Austin 7

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Austin Seven

Austin 7

1922 - 1939
United Kingdom
L-Head in-line 4
696 - 747cc
10 bhp
3/4 spd. man
Top Speed:
48 mph
Number Built:
290,000+ (worldwide)
3 star
It could be argued that the Austin 7 transformed motoring for residents of the UK as Henry Ford’s Model T did for the Americans. The Seven would be built for 17 years between 1922 and 1939, filling a market segment between the cycle-cars and the more established larger cars of the day.

The Seven was powered (if that's the right word to use) by a puny 42ci 696cc side-valve engine, although this would be later “enlarged” to a whopping 46ci (747cc). The fact that it was relatively underpowered did not deter the buyers, the car soon accounting for nearly 40% of all new car sales in the UK.

The Seven sat on a very small wheelbase, only 6ft 3”, with a track of 40”. The chassis was in the form of an “A”, with the engine mounted between the channel sections at the narrow front end.

While the earliest iterations were not fitted with shock absorbers, the rear suspension system did use quarter elliptic springs cantilevered from the rear of the chassis, the front beam axle having a centrally mounted half elliptic transverse spring.

Surprisingly for  such a cheap and cheerful car, the Seven boasted all-round brakes, although early models required the driver to be rather dexterous, having to apply the front brakes via the handbrake control and the rear via the footbrake.

Thankfully after 1930 the brakes became fully coupled. Naturally the Seven having such a long production run, and at a time when automobile innovation was arguably at its peak, there were other significant improvements made along the way.

An electric starter motor was introduced in 1923, the magneto ignition system was replaced by a coil type in 1928, a four speed gearbox replaced the original 3 speed unit in 1932, then synchromesh  was added to 3rd and 4th gears in 1933, and finally added to second gear in 1934.

The Seven became so popular that German concern Dixi (one of the manufacturers to later make up BMW) built the ubiquitous little car as the “Rosengart”. Even the Americans got in on the act, building under license the “American Austin”. And Japan’s Nissan concern used the 7 design as the basis for their original cars – although no license was ever granted.

There is an Australian connection too. Austin backed his cars in motor sport, and while he had very few successes that would change in 1928 when his son-in-law, Captain Arthur Waite, took out the 1928 Australian Grand Prix in a supercharged Austin 7 known as "Slippery Anne". Other nick-names were bestowed upon the Seven, some referring to it as the "...finest Meccano set yet produced". Despite its lack of roadholding and hopeless brakes, it was well put togther and long lasting.

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Also see:

Austin 7 Technical Specifications
Herbert Austin
Austin Car Commercials
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