This is more of a racetrack classic, because I shot it at the Waterford Hills Road Racing course in Michigan. All resplendent in lavender and black, I had only seen the likes of this little sedan in pictures. Immediately, I got to feeling all funny inside; I love BMC classics from the 60s, and just the thought of their little rosette badge makes me want to move to England. With cars like this Austin Cambridge around, I guess I don’t have to.
OK, like I said, the rosette makes me patriotic for a country I have visited only once. A Morris Minor is on my list of 30 cars I probably should own at some point. The Austin Cambridge, however, has never made the list, probably due to a complete lack of availability. But the image of this boxy, finned, apparently Pininfarina-designed road warrior could almost change my mind.
This A55 is apparently in the 1959-61 range. I briefly talked to the owner, but have forgotten the exact year. He drove this tall little sedan out on the track for the Touring Session, and it wallowed around like the Queen Mary, but I was instantly jealous. There’s just nothing more absurd than railing this “Earl Grey on Wheels” through an off-camber turn hard enough to make the tires squeal. My kind of guy. Left hand drive versions have to be almost as rare as a true Bigfoot sighting, and they probably smell better, too.
Even though they seemed to look a little bigger in the illustrated advertisements, I like the styling on these Austins. They’re crisp, kind of American, and certainly unique. Though all time periods have their problems, this car just reeks of optimistic feelings to me. Nobody offers a lavender and black car today; people would think that was pure lunacy! But around 1960…no worries! This model does have a floor shifter and bucket seats, so it’s sporty enough, and my research says it is pushed around by the ubiquitous B-series Austin engine that powered so many MGs of the day, so it’s pretty rugged.
I think the real magic about this car is that you won’t see yourself on every street corner in America, or any street corner for that matter. The fact that this quaint little piece of Mother England is still out prowling the streets is just plain fun. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to find the “shooting brake” version. I’d be blissfully insane for a week.
Despite being somewhat of an Anglophile, my car collection consists of 50s and 60s American classics and oddities. I have a strong suspicion, however, that one of these days, a product that proudly displays the rosette will find its way to my driveway. Until that day, I’ll giggle like an idiot when I observe a strange one in my travels.