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Herbert Austin (later 1st Baron Austin) was an English automobile designer and builder who founded the Austin Motor Company in 1905. Born in Buckinghamshire, the son of a farmer, he worked initially with different engineering companies in England but, in 1884, at the age of 18, he emigrated to Melbourne, Australia to work in an engineering firm, moving in 1887 to the Sydney works of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company.

Austin was not a naturally inventive or innovative engineer but he was exceedingly good at improving the workings and efficiency of machines and made many improvements to Wolseley's shearing equipment which is still used to this day.

In 1893 Austin and Frederick Wolseley moved back to England and by 1900 the company had begun building motor cars. The cars which they built were large and heavy and, although some models saw service during World War I, they were too big and expensive to appeal to the needs of most people. In 1905 Austin left the company and set up his own Austin Motor Company.

Austin's company was struggling in the years that followed the end of the First War in 1918 but he realised that there might well be a gap in the market which he could exploit. At this time there were a number of people building small "cyclecars" which were small and light but they were dreadfully uncomfortable, unreliable and downright dangerous: most of them had puny single-cylinder engines, poor brakes, were driven by chains or rubber belts and had primitive steering which involved a cable running around a bobbin at the far end of the steering column to move the front wheels. Austin's idea was to build a very small car but to build it simply as a much smaller version of a large one - still with a reliable muti-cylinder engine, a proper gearbox and drive train and reliable brakes which worked on all four wheels.

And so, in 1920, Austin hired the expertise of one of his company's draughtsmen, the 18 year old Stanley Edge, and the two of them spent many weeks working in the billiard room of Austin's Lickey Grange home to design such a car. The result was the "Austin Seven" or "Baby Austin", a tiny four-seater open car with a seven-horsepower engine of just 696cc (later increased to 747cc) which produced 10.5 b.h.p. It went into production in 1922 and continued in various forms and modifications until 1939, selling well and securing the success of the Austin Motor Company.

Here we have two Austin Sevens, both from the early 1930s. The rather jaunty bright yellow one is an Austin Seven "Sports Model" and the one behind it a more soberly painted Seven "Box Saloon". The picture was taken in Biggar, just before the annual "Run" before the Biggar Vintage and Veteran Rally last August. And I went on the "run" in my own Austin too - that's a slightly larger "Ten" which owes much of its design to the earlier "Seven".

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1270 W: 393 N: 4710] (18958)
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