THERE surely can be few cars more versatile than the Austin Seven, and it is this very quality which has encouraged so many people to market this car in various forms for different purposes, nearly always, however, as a sports model of some kind. These modified productions may be divided into two classes. First, the special body on a standard chassis, the only modification being in appearance ; and, secondly, the genuinely special job, which not only has special coachwork,

but which has been gone over and specially treated, in every detail of the engine and chassis, to give a really non-standard performance. It is to this latter class that the series of B.C. Austins belong. Secure in the knowledge that they have got a thoroughly sound basis on which to work, they have got down to the problem of turning out for the keen sports car owner, a car which has those extra qualities of acceleration and road holding, which as a rule can only be achieved by a great deal of very costly work after the car has been acquired. The first and most obvious departure from standard is the body. This is a 2-seater of very attractive appearance, stiff construction, and, what is unusual on a very small sports car, really adequate luggage capacity. It iS a truism that the people who travel in small cars are just as large, and require just as much luggage as those

who traverse the country in larger vehicles. Yet in spite of this it is regrettably rare to find a small car with reasonable equipment in this respect. In the B.C. Austin, however, there is ample room in the well planned tail for all that any two normal beings are likely to require, in the way of suitcases, golf clubs, fishing rods, and what-not. The spare wheel is carried on the side of the body, and while enhancing the appearance, is also prevented from

getting mixed up with articles which will suffer thereby.

Spare wheels may be beautifully clean and smart when they leave the works, but the one which has just been removed from its workaday position owing to its inability to hold air, is usually far from it, and the side of the car seems to be the obvious place for it. As far as mechanical details are concerned it at once becomes evident that the firm have applied their

considerable racing experience with great effect, and it is hard to find any particular where further tuning could be carried out. The car tested by MOTOR SPORT was one of their O.H.V. conversions, but as far as other points on the chassis go, the same remarks apply to all models. The head in question has been specially designed to fit on the standard engine with as little structural alteration as possible, and can be fitted to any standard Austin Seven in a matter of two days, or changed back to the normal

side-valve job in one. The valves are operated by push rods, which run in the old valve guides, and the head is so arranged as to blank off the old ports, while an extension fitted to the old manifold enables this to be used in the conversion. The resulting engine looks perfectly normal and bears no stamp of having being converted, such as is the case with some other 0.H.V. “fitments,” which we have seen in the past.

Other details include the fitting of a special Claudel Hobson carburettor, opening and polishing the ports (probably one of the most tedious jobs an. amateur can undertake) lowering the springs and consequently the chassis, and fitting extra leaves, lowering and extending the steering to give a proper ” scrapping ” position, and altering the gear change. This is effected by mounting the gear lever well aft of the box on an additional cross member, and coupling it to the gear box by a horizontal rod with yoke ends, which thus transmits both fore-andaft and lateral motion to the standard gearshift arrangement. The additional convenience when driving has to be experienced to be believed, as one’s left hand drops directly onto the lever, and changes can be effected in the middle of the most complicated evolutions, which is a great help when cornering. Cornering is very steady, due to the lowered centre of gravity, and the steering is positive and accurate, though we should have personally preferred it to be slightly more self-centering. The car which we tried had seen some fairly violent service in competitions over a considerable period, and had many successes to its credit. Owing to the fact that its life as competition car, combined with demon strations, h a d made it impossible to give it the attention which a privately owned vehicle would have received, there were one or two small points which could not be fairly criticised. The brakes were really in need of relining, so that the stopping distance of 84ft. from 40 m.p.h. does not really represent what can be done with this model. A good feature of the braking system is the large outside lever, which in the latest models operates all four sets of shoes, and is placed in just the right position. In fact, during the time we had this car for test we found it most convenient to drive almost exclusively on the hand brake. This car has actually covered the flying kilometre at 78 m.p.h. but the maximum speed reached while in our hands was 71

m.p.h., due chiefly to the fact that the engine had had no attention for some thousands of miles, and although it did not show any signs of getting tired on long runs, it is well known that such a small engine requires reasonably frequent decarbonisation if it is to maintain its maximum performance. Second gear provided very snappy acceleration and was of great assistance in putting up high average speeds over a twisty cross country route. Between 50 and 55 m.p.h. was possible in this gear, while the engine balance at high speeds was perfect. At lo w speeds there was a slight tendency to roughness if made to pull hard, but this is only what one would expect, and in any case such a vehicle is not meant to be driven at a crawl on top gear. Provided, however, that the revs are kept up, the top gear performance i s remarkably good, and hills which would call

for a change of gear on a standard Seven could be taken in it stride at a rousing speed ; while if an obstruction occurred, second gear was more than adequate to regain the lost speed, and pass any normal car. It is this property of combining a high performance, with such small dimensions and ease of handling, that will always ensure a growing market for this type of sports car, while on the score of running costs there can, of course, be no comparison. The petrol consumption even when driven really hard, appeared to differ but little from that of the standard model, while the cost of upkeep in other respects, such as oil, tyres, etc., helps to make it just the car for the man who wants a sports

car, but who has only a limited amount of cash with which to maintain it.

The standard fully equipped B.C. Austin costs £197 10s., and the O.H.V. model £25 extra, and is turned out by Messrs. Boyd-Carpenter, Ltd., of 47, West End Lane, Kilburn, N.W.6.

W. S. B.