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Buying an A30 or A35 |
The launch of the A30 also heralded the arrival of the legendary A series power unit, in its earliest 803cc incarnation. This engine went on to be used in many different Austin, Morris and BMC products as the 1950s and 1960s rolled on, with its use continuing (in much modified form) in the last of the proper Minis at the end of the 1990s. Unlike the Morris Minor, Austin persisted with worm and nut steering whereas the Minor offered precise rack and pinion steering. Initially the new car was offered as a 4 door, with the 2 door bodyshell following in 1953.
Some of the rarest versions are the vans and pickups, the latter only being offered in 1956 and 1957 and not a big seller. The van, and similar Countryman, continued in production long after the saloons were withdrawn. 948cc engines were still in use til 1962, when the 1098cc version hit the showrooms and the Countryman model was dropped.
Alongside the 1098 van was a smaller engined version, launched in 1964, utilising the same basic engine as the 848cc Mini but with a lower ratio final drive than the 1098 van. Production of all A35s finally came to an end in February 1968, some 9 years after the saloon had disappeared from production. In total 222,823 A30s (inc early AS3 types) were built, with 353,849 of the later A35 being produced.
With so many produced, it isn't surprising that there are still plenty to choose from, although finding a good one is getting less easy as the years roll by. There are many A30s and A35s teetering on the edge of survival, either due to indifferent maintenance in later life, or perhaps being laid to waste by dealers who buy old cars just to sell their number plates on.
Of the surviving A30s, most commonly found are the 2 door A2S4 and the 4 door AS4 types, the 1952-53 AS3 types being much thinner on the ground. A circular central speedo and fuel filler on the drivers side rear being the first giveaway that an AS3 has been located. Most A35s are 2 door examples (A2S5) with the 4 door version (AS5) being much scarcer. Good vans and Countrymans are hard to find, many vans had side windows cut into them years ago, so don't confuse a hacked-about van with the rare Countryman. Pickups only ever numbered in the low hundreds when new, so being choosy isn't necessarily an option if you really want one.
If you plan to drive your baby Austin on a regular basis, a car fitted with the 948cc is probably a better bet than the early 803 in the A30. Many A30s have had their old engines replaced with later, larger capacity, units, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing unless total originality is your aim. The parts supply for the 948cc engine is also healthier, so if you plan to do big mileage this is definitely a consideration. The standard A30 gearbox utilises a long wand-like lever, whereas the A35 has a much more precise remote change and slightly more usable ratios. The mechanical parts supply therefore for these small cars is unusually healthy, with only some 803cc-specific parts being thin on the ground. With so many cars using the A series engine for so long, it has ensured a continued supply of all the usual service items at very reasonable prices.
One expense that you will want to avoid is replacing the brake master cylinder. This bolts to the underside of the floor, and suffers from the effects of being outside and splattered by the front road wheels. Replacement master cylinders can cost well over a hundred quid, maybe more (it was a few years ago that I last looked into this, for er indoors' 1955 A30). Secondhand cylinders can be re-sleeved professionally, but this won't be a 2 bob job either.
Suspension front and rear is nothing exciting, and can last for many years *so long as the front kingpins and various grease points are regularly attended to*. The back end by comparison is very straightforward, with half elliptic springs and lever arm dampers keeping the solid rear axle in check.
The key area to scrutinise with real care is the bodywork. A terminally rotten A30/A35 is only worth what it weighs (to the scrapman) sadly, as effecting a proper reconstruction of the cars monocoque structure can be a laborious job. Not impossible by any means, but probably best left to the die-hard welding enthusiast. Key rot spots to check over include the rear spring hangers (as on so many BMC-era cars), the sills, front wings and the front panel beneath the grille. Bolt on panels are less of a worry, with secondhand replacements still out there if you're willing to search for them, although this should be factored into the price of a project car. Doors for the 4 door examples are less easy to find than the 2 door equivalent. Trim, especially for early A30s, will take some finding too. Some trimming materials however can be sourced new and used to re-cover seats and replace the headlining.
Good usable A30s or A35s can be found from £1000 upwards, with the nicest being priced somewhere over £2000 or so. Scruffy but MOTd cars can still be found under the
These cute little Austins can be found in all the classic car magazines, but for more chance of finding a bargain (or parts) then the web is an excellent place to go looking. There are several pages on oldclassiccar where people can advertise parts wanted or for sale (eg A30 Parts), and project cars do turn up in there from time to time. Most seasoned internet users will have come across eBay already - Austins regularly turn up on there, often at very low starting bids, and in a myriad of conditions. Caution is key here, and it has to be recommended that a prospective purchase be viewed in the metal (rust?) before a bid is made.
If running a standard A35 is a little too slow for your tastes, then have a look at how people used to make their Austins fly in the 1950s, with period tuning goodies from companies such as Speedwell and Nordec - read more on tuning engines 'old style' here! And if you like to look at 'baby' Austins all day, you can download the free A30/A35 screensaver. The story of a one-owner 1959 A35 van discovered in a wooden garage, can be viewed here.
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