AUSTIN A40 FARINA REVIEW

Think Pinifarina, and you tend to think of a long line of jaw-dropping stunners such as the Lancia Flaminia, Ferrari 288GTO and Fiat Dino. And yet this respected design house has long dabbled in much more workaday machinery, although few have taken the designer’s name. The stylish and practical little Austin A40 is one such, however, and its beauty is more than skin deep: legendary rally driver, Pat Moss, drove one to tenth place on the 1959 Monte Carlo rally.

 

It may have been styled by a distinguished design house, but the A40 Farina still has feet of clay – or more acccurately body panels of steel – and rots in all the usual places with the best of them.

These cars suffer at the front more than most, so check the panel beneath the radiator grille aperture for hidden corrosion (this area tends to rust from the inside out), and also the areas immediately surrounding the headlights. This latter in particular can be hidden successfully by sufficient filler and a cheap blow-over re-spray, so be vigilant.

Out back, the lower edge of the double-skinned bootlid can trap water with predictable consequences, likewise the boot floor. The rear spring hangers are also prone to extensive – and expensive – corrosion.

Body panels are surprisingly scarce, given that more than 364,000 Farinas rolled off the production line (NOS front wings are particularly hard to come by, and the fit of some pattern parts can be truly appalling), so always source the soundest car you can afford.

VITAL STATISTICS

AUSTIN A40 MK1

Engine                                    948cc/4-cyl/OHV

Power (bhp@rpm)                  34bhp@4750rpm

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 50lb/ft@2000rpm

Top speed                                72mph

0-60mph                                  31.2sec

Consumption                           37.7mpg

Gearbox                                   4-speed manual


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

 

BODYWORK & CHASSIS

It may have been styled by a distinguished design house, but the A40 Farina still has feet of clay – or more acccurately body panels of steel – and rots in all the usual places with the best of them.

These cars suffer at the front more than most, so check the panel beneath the radiator grille aperture for hidden corrosion (this area tends to rust from the inside out), and also the areas immediately surrounding the headlights. This latter in particular can be hidden successfully by sufficient filler and a cheap blow-over re-spray, so be vigilant.

Out back, the lower edge of the double-skinned bootlid can trap water with predictable consequences, likewise the boot floor. The rear spring hangers are also prone to extensive – and expensive – corrosion.

Body panels are surprisingly scarce, given that more than 364,000 Farinas rolled off the production line (NOS front wings are particularly hard to come by, and the fit of some pattern parts can be truly appalling), so always source the soundest car you can afford.

 

ENGINE

It’s mostly good news, here, since the 948cc and 1098cc engines are shared with various other BMC cars, including the Morris Minor and Austin A35. They might not be particularly powerful, but they’re as tough as they come and can be tuned to within an inch of their lives. Mk1s and early Mk2s are often uprated using either the marginally more powerful (37bhp plays 34bhp) later 1098cc engine, or more powerful-still units from the loosely related MG Midget, too.

These engines thrive on regular maintenance, so evidence of 3000-mile oil changes, lubrication (rear spring shackles, brake balance lever, etc) and a new-looking fuel pump filter (which can last up to 6000 miles between cleans) are all good news.

Elsewhere, things to bear in mind on the Mk1 include checking the mechanical fuel pump pipe line unions for cracks and damage and the Zenith carb for evidence of silting up. The Mk2’s SU carb needs less maintenance, although rough running can often be cured by removing the suction chamber and suction disc assembly and cleaning them out thoroughly.

A persistently glowing oil pressure warning light can be caused by something as simple as an old oil filter requiring replacement, but could be as a result of either a worn oil pump or – more seriously – worn engine bearings.

 

RUNNING GEAR

Again, simplicity is the key here, and the A40’s oily bits are provenly tough. Worn halfshafts will eventually break if they’re not renewed, but if you’re planning to replace them with examples off a donor car, make sure you replace them like-for-like – ie, a donor left-hand halfshaft should always go onto the left side of the recipient car.

The differential is similarly hard-wearing. They’re often quite noisy, but will carry on in this vein for hundreds of miles before they finally expire. 

The clutch requires very little regular maintenance and should last for years as long as the slave cylinder pivot is kept oiled every 3000 miles or so. That said, a slipping clutch is usually as a result of worn thrust springs or a seized piston within the clutch slave cylinder, while a juddering clutch can usually be traced back to a pressure plate being misaligned with the flywheel or loose propshaft bolts.


INTERIOR

The A40’s cabin is a simple and hard-wearing as the rest of the car, which is extremely good news since NOS replacement trim components are virtually impossible to source now, and used items come up for sale on the specialist forums and at specialist dealers only very occasionally. There’s a modicum of common componentry between the A40 and some of its sister models, but on the whole it really does pay to keep your eyes peeled for any donor cars or parts that turn up on the web. 

OUR VERDICT

Amazingly, rarity is one of the big attractions of prospective A40 Farina ownership these days – parts, be they body panels, interior/exterior trim or brightwork, are getting increasingly difficult to find, and the cars themselves come up for sale surprisingly rarely. Find a good one, and chances are you’ll have to organise orderly queues of people keen to have a look at it.

Rarity aside, however, these are corking little classics in their own right: they’re not especially quick, but they’re spacious, mechanically straightforward and handle and ride beautifully.

As the icing on the cake, we can think of few other classics that manage to be quite so practical, yet so compact overall.

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