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Homepage. This page: Original b&w and colour photos of a classic pre-war Austin Big Seven.

Austin Big 7.

Many of the popular pre-war Austins have featured in this section of Old Classic Car for some time now, however one omission that I'm pleased to correct is a photo page specific to the Austin Big 7, of the late 1930s. The following four photographs - one black and white, the remainder in colour - were supplied by Graham Somerville. The car, registration GVK 954, first saw use during 1939 in and around the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area of the North East. It was purchased post-war by Graham's father as a replacement for an Austin 7 box saloon, a car that features on the Austin 7 page (entry number 6), and also in one of the scenes below.
The Big 7 was launched in September 1937, designed as a new model to bridge the gap between the smaller Austin 7, and the slightly larger 10hp models. Sales were disappointing though, in part due to the very leisurely performance offered by the 900cc-powered car, and production only lasted until the early months of 1939, by which time just 9,000 or so examples had been produced. As a result, survivors today are far from numerous although do still turn up at shows from time to time.

Stopping for motor spirit at a garage.

The first of Graham's photos shows his father with GVK outside an unknown garage. A number of Esso petrol pumps are visible, as are various oil cabinets. Such small independent retailers of motor spirit were a common sight in most villages and towns across the UK, as affordable cars came to market during the 1920s and 1930s, joining the ranks of large-car owners and motorcyclists that were already enjoying the new-found freedoms that privately-owned means of transport such as the Austin 7 and Big 7 offered. Although by the time of the Big 7's launch, in the late 1930s, it was becoming clear that large-scale conflict in Europe was looking increasingly likely, and preparations were beginning to be made in some quarters of government. Freedom to enjoy uncurtailed use of a private motor-car such as this Austin when it was first put on the road, would soon face serious restrictions.
By the time of these photographs, in the late 1950s, many pre-war cars had been dusted down from long-term storage during the war, and put to use once more as affordable means of transport.
A close look at this first photo reveals aftermarket wing mirrors fitted to this example, and also flashing turn indicators to replace - or supplement - the original semaphore variety.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
Austin Big 7 at a garage

Austins and more outside the Dipton Mill Inn, in Northumberland.

The colour images are taken from Dufaycolor film slides. The following wonderful scene from 1958 was captured outside the Mill Inn, at Dipton Mill, Hexham, in Northumberland. A variety of old British cars are in evidence, from left to right a Series One Land Rover, an Austin saloon (A90 Westminster perhaps?), a split-screen Morris Minor, an Austin A30, then the family's Austin 7 reg. AOA 704, and finally the Big 7, GVK 954. A lone motorcycle can also be seen, parked outside the Mill Inn. The photo probably pre-dates the b&w image above, as the flashing indicators have yet to make an appearance on the front wings. The family resemblance between the Big 7 and the Austin company's 7hp Ruby are clear to see.
Austin Big 7 at Dipton Mill Inn
Happily the Dipton Mill Inn is very much still with us, looking somewhat leafier than it did back in the late 1950s, but the overall shape and location of the building is clearly a match for that in Graham's photo, and the location for the picnic itself is still there across the road.

Camping and caravanning with the Austin Big 7.

The third and fourth photos are both camping scenes. The first shows the Austin (with roof rack, and flashing turn signals) in a field alongside a tent. Nosing into view on the left, just, is the curvy form of an Austin Somerset.
With the Austin on a camping holiday
The last of Graham's photos is a feast for the eyes of any classic caravan enthusiast. In the foreground is, of course, GVK 954, but dominating the view is a colourful variety of post-war touring caravans. Can anyone help identify the 'vans in view? Away in the distance, close to a parked split-window VW, is a very odd looking caravan.
Austin and classic caravans
Thanks for the photos Graham. If anyone else has similar photos to these, and would be happy to share them on Old Classic Car (suitably credited of course), then please let me know as it'd be great to see them.
Return to Page 20 in the motoring photographs archive, or visit the main index here.

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