Launched in 1951 at Earls Court, the A30 may be a small car, but it’s big in character. Let us be your guide...
The first thing you notice when you approach an A30 is that it feels pretty snug inside. Once you’re installed, there is enough room for most shapes and sizes, and the controls fall nicely to hand, meaning you’re ready to experience everything the little engine has to offer. It may only have 28bhp to play with, but it’s an honest worker and, once up to speed, will buzz along nicely. The brakes will come as something of a surprise, although they work well enough for the performance.
Power (bhp@rpm) 28bhp@4800rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 40lb ft@2200rpm
Top speed 63mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
This was the first Austin without a separate chassis – one less thing to check, then – but the innovative bodywork can hide plenty of rot spots. It’s best to examine every inch of the panels and surrounding areas. Pay attention to the bolt-on front wings and the front panel between the headlights and grille as rust here can spread to the front valance and then onto the radiator support. Missing sealing strips can allow muck to enter joints and seams so keep an eye out for any bubbling between panels. Check the boot, as rust can develop around the rear lights, the floor and the rear inner wings. Repair panels are available, but replacement wings are getting scarce.
If the doors have dropped slightly, it may just be worn hinge bushes, but check the hinge panels and door pillars for corrosion and make sure leaking seals haven’t allowed water ingress. Get a good look underneath as the floorpan can rot around the toeboards and jacking points can disintegrate. The sill on the driver’s side, where the handbrake mounts, is another known weak spot. It’s also worth taking a look at the chromework – there isn’t a great deal on an A30, but renovation costs can add up and, unlike most of the vehicle, some brightwork parts are hard to find. It’s always a big plus if the original trafficators are working, too.
Despite its diminutive size, the OHV engine feels unbreakable, although most will probably have been rebuilt by now. As always, check for oil leaks, while excessive blue exhaust smoke points to worn cylinder bores. Evidence of rumbling bearings or rattling timing chains isn’t a deal-breaker, but haggle accordingly. It’s easy to work on, and with parts plentiful and cheap, finding one with solid bodywork is the most important thing. Plenty of upgrades are available to improve performance, so ask about any work that’s been done.
Excessive noise in first or reverse gear means the gearbox is probably due a rebuild, and watch for jumping out of gear; a sharp lift of the throttle on the test drive will reveal any issues here. A noisy differential isn’t a big worry, although ensure that you check for oil leaks. Any clunks from propshaft joints are easy and cheap to sort.
Suspension comprises coil springs at the front and semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear and is a simple set-up. The key things to watch for are play in the bushes and shock absorber top mounts at the front, as well as corrosion around the rear spring hangers. Check for wear in the kingpin bushes and ensure that the various grease nipples have been regularly attended to – it will accelerate wear significantly if a previous owner has ignored them. The steering shouldn’t give you trouble, but check for play in the steering box, idler arm or drag links.
The brakes (drums all round) are operated by a combination of hydraulics at the front and cables at the rear. Stopping power is adequate rather than outstanding, so make sure everything is in good order. Watch for wear in the linkages and for any signs of fluid leaks from the main cylinder or from the wheel cylinders themselves. That said, an overhaul is straightforward and the parts are inexpensive.
‘Charmingly simple’ best describes the A30’s cabin, so it’s just a case of watching for general wear and tear. Any splits in the vinyl trim covering seats and door cards can be sorted by a retrimmer, as can sagging front seats. If it’s a bit musty, make sure that previous water leaks haven’t allowed rot to take hold. Check that all switchgear is working.
The A30 is bursting with a charm and an honest simplicity that makes it very appealing. It is easy to work on and cheap to run, so makes the perfect starter classic. The biggest concern is rot, so make sure you are entirely happy with its body condition before you take the plunge.