Kerbside Classic: 1939 Austin 16 – The Tough Austin

Austin 16 fq

As a child, I watched cars drive up and down our street. We lived on the steepest street in town, where they tested you for hill starts for your driver’s license.  Many cars struggled up our street, especially old ones, except for one old fashioned car. It even did it pulling a trailer behind it loaded with timber and other building supplies. I asked my Dad about it, and he told me of the car.

Austin 16 eng

It was an 1946 Austin 16.  This car was the first to use the Austin BS1 engine, a new OHV four with 2199 cc. This engine would go on to power a wide range of Austins, including their 25cwt vans, the legendary London Taxi, the A70 and A90, and in its most powerful version, the famous Austin Healey 100. The one I saw constantly had been acquired from a family estate with very low mileage, I was later to meet the son of the owner at school he confirmed what my Dad had said: The Sixteen towed their entire house (in its component form) to the site where his father built it.

 Austin 16 int
Over the ensuing years I regularly saw that Austin the people who owned it loved it little stainless steel plates had been riveted over rust at the lower extremities of the mudguards but the rest was pure Austin.

Fast forward to my return for my mothers funeral in 2000, and I see the same couple driving that same old Austin 16. It looked as it always had, but its owners were wearing out though. Turns out that Len, the owner, worked for another friend’s father as a boat builder and drove that car to work and back reliably for decades. They never replaced it because it just never wore out.

Austin 16 rq

To the car in my photos: this is a very rare car. The Austin 16 was only just released when war broke out and production stopped in 1939. For this car to have made it here to New Zealand is remarkable in itself, given the complexities of importing cars at the time. That it is still an inspected commercial passenger service vehicle 74 years after it was made speaks of to me of its good quality.

Austin 16 gr