By the late 50s the cuddly A35 saloon was getting quite long in the tooth (ie old), and BMC were keen to get a replacement to market. Despite the Mini being readied for production, Austin decided that a replacement for the A35 was still required. Rather than employing in-house stylists to draw up this new car, they knocked on Pininfarina's door and engaged him to design their next small car. The result, after BMC had fettled the design somewhat, was the A40 Farina, first seen on Britain's roads in 1958. The styling was pin-sharp and modern. Beneath the snazzy new exterior beat the heart of the A35 though, as the older car's inline 948cc engine was pressed into service, along with the rest of the running gear including the A35's the hydra-mechanical braking setup. So no great shakes beneath the skin then, but at least the A40 looked ready to take the fight to Ford's rakish 105E. The A35 was soon pensioned off, apart from the light commercial version which soldiered on into the late 60s.
Earlier A40s were available as saloons, vans and estates, but all A40 Farinas were available in 2dr form only (bar a few export vans that were also put together). A couple of years into production Austin introduced the Mk1 A40 Countryman, which from the side looked identical, but at the rear now sported a lift up rear window, giving much better accessibility to the A40's roomy interior (aided by the fold down rear seat back which featured from the start). All Mk1s were powered by the 948cc engine, fed by a Zenith carburettor. A four speed gearbox took the drive to the rear wheels, with lever arm dampers employed all round.
In 1962 the Mk2 A40 Farina was introduced. A revised front grille arrangement was employed, and the interior revamped somewhat. Power in early Mk2s was still courtesy of 948 cubic centimetres. A closer look at the side of a Mk2 A40 will show a marked difference when compared to the outgoing Mk1 - despite the overall bodyshell being the same length, the rear axle line was moved rearward to improve rear passenger space. These tweaks to the shell mean that some bodypanels (wings primarily) found on the Mk1 won't fit a Mk2, and vice-versa. A few months into production and the Mk2 would benefit from the increased oomph of the 1098cc A Series engine, as found in the Minor of the day. Again a Countryman version was offered.
No commercial variants of the A40 Farina were sold to UK buyers, although a small number of panel vans were sold abroad. A40s were also assembled overseas, by companies such as Innocenti of Italy. The A40 Farina was known as the Futura in both Norway and Sweden.
2. Another Mk1 A40, this time at the BMC plant in Cowley.
This next photo came in a batch of large-scale prints taken at the BMC/Nuffield plant at Cowley. I'm assuming that there was a post-sale rectification, or service, building on this site, as these photos feature various marques and ages of car from the BMC stable. The photograph shown below demonstrates a Mk1 Austin A40 Farina undergoing a test of its weather sealing abilities. The car isn't a new example, as it sports both a motor club and AA badge on the grille. I also think that it has a sidelight cum indicator lens from a later Mk2 fitted to the offside front, as they are slightly less pronounced than those originally fitted to Mk1s (or it could just be the angle of the photo). XGW 310 was registered in 1959. Earlier, 1958-build, A40s feature a "flying A" incorporated within the centre bonnet strip, a feature deleted on later Mk1s.
Another BMC product - maybe an A95? looks to be receiving a similar test in the background. More contemporary photographs, also believed to have been taken at this location, can be found on the BMC page.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
3. Sat on the bonnet of an Austin A40.
Hopefully these young equine enthusiasts didn't leave a lasting impression on the next Mk1 A40 Farina's bonnet. Neither youngster looks particularly excited at the prospect of riding their horse, although no doubt their packets of crisps were received with open arms. A third youth in the background appears to be fascinated by the neighbouring Minx's quarterlight window, while a chap in the distance can be seen sat in his drop-head tourer.
A badge on the A40's wavy grille is evidence of its owner being a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Note the reflection of the A40 in the Hillman's chrome hub cap.
4. A 1959 Mk1 in Canada.
Greg kindly emailed over some family photos, and included amongst them was this photo of his parents' brand new 1959 A40 Farina. The Austin was finished in Farina Grey, with a contrasting black roof - a common colour scheme. My own A40 is also finished in Farina Grey, although in my car's case it was specially ordered with a matching grey roof. Interestingly, on the Mk1 A40 the dashboard was painted in Farina Grey regardless of the outside body colour. Shown alongside the A40 is Greg sat in a home-made push-along car. Inset is a photo of his Dachshund called "Heinie" who wanted to be part of the action!
5. A Mk1 Deluxe parked en France.
Thanks to David and Philip for the following colour snapshot, of both brothers and the family's Ocean Blue A40 Mk1 parked outside a hotel in Brittany, France, circa 1960. The journey to France was undertaken on board a Silver City Bristol Freighter (photos of various vehicles loaded into Silver City aircraft may be found on this page of Old Classic Car). Alas there are no photographs of this A40 on board the aircraft.
The Mk1 has its headlamp lenses painted yellow, as per local regulations, and has aftermarket wing mirrors, spotlamp and a radio aerial fitted, plus a useful roof rack. Being a Deluxe, it also has bumper overriders and opening rear side windows as standard. It makes a pleasant change seeing a colour photo from the 1960s, instead of the usual black and white variety.
6. Side view of an A40 Mk1 Deluxe.
Other than being printed on Ilford paper, no information on the following photo, the car, or the people shown with it is recorded here. The A40 is a Mk1 Deluxe version, evidenced by the presence of bumper overriders and opening rear side windows. My hunch is that the main body is in Farina Grey, with a black roof, a popular colour combination for Mk1s. The pull-down passenger door window is partially open - buyers would have to wait for the introduction of the Mk2 before they'd get the luxury of wind-up ("keep fit") windows, Mk1 owners having to make do with basic pull-down affairs, a la A30 and A35 before them.
7. A well-travelled Farina Grey & Black example.
Thanks to Rob now for the following photo, taken in 1962. In it, Rob's dad is stood with his grey and black A40, holding a fine BP sign that he acquired after visiting the Le Mans 24-Hour race that year - Rob still has the sign. On the same trip his dad also took in the French Grand Prix (at Rouen-Les-Essarts) on the 8th July 1962, and also the Reims Grand Prix, held the previous weekend (1st July). Clearly a well-travelled Austin! Various passes are still visible, stuck inside the A40's windscreen. The remnants of the yellow paint that was necessary to paint on a car's headlamps before travelling to France are also evident.
Just as on my own example, this A40 has a centrally-mounted AA badge, and a spotlight mounted on the passenger side of the grille. It's also in
Farina Grey, albeit with a black roof whereas mine is grey all over. I've long wondered just how shiny cars painted in this colour were, back in the day. All
the original photos I have of mine don't tend to show much of a shine, but clearly they did. "937 KKX" no longer shows on DVLA, so as is the case with the overwhelming
majority of the 169,612 Mk1s built between 1958 and 1961, it was likely scrapped many years ago. The KKX registration series came into being in October 1959. I doubt that the Minx in the background survives either. Thanks to Rob for the photograph.
A buyers guide for the A40 can be found here, and details of period tuning parts for A40s can be seen on the Speedwell A40 page in the tuning section. A page describing the BMC accessories available at Austin dealers in 1960, can be found here.
More original Mk1 A40 photos ... and a video.
My own Farina Grey Mk1 has been in our family since new (1960), a page describing it and the old photos and paperwork that survive for it, can be found on my A40 page. I also put together a short video about our car, which can be seen below.
Old Classic Car (C) R. Jones 2023. Content not to be reproduced elsewhere.