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Homepage. This page: Another dusty and slightly rusty Austin 'barn find', a 1938 Cambridge.

Pre-war Austin 10 Cambridge saloon.

Although this pre-war Austin didn't strictly come out of a barn, it had been stored away for nearly 40 years in an old garage, so almost qualifies as a "barn find" in my book. Unlike the A35 van, and the Austin 7 special, I didn't get to see where this 10hp Austin car had lain for all those years, as it had been moved out of the garage a fortnight or so earlier. The family who owned it were in the process of sorting out a relative's estate, and they'd had the Austin transported to their house during that time for safe keeping.
As I'm keen on pre-war Austins anyway, and already own a slightly earlier 10/4 Cabriolet, I got in touch with the grand-daughter of the lady who bought it new in 1938, to ask for some photos of the car to be sent over. They arrived in very short time, and the car looked to be in reasonable condition given its age. It has never been restored, it was simply laid-up in the early 1970s and left in an old domestic garage. There was evidence of rust along the lower edges (wings and doors mainly), and the paintwork had suffered considerably over the years. The headlining had gone, and the carpets were no longer in place. Evidently, a combination of damp, and the attentions of various rodents over the years, had had their effect. Notwithstanding, we agreed on a price based on these photographs, and arrangements were made to go and collect this interesting old Austin.
Even after so many years, these old cars still seem to be tucked away in garages, waiting to be revived.
The Austin 10 Cambridge as found

The history of this 1938 Austin.

The car had been bought new by the owner's Grandmother from Croft & Blackburn Limited, of Ripon in Yorkshire (hence the CWU registration). The Austin 10 Cambridge had replaced a string of other motor-cars, an original insurance document for The Ocean Accident & Guarantee Corporation Limited lists these vehicles as they came and went. Firstly there was a 1934 Ford 8hp saloon (value 120, registration YG 7251), then a 10hp Hillman Minx of 1935 (reg. AWR 499), then a 1936 Austin 10 Sherbourne Saloon (AWY 478), followed, in 1938, by this Austin 10, valued at 195. The document also shows that the Cambridge was transferred to laid-up cover during the war, in 1942, at which time the owner was a nurse and living near Harrogate.
In addition to these insurance documents, the car also came with a compliments slip from Croft & Blackburn Ltd - matching a small enamel supplier's badge screwed to the passenger door trim in the car - and also a standard letter from the Austin Motor Company Limited, describing the after-sales service that Austin provided to buyers of their cars. Hopefully other items of paperwork will turn up in due course.
Original paperwork that came with the Austin
Seeing the Austin in the metal confirmed that the photographs had summed up the car's condition pretty well. The rear wings have some holes in them, as do the front ones in places. But overall, it isn't in bad condition really, although the engine appears to be seized solid. Interestingly, the car's speedo reads just 2,503 miles. Initially we'd all thought that this was the car's actual mileage, but now I'm less sure. The remains of a label attached to the inside of the Austin's windscreen, suggests that Croft & Blackburn re-conditioned the engine at some point. I suspect that they reset the car's mileage at the same time, a common occurrence. Despite the engine seeming to be of very low mileage, it looks like it'll have to come apart in order to free it off at the very least. I've poured a mix of diesel and paraffin down each spark plug hole, to lubricate the rings and valves a little, but I suspect it won't be enough to get the engine turning again. Until then I'll probably not know if the clutch is also stuck, but I wouldn't be surprised!
With the Austin securely loaded on the trailer, it was time to head for home. In the drive opposite sat a very tidy 1960's Morris Minor, and just around the corner, I came across a tidy Morris Oxford (Farina type), so a photo of these two distant cousins seemed like a good idea.
The 1938 Austin 10 on the trailer, parked near an old Morris saloon car

The Austin arrives home.

The drive home passed uneventfully, despite the conditions on the motorway being atrocious at times thanks to heavy rain, and standing water. It didn't take long for a little man with short legs to run over and inspect dad's latest acquisition!
The pre-war Austin car arrives home at last
Despite the headlining having been removed, and the carpets consigned to the bin, the interior is probably the Austin's best feature. The seats show very little wear, and the door trims will clean up plenty well enough to be left in place. The dash is rusty, but a lick of fresh paint would soon bring that up looking ok, and the dials and switchgear all seem to be present and correct. Unfortunately someone has damaged the mechanism for the opening screen, so that'll need looking at one day, but otherwise things appear to be ok in that department. As mentioned, the original supplier's badge is still affixed to the nearside door trim.
The Austin's interior - seats and dashboard

The Austin's paintwork gets the oily rag treatment.

The paintwork is definitely the original, as applied at the Longbridge Works in 1938. Damp conditions have led to surface corrosion to much of the surface, but I think it'd be nice to preserve what remains of the original 70+ year old paint, rather than replace is with shiny new 2010 paint. I think the best plan is to keep as much of the car as original as possible, and just do the essential repairs to the bodywork and the mechanical side as is required. The faded original numberplates look just right on a car of this age, and there seems no reason to replace them with brand new replacements.
Photos showing the car's paint and bodywork in more detail
In a bid to slow down further corrosion, the old trick of wiping it over with an oil rag came into play. Not only does it spruce-up the car's appearance a little (to my eyes anyway, erindoors is less sure!), it'll help ward off moisture both in the garage here, and once it is back on the road at a future time.
The car is wiped over with an oily rag
Update, with other vehicles to fix up including a large truck I reluctantly sold this great little Austin, hopefully it'll be restored to roadworthiness. An old b/w photo of a car very similar to this one can now be found on this page of the vintage photo gallery.
Click here to see some of the other old motors I've had since 1985.

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