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Homepage. This page: A Shire Publications book on the baby Austin.

The Austin Seven.

Shire Classics

Jonathan Wood.
Shire Publications.
ISBN 0 7478 0416 8
Reprinted 2008.
Book cover

UK RRP 4.99

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Re-printed in 2008, this book by Jonathan Wood was first published in 1999 and has seen a number of reprints, the latest employing the new look seen on many of the Shire Library books.
The Austin Seven name appeared on many post-war cars of course, namely the A30 and the first Minis, but this book concentrates on the original, pre-war, Austin 7s. In it's 32 pages, the book takes the reader from the very beginnings of the Austin 7 story, when design work began on a small car to save the Austin company from financial meltdown. In 1921, the firm was suffering. The only car in production at that time was the large and expensive Twenty model, a model completely unsuitable for the depressed economic climate that it was thrust into. The situation wasn't helped by the introduction, in January 1921, of the Horse-Power tax, a tax based on the diameter of the car's engine cylinder bores, an idea dreamt up by the RAC. What Austin needed, and needed desperately, was a car that suffered least at the hand of this new taxation initiative, and would sell during these difficult economic years.
Jonathan Wood continues to describe how the Austin designers considered a number of options, including the building of a 6hp cycle-car, and finally the decision to make what would become the first Austin 7 of 1922.
Chapter two looks at "The Vintage Years", leading the reader through the early evolution of the car from it's beginnings as a two-door tourer, propelled by a four cylinder engine of just 696cc (soon uprated to 747cc), the all-important RAC rating coming in at 7.2HP, hence the car's name. The transmission was a three-speed floor change unit, connected to the rear axle via a propshaft and torque tube, driving spoked wheels. The tourer, or "Chummy" as it was often referred to, continued to fly the baby Austin flag alone until 1926, the year that the saloon version of the 7 appeared. The remainder of the chapter discusses the different variations of open and closed car that were developed, to try and satisfy the healthy demand that had developed for this affordable motorcar.
Demand continued to be strong, but the competition were hot on the heels of Austin, not least Morris with their equally diminutive Minor model, and soon Ford with their 8hp Model Y, so the Seven would receive continuous updates throughout it's production life. These regular updates maintained the car's popularity throughout the 1930s, with saloon, tourers and even a useful van on offer, all of which are illustrated with period photographs in this handily-sized book.
Visually a major change occurred in 1934 with the introduction of the Ruby. Gone was the Seven's chrome plated radiator, replaced with a body-colour radiator shell at the front, and a bodyshell revamped from stem to stern. By 1936 the basic model was 14 years old, but the designers at Longbridge weren't to be found sitting on their laurels, introducing what would become known as the New Ruby in that year, incorporating improvements to the engine and various tweaks to the coachwork. In 1938 a larger, "Big Seven" model introduced the public to a Seven with four doors, but it wasn't a huge success, and it would only be a matter of months before Austin 7 production ceased altogether, in 1939.
With the saloons and open-top derivatives introduced, Mr Wood moves on to look at the Austin 7's competitive successes. The combination of a lightweight chassis and tuneable engine meant the special builder could work wonders with the Austin's basic specification. Tuned cars, stripped of all unnecessary parts, became frequent sights at both well-attended meetings at Brooklands, through to hillclimbs and local motor-club autotests, enabling even those on a modest budget to compete with their cars. Again, several contemporary images are used to illustrate the various types of cars that were built, the ultimate perhaps being the factory twin-cam racers which really came good in 1937.
For anyone wishing to gen-up on the evolution of the Seven, this book is a good place to start, and with it's modest purchase price is a perfect addition to the bookshelf, even to those who are not planning to own their own baby Austin. If the reader wishes to delve deeper into the world of Austin 7s, there are many, more expensive, books around to move on to.
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