A Comprehensive Test of the
AUSTIN A40 ” DEVON ” SALOON
Real Refinement, Excellent Controllability, 30 m.p.g. Economy, and Mile-a-Minute Cruising. A Ten with an Outstanding Combination of Good Qualities.
THE needs of the present and the immediate future call for ears capable of a good fuel consumption. If this economy can be allied to comfort, stylish appearance and, withal, a performance, both from the stopwatch and handling aspects, which renders the car not too tedious even when distances of upwards of 300 miles have to be covered between breakfast and dinner, then the maker has reason to be proud. The Austin A40 has all these attributes, yet it costs only 2428 16s. id. in two-door ” Dorset ” saloon form, or 2441 us. 8d. as the four-door ” Devon ” saloon. Were purchase tax abolished, these prices would drop to 1335 and 2345, respectively.
The A40 is remarkably good value for money, and a comprehensive test of a ” Devon ” left us genuinely impressed with the car, which is what thousands of car-minded families have long awaited and so many enthusiasts have sought as a ” second-string ” in the stable. Our test extended over more than 500 miles and embraced main-road work with the throttle depressed to its fullest extent, negotiation of lanes and by-ways, the crossing of a deep ford, and Sunday pottering with children in the car. Let us immediately emphasise the economy aspect, since this is often the primary reason for the purchase of a 10-h.p. car. We drove harder than most drivers. would in such a car, for the greater part of the mileage. The consumption of ” Pool ” came out at 30.4 m.p.g., no oil was added, and no water required. Cruising at 50 m.p.h., but coasting where convenient, we covered 32 miles on a gallon.
Let us now examine this A40 in respect of the characteristics listed in the subheading to this report. We approached the car critically, for is it not the product of one of Britain’s
largest manufacturers, operating a vast export programme and, furthermore, a concern that has specialised in economy cars for over a quarter of a century ? From the first, the refinement of the car, remembering its basic price of 2845, was evident. The engine is very quiet at ” tick-over ” and never really evident at speed. Only subdued, typicallyAustin gear-noise intrudes when accelerating on the indirect ratios, while, apart from a rattle somewhere at the rear and a troublesome vibration of the startercontrol that came in at 55 m.p.h., body protests are absent, nor do the tyres too obviously indicate changes of road surface. Wind noise there is as the knots
pile on, but this is not especially troublesome providing the windows are up. On the over-run the transmission is dead silent. The A40, in short, can claim a refinement of running that was once the prerogative of far more costly cars.
As to controllability, or, if you like, driver-enjoyment, this is of an unexpectedly high order. The sliding bucket front seats possess upright backs and give excellent support, again suggestive of the luxury car. Neither front wing is visible, but the wide screen affords a fine view ahead, while the pedals are well placed and the 16-in. dia. spring-spoke steering wheel is correctly located, if slightly off-set to the off side. The A40 clings to the road admirably, whether held fast round long bends in the wet, or swung sharply off course and back again. Roll it does, appreciably, as do so many modern cars. The 5.25-16 tyres protest, but within reasonable limits. The outer rear wheels even feel likely to lift during really tight turns ; but the rear end breaks away first and such slides come instantly under control. The steering, medium-heavy in the car park but appreciably lighter on the road, transmits practically no return-motion, if a little vibration over bad roads ; its column is rigid on the facia, and it winds the car admirably through fast bends or holds it in with precision to the verge or kerb round long curves. It is good, too, for holding a straight course and, in short, for an ordinary car the A40 steers and handles very well indeed. A tendency to roll at the front when sharply deflected from straight-ahead never becomes really embarrassing, and this is definitely a car which is good fun to drive hard along a twisty route, and a car, moreover, that is not too particular how it is placed, making generous allowances for a driver who places it wrongly, or for conditions requiring a move off the correct line when cornering. Two-and-five-eighths turns are needed to go from one to the other of an adequate but not abnormal lock, the cam ratio being 14 to 1, but castor action, neither too vigorous nor too sluggish, largely negatives this low gearing. Coupled with such safe and pleasant handling qualities is very good suspension, suspension that enables a deeply potholed road to be taken at 45 or more m.p.h. without shocks transmitting themselves to the occupants, and which brings the car down square if a hump-back bridge is taken really fast. As we have said, it is flexible springing and there was definite low periodicity, up and down motion when negotiating certain surfaces, but probably damper adjustment would reduce this. It is the price one pays for a pronounced degree of comfort, and Austin’s wishbone i.f.s., controlled by 8.7 in. dia. eight-coil springs with a compressed length of 7 in. and a free
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