Austin Twenties


I was very interested to read the various letters that appeared in the February issue of Motor Sport in reply to your article on the Austin Twenty, which you compiled from a letter I wrote you.

Regarding the one from F. T. Henry, which is by far the most interesting, it is obvious to me that he is writing from memory as there are so many mistakes in it, though there is a good deal of most valuable information, which has never been mentioned before; for instance, the prototype experimental 6-cyl. 20-h.p. chassis. May I make the following comments?:

1. All 4-cyl. 20 h.p. cars had the same length wheelbase until 1926 when the 6-cyl. 20 h.p. appeared with 11 ft. 4 in. chassis. The range of 20 h.p. that he quotes for 1928 is wrong. There was no 10 ft. chassis, nor was there a Whitehall nor a Mayfair Saloon. These three lengths of chassis appeared for the first time in October 1931, as 1932 models, and by then the Open Road Tourer had disappeared. For 1928 the 4-cyl. 20 h.p. was still being built alongside the 6-cyl. and the types available were: as follows on 10 ft. 10 in. wheelbase with either 4-cyl, or 6-cyl. engines:

Open Road. 7-Seater tourer : 4-cyl, £425, 6-cyl. £525.

Marlborough 3/4-landaulette : 4.cyl. £475. (not available at first).

Carlton 6-passenger owner-driver saloon : 4-cyl. £495, 6-cyl. £595.

Ascot 7-passenger saloon with division : 4-cyl. £515, 6-cyl. £615.

On 11 ft. 4 in. chassis Ranelagh limousine or laudaulette as a 4-cyl. £575 and as a 6-cyl. £675. I do not see how it is possible to say with any certainty at all that the Ranelagh landaulette, which appeared in Motor Sport and which started this correspondence, is a 4-cyl. from the photograph : it is utterly impossible to tell whether it is a 4-cyl. or a 6-cyl.

2. The 12/6 did not come out until 1931; it was available from the outset, with both steel and fabric bodies but the price quoted of £198 for either type correct.

3. The last 10 ft. Twenty Mayfair saloon did not exist at all. lt might have been proposed, but the only 10 ft,wheelbase model that was made with the high-geared axle came out in late 1931 as a 1932 model; it was named “Whitehall” in the de-luxe

version and, for £525, a standard version “Carlton”, for £498. For the years 1933 and 1934 the “Whitehall” continued in production but the “Carlton” was dropped.

I am given to understand that the “Whitehall” was brought out in direct competition to the Humber Snipe, but it did not succeed in selling in any large numbers. It would be one of the most desirable model Austin Twenties to own today, but 1 don’t believe that one exists.

The “Mayfair” name was revived again in 1935 when the sloping grille, with radiator-cap under the bonnet, came out on the 11 ft. 4 in. chassis with limousine or landaulette coachwork and continued until 1938, when the Twenty ceased production. I have seen the 28 h.p. in the Oxford Street Showrooms and a few on the road; I know nothing about it, thought it hideous, and the engine had a cast-iron block and top-half of the crankcase like the 18, with four main hearings in place of eight.

With regard to the other, two letters, I read these with equal interest but fancy only running an Austin Twenty at a cruising speed of 35 m.p.h.! I usually cruised at 55 m.p.h. and did about 47 m.p.h. on the 1927 12/4 Windsor saloon! I had a 1928 Marlborough 3/4-landaulette in 1953 for a short time. I have always considered the Marlborough was the least-desirable body to own on an Austin Twenty, with its open front, the fact that it had no means of locking the car, and the coachwork of virtually an Edwardian design. For had weather a set of sidescreens could be -fitted to the driving compartment.

Interesting what your correspondent says about the extra air-control; it is correct that care had to be used as it would cause backfiring in the exhaust on the overrun. I used to give full extra air descending a long hill and always remember to close the control before accelerating again and this would eliminate the back-firing. The extra air certainly gave a better petrol consumption, especially on a long run.

Regarding Mr. Knight’s letter and his mention of an R-R, it is really just not possible to compare these makes. The Austin Twenty was a very fine car both in 6-cyl. and 4-cyl, forms and was very very good value for money but it could not be compared with a R-R 40/50 in any form at all, whether it be a “New Phantom”, Phantom II, III, or Silver Ghost type. The only model that I suppose can be compared is the. 20 h.p., 20/25, or possibly the 25/30. But the general handling of the R-R in these smaller models, as regards steering, brakes, gear-change, etc., is vastly superior, as one would expect. After all, there was a great deal of difference in the price of a small R-R chassis and that of an Austin Twenty. After driving a 20-h.p. R-R, the 4-cyl. Austin Twenty is rather like driving a truck; it is far more noisy to start with, added to this the steering, brakes and gear-change don’t compare.


[This correspondence is now closed.—Ed.]