Austin A12/5 SHEERLINE REVIEW

Considered to be a poor-man’s Bentley when it was new, we discover the Sheerline’s charms...

 

The big Austin is all about space and luxury and they are the first things to hit you when you step aboard. Acres of fine leather and beautifully polished wood provide a great ambience, and while the square-faced instruments mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, there is no doubting the craftsmanship involved. 

Underway, the torquey straight six is refined and performance is more than adequate given the hefty kerb-weight, while the long wheelbase provides a supremely comfortable ride – you can certainly see why the Sheerline was compared to Bentleys of the day. As you might expect from something so large, this is a car that is all about wafting its occupants around in comfort so handling dynamics don’t really enter the equation. That said the independent front suspension and leaf-sprung live axle cope admirably with the bulk if you decide to press on and the drum brakes are more than up to the job. Frankly though you wouldn’t want to push things – instead sit back and enjoy the luxury on offer knowing you’re behind the wheel of one Britain’s finest post-WW2 models.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

Austin A12/5 Sheerline

Engine                                    3995cc/6-cyl/OHV

Power (bhp@rpm)                  130bhp@3700rpm

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 150lb ft@2000rpm

Top speed                                81mph

0-60mph                                  19.4sec

Consumption                            13mpg

Gearbox                                    4-spd manual/4-spd auto opt.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS
 

Major restoration of such a large car can be an expensive prospect, so careful checks of the bodywork and separate chassis are needed. The steel chassis is considered bulletproof but easy to repair if necessary, while the rear edge of the front wings, the lid of the spare wheel compartment, and the boot lid corners are potential rot spots. Beneath the steel skin of the doors is a wooden frame which can rot away, so any doubts over their integrity should ring alarm bells. Bear in mind too that replacement panels are almost impossible to source, so it’ll be a case of repairing what’s there or letting-in fresh metal. Interestingly Sheerlines were fitted with a ‘Jackall’ internal jacking system, operated by a hydraulic pump that allowed all four wheels to be lifted at once. It is worth checking to see if this is still operational. 

While on the exterior, take a good look at the chrome-work and light fittings. The latter are hard to find now so may have been replaced with non-original parts, while the huge Lucas P100 headlamps can cost a few hundred pounds each to replace. Items such as door locks and handles are equally rare so take the time to ensure everything is present and correct. It’s worth checking the operation of the sliding steel sunroof as a re-build is labour intensive, and ensure that leaking seals haven’t caused water damage inside.

ENGINE

The 4.0-litre engine is derived from the Austin K-Series truck and is strong and reliable with proper care, and the simple construction means a re-build is fairly straightforward. If there’s a weakness it’s the cooling system, considered to be the result of squeezing a big engine into a poorly-ventilated engine bay. Overheating will likely result in a blown head gasket so it check for any evidence of this. Recent radiator refurbishment or replacement is good news as is the fitting of a modern electric fan which pretty much cures the problem. Engines can suffer from fuel vapourisation, cured by insulating the pipes around the carburettor. 

ELECTRICS

A thorough check of the electrical system is recommended too. The braided wiring may have started to deteriorate – always a risk with old cars – while items such as control boxes and instruments are very hard to find now which means re-building original components.

RUNNING GEAR

The four-speed manual gearbox is also lorry-based with all the strength that implies. It’s generally trouble-free although problems selecting gears are likely to be caused by wear in the column change linkage. It’s an easy fix though. Wear in the propshaft joints or an especially noisy differential will be apparent on the test drive.

The running gear is robust, but there are a few things worth checking for. The hefty kerb weight puts a strain on the lever-arm dampers and rear leaf springs so check these aren’t leaking or sagging respectively while joints and bushes may be ready for an overhaul, the track rod ends particularly. The steering’s cam gear can’t be adjusted so a re-build will be needed if it’s worn. The non-servo hydraulic drum brakes are up to the task but look for signs of leaking wheel cylinders – original-spec replacements are costly but specialists can re-sleeve them instead. The handbrake was poor even when new so ensure it holds the car on a slope. 


INTERIOR

The cabin of a Sheerline was an object lesson in the use of high quality materials, with features such as Wilton carpets and a wool cloth headlining adding to the luxury feel. That means a decrepit interior will be seriously costly to restore, most likely needing professional attention, so don’t ignore trim in poor condition. Take a good look at the horn rim on the Bakelite steering wheel – the original Mazak part is almost impossible to find and may have been replaced with a stainless steel item. Lastly, check for evidence of water leaks from the rear screen – an issue even when new which may have damaged the trim, or worse allowed rust to take hold.

OUR VERDICT

The Sheerline is a fine blend of simplicity, reliability, and comfort and those attributes alone would be enough to swing it for most buyers. It enjoys a degree of exclusivity compared to other luxury cars of the day, which is an added attraction – you’re unlikely to be disappointed if you were to choose one of these over a Bentley. Finding a good one is the key though as the quality of its construction (not to mention its sheer size) means major restoration work will sap funds depressingly quickly. There are probably few finer ways to travel though.

Recently Added

P1020415Sponsored Ad
£19,995
  • 1,234
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1100158
Mini Cooper Sport 2001 1 Owner Just 1234 Miles from New. Mint
10
02085 012727
View details
1tSponsored Ad
1967
€37,950
cabriolet V8 1967 in good condition
  • 28,315
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 LHD
  • Refcode: TA1100159
This Ford Mustang convertible was delivered in 1967. The car has beautiful white paint and fabulo...
8
+31 416 751393
View details
Austin   2 x3Sponsored Ad
£34,000
  • 84,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1071258
Vintage and Prestige are proud to offer this 1959 Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite For Sale. Registra...
20
01375 379719
View details
2013 mercedes e 350 2 x3Sponsored Ad
2013
£29,900
  • 10,500
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 N/A
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 Other
  • Refcode: TA1100096
2013 Mercedes Benz E-Class (212) E350 Sport Saloon Petrol V6 Left Hand Drive Chassis number: WDDH...
20
01375 379719
View details
Ab28mrext8Sponsored Ad
1938
£95,000
High Vision
  • 0
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1100154
Displayed on the HJ Mulliner stand at the 1938 London Motor it must have caused quite a sensation...
6
01248 489 220
View details
Bentley mk vi 202 xuc 2 x3Sponsored Ad
1951
£25,000
  • 1,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 N/A
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1100153
Vintage and Prestige are proud to offer this 1951 Bentley MK VI Standard Steel Saloon For Sale Th...
20
01375 379719
View details
Received 10212172386598711Sponsored Ad
1994
£300
E 1.9TDI
  • 196,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1100106
Spares/Repairs/Project. Laser red. 6 owners. Electric sunroof. Lots of history. Starts & drives. ...
9
07552283358
View details
F94448a3 6641 40a3 9138 1b435077f784Sponsored Ad
1986
£13,500
528i Lux
  • 78,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1100104
Alpine white, original interior, missing dashboard, exterior in very good condition, engine compl...
9
07724527609
View details
174Sponsored Ad
2013
£165,000
  • 0
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1049618
Rolls-Royce Phantom - March 2013
3
01371 809 874
View details
Ghost 2012Sponsored Ad
2012
£122,500
  • 20,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1088224
April 2012 Lunar Blue with Crème Light hide and Burr Walnut veneer. Fitted with comfort entry sys...
3
01371 809 874
View details
See All Classic Cars for Sale