Article header
Parts
Homepage. This page: A red example of the pre-war Austin Eight saloon, AR series, plus another in The Netherlands.

Frank's Austin 8.

My thanks to Frank for sending his colour photograph from the early 1960s over. It features his six-light, four-door Austin 8 saloon from 1939. This model was produced from 1939 to 1947, with a pause in civilian car production taking place for a few years during the war. This example Frank inherited from his grandfather, and as was common with pre-war cars that had survived into the 1960s, it has been adorned with a selection of "go-faster" improvements, including Moon Eyes stickers, stripes over the roof, racey strips of tape over the headlamp lenses, and even a furry steering wheel cover.
At the time, the early 1960s, the Austin 8 was used for trips out to Blackbushe Aerodrome as Frank was a fan of drag racing, a relatively new sport to the UK. Drivers of the day included Tommy Ivo and Don Garlitts, in cars a world away in terms of performance from the diminutive, four-cylinder sidevalve Austin.
Frank's car was registered BDP 98, a series introduced in Reading during January 1939. This must make Frank's 8hp Austin one of the very first examples to roll off the line at Longbridge. The model was introduced to the public on February 24th, 1939, at the Berlin Motor Show. Four- and two-door saloons were offered, as was a tourer and a 5cwt van version. Visually, the 8 looks very similar to the 10, the key difference being that the 8 has a single rear window, while the larger-engined 10 has a split-window arrangement.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size images.)
Austin 8 four-door saloon car.

A four-door "Eight" in Utrecht, 1958.

Leo regularly drops me a line with a photo or two. Included in a fascinating set of images he sent is this black & white photo of a four-door Austin Eight saloon, seen in Utrecht. The year was 1958. At the time, Leo and a friend were enjoying a cycling trip, and took a number of motoring-related photographs in the city. The small rear window confirms that this is an Eight rather than a Ten. Years spent driving in a busy city have evidently taken their toll on the Austin's bodywork. The front wings bear many a scar, as does the front bumper and numberplate, while the token running board bears witness to regular traffic. The car is righthand drive.
A lone scooter is also in shot, accompanied by a variety of bicycles. Many more cycles can be seen in the reflection on the Austin's doors. Grimy and well-used, the venerable Austin continues to give service to its owner. Equally ancient, and also bearing battle damage to its flanks, is a 10hp Vauxhall saloon. A feature that both cars have shared since new, is the adoption of rear-hinged front doors, also known as "suicide" doors. Many thanks for the photo :-)
Another small Austin, in Utrecht.

Examples in period publications.

The introduction of the 8 and 10 was big news for Austin. Previously their small-car offering had been the famous "7" model, which could trace its roots back to 1922. By the late 1930s the 7 had grown in weight and was beginning to look out-dated, especially when compared to rival offerings from the likes of Morris, with its new Series E model. The 8 and 10, with their modern - vaguely transatlantic - styling, were much improved over the stop-gap "Big 7", although the outgoing car's engine was re-used in the new 8 after a few updates. The scans below are taken from an early sales brochure.
Brochure cover
Inside the Austin 8 sales brochure
Advertising of the day from the company's marketing department was understandably gushing with praise for its new model:
"The power-in-action lines of this new frontal design typify the superb styling and up-to-the-minute construction of every detail of the new Austin '8'".
"It's News! The car of the year is here. The new Austin '8' is creating a sensation. Comfort, looks, performance, room - it has them all. The 900cc engine does over 40 to the gallon and has a high turn of speed with smart acceleration. Good visibility and powerful Girling brakes give safety and ease of control. The spacious interior provides ample room for 4. Make sure your customers see this amazing car without delay."
By the time of the 8's introduction, the country was readying itself for conflict, which began officially in September of 1939. The November 18th 1939 issue of Practical Motorist magazine has a fine illustration of an 8 on its cover, fitted with a black-out mask to its headlamp, and a radiator muff (cover). This looks to me like an airbrushed version of an image that had featured in an official Austin advertisement from a few months earlier.
Practical Motorist features an 8 on its cover in November 1939

Engine running footage.

Footage of a surviving 8, described as a 1938 (?) staff car, has been uploaded to Youtube and shows its engine being fired up for the first time in a number of years.

Other references to 8s on OCC.

The Austin 8 in its various forms can be found across this site, below are links to some of these items.
A former owner tells of his Austin 8 van
Austin 8 parts ads page
News of a preserved 8 on the forum
And another one on the forum, from 1939
Original photos of the tourer version
Staff car serving with the Portuguese Army
A different staff car spotted in Corfu
More old car pictures like this can be seen in the vintage car photograph section.

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