|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
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.