- The original American microcar
- A favorite of 1930s celebrities
- Beautifully restored
14 bhp, 46 cu. in. L-head inline four-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 75 in.
Long before major automobile manufacturers crossed international borders to produce their cars in other countries, the British smash hit, the Austin Seven, arrived in the town of Butler, Pennsylvania. At the time, it must have seemed to be a sure-fire idea: build a small car with a 75-inch wheelbase chassis, 13-horsepower engine, and curb weight of 1,300 pounds and sell it to Americans hurting from the Great Depression.
The American Austin’s charming design and petite size made it something of an early 1930s style icon, and it was popular among celebrities like Buster Keaton and Al Jolson. It became a popular “second car” with families that already owned a larger, more ornate automobile. However, it failed to find the market that had been envisioned among the economically unfortunate, and fewer than 10,000 were made in two years, which was a far cry from the hundreds of thousands that management had been expecting. In 1932, the American Austin factory was taken over by businessman Roy Evans, and the car, which was redesigned as the American Bantam, was produced until 1942.
Today, the American Austin is best remembered as one of the smallest American automobiles of all time, and as one of the last products of the “can-do, will-do” attitude that characterized the United States in the Roaring Twenties.
The Roadster offered here is the archetypal Austin body style, with its racing-style, cut-down doors and Duesenberg-inspired “sweep panel” color scheme that was created by stylist Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, who had also created the famous Cord L-29 Hayes Coupe and the LeBaron-bodied 1934 Packards. It has been the recipient of an utterly wonderful restoration, and it is finished in glass-like maroon and cream paint, with beautifully detailed tan leather interior, a folding canvas top, and cream disc wheels. The simplicity of the dashboard and inner door panels belies the stylishness of the Austin’s design.
Since a display of these cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance several years ago, American Austins have been growing in popularity, and more and more concours are hosting classes of these fun little cars. This is certainly one of the nicest examples available, as it has been finished to a beautiful, show standard, and it is ready to be enjoyed either around town or on the field.