How nice to read John Oldham’s comments on the Austin Twenty! My wife and I own a 1928 20/4—but a Marlborough landaulette (the one at Brooklands earlier this year).
They certainly are a fine car,–heavy, and not fast, but with a ferocious slog-ability that would pull a house down. Ours—rebuilt from a worn-out hulk—after spending its working life in Somerset as a hire-car, can he started off in 1st, 2nd or 3rd gear, and at 7 to 8 m.p.h. klonked into top. It is then good for up to 50. The extra-air lever pulls out a cone-plug in the inlet manifold, to weaken the mixture, and gives greater economy (at the expense of back-firing when the throttle’s closed). We get between 15-20 m.p.g. and normally drive it very gently at about 35 m.p.h. Mr. Oldham never mentioned the fine steering—high-geared and tight, two-and-a-half turns lock-to-lock—nor the terrible handbrake—on a drum behind the gearbox—this is, in the handbook “extremely powerful”, and can lock the rear wheels, with protestations from propshaft joints and gearbox bearings! Luckily, I’ve never come across one that wasn’t fouled with grease or oil, but they still work, even if the descent of a long hill meant filling the driving compartment with smoke!!
I’ve had a few sixes. Very nice cars— especially the later ones with Girling brakes, synchromesh, hydraulic jacks, heater, electric telephone, etc. I have a 1936 limousine now. They suffer, unlike the 20/4, from timingslip. The long chain, as Mr. Oldham described, mounted at the rear of the engine, is very prone to wear and modifications by Austin of the tensioning device; it was never cured. The chain rides over the sprockets, and it’s a case of, “get out and get under”. I owned a “Six” for a few years, and could re-time the engine in eight minutes! The early ones never had a gate-change gearbox—it was a fake made to avoid “Yankee ball-change appearance. It is a difficult box to manage.
There are quite a lot of “Twenties” about —they turn up in the Vintage Austin Register all the time. A colleague (with two 20/4s) toured Scotland, and came across a 1921 tourer in regular use. Apart from our limousine and landaulette, we have a 1926 20/4 hearse, a friend has a 1928 Char-a-Banc, and a rarity is an Austin Ascot limousine owned by yet another friend. As for spares— we make do and mend—lorry valves will fit and there’s always something to keep us on the road. Good cars though.
Meppershall J.I WADE
Could the 1921 tourer in Scotland be the car that appeared in TV’s “Upstairs-Downstairs ? —Ed