header image
Homepage. This page: An owner's recollections of how his 1963 A40 was bought, crashed into, and driven 'til it fell to pieces.
Example of Austin A40 Mk2 car
A Horizon Blue Austin A40 Farina, similar to Adrian's.

Adrian's Austin A40 Farina story.

I've had a soft spot for the Austin A40 Farina ever since passing my test in a Farina Grey Mk1 back in 1987. The car is still with me, tucked away, longing for a rebuild to see it back on the road once more. Over the years it was joined, albeit briefly as it turned out, by an early - 948cc - Mk2, with duotone trim. The A40 Farina in Adrian's story was also an early Mk2, built in 1963. He now takes up the story...
"In late 1969 while at Teacher Training College in Derbyshire, I wanted another car. In the late 1960's and early 1970's there was a severe shortage of teachers and several mature students were attending the college, training for a new career. One of the mature students in my Physics lectures had a 1963 Austin A40 Farina (576 GWA), which he had bought for his wife. She however didn't like driving it in snow and ice (which was common in Derbyshire winters) and he decided that it needed more weight over the rear (driving) wheels to give it better grip. Being reluctant to spoil an otherwise perfect car by putting his choice of weights (cement) in the back, he bought his wife a Morris Minor van instead and offered the A40 to me for 110.
I looked in a car price guide and it showed that the Austin A40 was worth 245, so I borrowed the money from my brother and bought the vehicle. As it was in such good condition I didn't want to spoil it so asked the vendor what would be a good speed on a long journey (home to Newbury 140 miles). He said he thought that about 55 to 60 mph would be good and I set out within the hour to drive home very carefully.

The moment of impact.

At Brackley in Northamptonshire I saw a pedestrian crossing with two ladies waiting to cross, so I stopped (possibly a little abruptly) to let them do so. A moment after I stopped there was a bang and the car shot forward several yards. In shock, I got out and looked behind to see a Rover 3 litre with a startled driver at the wheel. After pushing my car to the side of the road and speaking to the driver of the Rover, it appeared that he had driven from Forres in Morayshire that day (over 500 miles) and had fallen asleep at the wheel. We exchanged insurance details but not much else because afterwards I had scant information for the accident report form, even forgetting to write down the registration number of his car. I guess I just didn't know what to do.

A short wheelbase A40.

I drove home, slightly faster than before and woefully showed my new acquisition to bemused siblings. The A40 was a write-off having been made 12 inches shorter by the impact, and even bending the Austin's roof to more of a curve! My dad made the best attempt he could at completing an accident report form for my insurance company, given that we had virtually no information.
As my insurance policy was Third Party Fire and Theft, I had to make a claim against the Rover driver's insurance, which was with Midland Northern and Scottish trading as Alpha. Unfortunately, the day after the accident, Alpha collapsed, one of the 19 insurance companies to do so between 1961 and 1971. Many thousands of drivers were left without insurance and I was left wondering how to get my claim paid.
After a few weeks of phoning and writing to Alpha insurance I decided to go to see them as the office was in Reading. I found the floor of the building occupied by Alpha and entered their main office to find piles of manila folders around the room, phones on the floor and no furniture at all. A girl saw me and I told her I wanted my money from my claim. She went into a glass-partitioned office and talked to a man who proceeded to ignore me for some ten minutes. Unhappy about this treatment I idly walked up to a pile of files and pushed them, strewning them over a wide area. No response so I did it again and this time the man left his room and asked me to follow him into a tiny interview room.
Here I asked for the 245 I was claiming for the A40, and after some negotiation we settled for 120. He wrote me a cheque, which was in the bank in minutes and didn't bounce. I think I was one of the last people to get money from that company.

The A40 soldiers on, shedding parts as it goes.

Luckily the car was still driveable and I did so with abandon! I resolved to wear it out or break it before I was forced to scrap it due to the accident damage. I spun the wheels and squealed the tyres at every opportunity, skidding to a stop using the handbrake to lock the rear wheels. This took its toll on the fabric of the poor A40 and things started to drop off. One such was the complete exhaust system (only a long pipe with one box as far as I can recall), leaving a 4ft down pipe attached to the engine. As this pipe was trailing and swinging about, I wrapped wire round the end of the tube and passed it through the bottom of the door to the passenger seat frame. This was fine for security of the remaining pipe but didn't do a lot to improve the noise from a short unsilenced tube now exiting under the Austin's passenger door.

Unwelcome attention from the boys in blue.

As Matlock is built on a very steep hill, the engine was working hard to get the car up and over-running nicely, popping away, on the down slopes. After three or four weeks of very noisy driving in Matlock at all hours of the day and night I was finally stopped (on the hill) by a Police car on a Sunday morning. I got out of the A40 Farina as the police constable exited his car, and we surveyed the source of the racket from my car. Whilst looking at the vehicle constable Kent enquired as to whether the handbrake worked. My answer to this was to call out to my friend in the passenger seat and ask him to take his foot off the brake pedal. Of course the handbrake worked - the car was stopped on a steep hill - was he simple?
I quote from the inevitable summons, which duly appeared "On being told he would be reported for the offence, the defendant said "is that it then?". The good bit about the summons was that it was delivered to my then landlady's address in Matlock, much to her shame, as her husband was a magistrate. I found the exhaust system in the field into which I had tossed it and had it welded back onto the car for fifteen shillings (75p) - the fine cost my dad 5.
Whilst on a trip home to Newbury, I used the A40 to tow my Morris Traveller to a scrap yard, having first taken the 14" wheels off the rear of the Traveller and swapped them with the 13" wheels from the A40. Well - the tyres were better on the 14" wheels and the stud pattern was the same (I think) so it seemed a good idea, and I hoped that the top speed would be better.
During its' slow demise the A40 was subjected to several of my 'tuning' ideas - the heater output hose taped to the SU carburettor air inlet did (I was certain) boost the performance when the heater fan was switched on. I had of course realised when the exhaust system was missing, that if the gases could exit the engine faster, they should be able to get in faster, so I had taped a trumpet from a beautiful old air horn to the SU instead of the filter and box.

The Austin's end was nigh.

In Wolverhampton some weeks later, the inevitable happened and the A40 finally stopped. By this time in my motoring career I knew what a half shaft was, and that was the cause of the car's demise. I saw it going to a scrapyard amidst a blur of tears."
Thanks for the story Adrian - no wonder there are so few Austin A40 Farinas still on the road!! :-) Tips on buying A40s can be found here, and a period colour shot of a grey Mk2 A40 Farina here.
Visit the motoring memories homepage at oldclassiccar for more stories like this.

Old Classic Car homepage

Custom Search
www.oldclassiccar.co.uk (C) R. Jones. Content not to be reproduced elsewhere.
Website by ableweb.
Privacy Policy, Cookies & Disclaimers