NAVIGATION   

     The Beginning    

     Pre World War 1

     The War Years   

The following pages are a transcript from the "AUSTIN - 50 years of car progress" booklet. It was published by The Austin Motor Company Limited in 1955 and is Publication No. 1235.

     Between the Wars

     World War 2

     Post War

     Facts & Figures

 
   

The Millionth car 1946 Austin 16 hp Saloon

1947 Austin A125 Sheerline

1947 Austin A40 Devon

1948 Austin A70 Hampshire

The impact of the new Chairman's drive and vision on the fortunes of the Company in the post-war years was to prove decisive. 1945 saw Britain victorious, triumphant and financially almost broke. Dreams and schemes of a higher than ever standard of living were many. Only the far-sighted realised it could only be earned by hard work and greater effort. L. P. Lord was one such man and he at once laid plans for a rapid expansion of Austin car production for overseas marketing.

 

A new post-war range would be produced. Eight, Ten, Twelve and Sixteens were planned, the latter being powered with an entirely new four-cylinder overhead-valve engine.

 

The first model away was the Ten and the Eight quickly followed. Then came the Twelve and the Sixteen.

 

In June, 1946, the Millionth Austin was produced, and this car, painted in a matt cream, was signed by the Chairman and the workpeople at a special celebration .

 

The winter of 1946-7 was one of the severest on record, which gave added lustre to an epic "Seven Capitals in Seven Days" run made by three Austin Sixteens from Oslo to Geneva, where, for the first time, two entirely new cars, the A110 Sheerline and the A120 Princess, were exhibited.

Britain at this time badly needed dollars and L. P. Lord was determined to obtain them. He sailed for the U.S.A. in May, and after a close study of conditions, returned to Longbridge and prepared for a large-scale attack on this most difficult of all markets, with a new car then in forward stage of development. In August, accompanied by G. W. Harriman, his Works Director, the Chairman re-crossed the Atlantic, taking two of the first production A40 Devons with him. The cars were liked, dealers signed up and plans were made for shipping them.

Canada, too, became an integrated part of this drive and old Austin distributorships and dealerships there were greatly strengthened.

 

As the new A40s began to arrive and pass into the hands of the public, sales increased and dollars streamed back to Britain.

 

At Longbridge production was steadily rising. The Eight, Ten and Twelve cars which had served so well during the immediate post-war years, were now replaced by the A40. The Sixteen continued in production, along with the new luxury Sheerline and Princess cars, while the output of 2- and 5-ton trucks and of the 10-cwt. and 25-cwt. light commercials proceeded apace. In the financial year ended July 31st, 1948, the total overseas earnings amounted to over 30,000,000.

 

At the 1948 International Motor Exhibition at Earls Court, two new models, the A70 Hampshire and the A90 Atlantic Convertible, were announced. The latter had a twin-carburetter overhead valve engine, and streamlined bodywork quite unlike any previous Austin.

 

That the A90 had a superb performance was later proved at Indianapolis in 1950, when a standard model covered 11,850 miles at an average speed of 70.54 m.p.h.

 

By July 3rd, 1949, annual production had reached a total of 126,685, in 1950 it reached 157,628, and in 1951 the magnificent total of 162,079 was achieved, with 114,609 of these going to export markets.

Thus, within five full years of the end of the war, production at Longbridge had increased by over 50 per cent on pre-war output, and this without any significant change in factory acreage or in the number of employees.

1949 Austin A90 Atlantic

1950 Austin A40 Sports

1950 Austin A70 Hereford

1951 Austin A30 Seven

1952 Austin A40 Coupe

1952 Austin-Healey 100 Sports

1954 Nash Metropolitan

1954 Austin A40 - A50 Cambridge

1955 Austin A90 Six Westminister

But while all these records were being achieved, the Longbridge engineers were pursuing even further, plans for increasing production efficiency. A new car assembly building was being erected, which would be the most modern of its kind in the world. The aim was to make maximum possible use of electronic controls for the automatic selection, sequencing and feeding of parts to the assembly tracks. The problems \which had to be overcome to achieve this aim were immense, but under the guidance of G. W. Harriman, now Deputy Chairman, whose unique production engineering ability had proved so invaluable to the Company in its post-war reconstruction, success was achieved. The new building; sited on the old flying ground, and fed by a system of underground conveyors, was opened by the Minister of Supply on July 19th, 1951. With its four assembly tracks, it had an output potential of one vehicle every forty-five seconds and provided first-class working conditions for the employees.

The 1950 Motor Show saw the announcement of the A70 Hereford, and twelve months later came the A30 Seven. These models were followed early in 1952 by the A40 Somerset as successor to the popular Devon. At the 1952 Show a new sports car, with the A90s engine and other basic Austin units, was exhibited by the Donald Healey Motor Company. This led to an agreement with Donald Healey for the cars to be produced at Longbridge under the title of the Austin Healey Hundred. And so another famous model joined the Austin ranks.

By 1952, the Company's factory site covered 250 acres, over 19,000 men and women were employed and the Company had earned well over 150,000,000 in foreign currency since the end of the war.

In July, 1952, the British Motor Corporation came into being---a merger of the Austin and Nuffield Organisations, which enabled Britain's two leading manufacturers to pool experience and productive capacity to give the customer even finer motoring at competitive prices, supported by a comprehensive parts service.

On November 26th, 1953, the second millionth car was despatched and plans were well advanced for the production, in co-operation with Fisher and Ludlow Limited, of Birmingham (which later became a B.M.C. plant), of an American light car for the Nash Company of the U.S.A.

 This new model, which Nash were anxious should make use of as many A40 parts as possible, including the engine, was ultimately announced on March 19th, 1954, as the "Metropolitan". Its reception in the North American Continent where it was to be exclusively marketed, was at once most encouraging.

Another product which had also established itself as a dollar earner, was the Austin-Healey Hundred, which, at the Utah Salt Flats in 1954, achieved a speed of 192.6 m.p.h. over the measured mile.

On September 28th, 1954, the successor to the A40 Somerset was announced. It was a completely new car, of unit construction, with sweeping lines, and a choice of 1200 c.c. or 1500 c.c. engines. Named the "Cambridge,"' the new car was at once in great demand. It was shortly followed by a new six cylinder car, the A90 Six Westminster. On the commercial side a range of light vehicles from 5 to 10 cwts. was displayed at the Commercial Motor Show and on March 9th, 1955, newly designed 2/3 and 5 ton trucks with normal or forward control and petrol or diesel engines, were in production.

This, then, in brief outline, is the story of the Austin Motor Company's first fifty years. Its present Chairman, Sir Leonard Lord, who was created a Knight of the British Empire in the 1954 New Year Honours List, is carrying the torch handed on by Lord Austin. Under his inspiring leadership we await the future with eagerness and optimism.

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