The Austin A30 - 1950s small car from BMC.
Thanks to its A series engine (in 803cc form), there is no shortage of knowledge around when it comes to maintaining, and tuning, these versatile power units. Some cars have been upgraded to the larger 948cc or 1098cc engine from later BMC models, either for an improvement in performance, or else to avoid wearing out the car's original 803 unit, for which some spares are getting a little tricky to find.
A30s didn't alter much during their production run, although there are two key variants to chose from. The earliest cars were coded AS3 by the British Motor Corporation, or BMC, and had a number of differences when compared to later AS4 types. Some of the main differences when going A30 spotting, are as follows: the AS3 has a circular speedometer, as opposed to the later car's rectangular(ish) unit, and the fuel filler exits on the rear wing, as opposed to the back panel. Interior trim is slightly different, and the front chrome grille is slightly smaller than on the AS4 (important to watch for when tracking down a replacement for a restoration project).
On this website, which I hope will grow over time, there is a gallery of photographs featuring various Austin A30s seen at shows and museums in recent years. You can post Wanted or For Sale ads on the free noticeboard, and download a free screensaver to your PC, featuring some great A30s. With the advent of the internet, finding parts, donor cars, and running examples, is easier than ever - eBay is an excellent place to start, and if you click here you can see a live 'snapshot' of A30 parts, cars and memorabilia on sale right now. You can also click through and register with this auction site, and set up email notifications for when interesting stuff is listed in future.
Background to the Austin A30 variants.
Austin had enjoyed great success with their range of small cars prior to WW2 - namely the Austin 7s, 8s, and 10s, and continued after hostilities producing the alligator-bonnet 8 and 10 saloons. Their pre-war roots were obvious though, and the design team at Longbridge were keen to get a replacement small car into the Austin dealerships sooner rather than later. They launched the A40 series in 1947, so that took care of the mid-size market once habited by the upright 16 model, and it was now the turn of the new 'baby Austin' to break cover.
Unlike the A40 Devon, the shiny new A30 did not feature a separate chassis, and was the first monocoque car sold by Austin. Despite thoughts being given to a front wheel drive layout, and fairly radical engine specifications, in the end it was decided that the spec & layout for the A30 should be similar to the 1200cc A40. There was to be an all-iron 4 cylinder ohv engine, of 803cc, coupled to a four speed gearbox (Fords were still using a sidevalve unit and 3 speeds), powering the rear wheels. Rear semi-elliptic leaf springs were employed, as were lever arm damper to keep things in check. Up front coil springs featured, with drum brakes all round.
The styling was up-to-date for the era, with no running boards or lamps mounted external to the bodyshell. A small rear window was fitted, with opening quarterlights fitted to the door glass (initially the A30 was sold as a 4 door saloon only). The bonnet catch was operated by tilting the flying 'A' badge on the bonnet, and the car ran on 13" wheels.
The public first saw the A30 'in the metal' at the Earl's Court Motor Show, in October 1951. Great play was made of this new car following in the line of previously successful small Austins, with the earliest cars being referred to as the Austin Seven, reminding the public of the pre-war models that used this name also. The car was aimed at the post-war motorist who was keen to be mobile, in their own vehicle that would offer superb economy, ease of parking, and sprightly performance, all at a very keen price. Overhead valve engines were still far from commonplace in the austere years after WW2, so the fact that this new-world technology was available in a keenly-priced family runabout was well promoted.
Other delights, such as 12 volt electrics and electric windscreen wipers, would be very attractive to anyone possibly considering a rival car, such as the Ford Pop, with its antiquated styling, 6 volt electrics, and vacuum wipers. Even Austin's fierce rivals (and soon to be bedfellows) Morris, had to make do with a pre-war sidevalve engine in their otherwise-advanced Minor MM, launched in '49.
One other rival that is often forgotten about, is Standard's 8 and 10 model. Visually not dissimilar to the A30, albeit slightly less curvy, the 8 was also powered by an 803cc ohv 4 cylinder unit, of their own design (the 10 had a 948cc version of the same engine), and was keenly priced at a whisker under the A30's asking price.
As already mentioned, the A30 AS3 was initially a 4 door saloon car only. Two years in to production and the popular 2 door version was released to the world, with stretched front doors replacing those seen on the first models. It was also at this time that several revisions were made to the design as a whole, and the AS3 variant dropped in favour of the new AS4. External boot hinges were introduced for some reason (cost? or to free up boot space?), replacing the internal hinges on the earlier cars, and the positioning of the spare wheel in the boot area was altered. The fuel filler was re-positioned to the rear panel, and the front grille enlarged slightly. The A30 saloon car range would see only few changes after this, until the later '35 came along to replace it.
So, in late 1953, either 2 or 4 door saloons could be purchased. In 1955, a light van was brought out, as was a Countryman, which was by and large a plusher van with windows in the side, and rear seats fitted. All A30s would continue in production, still with 803cc power, til September '56 when the '35 came out. Sadly, despite the prototype shown above having great promise, no factory convertible version was ever offered.