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Homepage. This page: A classic 1950's home-built 'special', the Austin 7-based Hamblin Cadet.

Hamblin Cadet.

The following three photographs of a sporty Hamblin Cadet were kindly provided by Guy, a user of the site's forum, and were taken by his brother Frank. Guy's brother took the photos in the 1960s, he owned the car and passed his driving test in it. The car was later sold to friends of theirs. A couple of years passed by and Guy was lucky enough to be able to buy the Austin 7-based special back again, for the sum of 5. He then taught himself the basics of driving in the attractive little special.
Firstly, a side view of the Hamblin Cadet, clearly revealing the car's sporting low-slung driving position, a million miles away from how the source Austin 7 originally looked. From this angle only the distinctive Austin 7 three-stud wheels give the game away, otherwise it could easily have passed for a low-volume production sports car. Side-exiting exhausts were de rigueur requirements for most budding special builders in the 1950s, with cycle wings adding to the rakish look. Unusually, this Cadet doesn't appear to be fitted with a screen of any kind, so goggles or spectacles would have been essential wear for driver and passenger alike.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
Side view of the Hamblin Cadet
Photograph number two reveals the car's interior, from a high-up viewpoint to the rear of the car. A fine array of gauges keep the driver informed of progress and the engine's condition, with a large revolution counter positioned below the dash, requiring a passenger to have particularly short legs. A remote gearshift can just be made out, beneath the dash.
Companies such as Super Accessories, who incidentally were one of several firms who could supply a special builder with the Cadet bodyshell, did great business throughout the '50s and '60s, providing components to aid the build of classic specials just like this. The previous link features the Cadet bodyshell in one of the Super Accessories brochures of the period. Of all the different fibreglass bodyshells offered to builders of specials, using either Ford 1172 or Austin 7 running gear, the Hamblin shells were some of the best finished and most robust, although they'd still require a great deal of work to install them on a suitable chassis.
The chequer tape, applied to all four mudguards, again is a classic addition that so many home-built and modified cars sported in those days.
The Cadet's dashboard
The last of Guy's photos reveals the engine lurking beneath the car's bonnet. The engine will look familiar to anyone with an Austin 7, whether it be a box saloon, later Ruby, or a special. Specials required much lower radiators than were usually used with the Austin's sidevalve engine, and cooling could be an issue on sunny days if the radiator wasn't in perfect condition, and the core clear of crud and flies. The take-off from the manifold, originally used to either power a vacuum windscreen wiper or connect to a vacuum gauge, has been sealed off.
Austin 7 engine
The Cadet bodyshell was put on sale in 1958 by S.E. Hamblin Ltd, latest in a line of sporty bodies produced for affordable chassis in the 1950s. Versions were offered to suit both vintage (short) Austin 7 chassis, and also the longer types originally found under the Ruby saloon of the early/mid-1930s. Some bodyshells also found their way on to Morris 8 chassis, which of course benefited from hydraulic brakes. In 1960 the shell was modified slightly to incorporate integrated rear wings, and was known as the Mk2. A larger version of the body would go on to be used on the Super Accessories "Super Two" Austin-based special, and the Ford Pop-based "Super Three".
As a fan of old specials and owning an Austin 7-based car myself, having also owned examples of Ashley and Nickri, plus a curious 100E-powered spaceframe contraption in the past, I'm really grateful to Guy for allowing me to reproduce his photos here.
Return to Page 15 in the gallery of vintage cars and vehicles.

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