with the introduction of all-steel bodies, Girling brakes, and synchromesh gearboxes but all the engines remained as side valve units. In 1938 Leonard Lord joined the company board and became chairman in 1941 on the death of Herbert (now Lord) Austin.

During the Second World War Austin continued building cars but also made trucks and aircraft. The post war car range was announced in 1944 and production of it started in 1945.

The immediate post war range was mainly similar to that of the late 1930s but did include the 16 hp significant for having the companies first overhead valve engine.

In 1952 Austin merged with the Nuffield Organisation (parent company of Morris) to form the British Motor Corporation (later British Leyland) with Leonard Lord in charge. Austin were the dominant partner and their engines were adopted for most of the cars. With the threat to fuel supplies resulting from the 1956 Suez Crisis Lord asked Alec Issigonis to design a new small car and the result was the revolutionary Mini launched in 1959. The principle of a transverse engine with gearbox in the sump and driving the front wheels was carried on to larger cars with the 1100 of 1963, the 1800 of 1964, the Maxi of 1969, the Allegro of 1973 and the Metro of 1980.

Austin automobile and engine designs were copied by the fledgling Nissan of Japan. That company produced Austin-derived models into the early 1960s.

In 1982, the by now greatly shrunk British Leyland company was renamed Austin Rover Group, with Austin acting as the "budget" brand. However, the continuing bad publicity associated with build and rust problems on the Metro, Maestro and Montego models meant that the badge was dropped, and the last Austin-badged car was built in 1987.

The rights to the Austin badge passed to BMW when they bought the Austin Rover Group and were subsequently sold to MG Rover. Following their collapse and sale the name is now owned by Nanjing Automobile Group along with Austin's historic assembly plant in Longbridge. At the Nanjing International Exhibition in May 2006, Mr Wang of Nanjing announced that the Austin name would be used on some of the revived MG Rover models, at least on the Chinese market.

  • subcompact car
    • 1910-1911 Austin 7 hp
    • 1922-1939 Austin 7
    • 1959 Seven (Mini), as BMC
    • 1980-1990 Metro, as Austin Rover
  • compact car
    • 1911-1915 Austin 10
    • 1932-1947 Austin 10 hp
    • 1939-1947 Austin 8 hp
    • 1937-1939 Austin 14 hp
    • 1951-1956 A30
    • 1956-1959 A35
    • 1956-1962 A35 Countryman
    • 1958-1961 A40 Farina Mk I
    • 1961-1967 A40 Farina Mk II
    • 1963-1974 1100
    • 1967-1974 1300
    • 1973-1983 Allegro
  • midsize car
    • 1913-1914 Austin 15/20
    • 1922-1947 Austin 12 hp
    • 1927-1935 16/18 hp
    • 1945-1949 Austin 16 hp
    • 1947-1952 A40 Devon/Dorset
    • 1952-1954 A40 Somerset
    • 1954-1958 A40/A50/A55 Cambridge
    • 1959-1961 A55 Cambridge
    • 1961-1969 A60 Cambridge
    • 1964-1975 1800/2200
    • 1969-1981 Maxi 1500
    • 1983-1994 Maestro
  • fullsize car
    • 1906-1907 Austin 25/30
    • 1907-1910 Austin 18/24
    • 1908-1911 Austin 40 hp
    • 1908-1910 Austin 60 hp
    • 1914-1916 Austin 30 hp
    • 1919-1930 Austin 20 hp
    • 1938-1939 Austin 18 hp
    • 1948-1950 A70 Hampshire
    • 1950-1954 A70 Hereford
    • 1954-1959 A90/A95/A105 Westminster
    • 1956-1959 A95 Westminster Station wagon.
    • 1956-1959 A105 Westminster
    • 1958-1959 A105 Westminster Vanden Plas
    • 1959-1961 A99 Westminster
    • 1961-1968 A110 Westminster
    • 1967-1971 3-Litre
    • 1975-1984 18-22/Princess/Ambassador
    • 1984-1994 Montego
  • limousine
    • 1939 Austin 28 hp
    • 1947-1954 A110/A125 Sheerline
    • 1946-1956 A120 Princess
    • 1947-1956 A135 Princess
    • 1956-1959 Princess IV
  • sports car
    • 1948-1950 A90 Atlantic Convertible
    • 1949-1952 A90 Atlantic Saloon
    • 1950-1953 A40 Sports
    • 1953-1956 Austin-Healey 100
    • 1958-1970 Austin-Healey Sprite
    • 1959-1967 Austin-Healey 3000
    • 1971 Austin Sprite
  • army vehicles
    • WW2 Austin Ten Utility Truck
    • WW2 Austin K2
    • WW2 Austin K2Y
  • Taxis
    • FX4 - London Taxi
  • Australian Austin Cars
    • 1970-1973 Austin Kimberley
    • 1970-1973 Austin Tasman
  • Ambulances
    • LD3