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Homepage. This page: Many 7hp Austins were converted into sporty 'specials', including the following examples.

Austin 7 Special.

Special-building is a hobby that goes back 70+ years, when the availability of cheap and simple chassis from cars such as the Austin 7 and Ford 8/10 meant that building your own car, or "special", could be an affordable and entertaining project to get your teeth into. Countless pre-war Austin 7 saloons were purchased for just a few pounds, their boxy saloon bodies discarded, to be replaced by something altogether more sporting.
Some conversions were very successful, giving the owner-builder an entertaining lightweight sportscar, often on a shoestring. For every well-sorted Austin 7 special, there will have been many projects that were started, yet never saw light of day, their owners' either giving up early on, running out of money or time, or simply getting distracted by other cars, or even members of the opposite sex. These would often end up being sold for parts, or simply dumped in the nearest scrapyard, wood or layby.
Many specials were a case of "all show and little go", but even cars powered by un-modified engines would have a useful turn of speed, fitted as they were with bodies significantly lighter than the original factory offering. For those with deeper pockets in the 1950's, the lure of tuning parts from companies such as Speedex, Super Accessories, Bowden and Cambridge Engineering to name just some, would prove difficult to resist.
I'm hoping that including this page on the site will lead to more period photos of Austin 7 specials turning up. If you have any old photos of such cars, and would be willing to have them included on this page, please drop me a line. More the merrier!

1. An Austin Seven special in S. Africa.

Herb sent the first photograph to be included on this page, taken during his time living in South Africa. The Austin was seen parked at a racing track.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
An Austin 7 Special car
This special looks to have been built with fast-road or competition use in mind. It sits quite low - thanks to lowered suspension, either supplied by a third-party parts supplier or possibly removed from an Ulster, which came with flatter rear springs and a dropped front axle as standard.
A plate attached to the front of the Austin includes the car's racing number - 307 - and also the word "Germiston", the name of a large city in South Africa. Along with the photo of this Austin 7, Herb also sent a photo of a Ford Prefect-based racing car, competing at the Grand Central Racetrack. Both photographs are identical in size, and both are printed on Ilford paper, suggesting that both the Ford and Austin specials were seen at the same event and location. Grand Central was established by a group of motor racing enthusiasts in the 1930's who also had an interest in the flying - the airfield still exists, as does the track although the latter is no longer in use.

2. An Austin 7 special in the UK now.

Charles made contact recently, wondering if the oddball little car in the background of a photo could be identified. One look at the wheel confirms that it is a special built upon Austin 7 running gear, and it's quite unlike any other special I've seen. The body has echoes of the American Crosley to it. Either this is a one-off, produced by a talented DIY-er in his shed, or an off-the-shelf body fitted to a vintage chassis. Has anyone out there seen a car like this before?
The Austin's registration is TW 7762, an Essex series used from 1925 to 1927, confirming that the chassis once belonged to a vintage Austin 7. The plated radiator grille looks particularly well made. The body would appear to be an estate, with a canvas centre section to the roof, something often seen on 1940's vans as a way to save metal during production. The door shape is reminiscent of, but not identical to, that found on Series 1 and 2 Morris 8s. To the Austin's right is 1951 Hillman Minx, while to its left is a 1946/47 Fordson E04C van.
Another Austin Seven-based special

3. Building a special - a series of photographs.

Rare is it to find photographs not just of an Austin special built in the 1950s, but also images of the donor car that made it possible. The donor car in this instance is a 1930 RL box saloon, a tired and battered example that looks like it was dragged out of a scrapyard. The first photograph shows the scruffy little car parked outside a pebble-dashed house, most likely in the 1950s, the heyday of home-built special building. PL 1889's days as a saloon were definitely numbered. The rear quarter panel exhibits a searing gash, ensuring that this saloon's body was beyond realistic repair. Whereas most cars in this condition would simply have been scrapped, this 7hp Austin will live again - but looking totally different in a new, well-executed, sportscar guise.
Austin 7 RL donor car
The front of the car looks a little better, although the nearside front wing has received a nasty knock at some time. The headlamps pointing at odd angles, the filthy body and chrome, and the damaged lower windscreen surround, just add to the scene of total neglect.
1930 Austin 7 before conversion into a special
Within the car's tiny cabin, things do not improve. While the crumbling seats are a comfortable home for the local hound, no human would give them a second glance any more. The inner door trim on the passenger side is in a poor state, the door opened wide thanks to the failure of its check-strap. Home-made "pop-rivet" repairs can be seen on the rear wing, and also to the rear corner of the main tub, suggesting that this RL suffered a gradual decline in condition, at the hands of an enthusiastic amateur repairer. For some reason, after the above photographs were taken, the rear window surround was badly mauled by an axe or similar, tearing apart the steel and further destroying an already-neglected box saloon. Why this happened, with the car still parked in the owner's garden, is unclear, unless he was making an initial - slightly cack-handed - attempt at chopping up the saloon body, in readiness for a trip to the local dump. After all, only the car's chassis, running gear and occasional interior fittings would be of any use to this Austin 7 special builder.
Ready for the scrapyard
I have no more images of the donor Austin, so it's safe to assume that the body was soon disposed of. The next photograph in this set jumps forward in time, to the special part-way through its build. The chassis and axles have been restored, and the wheels glisten under their new coat of paint. Rather than opt for an off-the-shelf fibreglass body, this car's owner has opted to build his own ash frame and clad it later, quite possibly in aluminium. It could also be the case that the widespread availability of GRP bodies had yet to establish itself at the time of this build. The rear-set fuel tank has yet to be re-painted, and in fact looks like it could have been retrieved from the same scrapyard that the donor Austin was dragged out of. The newly-built dashboard has yet to be fitted with its gauges and switchgear. Note how the radiator and surround have been tilted backwards, to improve the sporting car's lines. The builder of this car was without doubt a gifted chap, handy at woodwork and panelling alike.
Part way through the Austin's rebuild
Here the proud owner/builder of the special stands with his creation, in its finished - or nearly finished - state. The screen is folded in this picture. The Austin badge has been re-fitted to the car's radiator, on the opposite side to how it was positioned on the donor car. I wonder if PL 1889 rings a bell with anyone in the special-building world? Who the owner was, or where he lived, I don't know. The donor Austin was first registered in Surrey, which may give a clue as to the general area that these shots were taken. A railway line and bridge can be seen to the left, while behind the Austin is an interesting woodie estate car - perhaps an Austin A70? - with the rear of a crudely-built pickup truck also in view, to the right. The houses look like council-built semis.
Austin 7 sports is finished
There now follows a series of photographs featuring the finished car. They convey how well the car had been designed, and the apparently excellent standard of finish. The shine on the paintwork for instance is clearly in evidence in this next shot, taken from a lofty vantage point. The transformation of a battered saloon into a glistening, sporting special is complete, with only a tiny repair in the car's hood letting the side down slightly.
High standard of paint finish
A rear view of the car, with its roof raised.
Rear view
Interesting details can be seen in this next view. For instance, the owner has chosen to bin the original steering wheel, replacing it with a smart - and not inexpensive - Bluemels Brooklands replacement, with a home-made lever - either a hand throttle or for advancing/retarding the ignition - in its centre boss. A number of gauges occupy the dashboard, including the original circular Lucas switch panel and ammeter, probably removed from the original car and now situated ahead of the passenger's seat. The hinged windscreen assembly is very neat, as too is the feed to the Lucas windscreen wiper motor fitted to the header rail. The one-off bonnet with its leather retaining strap and chrome catches have been well turned out, and a bulge allowing adequate space for the driver's right foot has been very neatly incorporated - something that can't be said for every special I've seen.
Bluemels Brooklands steering wheel, and dash
The last image is a front three-quarter view of the immaculate Austin. Whereas many specials were built with competition in mind, and often sported a lowered "Ulster"-type front axle, this appears to have the standard arrangement, suggesting that it was built solely with road use in mind. I wonder where this car ended up? Does it exist somewhere to this day?
Where is this Austin now?

4. Part-built car spotted in a street.

I've John to thank for this next photograph. He was in the process of testing and buying a fairly ancient box saloon in the early 1960s, when he spotted this part-assembled special in a nearby street. Fortunately he had his camera with him, and was able to take a snap of this intriguing machine. The registration is partially visible, it looks like XFM 929 or XFW 929 - whichever it is, it appears that the car was re-registered in the post-war years, probably when the car was built into a special.
Whoever built the car, did a very neat job of it, although at the time, the hood was in need of a little fettling, to say the least, and all four wings, the bonnet, and the radiator, needed re-fitting. The handbrake was also due for some attention, judging by the small block of wood propped ahead of the offside rear wheel.
Part-built Austin 7
As and when more old photographs of Austin 7 specials turn up, I'll add them in here. The Austin Seven I once owned, based on Chummy and Ulster parts, can be found here. A large number of old images showing road and race versions of the 7 can be found in various locations across the site, the search facility should help track them all down :-)
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