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Homepage. This page: Period photo of an A40 Somerset convertible and other British classics in 1950s' London.

Austin A40 Somerset convertible in 1954.

Included in a batch of photos from 1954 was this great photo, which features to the right the curvy shape of an Austin A40 Somerset, in rare two-door convertible form. All the photos in this set were taken on a September afternoon in 1954, during what seems to have been a survey of traffic and parking problems in the streets of London. In fact not only is the date of this photo known - 7th September 1954 - but also the time - 3.35pm - and even the exact location, Duke Street in St James's, looking North from King Street. A moment in time, one Tuesday afternoon in 1954, recorded on film forever. And star of the photo - one Austin A40 Convertible.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
A40 Somerset convertible in London, September 1954
Evidently in the early 1950s there were few if any permanent parking restrictions on Duke Street. A note on the rear of the photograph comments on the errant chap in the Commer van (reg. HYN 368) to the left of shot, who had chosen to park close to a No Waiting sign. A Humber further up the street has chosen to do the same thing, as has a Bedford CA van. The righthand side of the road is packed with classics, including the Austin convertible. Behind the A40 is a Hillman, and a line of other no doubt interesting cars parked nose-to-tail in this crowded London scene. A look at more recent photographs of the same location show double yellow lines painted along this road, possibly as a result of this survey.
A40 Convertible brochure scan

A closer look at this A40 Convertible.

The A40 Somerset convertible was registered HB 7554, and was a long way from home as HB was a Welsh series issued in the Merthyr Tydfil area. Unlike the Somerset saloons, the convertible was a two-door model although it employed the same running gear under its portly bodyshell - namely BMC's 1200cc unit first seen in the A40 Devon of 1947. Whereas the A40 Sports had a little more get-up-and-go thanks to the fitment of twin SU carburettors, the Somerset convertible had to make do with the single Zenith as fitted to Somerset saloons. A column change gearshift was standard fitment, as were semaphore indicators and hydraulic brakes to all four corners. I remember my Somerset saloon was no fan of high speed cornering, the suspension damping being soft to say the least. The performance from the 1.2 litre inline four was less than earth-shattering too, so trafficlight Grand Prix were best left to the hooligans in souped-up Pops and specials, rather than respectable motorists in their Dependable Austins. The convertible version was designed with leisurely countryside jaunts, and trips to the beach on a sunny day, rather than flat-out drives to St Tropez in mind.
A closer look at this particular A40, one of 7,243 convertibles built, can be seen by clicking here.
Recent photos of A40 Convertibles at various classic car shows, can be seen on this page and also here.
Return to Page 13 in the classic & vintage car photo gallery.

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