When Herbert Austin converted his billiard room into a drawing office and tasked a young draughtsman from the ‘works’ to help design a small car, the result was the landmark Austin Seven of 1922.
“This little car, which can be run for about a penny a mile, is an ideal car for a woman to use herself, enabling her to do more shopping without fatigue, to visit her friends more frequently and to attend social and recreational functions,” ran the marketing spiel in the innocently non-PC language of the era.
What Austin can’t have expected, however, was that the Seven would also become
a popular competition car in modified form (kick-starting the racing careers of both Bruce McLaren and Colin Chapman), or that it would still be a stalwart of the vintage sports car scene almost a century after its launch.
And he certainly wouldn’t have imagined a Seven like the one pictured, which might just be the best and most extensively modified example ever to take to the road or track.
According to Danny Donovan, managing director of DD Classics, the previous owner spent an eye-watering £137,000 having the car meticulously modified to the nth degree in order specifically (not to say obscurely) to set a record time at New Zealand’s annual Chelsea Sugar Works Vintage Car Club hillclimb.
The car had already been converted for competition use in 1988 and fitted with a Rootes-type supercharger shortly afterwards, but that was just the start of things.
During a three-year project carried out between 2003-06, the Seven’s engine was fitted with a forged crankshaft, bespoke pistons and conrods, a wild cam and a high compression cylinder head to boost output from the weedy 17bhp of the standard model to around three times as much.
But it’s the running gear that makes this car stand out as a true work of engineering art. The chassis, developed from a standard Ruby unit, is boxed-in and strengthened with custom-made, tubular cross members, while the track front and rear has been increased by 100mm, the suspension heavily modified and the differential off-set.
With its control pedals drilled for lightness, an engine-turned dashboard, gated gearshift and Momo steering wheel, the single-seat cockpit is uncompromisingly purposeful, while the hand-built aluminium boat-tail body and sculptural, highly polished engine bay create the appearance of a work of art.
On the button and FIVA-registered, Donovan believes it could be the finest Austin Seven special in existence – and, unless someone can show us a better one, we’re inclined to agree.
1938 Austin Seven Supercharged Special
On sale at DD Classics, 97-101 North Road, Kew, London TW9 4HJ
0208 878 3355, ddclassics.com
In the market for a custom cruiser?
Originality be damned, these classics stand out from the crowd
1960 Morris minor V8
Certainly not your usual starting point for a modded motor, but stick a Rover V8 into a Minor together with a Jaguar gearbox and garish paint and away you go…
1974 Datsun 260Z ‘Samuri’,
A very rare and original 260Z modified by Spike Anderson’s Samuri Motor Company in the 1970s, which specialises in souped-up Datsuns and Nissans.
1932 Ford Model B Coupe
A rare five-window coupé finished in original Washington Blue, but with a few tweaks… Such as a 300bhp 5-litre V8 and a thorough £100,000 restoration. Blimey.
1938 Gulf-Miller Special
During the experimental days of rear-engined Indycars, Harry Miller was a leading light.
This is a unique recreation of one of his three works for the Gulf Oil Co. mecanicimport.com