1930-1934 Austin Vintage Car Story

3 years 4 months ago - 3 years 4 months ago #664 by JP
JP created the topic: 1930-1934 Austin Vintage Car Story

1930 Austin American

An American Austin Car Company, Inc. from Butler, Pennsylvania took a stab at selling cars in a tough market.

When Sir Herbert Austin, the well-known English manufacturer of cars bearing his name, came to America in 1929, he had many people excited over his plan to build cars in the U.S.A. After a tour of the country, he announced that the American Austin would be built in Butler, Pennsylvania. Detroit shook its collective head, but Butler wasn't such a strange choice. It had access to industrial services, an eager work force, and it was close enough to east coast ports to make importing components from England quite feasible.

Austin Seven 1930

Saloon inside

Austin Ascot 1935

The basic concept of the car itself seemed promising, too. When production started in Butler during May, 1930, the company claimed it had close to 200,000 orders for the new ultra-light, ultra-economical car.

Austins were built from 1930 through 1934, using the same engine throughout the production run. This was an L-head four which displaced 46 cubic inches, had only two main bearings, and developed 13 or 14 brake horsepower at 3,200 rpm. A roadster and coupe were offered in 1930, priced at $445 and $465, respectively. In 1931, a business coupe, deluxe coupe, and 2-4 passenger cabriolets were added. Once production fired up, some of these prices were cut. The 1931 Austin roadster cost only $395 and the elaborate cabriolet just $550. Prices were reduced again in 1933 in an effort to boost sales: The business coupe dropped to $275 and the roadster to $315. For a while Austin's prospects looked good-but only for a while-and the 1930 production total of 8,558 units was never exceeded. Figures were 1,279 cars for 1931, 3,846 for1932, 4,726 for 1933, and an estimated 1,300 for 1934.

1930 American Austin

Two factors were largely responsible for Austin's demise: One was the general business decline of the Depression years; the other was the fact that even in bad times, Americans didn't take to midget cars.

To be sure, the American Austin was a midget. Its wheelbase, at 75 inches, was fully 16 inches less than a VW Beetle's. Also, the Austin weighed only 1,100-1,200 pounds, and Americans were notoriously doubtful about light cars in those years, as they would be for a few decades more.

American Austin Model A Roadster was part of the 1930-34 American Austin line

The Austin was an attractive little car, designed in part by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, but this didn't seem to matter. In 1935, production ground to a halt.

Austins provided a touch of amusement in a drab period for America and for a few people, they became a sort of reverse status symbol, much like the Beetle would be in the 1950s. Al Jolson, who loved cars and usually drove Packards or Lincolns, bought the first Austin coupe delivered to a private buyer. He was followed by numerous other Hollywood stars such as Buster Keaton, Slim Summerville, and the "Our Gang" kiddies. Austins even starred in a movie. They were used as "steeds" for a knightly battle in Will Rogers' "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." It was a great scene-but it didn't help to sell Austins.

Buster Keaton and Austin car, Southern California, 1930

Belated: American Bantam was born out of the ashes of the American Austin Car Company in 1935, and produced only about 6,000 cars in its short life span. This is the Riviera. Cute.

Mid-1930s Austin 7 Ruby

undated but labeled Old Sacramento

1930 Austin

backside, Hmmm, more room

Austin junkyard....wow

This technology from so many years ago never ceases to amaze me. These engineers were special. Keep reading, check out our cars for sale, business products and restoration expert sections. Thanks for stopping by. Watch for our restoration project page to come regarding our 1970 Dodge Challenger convertible project car. We just started the job and it's going to be...fun? Watch for our postings. JP

Cheers, Fast Eddie
Last Edit: 3 years 4 months ago by JP.

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