Project Austin ‘Special’: Assessment of the Car

In the last installment I purchased the starting point for the Austin ‘Special’ project. This time around we will take a deeper dive into what the starting point looks like. Maybe even fix a few bits and bobs as well.

I have a video of the first time walking around the Austin after getting it home. This video might be better on the mute setting. Please excuse my rambling on as well as some poor audio especially near the front of the car. It gets windy here. As you can see its in generally poor condition with doors that do not latch shut, an interior that was mostly home to mice and an engine devoid of any electrical wires.


The interior was effectively mouse-eaten with little remaining of the seats, door panels or carpet. Interestingly the seats were of wood construction with only the base having a thin steel frame. The dashboard its self is a smart and symmetrical design, suitable for both left and right hand-drive markets.

You can see a bit of the seat construction here.

The headliner had a fair amount of material remaining but was a little gross and would be coming out. A fair amount debris was hiding under the headliner so a mask had to used while in the interior. A thorough clearing is following. So much cleaning and vacuuming of crap out of the car.

Old field cars never seen to come with two things; keys or air filter housings. Oddly the Austin had both. On the key side, what the good luck fairy can give (it came with keys) the bad luck fairy can take away (the cylinder was irretrievably seized). The instruments were in tough nick and sun fading left them unreadable which meant unknown mileage. Given the condition of the body I suspect it was not on the road long however.

The pay off was this amazingly rust free floor. Consider this is seventy year old British car that sat in a field with the doors that did not close properly. Not only that but missing the glass in the front doors for at least some of that time. Additionally, on the plus side I managed to get the doors, handles and latches working on all four doors with repeated lubrication and use over a couple weeks of time. They now close with a satisfying thunk. One interesting thing to note on the doors is there is only a lock on the passenger side which is no doubt a hang over from being designed first for a right hand drive market.

Engine wise it was quite complete after a bit of cleaning. There was plenty more mouse debris in here as well. Almost every wire was missing in action. You can note the plug panels on the passenger side that would have been used in the right hand drive home market. On top of the shelf behind the engine sits the heater core which took me a rather large number of hours to remove. One thing that slowed down progress here was the car uses Witworth (BSW) bolts which is different than SAE sizes. I do not own a set of Witworth wrenches or plan to buy one but often metric sizes will kind of, sort of fit which makes dissemble a challenge. Their threads have a different pitch so I wanted to save as many as I could just in case.

If Witworth was not enough, then the other challenge was the seemly boundless enthusiasm Austin had for single slot headed screws and bolts which have great chance of stripping seventy years later no matter how much penetrating fluid ones uses. I did manage to get a surprising number of these free but many died from the angle grinder’s disc.

Another positive result of cleaning the interior was finding the crank start handle. If you recall the seller had promised me the engine was seized which turned out to be false. It cranked over by hand quite nicely. I suspect I could have revived this engine to at least running condition but all the parts required to do so would have added up to an non-trivial sum. I hope to donate as many bits as I can to other A40 owners.

Here is a video of the engine being cranked by hand much later in the demolition process ,which gives a good view of the valve train.

Let me state that I believe the ‘Flying A’ is one of the better hood mascots out there. It doubles as the hood/bonnet release.

A neat period piece is this Alberta Motor Association badge on the grill. It does not help us date when the car may have come off the road as the AMA was formed in 1926 when the Calgary and Edmonton clubs merged to advocate for all provincial motorists.

Firestone Safety Champion tires which have to be pretty old. The inner-tube is spilling out as well. The rim itself is 16″ and very skinny by modern standards. I bought these wheel casters to make moving the car around the garage a little easier in theory. In practise they do not roll that well but sure beat the alternative of being effectively static.

Not much remained of the Austin’s exhaust but it is might be best described as modest in size. The penny is included for reference (American pennies are the same size).

These A40s do not have lights for turn signals but instead use semaphores or trafficators that come out between the doors to indicate a turn. I would love to get them going again but that is an attempted mini-project for a later date as they are in poor shape.

Overall the car driver’s side was in a little better shape. Perhaps the passenger side faced the wind? Amazingly, I managed to get the brake drums off out back, which is somewhat annoying considering how long it took me to do on my old Pontiac. Unlike the earlier A40 Devon, the Somerset has hydraulic rather than mechanical rear brakes. Any replacement bearing or brake parts are quite expensive so these are likely destined for the bin as well if no other A40 owner wants them.

Like many older British cars, the A40 has lever shocks front and rear. The bushing is just … gone. Oddly the front suspension still had some bushings in reasonable condition, at least superficially.

The Mustang rims I had lying around fit the 4x108mm bolt pattern if not in character. They did however, make the car all little easier to move around without any old rubber flopping around.



Here is a video taking a look at the front independent suspension.

A previous owner performed some nice handy work here on the muffler hanger. Like everything else it took quite a while to remove.

Over the last several months I have dissembled a good portion of the car including the interior which included the gauges. The faded faces came off which revealed the mileage indicated as 35557 miles. I suspect this is the true mileage given the condition of the body.


As we end Part Two I realize we have not got to any custom bits of our custom car project but I promise that is coming up next along with more of the overall plan. I, however, like the light behind the grill idea raised by the lead photo so I might have to include that in the build.

Project Austin Special Series:

Project Austin ‘Special’: Acquisition of a 1952 Austin A40 Somerset

Project Austin ‘Special’: Assessment of the Car

Project Austin ‘Special’: Four Becomes Two

Project Austin ‘Special’: Planned Mechanical Upgrades

Project Austin ‘Special’: Rear Suspension Upgrade