Cohort Outtake: Austin America – What This Country Doesn’t Need Is Just Another Small British Car

Austin America

This is the first Austin America I’ve ever seen posted at the Cohort. I’ve long hoped to find one, but they’ve become unicorns. The America was a very failed attempt by BMC to reposition the ADO16 in the US, as it had been only sold as the sportier and more expensive MG1100/1300. That just wasn’t working, so the Austin 1100 got a new name with which to do battle against the VW, Opel Kadett and the Toyota Corolla. And BMC’s unusual automatic transmission was thrown in the mix. Well, you know where this is going, even if you’ve never heard of an Austin America.

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The task set for the America was…impossible. In 1968, the small import car market was red hot, as was the competition. The VW Beetle was still at the height of its powers, selling over 400k units annually. The Opel Kadett was still number two, but would be pushed out of that by the Corolla, in only its second year on the market. All of these cars had been around for some time, and most of all, were built with simple, proven and rugged technology. And here comes the Austin with its FWD, Hydrolastic suspension, and the unusual AP four-speed automatic which shared its oil with the engine.

Needless to say, the America was not up to American standards of use and abuse, and quickly developed a very bad rep. The fact that the dealer network was sketchy only compounded its problems. By 1972, it was gone. As are almost all of them, except this one, of course, shot and posted by John Lloyd. And it was even for sale, at a pretty lofty price. But someone out there must have been pining for one; all it takes is just one.



Jeff Nelson’s colorful take on the Austin America

Roger Carr pays his respect to Issigoni’s and BMC’s Greatest hit: AD016