Who was He? Motorcar
manufacturer and philanthropist.
Date and Place of Birth:
8th November 1866, Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England.
Family Background: Son
of Giles Stephen Austin a Yorkshire Farmer and Clara Jane Simpson.
Grammar School and Brampton Commercial College to study Architecture.
He then emigrated to Melbourne Australia with his uncle and served an
apprenticeship as an engineer at Langlands Foundry.
1882: Went to Melbourne,
Australia to join his uncle as a works manager of a general engineering
firm. He went on to work for six other engineering firms.
1893: He was asked by
Frederick Wolsey, whose company he was now working for to return to
Birmingham, England to supervise a sheep shearing equipment manufactory.
1895: He built his first
experimental car, a three wheeler steered by a tiller.
1896: The prototype
of his second car was exhibited at the Exhibition at Crystal Palace,
1900: He entered a four
wheel car for the Automobile Club of Great Britain 1,000 mile challenge.
The single cylinder car won first prize.
1901: The Wolseley Tool
and Motor Car Company was begun at Adderley Park in Birmingham and Austin
became Manager. He became a founder member of the Midland Automobile
1905: After taking Wolseley
cars to world renown he resigned and looked around to start his own
business. He found an out of town site at Longbridge which was then
seven miles from the city of Birmingham and with the help of financial
assistance from friends he bought a small derelict printing works and
began the Austin Motor Company. (November 17th) Austin went to the Motor
Show at Olympia in London and received his first orders.
1906: The first car,
a 25 hp Endcliffe Phaeton costing £650, was produced and soon
skilled craftsmen made their way to Longbridge, manufacturing 120 cars
in the first year.
1908: Three special
racing cars at 100 hp were produced and entered in the French Grand
Prix. The car driven by J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon came in a creditable fifteenth.
Production of the main road cars was now so popular that a night shift
at the factory was introduced. New models were developed and the factory
turned out a thousand cars per year.
1912: The company expanded
into manufacturing marine engines and a Saunders of Cowes craft powered
by an Austin engine won the British International Trophy.
1913: A two ton lorry
was produced establishing Austin as a manufacturer of commercial vehicles.
1914: (February) The
company went into public ownership and expansion was planned but then
came the outbreak of the First world War. The factory moved over to
making munitions for the war effort as well as vehicles and aircraft
and by 1917 had trebled in size even having its own airfield on a local
hill. 22,000 people now worked at the factory. Austin was knighted for
his services to the war effort. Sadly his only son was killed in France
during the War but was survived by two daughters.
1918: At the end of
the War the factory went back to producing cars only and concentrated
on a 30 hp model which was sold for the staggeringly low cost of £495.
He began to take an interest in politics and served as the Conservative
Member of parliament for Kings Norton, Birmingham until 1924.
1920: He began working
on the concept of a smaller car to meet the needs of the family and
because he received great opposition from his board he financed the
1922: (July) The new
car designed by a small team under Herbert's direction and called the
Austin Seven was unveiled to the public. It quickly became known popularly
as the "Chummy" and sold for a mere £165. Sales began
1924: The size of the
engine in the Austin Seven was increased and other refinements such
as an electric starter were introduced.
1926: The project was
now considered a success and production passed the 14,000 per year mark.
1928: A new version
nicknamed the "Top Hat" was introduced.
1930's: This period
saw a continuous array of small changes and refinements to the Seven
1936: He was made a
Baron for his philanthropic works which included support for Birmingham
1939: At the beginning
of World War Two the Longbridge factory was again turned over to the
manufacture of military equipment, including aircraft.
(1948): Heavily modified
Austin Sevens became the foundation point for the Lotus Car Company.
to Helen Dron of Melbourne. (Died 1942)
Places of Interest:
Longbridge Motor Factory
Lickey Grange House, Bromsgrove, where he lived and
the Austin 7 was conceived in the billiard room.
Date and Place of Death:
23rd May 1941, Lickey Grange, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, England.
Age at Death:
Site of Grave:
Holy Trinity Church, Twatling Road, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. His
wife is buried next to him in the same plot.