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Homepage. This page: In 1919 the Austin Motor Company dipped its toe into the world of private aircraft manufacture.

Austin Whippet plus an 8hp Perry light car.

Jim emailed this photograph to me, asking if I knew of anyone who might be able to identify the light car parked alongside the bi-plane, a machine produced by the Austin Motor Company and named the "Whippet". A contact in the VSCC suggests that the car is most likely a twin-cylinder Perry 8hp. Did the car tow the Whippet? it must have been a struggle if so, especially in hilly terrain, but the Whippet was designed with home storage, away from the aerodrome, in mind.
The Austin Whippet shown below in New Zealand was one of only five examples ever built, this one finding its way into the ownership of motorcycle racer Percy Coleman. He flew the aircraft for a number of years until it was severely bent on a particularly windy day during a take-off attempt. It was later rebuilt, and continued to be licensed until 1937. As a vintage Austin enthusiast, Jim has spent a considerable amount of time researching the fate of all five aircraft, and is keen to learn more about the car manufacturer's dabble at aircraft production for the private pilot.
This wasn't the first time that the factory had produced an aircraft, as during the Great War the Longbridge facility was turned over to the production of military aircraft under license, but this was their first attempt at producing their own machine, under their own name, for the monied private flyer. To enable the aircraft to be stored away from an airfield, fold-back wings were built into the design, enabling the owner to store their machine at home, towing it to and from their local aerodrome as required.
(Please click the thumbnail to view a full-size version of the Whippet photograph.)
Austin Whippet aeroplane and a Perry car
The aircraft was penned by Austin designer J. Kenworthy, who had previously worked for the De Havilland concern and was therefore well-versed in matters aeronautical. The requirement was to produce a lightweight and affordable aircraft, one that could be maintained by the owner wihtout necessarily having to rely on outside assistance to keep the plane fettled. The target asking price was to be in the region of 400 - 500. Fixed wing struts - rather than bracing wires - meant that the adoption of folding wings wouldn't require continual rigging adjustments to be undertaken by the owner whenever he/she wished to make a flight.
The Whippet prototype was built with a horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder engine, but for production a six-cylinder Anzani unit was opted for.
Find more early motoring-related photos on Page 16 of the vintage gallery. My thanks to Jim for sending this photo over.

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