AUSTIN SEVEN REBORN
ON October 16th the long-awaited Austin Seven was revealed to privileged “gentlemen of the Press ” and a day later, at Earls Court, was unveiled to John and Joan Citizen. 1V1ile this newcomer has nothing to do with ltighperformance motoring, we feel that it merits study, if only on account of the nostalgia created by its inurtortal forebear, on the basis of which so many enthusiasts’ ” specials ” have been built and by which SO many notable successes were gained in racing from 1023 to 1938 inclusive.
When the late Lord Austin embarked on the original :Seven in 1922, seeking not Only to put the last nail in the cyclecar coffin but also to Sweep the motor-cycle combination from the roads, he realised that something very light and simple was called for. He had introduced his rugged Twenty at a very competitive price in 1919 and this was followed two years later by a sealed-down version, the famous Twelve. But when he Conceived the Seven, thereby perpetuating in England many clever design features anticipated in France a year earlier by Peugeot, he saw that scaling down his bigger chassis wouldn’t suffice for the baby • the Seven, Laleed, had a very simple frame, a transverse front spring and quarter elliptic rear springs. The result of ” adding lightness by simplification ” was a World beater that sold to the tune of over 300,000 in fifteen years, slumps included.
The basis of the new Austin Seven has Clearly been different. Modern constructional methods have called for onepiece body and chassis construction and a “big car” appearance has been the aim. The new baby has fear doors, a feature deemed highly desirable by many Britons, who suffer from claustrophobia. because of years spent mainly in air raid shelters (it faet Nuffield took two years to appreciate). It has doubledipping headlamps, separate side lamps, a lockable luggage boot, anti-roll bar and provision for heater and radio, etc. Unfortunately all this adds up to an unladen weight of 13f owt., which is rather high for a true baby car. No doubt eminent engineers will be quick to explain that, Strength-for-strength, integral construction is lighter than any other, but that does not prevent disappointment that this construction has not been done in light alloy as in the Tankard, although no doubt lids would have put the Seven outside Austin’s price target, of £8 less than the two-floor :Morris Minor, but £18 more than he Pm tril Anglia. In that ease special treat men I of (*ramie and suspension, rubber for the latter for instance, might have resultem I in a lower weight-factor. The 2CV Citrot.n is in example of what is in mind, taken perhaps to too great an ext vertu.. A concession to weight reduction certainly seems to have been made by the
adoption of -5.20 by 13 tyres. A slightly larger wheel, however, would have facilitated tyre replacement at places remote from Austin agencies, would have reSuited in slightly better proportions of the car as an entity, andwould surely have made for greater comfort over the bad roads that prevail today—however, no doubt scientists will send us a parcel containing a ” Mira” pot hole to prove that 13 in. wheels sink in very little farther than 14 in. (Morris and Renault) or 15 in. (Fiat). As such small wheels are employed it is a pity that the Spare lots to be stowed ahead of the luggage space in the boot,
problem of spare wheel stowage on Small ears is severe. but Mortis and Fiat and Ford put theirs under the floor’, Panhard cin the lid of the boot and Remtult scores by using the under-bonnet space. Had the total weight been lower a smaller engine could Itave been used, with consequently better fuel consumption claims. As it is, this new Seven isn’t a Seven at all, for it is rated at 8.3 lip. Its o.h.v. engine is undeniably efficient on a hp./litre basis, although the aircooled flat-twin 610-c.c. Hyna-Paaltard only concedes 2 b.h.p. But it has a swept volume of 800 c.c. and the fuel eirtn7 sumption claimed is “up to 50 m.p.g.” Now this Austin does not pretend to a startling performanceand, in spite of claims in the daily Press of up to 75 m.p.h., Will clearly require favourable conditions to top 60 m.p.h. With this there is no grutnble, for it lots been produced essentially as All economy vehicle (in price and in m.p.g.) and in this country the majority of motorists amble along (in the Middle of the road) at previous little more than 30 m.p.h. no matter what size car they drive. Doing this, they get around 50 mpg from the tt I a-c.c. Morris Minor and 933-cc. Ford A iedia. Had this new Austin been a really lightweight car with a truly diminutive engine it might have given a regular no or more m.p.g., and that would hive been mate something. Remembering that the original Austin Seven NVAS 6:11; we. and eonsidering IOW the later Seven achieved on 7-1.7 C.C. and the Fiat 500 on 570 c.c. before the war and with their valves in the block, t lw need for an 800-e.e. o.h.v. engine in the present baby does make one wonder what. progress has been achieved in economy-car tech nique in thirty years, especially as an attempt has obVioasly been made to keep the overall dimensions of the car modest, as witness the 6 ft. 71in. wheelbase (against 7ft. 2 in’. of the Morris Minor), and 2 ft. 111 in. aside back seat (against 3 ft. 11-i. in. of the Morris Minor.). Admittedly when Lord Austin designed the first four-cylinder Austin Seven on his, billiard table at Liekey Grange all those years ago (presumably billiard tables were two-a-penny in those prosperous times) he did not have to provide for a four,seater steel saloon body equipped with radio and heater. But later inflated Austin Sevens managed pretty well on 12-17 b.h.p. and look at the performance of the present 748-cc. rearengined Renault and o.h.v. 570-cc. Fiat, ears With which the Austin Seven will be in direct competition in France and Italy. The new prodigy from Longbridge is a delightful proposition in many ways. It Ices moth for four adults, with deep foot wells for those at the back, it has a roomy luggage boot, it is nicely finished and looks every inch an Austin, when not looking like a Crosley Hot Shot. But how much more exciting it would be were the engine a true economy unit of, for instance, 450 c.c., giving roughly the hp. of the Fiat 500C, installed in a car weighing approximately .10 cwt., perhaps by recourse to ” Cyclecar ” chassis construction, thus combining very fair performance with a truly .notable low fuel consumption ! Conversely, the existing 30 b.h.p. 800-cc. unit in such a chassis should have provided that 70-75 m.p.h. and high eraising speed referred in the dailieS while retaining the 50 m.p.g. factor. Either way the car would have been excitingly new and desirable. As it is, the new. Seven does not look like being startlingly different in -performance or economy from other small cars. In fact, it does not strike us as such a revolutionary car as its predecessor was in 1022, ror the Austin Seven of that era had no eii;int Print rl, Save perhaps the small
Peugeot, and voiturette had hardly established itself in this tountry.
The main claint fame of the new additiontt the Longbrii1gm family lies in its :competitive priee, and at £325 it undoubtedly represents exceedingly good value-formoney at tlw present. time.