A Timelined History of Austin Motors
After starting Wolseley in 1901, Herbert Austin split from his partners in 1905 to create a company to build luxury motor vehicles. Their customer list included Russian Grand Dukes, Princesses, Bishops, numerous government officials and a large percentage of British nobility!
The Austin Motor Company suffered through highs and lows over the years, and has often been likened to Ford in bringing motoring to the British masses.
Follow along with me as I show you some of the vehicles that Austin built over the years, with some timely information about the company along the way!
In 1907 there were 270 Austin employees, and they built 180 cars.
By 1911 Austin had 1500 employees and was producing 1,000 cars a year.
During the First World War Austin built Aircraft, shells, heavy guns, gen-sets and 1,600 3-ton trucks - most of which were sent to Russia. Staff had grown to 22,000 by the end of the war!
In 1930 every personal car was taxed by its engine size, which in American dollars was $2.55 per square inch of piston displacement. As an example, the owner of an Austin 7 in England, which sold for approximately $455, would have to pay a yearly engine tax of $39. In comparison, the owner in England of a Ford Model-A would have to pay $120 per year in an engine tax. And this system of engine displacement tax was common in other European nations as well in the 1930s. At one point, the "Baby Austin" was built under licence by the fledgling BMW of Germany (as the Dixi); by the Japanese manufacturer Datsun; as the Bantam in the United States; and as the Rosengart in France. And in England the Austin was the most produced car in 1930.
Also in the early 1930s, Datsun built cars infringing Austin patents. From 1934, Datsun began to build Sevens under licence and this operation became the greatest success of Austin's overseas licensing of its Seven. It marked the beginning of Datsun's international success. This was not to be the end of the relationship between Austin and Datsun - see further down!
During the Second World War Austin continued building cars but also made trucks and aircraft, including Avro Lancaster bombers.
In 1952, Austin entered into another agreement with Datsun for assembly of 2,000 imported Austins from "knock-down kits", to be sold in Japan under the Austin trademark. The agreement called for Nissan to make all Austin parts locally within three years, a goal Nissan met. Nissan produced and marketed Austins for seven years. The agreement also gave Nissan rights to use Austin patents, which Nissan used in developing its own engines for its Datsun line of cars. In 1953, British-built Austins were assembled and sold, but by 1955, the Austin A50 – completely assembled by Nissan and featuring a slightly larger body with 1489 cc engine – was on the market in Japan. Nissan produced 20,855 Austins between 1953 and 1959.
In 1952 Austin merged with Morris Motors.
Also in 1952, Austin did a deal with Donald Healey, leading to a new marque, Austin-Healey, and a range of sports cars.
I'm going to stop here, as we're about to enter the British Leyland era - and nobody wants to see that, right?