A WEEK-END WITH AN AUSTIN IMPRESSIONS OF THE 10 H.P. ” CAMBRIDGE ” SALOON
Drivers of fast cars naturally profess a cold contempt for all ordinary kinds of automobile, particularly those of the closed variety, although the number of really famous racing-drivers that use such vehicles for ordinary journeys Is rather astonishing, and most of us have had reason to wish that utility and performance were further removed from sports-car performance on occasions when the driver of the former is in a hurry and we are on our (` mettle.” The modern, low-priced family saloon is an astonishingly convenient and dependable means of transport which, judged in terms of efficiency, reaches an extremely high standard. It was to pass judgment on the type that we asked Messrs. The Austin Motor Co., Ltd. to loan us an Austin Ten ” Cambridge ” saloon for a week-end.
Thus it came about that on Friday afternoon the writer presented himself at Oxford Street, spoke words into the car of Austin’s commissionaire, admired for a moment that model of the racing Austin Seven and an Austin marine engine-unit in the big showrooms, and was handed an insurance cover-note and an ignition-key. A few minutes later the Austin Ten “Cambridge” saloon, with just an occasional trace of choke, was making light of Oxford Street’s rush-hour traffic in a series of rapid spurts and firm, sure stops, its pilot steering lazily and altering the ratios casually with the aid of a really good synchro-mesh and a nicely positioned .central lever. A family-saloon, of course, should be easy to drive, but few strange -cars have we immediately driven with as much verve as this Austin. The good forward vision, a driving seat that could really be adjusted in a traffic hold-up without one having to look at its mechanism and without a sense that it hadn’t locked after adjustment, and a handbrake of positive action in exactly the correct place, were chiefly responsible, as one reflected when there was leisure in which to examine the car. The rake of the steering column, the convenient direction indicator control on the wheel centre and the smooth clutch action, to which one became fully accustomed after two or three rather ” driving-test” starts, also assisted materially in the Austin’s unruffled progression through traffic which still scares so many provincials. Another factor was the easily read instruments in their panel directly before the driver, which enabled the dynamo-charge, oil-pressure, contents of the fuel tank, speed, and the time-of-day to be seen literally at a glance–things that one wants to know as soon as one takes over a strange car but which often result in some worrying moments if that car had been hurriedly acquired and has to be driven quickly in traffic from the -commencement. We had no such moments with the Austin. Arrived at City Road we had come to he conclusion that not only was this Austin Ten very happy in congested BRIEF SPECIFICATION
Engine : Four-cylinder, 05.5 x 89 mm. (1,125 c.c.), 9.990 ii.p. Tax 7 10/, Three bearing crankshaft. Side valves. Coll ignition. 27 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m.
Gearbox : Four speed and reverse. Synchromesh on 2nd., 3rd and top. Central control. Ratios 5.25, 8.04, 12.78 and 21.1 to 1.
Suspension : Half-elliptic front and rear. Silent bloc bushes. Luvax absorbers.
Brakes : Hand and foot control on all wheds. Girling actuation.
Fuel Range : Six gallons—approximately 170 miles.
Price : Four door ” Cambridge ” saloon, leather upholstered : £178.
places, but that it was also very good fun. The lower ratios are low, but once into third and things begin to happen very pleasantly, so that one can swing round obstructions and really save the fleeting seconds—and few things are more satisfying than making a useful time on a crosstown run by sheer good handling of an
ordinary, comfortable touring car. So, although this Austin Ten was so easy to handle, with a combined choke and handthrottle to aid starting and thereafter no ignition control to worry about, and the downward gear-changes effected by excellent synchro-nicsh, nevertheless the car was driven with enthusiasm because such handling was amply justified, which you cannot say of every dependable means of transport. The steering was fairly low geared and had a fair amount of lost motion, but the Austin found its own straight course most commendably and wet tram-lines and ice-patches caused it no concern. The Girliug brakes, though very light, were beautifully progressive, and very effective at all speeds, and if the lowpressure Dunlops and very supple springs made rapid cornering a source of impish joy to our driver and awe to onlookers, this was excusable on account of the high degree of riding comfort afforded. Further calls in the London area forbade ally long runs that day, though we were able to discover the great efficiency of the headlamps and to appreciate the foot-dimmer–one of the best footdimmers we have experienced. The lamp switch has visible indication of the lamps in use, the dash-board is sensibly illuminated from behind and there is an excellent interior lamp. Very generous accommodation is provided in the lockable luggage container, wherein also reposes the spare wheel and luggage straps, the latter for securing really bulky luggage on the lowered lid of the container. Incidentally, the rear number plate is very well illuminated. Upholstery is in high-grade leather, and windows and sliding roof can be adjusted to adequately ventilate the car without inviting draughts, even on a chilly night. There is ample leg-room in all seats, the driver can bring his seat right up to the wheel, entry and exit could not be improved, and the screen will wind out almost horizontally for summer or
fog driving. There is a really large cubby-hole on the dash, also a neat ashcontainer, and apart from the hornbutton and direction indicator switch on the wheel centre there are no other controls to concern the driver—which explains, perhaps, the Austin’s recognised popularity with ladies and learners. That night after seventy miles against the clock without once leaving builtup areas, we had a warm respect for the Austin ” Cambridge ” saloon, but torrential rain made even a short walk from the garage unpalatable, so very naughtily we locked everything up and left the car
outside with its lights on all night. Next morning, rather apprehensively, we attempted to start the engine and Were surprised to find that, once the knack of holding the choke right out was acquired, the machinery commenced at once and was apparently ready for work within a minute, though we conceded It a few more in which to drop its oilgauge reading to the customary 30 lb. per sq. in.
Somehow the sea seemed to call, so with a full load aboard, we aimed for Hastings and, once through Bromley, were at last greeted with the welcome de-restriction ,signs. We have already said that the Austin was extremely quiet and smooth in town traffic. The bodywork generally was free from drumming •and the engine unobtrusive to a noteworthy degree, save for some exhaust hiss, while third gear was as silent as top. Moreover, the suspension is extremely supple-riding, allowing, for instance, the drop where the new road course crosses the Aerodrome
road at Brooklands to be taken at 40 m.p.h. without shock to the occupants or apparent concern to the springs. Some excellent test-roads of truly appalling nature at Petts Wood, Kent, further enhanced our opinion of Austin suspension. The engine, too, is astonishingly smooth, only juddering on its rubber mountings at below 5 m.p.h. in top gear and accelerating just like any good six. Out on the open road we found these qualities maintained up to 40 m.p.h. on third and up to a cruising speed of 55 m.p.h. on top gear, while even at well beyond 60 m.p.h. on downhill stretches the engine seemed entirely and happily “burst-proof.” This ability to get along rapidly without effort allowed us to reach the sunlit sea shore quickly with no sense of fatigue, and the Girling brakes proved adequate in coping with patches of week-end congestion. Incidentally, the rear view mirror is really excellently positioned, which is equally appreciated in town and country. Any fuel seemed to suit the engine, averaging 28 m.p.g., while the Girling
brakes did not display any lost motion on the morning the car was returned. The synchro-mesh, on second, third, and top, is really good, as it does not “catch up ” if one double-declutches, yet it can be used as a ” slam-change ” if desired, a point especially valuable, as occasionally the engine hesitated slightly in picking up from the tick-over.
All gears located easily, excepting momentary difficulty in selecting bottom, though starting on second was permissible and a start could even be made on top. The rear axle was prone to slight hum.
In conclusion, this Austin Ten ” Cambridge ” saloon struck us as a very dependable, convenient means of transport, sound in every respect and offering prospects of a very long life with the minimum of attention without loss of tune. Those who are in need of such a vehicle should certainly give it a trial, which they can do with the comforting knowledge that its makers are one of two remaining British manufacturers who support racing.