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Homepage. This page: The history of this one-family-owned Austin A40 Farina since 1960.

Mk1 Austin A40 Farina.

Registration 820 FTT.

My A40, a Mk1 in all-over Farina grey, was purchased new by my (late) Great Aunt and Great Uncle, in the summer of 1960, and has been in continual family ownership ever since. It now resides in my lean-to-cum-shed, awaiting restoration, and has done for many years while I've accumulated a suitable stash of new and used replacement parts that will eventually be required.
My Farina-Grey Mk1 Austin A40 in the 1960s
My Great Aunt, with the Austin A40, in the early 1960s.
The earliest recollections I have of the A40, are on holidays to Devon where we'd visit the Austin's owners, who lived in Exmouth. I remember one particular occasion, where mum and I were collected from the railway station in the A40. We sat in the back, while my Uncle drove, and his wife sat alongside, operating the indicator switch for him at key moments of the trip. The act of driving was definitely a two-person operation in their world. Mini-roundabouts were typically crossed rather than circled. The Austin was never put away wet in its brick garage, and wasn't replaced by the Mk2 variant when launched as Uncle preferred the earlier model's styling, with its more impressively-proportioned grille and larger chrome headlamp surrounds. I'm particularly thankful about this, as I'm less keen on the later A40's styling, although arguably the Mk1 Countryman, with its lift-up rear hatch and window, would have been a more practical proposition than the saloon he opted for.
I'm led to believe that, as standard, Farina Grey A40s were delivered with a contrasting, black, roof. To have the roof finished in the main body colour, was an option offered by BMC dealers back in the day. Certainly, most Mark 1 A40s I've seen have the two colour combination.

The new A40 will shortly be ready for delivery, July 1960.

Back to the beginning now. The A40 was ordered new from P. Pike & Co. Ltd. of Alphington Street, in Exeter. A letter from the dealership, dated 29th July 1960, advises that the A40 De Luxe Saloon has arrived from the Longbridge factory, and is being prepared for sale. A job card, dated four days earlier (25th July), specifies that 820 FTT is to be fitted with "Too (sic) Wing Mirrors".
A second letter sent by Pike's in Exeter, dated 12th August 1960, accompanied the warranty documentation and follows on from the actual delivery of the car to their home in Exmouth. The buyer is reminded that after the first 500 miles of use, the car should be returned for a F.O.C. after-sales service, where only the oils used would be charged for. Curiously, the Castrol Lubrication Service log book, issued by Pike's and complete with the A40's details in the inside of the cover, only records two lubrication services - on 29th July (pre-delivery), and on the 8th October, 1960. My Uncle was a fastidious chap, which is why he kept all these papers, so presumably future services were recorded in other documentation, now lost.
Pikes of Exeter letters
The Austin warranty is shown below. The actual date of purchase is recorded as 9th August, 1960.
Austin/BMC car warranty certificate

The A40's early life.

The A40 was used for local commutes, and trips around the country, from the outset. The photograph shown at the top of the page, and the one reproduced below, were both taken at a caravan park, in Croyde (North Devon). By this point in time, a few personal touches had made an appearance. The AA badge and single Lucas Fogranger lamp remain with the car to this day. The stick-on rear window demister, and the natty leopard-skin-print steering wheel glove, have long gone, as has the single Lucas reversing lamp. The two wing mirrors referred to on the pre-delivery job card, can be seen. Both mirrors are with the car, although one was snapped off by a yobbo during the time that the A40 was my daily-driver. Maybe someone can i.d. the caravan they were staying in?
Mk1 A40 Farina - rear view
A second photo of the Austin at a North Devon caravan park, in the 1960s.
Servicing work on the Austin was undertaken at The Pioneer Garage, Victoria Way, in Exmouth. A receipt for work done in August 1963 confirms this, as do a couple of MOT certificates dating to 1968 and 1969.
Pioneer Garage work, Exmouth, 1960s

More early photos turn up (2017).

Austin Logbook and Diary 1961
In September 2017, I had cause to move the non-running A40 from its long-term store and put it into space freed-up in my garage (photos of the move have been added further down).
While sorting through some of the odds and ends inside the car, I re-discovered an old box file. In it were old maps and other items relating to the A40, some of which I'd acquired while the car was my daily-driver (see below), others that turned up when my Gt Aunt and Uncle's house was cleared many years ago. Amongst these items was an envelope, and within it a number of b&w photos of the A40 - along with negatives - were found. While I recall all the other things in this box file, I've no recollection of these great photos.
Why I didn't put them with the other original items of paperwork I have, I've no idea. The "Austin Log Book and Diary" for 1961 that was handed over on delivery of the A40, was also in this box.
All the "new" photos are black and white, and each shows a member of our family with the trusty Austin. To say I was surprised and very happy to (re)discover these photos would be a real understatement.
The first shows my Great Uncle sat behind the wheel of the A40. This was his first car; prior to moving to Devon he'd always worked in London, so used the rail system for commuting rather than opting to buy a car. The clean paint under the car's wheelarches suggest that not too many miles had passed under the Austin's wheels before this photo was taken.
New Austin A40 Mk1
My Great Aunt appears in all of the following photos, posed with the A40 in various locations. This photo was taken very early in their ownership of the A40, as the Lucas Fogranger lamp - which can be seen in all the other front views I have of the Austin - has yet to be fitted.
Front view
The Fogranger can clearly be seen in the following photo, I still have it and the AA badge. Like the others, this is printed on Kodak Velox paper. All the years that the A40 spent in Exmouth, it lived in a brick garage and was always leathered-down prior to being put away, if inclement weather had been encountered.
Front view
A countryside location is the scene for the following snapshot. My Gt Aunt is wearing the same outfit as in the street photo shown already, but the extra foglamp was fitted by this point in time.
Austin A40 in the countryside
Photo number five is a side view of the 948cc Austin. My Gt Aunt is stood to the right, joined here by a couple of her friends. The reflection of my Gt Uncle can just be seen, in the front hubcap.
Side view

Driving lessons commence in the A40, 1987.

The Austin remained in their ownership throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and most of the 1980s, until the time came when my Uncle had to give up driving. At the time I was learning to drive in mum's all-steel Mini estate (GVU 146E), a nippy (mildly modified) car that was a hoot to drive but was a bit rusty in places. The A40 became available, so it took over from the Mini as our family's #2 car in October 1987 - much to mum's displeasure, as she didn't rate driving the A40 all that much, after the responsiveness of the Mini. I switched over to home lessons in the A40, shortly before taking (and passing) my test behind its large, spindly steering wheel. This occurred on the 22nd December 1987, the photograph below dates to November of that year. Dad's Saab Turbo can also be seen, as can the rapidly dissolving Morris Marina 2 that belonged to the neighbours over the road.
Eagle-eyed Austin fans might spot the non-standard front seats that had been fitted. In a bid to make driver comfort a little more agreeable, the original seats were removed and replaced by a pair of luxurious (leather!) armchairs, removed from a Volvo 264GLE found mouldering in a scrapyard. They definitely improved the comfort, if not the looks, and a few years later the original blue seats were re-instated. The December 1987 tax disc in the windscreen is sat in my file now, with a selection of other discs.
Used for driving lessons in 1987
Myself at the wheel, November 1987.

Into daily use.

Over the years, the car had received a little attention to the cosmetics, to keep it looking presentable. Prior to leaving Exmouth, a pair of new sills were fitted and a few local areas of paintwork around the front were attended to. At the time, the majority of paint was still that originally applied by the Austin factory. It tended to fade off quite quickly, and never really polished up well while I had the car on the road. The chrome did look smart though.
With my test out of the way, the A40 went into full-time use. During 1988 and 1989 I used it to commute to school while studying for my 'A' levels, and many's the time that a chalked note on the common-room noticeboard would request that owner of 820 FTT please remove their car from the staff car park, and re-locate it on the road outside. Leaving it outside, sharing road space with all manner of more modern studenty transport (Fiat Unos, Minis, Fiestas, that kind of thing), was a worry, hence I made use of staff facilities whenever I spotted a gap.
The A40 on display at the Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza
On show in the classic car section, Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza, 1990.
Shows, autojumbles, day trips to the seaside, plus the usual daily commutes, were all accomplished with the venerable, ageing, Austin. The cylinder head from dad's old MG 1100 was dusted off, polished up, and pressed into service beneath the A40's bonnet, as was an SU carburettor. Both these mods gave the 948cc engine a useful increase in performance. A switch from crossply to radial tyres improved the handling significantly, although made the steering heavier.
My A40 Farina at an old-style Shell garage
Parked at a 1950s-style garage on the A34 near Stafford, 1992.
The photograph above was taken on 23rd November, 1992. Just outside Stafford (I went to the Polytechnic there), heading north on the A34, there was this old-style garage, run by a gent who'd been there for decades (he remember topping up a Tiger Moth that landed in the field opposite). The old-style pumps, with their illuminated Shell globes, were not just present but still in use. The opportunity to take a few photographs of the A40 in such a period setting, wasn't one to miss out on. Later I called in and bought a neat Shell sign from him, that hangs in my garage now.
Over time, the fact that the Austin lived outside, was used in all weathers, and had received cosmetic work not necessarily of the highest quality, gradually led to the bodywork starting to show its age in places. For its 30+ years it was holding up quite well, but odd repairs were beginning to be needed. The main problem areas - then as now - were the front wings. While the areas around both headlights were, and still are, unusually good (thanks to lots of Waxoyl being chucked around under there), I regularly had to attend to creeping tinworm below the side strips on both wings. The upper and lower halves of the wing are joined here, and mud tends to gather on the ledge behind the strip, with inevitable results. There's also a spot behind each front wheel, a couple of inches below the strip, that also collects road dirt and rots from the inside out (see my A40 Buyer's Guide for the full story). Temporary repairs were made over time, but there was no stopping the gradual deterioration in these and other localised areas.

Mid-1990s and retirement beckons.

I continued using the car throughout the early 1990s, alongside my Spitfire. In late 1993 I retired the A40 from front-line duties, replacing it and the Spit with a Volvo 121. After a 12-month rest, the Austin returned to use once more, and continued to serve reliably just as it had before. Rust was beginning to creep back at the lower edges of the front wings, behind the front wheels, in addition to beneath the side strips, and the front section beneath the grille was - and had been for some time - getting quite frilly. In about 1995 or 1996, I took it off the road again and it's not been out on the road since.
1960s-style servicing scene
Car servicing, 1960s-style.
House purchases and other old vehicles, have taken up lots of time and swallowed money as they tend to do. The A40 was moved into the garage at our first house in 1998. A few repairs were started to the bodywork in 2002, plus I chopped off the lower section of the o/s/f wing to stop the spread of rot to the upper half. Work ceased in 2003 while another housemove was undertaken, the A40 once again came with us and was tucked away with other old vehicles for company.

The hunt for spare parts.

In the years since 1987, I've kept an eye open for useful parts. A rare grille support channel was sourced (although I'd like to track down a better one ideally), but replacement new-old-stock wings proved to be elusive for nearly thirty years. Eventually, in 2014, I found a new passenger side wing. For some reason they're harder to find than for the driver's side (perhaps they rot out quicker due to picking up mud from the roadside). It'll need sandblasting or similar, but at least there's no rot-through. In 2015 a good new BMC wing for the opposite side was also sourced - expensive, but worth it. They join various new chrome parts, new sills, new grille surround, and a new back wing. While I won't necessarily use all these parts, they're handy to have in "just in case". At least mechanical parts aren't too hard to find.
So while the old girl is looking a little forlorn nowadays, hidden away with flat paintwork and shabby front wings, I've gradually been able to source pretty much all the parts that I'd need to have it fixed up again. Other projects demand time and money, but if I can slim down on other distractions then hopefully the A40's day will come again. I feel pretty bad that it's no longer running, but at least it's still around where so many have been scrapped years ago.
Needless to say, if anyone reading this has good spare panels they'd like to find a home for, please get in touch.

A few more random photos.

The date of the next photograph is 12th January 1992. The location is the public parking area at the Newark Autojumble, at one time a fairly regular haunt. As a daily driver, the A40 was often filthy but regular wash-downs, and applications of old oil and Waxoyl, slowed the onset of rust to an extent. I wonder if the E30-series BMW, or the Vitesse, also survive? For some reason I had Mk2 A40 indicator lenses fitted. They were later replaced with the correct Mk1 types.
Parked at the Newark Autojumble
At the Newark Autojumble, January 1992.
Next, the A40 later in 1992, nice and clean, parked alongside an E493A Prefect that a mate of mine owned and used every day - and still owns to this day. The two British classics certainly looked better than the dreary 1980s' Fords that shared the scene, well I think so, but I bet a few people are now preserving Sierras, Fiestas and Granadas, things change so much as the years roll on and once common mundanities gradually become quite scarce (just as the Prefect and A40 did themselves).
The A40 parked next to a Ford Prefect
The A40 plus a pal's Prefect cheer up a Stafford car park, 1992.
The final photograph must have been taken shortly before the Austin was withdrawn from use. It dates to 1996. The location is alongside the preserved AA (Automobile Association) box, number 372, at Mere Crossroads close to Knutsford, on the A556. The rust advancing into the front wings, and lower edges of the rear wings, can be made out in this scanned photo. For 36 years of age, it wasn't doing too badly though.
Parked next to AA Box 372 at Mere in Cheshire
Parked alongside the AA box (no.372), at Mere in Cheshire, 1996.

Engine fettle and garage move in 2017.

Since moving house, the A40 has been stored in a draughty-but-dry lean-to, its chrome parts sprayed with oil from time to time. Chopping out the rot from the outer front wings years ago, halted its advances, and replacement wings mean that I have enough parts now to think about how the car can be restored. In September 2017 I fired up the Fergie tractor and pulled the A40 out from its slumbers, and rolled it into the garage. The clutter was cleared from inside it (mostly parts I've accumulated over the years), and the engine given a quick once-over. It wasn't seized, and an afternoon spent fitting new points and freeing up the carburettor led to it once again being a runner. I need to investigate the stuck clutch, but it was good to hear it run again. It also acted as a reminder that it burns a bit of oil.
The A40 in storage
The grey Fergie in action
Pulled into the daylight
There are patches of surface rust that have appeared while stored, but as for proper rust-through the situation has remained fairly static. The front wings are the main areas needing work. In addition, I think both outer sills would benefit from being replaced (I've new BMC ones to go on). The bottom edge of the bootlid, and the lower edges of both rear wings, will also need pieces of metal welding in. The remainder though is pretty good. I fitted the new front valance and radiator support channel years ago, and bar a little surface rust they're fine.
Return to the my car history page.

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