My story is,
was afraid to drive. My father promised me a car if I got my license when I was 16. It took ten yrs. but he kept his promise
& in Jan 1972 he bought my Aunt's Austin Americana. It was either a 69 or 70. She thought it would be fast like the Austin
Healey. She was unhappy it only went to 80 mph & had to be serviced often. It had an electric starter & was semi automatic.
Because of its problems I learned much about car engines. Every 1500 miles had to replace the points & wires. Whenever
it rained I had to watch out for water puddles as it would short out. I carried a rag to wipe out the distributor cap. I turned
many a mechanic's eye when I pulled into a gas station to wipe out the cap. If the rain was heavy it would pool in the trunk
& short out the electric starter. My father was no mechanic but he thought he would solve the pooling of water in the
trunk by drilling holes in the trunk [floor]. We consider a miracle happened as he missed the gas tank drilling the holes.
I could get 5 people in the car but it drove so slow a friend bought a bumper sticker saying we are pedaling as fast as we
can. We drove to many prayer meetings in that car & had many prayer meetings in car to get home. Even with all the problems
my friends & I loved the car. I moved from Milwaukee WI to Austin TX in Sept 72. I had the car serviced before leaving.
When in OK I believe on the Turner Turnpike I hit a large branch & broke something. I hardly made it to Austin. When I
pulled into Import Motors the mechanic was amazed as I only had one point & wire working. When I hit the branch I broke
either the Ujoint or steering rod. They said it would cost more to fix than car was worth. They wouldn't give me much in trade.
Told me to go to an American dealership as I would get more. They were right. I bought a Nova to replace it.
In 1974 I was 22, employed and living the American dream. And so I decided that I should quit my job
and travel America on a 750 Honda motorcycle. Which I did. Two weeks later I crashed it in Kansas City and this experience
caused me to want to continue the trip by car.
One pic is of me in front of the state capital in Bismarck, ND. The other two are two traveling pals
of mine as we stopped in the South Dakota Badlands.
I traveled in the Austin throughout the West from Seattle to San Diego and then headed down into Mexico,
then back up thru Texas, over to Florida and then most of the East Coast states.
Because I was on a tight budget I had little money for motels. To resolve this, I moved the lower portion
of the back seat forward and placed a cushion on the floorboard so I could sleep in the back of the car. Which I did for almost
I had only two mechanical problems thru about 12,000 miles of travels. The wiper cable broke and since
I couldn't find parts right away, and it rained, I hooked up a cord to both wipers and ran the cord thru the vent windows
so I could move the wipers back and forth by hand! This only worked as I steered with my knees. Yikes!
The other problem was one of the U-joint on the drive shaft broke. Being stoned at the time, I was
sure I could wire it up and head on down the road. Of course, that didn't work. Fortunately I got a free tow to Troy Missouri
and two guys who owned a garage, envious of me being able to travel the country, got the parts and fixed it up charging me
only about ten bucks for the parts.
Great memories, great little car.
29 Palms, CA
|Somewhere out on the road.
Love your site!! I have an Austin America story to share from California.
Back in the late sixties, my parents bought his and her Austins - Blue and Green. In the early seventies, my dad was
given a company car, so my parents traded both the Austins for a new Sable-colored model for my mom. I don't remember
what year the car was, but at the end of the summer of 1973, whoever saved the most money could buy the car from my parents.
I saved $205 and my older sister didn't save anything, so I bought the car. I was only 15 at the time and didn't have
my license yet. My dad took the $205 and had the car painted a tangerine orange. He also had an am/fm radio installed.
The second I got my license I started driving my baby and became very popular in high school - seemed like everyone needed
a ride! I remember that the engine was mounted sideways and it was hard to find mechanics to work on it.
Slowly, but surely the transmission went out until I could no longer drive it. In my senior year (1976), I traded
it in for a AMC Javelin. I think I got less than $100 for it! I miss that car, and really enjoy reminiscing on
your web site. Thanks! Gina
I bought a new one in 1970. It was a pale yellow 4-spd
with a black interior.
Of course I did my best to thrash it to death,
but it wasn't until I let my younger brother "take care" of it while I
away that it met its demise. I couldn't blame him because he was
stopped dead behind a Buick when a lady in a Pontiac
sedan came up
from behind and turned the Austin into an accordion.
Prior to the Austin, I had an MG 1100 with a
Speedwell head and the
compensating lines between the suspension bags crimped off. Youth
being a synonym for foolish,
I destroyed the 1100 myself.
I missed those cars so much that once I settled into adulthood I tried
to find another
one. Of course, living in the Northeast, I never
found one which could be rescued.
If you have the time, you might be amused by
the following AAA (Austin America Anecdote).
The yellow Austin I told you about was fairly new at the time, but since
I planned to use it for an extended honeymoon trip to Canada, I took it to the dealer for a full servicing.
as planned until my new bride and I were on our way to Quebec. With no forewarning, as I pulled away from a light the
Austin started to bog down and refuse to take the throttle, almost dieing out. Whenever I depressed the clutch, the
engine would idle normally and then rev freely.
Luckily, within sight was a busy, independent service station with
about eight bays. We limped into it and I explained my problem to the
owner. He drove the car around his lot, verifying it was not a case
of operator error. Then his best mechanic tried it out. When the mechanic returned, he gave his assessment in a torrent of rapid fire French.
The grim report was that he thought it was a serious problem in the trans which might cost as much as $600 and that was in
1970 dollars! I thought, there goes the honeymoon. Before working
on the car, the owner said he would like his son
to look at it. His son was a mechanical engineering student who had raced similar cars (Mini's?), but he would not be
able to check it until the evening after he finished his classes.
I asked if there was a hotel nearby and the owner
said he had a friend who operated a motel and he would make arrangements for me. I asked about transportation to the
motel and, once again, he had a friend who ran a taxi. Dinner? Why, of course, there was his friend with a restaurant.
I started to get this sinking feeling that not only was this guy going to take me for a $600 trans rebuild, but he wanted
to make sure I would have to pawn my watch in order to get out of Canada.
By the time his son showed up after dinner,
I had resigned myself to being the ugly American who got reamed by a bunch of French-Canadians. The son drove the car
around the lot, stopped in front of the garage and popped the hood. With his father at his side he reach into the engine
compartment and with a lot of gesturing they engaged in a five minute long, indecipherable conversation in French. I thought
for sure that they were trying to figure how much they could squeeze out of me. Just as I was about to throw them my
wallet and tell them to take whatever they wanted, the son slammed the hood and told me to try it out. The Austin ran
The son explained that the low voltage wire to the distributor had caught on the corner of the sheet metal
shield behind the grill and whenever I engaged the clutch the torque reaction of the engine put just enough of a strain on
the conductor to cause an open circuit at its connector. Depressing the clutch allowed the engine to flop back
into its unloaded position reestablishing current to the distributor.
The garage owner, Monsieur Shampoo (phonetically),
would not take any payment for his work, so I bought him a couple of bottles of the best wine I could find and almost kissed
him. By the way, the
accommodations he arranged were not fancy, but impeccably clean and cheap, the taxi ride cost me what walking beside a taxi
in New York would cost and the meal was delicious.
I'm sure Monsieur
Shampoo's son went on to become a first class engineer.
How could he not, his dad was a first class human being.
Once again, thank you for your generous help."
"Dear Todd and Kate,
Periodically, I like to google certain cars and models to
see what pics are in there and what is being sold. Have had a couple of older, classic cars. Do not really dabble
in old cars anymore but like to go to shows and see what people have.
In the latter part of 1968, my parents were in
need of a second car. They had a 1964 Buick LeSabre and my Mom stayed home raising three kids. My Dad was in a
carpool, for, work with four other guys, so his day to drive was Monday. That was the only day my Mom did not have the
car at her disposal.
Dad got a new job around 30 miles from home with no carpool. Always having large American
cars, he wanted something smaller and good on gas. In addition, he was only looking to spend around $2000.00.
At that time, he had never considered or had a used car. He went down to this local import car dealer in Orange, NJ.
Mostly European cars. He looked at a basic Volvo coupe/sedan, I think the 164 model which cost around $3,000.00.
Too steep, Dad spotted this pale yellow, two door, Austin America with the four speed automatic and factory radio. It
was a 1968 because the 69's were not due to arrive until January and this was November.
So, for $2000.00 or
so, he bought it. Ironically, around the corner from us, a family bought a four door, much rarer indeed, maroon, 1969,
with side marker lights and those hideous high headrests. Anyway, the car had a lot of appeal even though I had never
seen anything much like it except for a VW Beetle. The leather seats were comfortable, thick and soft and us kids like
the fact that the front seat completely lifted up for entry and exit from the car. The carpet was nice as well.
The dashboard was rather nice with some different color warning lights, guages, overall lighting and that infamous thermometer
style speedometer. My 1973 Lincoln Continental had a liquid crystal version of this type of speedometer.
The car had a pleasant new car smell as well.I loved the fact that we lived in a hilly town, so Dad had to manually shift
the automatic all the time. I mean this car did not move up a hill at all with three or four of us in the car with
whopping 56 horsepower engine. The car handled extremely well, however and Dad had a hilly commute to work and
loved the fact that the front wheel drive just whipped around all of these stuck rear wheel drive, big American cars in the
snow. Dad would let me reach over and steer the car around town while he controlled the pedals. It was easy to
drive and handled beautifully. It seemed like the perfect second commuter car, inexpensive and good on gas. The
hatch in the back, although the window did not go up as well, allowed for lots of grocery bags to be stored after weekend
shopping. I also liked the rear armrest in the middle as well.
All would have worked out well for Dad had it
not been for the fact, as stated by people on your website, that this car I think was designed to be used in Southern California
and in temperatures no less than 50 degrees and definitely dry. In the summer, the car ran great. In the
winter, we learned what a disasterous car this was inspite of its great handling. Dad could never start the darn thing
and he was forced to use the family car all the time. He kept the car in our somewhat heated attached garage.
Kept an oil dipstick warmer in place and still this thing would not start. Any sign of dampness and forget it.
Every effort to resolve this issue failed. I don't think any of the mechanics knew what to do with this British Leyland
"thing." It was pot luck on any damp or cold morning if it would turn over. My parents were livid. My Dad
had taken a loss of income and now was commuting further.
Other issues with the car began to surface only after two
years and maybe 30,000 miles. The paint was already fading, an inside door handle just snapped in half and the tailpipe
hinge kept rusting away so we had to tie it up with something else. The sheetmetal was thin as paper and my brother
hit a baseball into the car by mistake, while playing in the street, and it made a huge dent. Some years later, I would
see a couple of these cars already rotting away and we did not live in a very harsh climate.
Ready to just give up
on this car already, my father put electrical tape around the wires to keep them dry. As summer approached again, happier
days with this car would resume. It loved hot, dry weather.
It is now the fall of 1970. Two years with
this "thing" and Dad was worried about another winter nursing this car along. Well, someone up their was feeling his
pain I guess. Blinded by the sun, my Dad rammed into the back of a truck and demolished the car. He went through
the windshield and got some glass in his forehead. He never wore his seatbelt. There was already a dent in the
rear hatch. Someone had bumped into his car from the rear when he was not in it. Anyway, it was totaled and in
pieces. It would be missed, somewhat, but Dad thought it was a blessing in disguise. Now, he just had to get a
second car. He got around $1,000 or so from the insurance. Imagine, the car already half price, only two years
old with maybe 30-35,000 miles on it?
With that, he bought his first mid-size two door car. A used 1969 Ford
Fairlane 500, with a 302 V8, two door. It had 32,000 miles on it and he got it for like $1,400.00. It was a compromise
between the Austin America and a full size car. Roomy enough for all of us without being too big.
Over the years,
we occasionally saw an Austin America. Usually a 1969, 70, or 71. Not many 68's were sold the first year of its
arrival. The ones we saw always had side marker lights and headrests. We did see some more four doors, but mostly
two doors. They faded fast into history never to be seen again. Our neighbors would laughs year later occassionally
asking us where our Austin America, or as my Father called it, his Austin American went? My Father never got names straight.
They would all laugh thinking what a piece of crap it was. It was always being towed somewhere. I think it was a fun
car to drive and I was no fan of cars of this type. Had it had any reliability at all, we could have had fonder memories......"
Lawrenceville, New Jersey
"I once owned.....
........an Austin America. Bought it new at British Motorcars dealership
in Oakland California in 1969 for $1,800 and change. Got a yellow one with auto tranny and the factory radio. Right away I
modified it with an illuminated plexiglas shift gate... made it by carving block of wood to fit contour of shift housing,
used the kitchen oven to droop plexi over the form (after having cut the shift gate pattern with a coping saw), then drilled
the mounting holes. Added a "grain of wheat" lamp glued in a notch filed in front of the plexi part and wired it to the ignition
block so I had lighted shifter. This was somehow important to me because I almost always rowed through the gears manually
when thrashing the car in the Berkeley hills.
Only problem I encountered in about a year of ownership was some shroud
under the bonnet rubbed a hole in the ignition coil and shorted it out. I was stranded on a freeway, but managed to figure
it out, hitch-hiked to get parts and my tools and was underway the next day.
Lot of memories of trips to the ocean
and redwoods in the Austin. Probably a good choice of vehicle for a college student at the time. But, everybody is right on
about lack of build quality, crappy electrics and general unreliability. Think I didn't have mine long enough to experience
the full range of "Austin Rage" which includes swearing at the designers of the car (and all British cars in general).
for my allowing me to share my somewhat dim - yet mostly fond - memories of my own "Austin America" experience!"
My wife found your website today and
shared it with me. I'm enclosing a picture of a 1971 model we bought in London in May, 1971. We put 11,600 miles
on it all over Europe--even making it farther north than the Arctic Circle in Norway. We camped for 10 weeks during
the summer of 1971 and had many adventures. At the time we were 25 years old. Sometimes we even slept in the car,
a difficult feat with me in the back seat and my wife in the front with the gear shift sticking in her ribs. NOT comfortable!
We paid $1500 for it, used it all summer and then shipped it back to New York for $200. We sold it in Atlantic City
area for almost the purchase price. It retired in NJ! During the summer in Europe we had problems with the carburetor
that plagued us until one night in Norway I fixed it by filing down a burr on the key with my wife's diamond nail file.
We went everywhere in that car and lived in it, small as it was, many a day because it rained so much. We anthropormorphized
it and began to think of it as human. I don't remember that we gave it a name, though. Here it is on Day 2 of
its life near Westminster Abbey in London. Note the 70's clothes! It was cold and all I had was that sweater and
jacket. Memories! Hope you enjoy this one for your collection.
|Jim Campbell and his Blaze Red 1971 America
|In front of Westminster Abbey, England
|Driving thru the Black Forest in Germany!
|Hey, why not. It floats on fluid!
|Camping with an Austin America in Europe!
|Crossing the Arctic Circle in Norway!
I have an Austin America memory for you. My father owned an Austin
in the late 70's. I am not sure what year model his was. As a
mechanic he had purchased it to use as his "beater" and
car. He made some modifications and painted the car a kind of pea green
color (probably not a
stock color). He was competing in a class that
was primarily VW Rabbits. He and the car earned the nick name
Fudd due to their "hunting of waskily wabbits". He won this class at
most of his auto crosses. We
also rode to school and went on local
trips in this car. I remember many trips to my grandparents house, a
over, sliding back and forth on the leather seats as my dad
navigated the winding country roads (this was kind of the
era). My dad retired the car in the 80's and went over to the dark side
and started driving Rabbits.
When my sister was about 11 (1988 or so)
she decided she wanted to learn how to drive. My dad said ok get a
and he put some gas in the Austin America. He checked the fluids
they were ok and the battery was of course dead.
After he got it all
sorted out we jumped in. We lived on a large farm that was mostly
cleared out. He
drove us to the field then got her in the drivers seat.
He started instructing her on the art of driving a straight drive.
Since I was a year older I was chomping at the bit, I couldn't be
outdone. After we got the hang of starting
(side stepping the clutch
and flooring it), he showed us some other driving skills. We drove
around many laps
in that field. My dad regularly maintained our track
so that we could drive and not hurt anything. We learned
quickly how to
make the fuel pump kick in when it was acting up (open the trunk and
knock on the back of the trunk
where the fuel pump was). We also
learned one of the most valuable lessons how to push start a dead
drive. We were probably the only kids that got grounded from
the car before we were 15. The odd part is it
took my sister and I
forever to get our licenses, we were terrified of the other cars on the
for your time. I will look and see if there are pictures
around. I know there is a very poorly exposed shot of one of
it (our photography skills were lacking then). I am almost positive my
dad still has it, we will see what
we can find out."
"A bit of history
and some technical advice:
In1968 I was
working at College Motors Sports Car Center, San Diego, CA, and was documented as having sold the first
Austin America in the USA. The purchaser
actually bought the car about two months before they arrived at the dealership – he only saw photos and a press release.
Later, I was
the service manager at Conway British Imports, also of san Diego.
The daughter of Garth Howell, West Coast service representative for BLMC, attended a local college and had her 1275cc Morris
Minor woodie serviced by our shop. Thus, I was able to obtain Austin America service tips from Garth that were never published.
most important one was how to prevent leakage after separating the crankshaft from the transmission. It goes like this:
Coat the crankshaft with shellac and wrap it with two or three turns of toilet paper. With a paint brush, apply a generous
coat of shellac over the toilet paper and refit the engine to the transmission before the shellac is entirely hardened. We
tried this many times and never had a comeback."
San Diego, CA
I was sitting at my laptop looking to see if I could find any pictures of an Austin America.
I wanted to show my wife what the Austin I had looked like. I was pleasantly shocked to find your site.
It looks like you really care for the Austins.
I purchased my Austin in 1978. I lived in the city of Chicago and had a job downtown.
I had been taking the El to work and school and really wanted a car. I searched the classifieds and located a 1971 Austin
in one of the far South suburbs. I convinced my grandfather to drive me down to see the car. My grandfather loaded
us up into his HUGE Chrysler and we went to see it. The car was a bright yellow (Canary yellow I think). My grandfather
saw the car, laughed, and told me "come on, lets find you a real car". I insisted that I wanted to see more. I
spoke with the owner. He advised that the car had originally been bought new for his daughter. She had not kept
up her grades and he took the car away from her. She went on to another car and he decided that he wasn't going to keep
it anymore. The battery on the car was dead, and we had to jump it. I loved the size of the interior, the speedometer
and the semi automatic transmission. The radio didn't work and the tires were really low on air. I didn't know
it at the time, but, the suspension needed to be recharged too. I worked out a deal and for $600.00 I drove it home.
I owned that car until 1981. I would have kept it even longer, but, for the minor mechanical
issues. I found that there were a few teeth missing off the flywheel and that every once in a while it wouldn't start
because the flywheel was in the wrong place. I tried and couldn't find parts for it. Eventually, I sold it to the mechanical
shop that I tried to get it fixed at. The owner had several MG 1100's and was planning to add a stickshift to the car.
I had many adventures in that car. At my 25th High school reunion, people still asked about
my car. It was amazing that people remembered my car more than they did me!
I hope to find another America soon. I still have the 1973 MGB I bought in 1984.
It wasn't the same as the Austin, but, it was and is still fun.
I appreciate your site and hope you continue on for years to come.
Thank you for bringing back many fond memories."
How thrilled I was to find your web site. I once owned a 1970
Austin America. It was by far the best car ever. My former husband and I bought it in 1975 for $900 at a used car dealer in
Hicksville, N.Y.. I would pile myself and 3 dogs into the car and off we'd go to the Long Island Sound. The dogs just loved
it and we would get some very strange looks, as you can imagine. My Austin certainly was a conversation piece, as not too
many people had ever seen one before. One time I pulled into a gas station, and the attendant wanted to know where the giant
rubber band was to make the car go.
My Austin was dark green with a tan interior. It was very
quirky too. The horn worked when it wanted to, and not very often. Another funny thing it did was, when it rained and I needed
to use the wipers I couldn't unless the radio was turned off. One time I was pulling out of a driveway and left the muffler
in the road! Strange to hear such a loud noise coming from such a small car. When I has to park on a slight incline I needed
to place a brick behind the front tire so the car wouldn't roll away. For all that was wrong with my Austin, I still loved
it. It had a personality all it's own. It was a tough little car too. It survived an accident my former husband had
with it. You should have seen the other car. My father in-law patched up the passenger side fender by riveting a piece of
sheet metal to it. Just added more to it's personality.
I was extreamly happy to see your
web site. I think about my Austin now and then and wonder if it's still out there somewhere. Thanks for posting all the great
pictures. Sure brought back alot of memories (all good) about that cute little car. Sure wish I had one now with the
price of gas the way it is. I could drive a long time on a fill-up. I think back then it cost maybe $4.00 to fill the tank!!!
Oh those were the days ."
"Saw what I think is your #2 rescue job here recently in Sacramento. Have been
searching on the web ever since and just tonight came across your site.
Following 6 years with a nicely kept 1961 Mk II Sprite, I picked up a
refrigerator White Austin America for $500 about 1970 after getting married we decided something more was needed. Of course
we nicknamed the little fellow "Austin" It had a chronic problem of the battery draining down and the inside drivers
door handle seemed to break about every 7-9 months or so. Having dated the daughter of the shop manager for the local
BMC garage in town, I could always go down there for help like when the front rotors on the disc brakes warped or it needed
a new clutch disk. Austin had the most comfortable seats I can ever remember.
Living in Monterey it never over heated. The hydro-lastic suspension
and manual shifting made it a kick to go up & down the big Sur Coast road. Took it to Ashland Oregon one December,
as the sun set and the temperature dropped, black ice formed on the Siskiyou Summit, the last pass over stateline. The CHP
closed it while we were 1/2 way through heard the warning on its AM radio. Cars were crashing, semi-trucks sliding off
the curves all the while our little Austin creep steadily upward, over and then down I-5 to Ashland Oregon. As we passed through
the Oregon State Trooper check-point coming down the mountain they asked how in the hell we'd gotten through. I simple said,
smugly, "front wheel drive" and no chains, everyone that put chains on slid down the banked turns. The almost new 10
inch Dunlop SP4 probably helped. Right then and there I became a firm believer in front well drive. Am a bit past 50
now and my daily driver is a 5-speed '93 EuroVan, that's what happen's when you had an air-cooled bus back in the 60's and
can now afford a VW bus that doesn't break as often.
What a kick! If you come across another Austin America, perhaps drop me a line."
"I just wanted to say "hi," and think you for putting together the
site. It brings back great memories.
I had a 1970 Austin America from 1971 through 1973. I bought it new in 1971 for
It had somehow gotten misplaced on the shipping docks for a year, so
they sold it to me as a used car, even though it was
brand new. It was sort of
a canary yellow. (Close to the Rust-O-Leum Colonial Ivory color.)
I loved that car. I
tricked it up with two Lucas fog lights and a Lucas driving
light, steering-column-mounted tachometer, and Paddy Hopkirk
fly-off hand brake
button. (This was modified pawl for the hand-brake lever, designed for Minis,
that made it so instead
of pushing the button on the lever to release it, it
was normally released, and you pushed the button to lock it. Thus,
pull the lever to do hand-brake turns, and when you let go of it, it would fall
back to the floor.)
sometimes dream of someday getting another Austin America, but I don't think
it's going to happen. I remember barely being
able to keep up with the
maintenance when I owned the car, and that's when I was in my early '20's and
I never did learn how to drain the oil without hurting myself. I would put the
1-5/8 inch (if I remember
correctly) socket on the ratchet wrench, and pull on
the ratched wrench. You had to pull up, and had to put a fair amount
on it. When the drain plug finally broke loose, it would slam my wrist into the
underside of the bumper. I
just got used to the idea that it was going to hurt.
I remember having problems with the SU carburator a lot. One time
the air pump
for the emissions system failed while I was on the road. I ended up
disconnecting it, and plugging the
hose to it with a turn-signal bulb. My most
memorable repair experience was when I was driving down a dirt road, and the
really started running badly...coughing and sputtering and just having
an awful time. I stopped the car, and grabbed a
road flare, then popped the
hood to see what the problem was. It turned out that the gas line had become
from the carburator. The only reason the car was running at all
was that the gasoline hose was pouring gas on the exhaust
manifold, which was
vaporizing it, and the resulting gas/air mixture got sucked into the air
cleaner, and was enough
to almost run the car. I immediately backed up about
100 feet, and was very happy that I had not yet lit the road flare
holding in my hand.
One time, I was in a local hardware store, and someone came in and asked "Who
that Austin America out there." You never want to hear that, because it
usually means someone has bumped into your car,
but I spoke up and said it was
me. "How would you like a new exhaust system," the guy asked. It turned out
that he had
gotten a new exhaust system for his Austin, and had totalled it
before he had a chance to install it. So we drove over
to his house, and he
gave it to me. About two months later, my exhaust system failed, and I was very
happy to have a
Although I loved the hydrolastic suspension, there were a couple of problems
with it. On expressways, the
gentle rise and fall of the pavement would
occasionally get the suspension oscillating, so as I drove along, the car would
going up and down, up and down. Sort of a sea-sick feeling. My brother had a
1971 Austin. (His was sort of a pumpkin color.
My dad used to refer to our cars
as the lemon and the pumpkin.) He went out of town on business for two months,
parked his car at long-term parking at the airport. When he got home, one
side of his suspension had deflated.
lived in Michigan in the '70's, and we used to be able to use studded snow
tires in the winter. I had studded tires on
the front wheels of the Austin.
They greatly improved the traction, but I found out one day that increasing the
of just the front tires on a front-heavy car is not such a good thing. I
was driving on an icy road, and I slowed for traffic.
When I hit the brake, the
rear end of the car broke loose, and I did a 360-degree spin, and wound up on
shoulder of the road, facing the same direction I had been
heading. It wasn\'t long after that that Michigan outlawed studded
because they were tearing up the road too much, so I never repeated that
was in my '20's, I used to speed a lot. One day I was going about 85 up a
rural paved road, and I got stopped by a State
Trooper. After he finished
writing up my ticket, he asked "Does that thing have a four-cylinder in it?"
"Yes," I said.
"Wow," he replied, "That car really moves out." In a weird way,
I was proud of my little car.
Some of the things
I really liked about the Austin America were the ride, and
the short turning radius, and the odd angle of the steering
like the steering wheels in busses. I remember that putting it into reverse
required bashing the
passenger in the knee with the shift lever...it went to
the right and *way* back.
Anyway, thank you for having the
web site, and for listening to me reminisce
about the coolest car I ever had."
Mr. Lynn Grant
|Kids (Frederic in this case) absolutely love Americas!
What started out as a boring night quickly
turned interesting, when I stumbled across your website. It immediately brought to mind my mother's 1970 British
Racing Green America, which she bought brand new for $2000 cash in York, PA. She had just moved to the U.S. from France
two years earlier and was an exchange teacher in the York City School District. She had been saving up all of her money
to buy a car, and when she saw the America at the Austin dealership, she fell in love with it and bought it on the spot.
I believe hers was a manual transmission, though I could be mistaken. I really only have a few memories
of the car, one of which is when it caught fire in front of our house. The wiring for the heater fan shorted out, when
she turned the fan switch off. My mother had enough time to get me and her purse out of the car. I sat there in
front of our house and watched the car burn, while my mother called a neighbor on the phone. We lived out
in Southern York County, near the Mason/Dixon Line at the time, so by the time our neighbor came to help put out the fire,
the car was toast. My other memory is of the tow truck hauling the car away from our house. I was
4 years old (I'm now 31), but I remember that day like it was yesterday. I
also remember that when it rained, the car would stall out, unless you made it under a bridge to wait out the rain...something
about the points getting wet because the distributor was up front, according to my dad. Anyway, thanks for the
reply and Happy New Year!"
"I talked to my Dad yesterday, and he confirmed that the car was an automatic,
and in his own words, " A real piece of sh*t". He had no love for that car, and for the life of him, he can't understand
why anyone would want to bother restoring them. He told me about how we broke down the middle of the road one day, near
Gettysburg, when the oil pump died....apparently when it stops running, so does the car, transmission and all.
He told me that that was really the one thing he hated about that car...the fact that the transmission shared the oil with
the motor. He did, however, praise the suspension, saying that it was a very comfortable ride, but it too sprang a leak
at one point and needed to be fixed.
I did find that picture of my mother clearing off snow from the
America as well as a few other pics. As you can see by the peace sign on the rear pillar, she was a hippie.
You can also barely see the front fender and bumper of my Dad's 1972 Pinto Sprint, so this had to be taken in the winter
of 1972...my Dad only had that car for about a year, and the location is an
apartment they lived in right before they moved to another apartment, where I was born. The pic entitled "1971" [the
photo of the car by itself] is from when my mother and a fellow co-worker from school took a few weeks of in
the summer of 71 and drove from PA down to Florida. My parents had our house built in the summer of 1975 and then the
car caught fire two years later."
|A summer in Florida
|Mrs. Lynes really enjoyed her America fully!
|1971 on a trip from Pennsylvania to Florida!
|One of the earliest family photos of the '70 America
|A typical eastern US winter
|I don't think the BMC engineers had this climate in mind
|1972 Frederic's Mom digs the America out.
|I guess we know why they put carb heaters on them!
|The five year old America is soon to be no more.
Great to come across your Austin America Site
just now! My first car (bought the summer after my sophomore year in college from, as memory serves, 'Wayne Jones
European Motors' in Miami, Fl) was a 1970 (bought new in August of that year, i.e. I was the first owner), British Racing
Green w/black vinyl interior. It was the indeed infamous automatic transmission model! I relished
washing and polishing that car that summer! That fall I took it back north to college (Cornell in Ithaca, NY)
where I drove it in true test conditions (extreme cold, snow, and up and down the regions notorious steep hills) for the following
two years until my graduation, and return to Miami. As it happens that summer (the summer of 72) while running
a casual errand in Miami, the transmission, without warning just called it quits.
The car, still in beautiful shape (to the
outward eye anyway!) had died on me. At that point I knew I was headed back north (to Boston) for grad school
and it was the most 'practical' thing to 'cut my losses' there and let someone else deal with that transmission!
I found a buyer who took it off my hands 'for a song' -- (the car had cost $2000 even) two years before (I think I have repressed
just how much I got for it but $400 seems to be the sad figure I remember!). I did not know the buyer and
have no idea what he did with the car or whether it still exists or might be running. Coming upon your site just
now opened a flood of old memories of 'tooling around' the glorious unspoiled landscape of rural upstate NY on many a college
'road trip' -- ahhh 'rememberances of things past'. Wouldn't mind having that car again now (standard
transmission model, of course!), it's place right now has been taken by my current 'summer car', an old vw cabrio ragtop
-- but, man, the thought of that old Austin America! Thanks again."
Frank Ruiz, Architect
"Thanks for putting together a very
cool web site on the America. I owned a 1969 Damask Red from 1973 to 1975 as my first car. The photos, descriptions
and especially the mechanical issues brought back a lot of memories. Having a car like the America in Canada during the winter
could have been considered cruel and unusual punishment for both car and owner - especially if you needed a jump and your
car was grounded differently than every other vehicle. I also remember trying to find a positive ground radio to install in
the car. Trying to keep rust off the car, especially the underside
(which I believe was sealed much like the VW
Beetle of the era) and exhaust
mounts was an endless battle.
Other car owners would gather in amazement and disbelief
to see a front whee; drive car with a transverse engine - they never could believe the hydraulic suspension or the transmission
in the oil pan. Like many Brit car owners I learned a lot about car mechanics out of necessity Despite all that I loved the
car and only sold it when I went back to college. Unfortunately all I have left of the car is my old registration slip.
Thanks again for putting the site
together to keep a fun car from being lost
"Here's a photo of me and my Austin in 1978.
I had a 1969 model. I found it in a barn and bought it for fifty clams. I
remember I had to replace the cable that linked the stick shift to the transmission, and as I remember it, it was something
like a thick bicycle brake cable.
My brother sort of wrecked it and sold it to a rock band in Ann Arbor for $100
who then wrecked it some more and then sold it for $200 to Bradly Brookshire, a world-famous harpsicordist who managed to
drive it around for a while and gave it back to my brother who was living in the same building as the founder of Domino's
Pizza, Tom Monahan who had it towed to a junk yard where I last saw it in 1983 while playing BB-Gun wars with my college friends
in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I should have rescued it, but had probably $50 to my name at that point in my life."
|Brian Kruger with his 1969 Bermuda Blue America
"I was thinking about the time when i owned
a Austin America "WOW" it was a great running car. I bought it back in either
1969 or 1970. Who knows back then times were different. Anyway, I bought
it used off this old man for $ 400.00 cash it looked like it was in a accident?
Because the hood was a different color, the exterior color was brown. I belive it had an automatic? Well me and my girl at the time wanted to go to Texas. We started out to only make it from Florida to Louisiana. About 2am my oil light came on. I looked at the engine & seen that the shaft with those knuckles were loose & rubbed against the engine wall causing a little hole it it where the oil was comming out. I had to find another car. I loved that car !! In the end I bought a used dodge, yuk, just to make it back home. Everytime I think of that wonderful car I get sad."
"We had a 1972 Austin-Healy Sprite that was the most
unremarkable sprite. First non-bugeye but had the bugeye style top and slider windows. After a few years of that
vehicle, we decided that we needed a car with windup windows.
So I bought a Yellow 1969 Austin Ameicca
that cost $1,798.00 new. (radio was $150.00) $100.00 less than a VW beetle.
And $1,000 less than a BMW 2002 which was new that year.
I sold it my Austin in 1972 to buy a 1971 Mustang "Spring
Special" 302 engine with tape stripes.
Austin had u-joint failure on highway late one night
- I fixed them myself in record time.
Car had an awful problem with moisture
in winter (here in the Washington DC area.) If it was raining or the streets were
wet, the car shut off after some random period of time. After stranding me, wife
and cat on PA turnpike, for a wet ignition, I installed a metal dam behind the grille that shielded the coil and the distributor
from direct application of water. Spraying everything with some water displacer used for electrical equipment helped,
There was eventually a kit that the dealers received
to install in all damp weather climate Americas. My dealer installed the kit, a rubber pull-over cover for each the
coil and distributor, that fixed the moisture problem. Last six months were very anti-climatic, nothing broke and
it ran great. Was happy to buz along at 60mph and got 30 + mpg with the standard transmission."
"Hi Todd -- I stumbled across your site the other day
and I was so very pleased to see it!! Here's a bit of my story... I was born in 1968 and as it happens my parents also
bought a 1968 yellow Austin America as my dad's work car that same year (I am the youngest of seven children -- our other
car was a station wagon!). For some of my childhood the car was in California (we lived in Oregon) as a few of my older
sisters had it for a while, but I feel I grew up with it and I can remember the way it smelled and getting the privilege of
washing it! I knew it was the car for me! Then when one of my sisters had it here in Oregon, it began to have problems
and there was no one to work on it and it was hard to get parts before the advent of the internet or computers) -- she ended
up having a person work on it who was not a nice person and who told her the car was shot... He kept the car and she later
found out that he scammed her and another Austin owner... She took him to court and got some monetary compensation, but the
car was gone :-( Since that time I have always hoped to find one and restore it... In 2000 I did find one on Ebay
that was relatively close to my location. It was a 1971, yellow one. I bought it and started to work on it.
I have more memories of the  car
too... Such as my mom saying what a great little car it was-- that it had so much "get-up-and-go." They took it for
a test drive in the Portland West Hills and she said it climbed like a trooper. She also liked the roominess it had
for a small car. It was also known to do great in snow (which in one picture I have my dad is cleaning off the snow
The 1968 Austin Pic 1 was taken at my parents' house in Portland, OR., probably sometime
in the later '70s.
The 1968 Austin Pic 2 was also taken at my parents' house... and I think you can
see on the top of the photo it has the date Apr '69 -- so it was in the winter --either late '68 or early '69. You can
also see on the side of the car (passenger door) it says "The Opti Cote Co." which was my dad's business (he had a business
of coating prescription eyeglass lenses with anti-reflective coating and later on with colors--like sunglasses). And
yes, that is my dad out there with the car! For a long time this was the only photo I had of the 1968 car -- and you
can see the photo is well worn!"
|1968 Austin America
|Renee's Dad with their America
once owned an Austin. It was my senior year in high school, circa 1985, my parents bought it for me for 700 dollars.
I had it two weeks and blew the enginge ( threw a rod?) going 50 miles per hour. It never really ran very good.
It was just slow. My friends and I used to joke how traffic had to be clear a mile each way before I would pull onto
the road! It was so cute though. My mom even had the seats reupholstered for me. I was heart broken.
We found a mechanic who specialized in foreign cars, and he really tried. My parents spent alot of money trying to fix
it for me. It was just never even the same. (I would have welcomed even the "slow" car back). We gave up and let
the mechanic have it."
Salt Lake City,
|Susan's First Austin America
|Circa 1984 & yes it had an 8 track cassette player
"I do have many stories I could
pass on to you about being an America owner but what I'll do is try to keep it condensed and just give you an overview of
our years of ownership.
In 1973 we went to Hamilton, Ontario
to visit my future wife's grandparents. While we were there we spotted this little Olive Green car with a white textured roof
for sale. We immediately fell in love with it. Scobie (granddad) took me around to "check it out". The owner was a college
student who was moving back home without the car. The asking price for this 1970 Canadian version America was $1,800. I was
broke. Scobie asked me if I really wanted it that bad because he would loan me the money. We made an agreement on the loan
and I drove the car home. This agreement put me in the dog house with grandma for a very long time. That was how our relationship
with our baby started.
Driving her was just a blast. The
Honda hatchback came out about that time. Everyone thought they were great but I could smoke them all from the start. "Who's
laughing now?" was my thought as I saw their jaws drop.
Our Austin made a wonderful honeymoon
car the next fall. We travelled all over Northern Ontario. Our average mileage was 51 per gallon. When we got back home, it
doubled as a moving van. I removed all but the drivers seat and loaded all of our belongings into it.
In 1975 my wife went for her driver's
license. When she was out for her road test, the examiner asked her to parallel park at the curb. She backed half way into
place and he said "Oh, forget it. This is too easy. Carry on."
Later that year we needed a second
car so we bought a brand new Fiat 128. It was a piece of junk but that's another story. Susan had a major problem. She had
never learned standard. Austin came to the rescue. Since we had the automatic with a seven position shifter, I was able to
use it to simulate standard shifting. The transition was a cake-walk.
Winters here in Southern Ontario
are comparable to some parts of Western New York state. We get lots of snow. I worked in a plant on a rural side road about
6 miles outside of town. When it snowed heavily through the day, I was always looked to to break a trail through the parking
lot and down the lane to the roadway. Even the guy with a Superbeetle couldn't break a trail like I could. That little baby,
one winter, took me through thirty foot long snow drifts which were higher than the headlights. (The Beetle that day got stuck)
When I arrived home after driving nine miles in heavy slow traffic, the engine died. I opened the hood to find nothing
but white from firewall to grill. The winter time incidents go on and on.
after that winter the front right fender (in line with the internal wire harness) and other body areas rusted through.
Susan and I spent many hours hand sanding, fixing and priming the whole body. When you have very little money, you are willing
to do anything. Our little girl sure looked funny totally naked and all masked up when I drove her to the paint shop.
We picked 1975 Ford Metallic Blue as her new colour. We kept the textured white roof. What a head turner.
By the time summer of 1978 rolled
around she was hurting bad. The floor had separated right from wheel well to wheel well on both sides. That made for quite
a bouncy ride. I needed to keep a small shovel handy to remove snow drifts from the back seat floor. We decided we couldn't
afford to save her any longer and, after months of being parked in the drive, sold her to a teenaged lad for $200. I drove
it over twenty miles to it's new home with seized front callipers. Oh, the smoke! We said our farewells and returned home.
Susan and I regularly reflect on
those days with our baby always ending our conversation with wishing we still had her. Now that the kids are all over twenty
and we have money again, the search has started to replace our most memorable vehicle. It has been enlightening to see so
many people out there with such love for these little buddies. I take great pride in saying we're glad we came back and will
be the happiest couple around when we are able to get behind the right wheel again."
Mark & Susan Margetts
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Update: In 2004 Mark found another America!
"Just found your sight. Keep up the great work! Although I no longer
own my 1968, it was my first car. Bought it from the original owners (friends) on March 12, 1974. The car was
original needing only tires. Called the local tire store and they had a set of Semperit(?) 12" radials they needed to
get rid of. $80.00 including m&b!. I was the first of my friends with radials. The Austin was "light
green" with an automatic. It had 26,000 miles but idled rough. A valve job cured this 4 months later. I
drove the car to college in Lancaster, PA where I was a hero because I could make beer runs in the snow. My best friend
and I spent a lot of time airborne trying to bottom out just once, never did happen. The top speed was 72mph with the
wind behind me. I got a steady 25 mpg no matter what I did. I especially liked being able to shift the transmission
manually when needed. The final demise was the transmission, now I could kick myself since I now know I could have fixed
it. I did put a black racing stripe on and two big driving lights drilled directly into the bumper as well as an extra
bright backup light, I guess just because I could."
Ventnor City, NJ
"I started my love/hate relationship with
Austin Americas back in 1969 with a friend's '69 America with a 4 speed synchro gearbox. In 1970 I bought a new America which
got totaled after 6 months and only 15,000 miles. The drivetrain and almost every bit was salvaged and went into a used 1969
America. That car was also totaled by a family member but that was after I bought a 1971 America second hand. That car got
hit and repaired and finally I gave up on Americas but only after acquiring another 1971 automatic which I converted to standard
gearbox by swapping out the drivetrain and installing the proper pedal box and gear lever. At one time I had alot of America
parts but eventually they were sold, given away or junked. There was no interest for the parts. Just a few years ago, I had
a 1971 America that was complete with a full functioning hydrolastic suspension that would be mine if I had wanted it but
really wasn't interested. A mini owner took the engine and then I think the car was junked. I had posted notices on the mini
list but there were no takers. A little interest but whoever it was never followed through.
Yep, the cars - the Austin Americas were
sleepers? After 30 years or more, there seems to be more interest in these cars than ever before. Although years ago the people
who drove these cars had a certain personality. We would flash each other with the brights dipswitch during daylight hours
and it seemed to be a young person's car although I met some older people driving them that were very nice. So many of them
got trashed or crashed. They had no durability with respect to crashes. I should rephrase that. If the car was hit hard enough,
it folded up or accordianed and mine did but the safety features did protect me.
They were underpowered and sometimes
under-"braked". They could have used the[brake] servo! And the [Austin 1300] GT arrangement, but they were economy cars. The
air pumps usually got removed and the restrictor on the carb snapped off so the mixture could be enriched and run on Sunoco
260 - the highest high test available. Gas had lead in it back then and with the timing set ahead flames came out of the tailpipe!
It was fun.
The flat cornering and superior ride with hydrolastic made it a wonderful car. Not so for the electrics.
had in every one of my cars a final drive pinion that would strip itself to death along with the crown wheel in the diff.
It was always time to replace the ring and pinion more than likely from a set of mismatched gears selected by some boob at
the assembly point. The gears themselves were not expensive but labor to R & R the engine was significant and I ended
up pulling the drivetrain out myself. to save the hefty labor charges "
"I really wish I'd known you during the
days I ran Herbert (my pet name
for this AA, since the one before it was light yellow and called lemon
I remember coming down to play the jazz festival at
Pismo and the front hub nut came adrift, along with the tapered washer.
All that kept the wheel on the car was the brake disc. In addition, I'd
had oiling probs to the rockers after having
plugged all the oilways
to hand file the head flat. The head worked, but I didn't manage to
unplug. You know I am
not bragging here.
I left the car in Arroyo and hitched a ride home, wangled another back
down with tools and parts, fixt it and drove
home. I have never been
a mechanic, but I've done what I had to do, including build engines and
trannies. I had the
first 1275S Mini on the West Coast and raced from 64
thru 72, with time off here and there. We were quite successful,
running a DSR Mini in SCCA and paved ovals. A blast!
So look at the old pic of skinnier me and lovely Herbert at Kenedy
Meadows during a freak May snowstorm.
It is wonderful that you do the website and get parts made and do what
you do to keep these cars alive - they are great
All the best,
"The Austin America was my first car when
I moved to the States
from Down Under in 1980. Drove the thing all over the place and had fun in it.
I'd owned lots of the Australian versions
(Morris 1100) when I lived
there and had previously served an apprenticeship at a Wolseley
dealership in New Zealand
in the '60s so drove plenty of that
version as well.
Alas, my poor AA had the rear subframe
literally fall out on the
road after I had loaned it to a friend. Needless to say the friend
was annoyed and
didn't speak to me for about three years after that!
I dragged the poor little blighter home after that episode and cut
what was left of the car apart. The engine/transmission still sits in
my garage and the grille and steering
column/wheel in my
basement. Every now and then I go down there, hold the steering
wheel in my hands and make "vroom-vroom"
noises. Pretty silly stuff
for a college professor, eh?
Incidentally, I was only the third owner and bought
it with about
30K miles on it (back in 1980) from the second, my sister-in-law,
who bought it from the folks she babysat
for -- even though she had
no license and never drove it. So I guess that, in effect, I'm really
the second owner.
The wife's uncle also bought one but had
to trade it in because the
sump was so low that it used to bottom-out on the center ridge that
was formed by the snow
left on the unplowed streets during the
winter here. If you can imagine the ruts left by a horse-drawn
on a wet field you'll be able to picture the effect.
He said that he went off the road more than once when the brakes
have any effect because of this situation!
Of course, the old boy liked a cool, cleansing
ale or two after work
before driving home so this may have contributed to the
phenomenom as well!
Thanks for keeping the memories alive!"
"My memories of the '68 I bought new in San Jose, CA.
Our America was white, and my wife and I loved
the thing from the moment we saw it on the showroom floor. I drove it all over the San Francisco Bay area, and on the
freeways, without problems. My recollection is that we were advised to change the oil frequently, and we did .... I
doubt that 20 days or 1000 miles went by without an oil change. Since we had the automatic transmission, this might
be one reason we had no problems with the car.
Over the years I have owned and driven a lot of cars
and trucks, including an MGA and a Sprite, just about the widest spectrum of vehicles you can imagine (I just like different
cars, for some reason). The Austin America was without doubt the best-handling automobile I ever drove. The cornering
and road-holding were absolutely mind boggling. No car since, including many expensive machines, has come close in my
experience. And the ride, with the hydrolastic suspension, was amazingly smooth for such a small vehicle.
We traded the car in on a Sprite, and we loved that car
too. Tiny as it was, I could (and did) drive it all day on the open road and never felt a twinge of discomfort for my
6-foot frame, something I could say for very few much larger cars."
"My Mom and Dad came here from Ireland, I think when
they needed to get
Pam a car for school they felt familiar with the Austin brand, that and
the low price were deciding
factors in the choice of car. It was an
automatic, black interiror. It was a good running car but with the
and 12" tires it handled roly-poly. I kinda liked it, when
I saw an Austin Mini in the local paper selling
for $85 I decided to buy
that because it was like my sisters's car, and of course I have stuck
with Minis ever since.
She took the America with her when she went to
college in Connecticut. I remember it crapped out on the trip north
she had to leave it at a dealer in Carolina and take a bus north. I
drove up there with a friend and found the points
had melted shut, I
found a foreign car parts store in the local phone book and got some
Cooper S points (Lucas 64413568,
I still remember the part number) put
them in the car and drove it the rest of the way to where she lived.
sold it or traded it in when she bought a Datsun B210 in the
early 70s. I found two photos of the car, both are faded,
the car was
greener than it looks in the picture."
(Pam's little brother...seated in the back seat.)
"I've been in contact with Scott at the Austin Marina
pages over the past couple of days and he thought that you might be interested in hearing of my experiences with the 1969
America my father nicknamed the "Little Yellow Monster".
Mine was a '69 purchased in Athens, Ohio for the grand
sum of $350 in 1973. It was a great little skate save for a couple of problems. First and foremost, the flywheel
and the starter gears never got along. About once every six weeks, I had to get a new starter gear and replace the starter.
Got to the point where I could replace the starter (I kept a spare) in about 5 minutes flat. Yank the grille, the starter,
replace. I was told that the reason for my problem was that the ring gear on the flywheel was probably warped.
Being a poor college student, though, I didn't have enough money to yank the engine and do the repair.
Because of the low cg, I found that the America could
handle as if on rails. I remember having a skeptical acquaintance with me on a drive... he was bragging about getting
an MGB and was telling me how well it could handle... when I encountered a hard left turn marked at 25mph. My speedo
was at 60 and my foot was on the accellerator. After the turn, I looked at my companion... white as a sheet!
Finally gave up the "LYM" when I went to live at Ohio
University in late 1974. Dad adopted it and gave it its sobriquet. I did manage yank the head and replace
the leaking head gasket before leaving it at home... later sold it to a mechanic for parts... he paid me $350!
On a side note, I was able to work on the America at
the MG/Austin dealership I worked for... the owner let me use his lift on several occasions. Since I was the parts department
at the time (not a typo... I was the parts department), I happened to wander through the BL provided fiches... if one
were creative enough, I imagine one could have made his America into, say, a Riley or a Wolsely! The ID plates wouldn't
match, but, it sure would have been a conversation starter!"
Be Seeing You.
"My first car I owned was a 1971 Austin
America. I was driving around with my dad looking for used cars when we noticed a small green car that we had never
seen before. The year was 1975 , I think. My father fell in love with it, which shocked me because he had always owned big
American cars. I remember when I first sat in it, the steering wheel was tilted up like a bus. This car was also equipped
with factory air conditioning but it was not cooling at that time. The previous owner told us it only needed a charge.
I remember telling all my friends I bought a British car with front wheel drive, automatic stick shift, 12 inch tires, air
conditioning, & four doors. Top speed, down hill on the highway was only 76 mph! I remember whenever it rained
& I went through a puddle the car would stall and not start until it dried up. I think that was because the distributor
was facing the wheel well and the rain water would hit the cap causing the stalling. Looking back on the situation now,
I should have put a shield over the distributor. I took the car to a repair shop that specialized in British cars.
They said the axle was rubbing on the A/C hose and in order to replace this hose the engine & tranny had to be removed.
I couldn't afford the repair, so I sold the car after only 4 months. I'll never forget my Austin!!"
"Greetings! I'm a Lutheran pastor in Columbia,
South Carolina. The recent re-emergence of the new MINI got me thinking about the Austin America I owned in high school.
In about 1973 I purchased an America off the used car lot at a local Ford dealership for $800. I think it was a 1970
model, was white with leather interior and automatic transmission. Therein was the problem. The transmission was
a bear, and I never could find anyone to fix it. I even tried to find someone who would convert it to manual for me,
but to no avail. I loved the car! It was in great shape and different. I just couldn't get it to run properly.
Do you know if automatic transmissions were a problem for the America? Or did I just have bad luck finding a competent
mechanic. I ended up letting it get away for a song.
You have a great web site. I plan on keeping
up with it. I'm considering getting a MINI, even have my wife encouraging me to.
Let me know if you have any insight into the transmission
"I owned a 1969 brown one with automatic transmission
for less than two years...1970-71. I had been married a couple of years and decided I needed two cars...so traded off the
'68 Ford Torino GT for the Austin and a '70 Hornet (which turned out to be a good car once I replaced the automatic
choke with a manual one). The Austin America was fun to drive...when it was drivable. I think the first problem was overheating...the
radiator was clogged with oily grease. Seems to me it sucked air through the engine compartment and out the radiator
in the wheel well. Removed it and a visit to the car wash fixed that. I can't remember in what order the rest of problems
occurred. I think there were 3 engines mounts...anyway only one did not break. The muffler and exhaust fell off during
one the times I could drive it. The sideview mirror fell off. The shifter came off while using it manually. One other problem
wasn't the car's fault. I lived in farm country of northwestern Ohio then and needed a new tire. The only one I could get
that came close to fitting was a "high speed farm implement" tire. I ended up trading it in on a 1970 Dodge truck and 11 foot
side in camper. I did enjoy the car in spite of all the problems I had with it."
"Wow, imagine my surprise to find a site dedicated to the Austin America...My Dad used to own a '70 Austin ( at least I
think it was a '70). What a fun car. It was a bare bones model, no radio, auto tranny. I remember cruising around some winding
roads and putting her through the paces. So much fun, and surprisingly it took my abuse, including getting airborne at 70
mph at an altitude of about three feet. If my dad only knew what I used to do with his little old Austin!! The only problem
I recall ever having with it was the left rear window popped off it's hinge and fell out while bouncing around on a dirt road
in Ocean City N.J. I don't remember when Dad finally parted with it....but I sure remember the fun times my friends and I
had driving around in it. Great site, tons of info. I've learned more about the car in the hour I've visited than the few
years I spent behind the wheel. Keep up the great work."
Seattle, WA. (formerly Phila. PA)
"...This July 4th weekend I took the America (1969 manual)
up to the north Georgia mountains for this weekend camping gig my band was playing at. On the way up there the exhaust coupling
at the manifold was heard 'chingling' down the road behind me off a mountain side, unrecoverable. This being very familiar
to you about "professionals" insisting a rigid exhaust is okay and the engine won't rock on its mounts even with a stab kit
enough to snap that coupling. So now I have the hanging pipe hitting on the rotating inner rubber u-joint and u-bolts making
horrible scary noises for me and my 5 yr. old. As you well know it can be frustrating when the ASE Certified "professionals"
are afraid to touch our vehicles with a ten foot pole the suspension being one of the main reasons as well as the gearbox
assembly). These Techs. are making three times per year what I do waiting tables, and my understanding being far greater than
theirs concerning some things makes me wonder why .... so after I had to jack the car up to remove the exhaust completely
and then had to leave it on the roadside since it was the entire length of the vehicle ... on the way back to Atlanta, GA,
with my new routy exhaust sound screaming down the interstate, my inner u-joint snapped and I was lucky enough to coast it
into a restaurant parking lot just off the exit where it stands right now..... both scenarios that you put onto your website
from your experience. So, I was sort of prepared for the contingency; thank you.... Im not sure whether I want to fix
it or sell it; I'm just afraid a mini owner would just want to "vultch" the motor would want it or some kid would ruin and
then junk it. The body is dent and rust free pretty much and this has been my daily driver 80 miles a day for 6 months since
it has had to become my daily driver (the 'ex' took the other car) I feel almost obliged to the spirit of Mr. Issigonis and
Sir Lord Austin to keep her on the road its just hard sometimes (parenthood can make you broke) Ill keep you posted about
this ongoing saga;
"Brief history of my Austin America:
up on Long Island, near New York City. When I was about 13 and
already getting into car work (mostly VW), I went to a garage
Sitting neglected in the driveway was an orange yellow (I think the
correct term is mustard yellow?) Austin America.
It had obviously not
been used for a while and the tires were flat, etc. In the end I asked
about it and the people
running the sale said "Hmm, well, the lady who
owns it is moving to Florida and probably doesnt want it any more. She
probably give it to you." Later the owner said she felt bad at
getting nothing for it, so we settled on $25 and my Dad
drove it home.
I dont really have a name for it other than my brothers nickname of "The
Awesome America". When I
got it the ignition lock had been removed (I
think a key had jammed in it) so it was by default hot wired. Only
major problem was a deteriorated CV joint, making a lovely
popping sound when cornering. I managed to replace this without
the suspension. Since then I think I rebuilt the carb and
the brake master cylinder. Also noticeable were the, as far as
tell, original air filters after 49k miles. These were so full of dirt
that the folds were full!
only ever driven this for about a month one summer, about15 years
ago. I seem to remember it running hot and running on
when you switched
it off. Perhaps coke from the over rich mixture due to clogged filters?
Dunno - suggestions appreciated.
once I was old enough to drive it was also time to go to
university. For various reasons I decided to do this in the UK
followed by Aberdeen and Cambridge). I then returned for a
year but was too busy to touch the car. Then my career took
Germany (Leipzig) where I ended up driving a Trabant, which has a
remarkable stylistic resemblance to the Austin,
especially from the
front (however it also has half the CCs, half the cylinders, and half
just moved back to the US, so it is time to pick up where I left
off on the Austin. Must upload some pictures sometime,
even if some
involve me posing next to this as a gawkish teenager two decades ago!"
"I own a 1970 Austin America, with very low mileage.
I bought it in 1993, with 30,000 miles on the odometer. It had sat in a garage mmost of it's life, after the illness of the
original owner. Apparently, he maintained the car at the selling dealer up to the 24,000 mile service, then parked it
just before the 30,000 was due. I bought it after a 10 year sit, at an austion. I actually was the second highest
bidder, but th ehigh bid refused to wait until the title could be signed to retrieve the car. The owner had died, and
the title work was confused. I offered to pay my bid, although if rebid I probably could have purchased it cheaper.
I paid $500. The car was almost perfect, except for a deflated displacer on the off-side front, and a slight dent in
the same fender. The interior and exterior were tremendous. the engine ran beautifully. I drove the car from the
auction the next day, to the selling dealer. I had called to see about getting the suspension pumped up. One old
timer said he was surew they had the fluid and tools still hanging around. Sure enough, they did. I also asked
them to check the car for Penssylvania state inspection. It passed and they put on a sticker! I had not even put
gas in the car yet. I began to drive the car daily. Within a mmonth, all the hydraulics, brake and clutch had
failed. I located parts at Seven Enterprises, and did the repairs and replacements. Next were the U-joints, the
motor mooounts, and then the brake hoses, followed by the brake lines. The suspension has never let me down ( no pun
intended ). I had a few mismaatched wheels, and located a few extras on the net. I also got a spare subframe
( F&R ) delivered from New Mexico. The exhaust flange cracked off one night while transporting my daughter
to the hospital with a high fever. It worked better than a siren to warn people we were coming! I replaced it
with a header system and had to also buy a custom intake, again from Seven. I had a 1 3/4 exhaust system bent and welded
up, with a glasspack bullet welded in place. It made the car sound great, and added a littl epep with the header and
intake flowing better. I have yet to rejet, I run rich idle and it works ok on the highway. I repalced the
speedo cable after about a year of no odometer, so the cirrent 42m miles is shy a few thousand actual miles.
I took the car to aaa shop who specialized in foreign
cars to haver rthe trans repaired. It would pop oout of first gear. He claimed expertise, and quote $400 for the fix.
When we picked the car up he had sent it out to someone else, who rebuilt the entire trans and wanted $1300. He
also moved once and never let us knoow where he had gone. We found him by accident.
He had been offered a great sum to vacate his location by a pharrmacy thhat wanted to locate there. He moved in less
than a week to an available garage. He had not had new cards printed up and hadn't notified his customers.
We settled on a dead 79 924 Porsche in exchange for
the bill, drove the car home, stopping for gas on the way. NEver got out of the gas station, car styalled, would not turn
over to restart, hen the car door was opened to inspect the engine bay we found a LARGE puddle of oil, and no oil drain
plug in place. The trans guy had assumed the engine guy would tighten it, the engine guy assumed the trans guy had;
it fell out and the oil followed.
New bearings, Main and rod, and a quick hone were all
that they did, and the engine and oil pressure has been fine since. I put Antique plates on in 1998, and drive it very
little, except for nice days and weekends, or when my other cars are in the shop. It Always starts, even on the coldest
days. The Wiper motor has frozen up twice, and the fuse block ciorrodes regulary, making the electrics fail.
My car has a dealer installed painted on black textured
roof, including the side panels, over a pumpkin color body. The rockers are starting to disappear, but the floor is
all there. There are some cracks in the inner front fenders that need attention. The rear subframe looks like
swiss cheese, but I have the other to put in if I get the time.
I have pictures, and I will post them and send
Allentown, PA 18104
"It's amazing how much Austin America stuff we threw
out over the years. Just recently alot of stuff went to the junkyards but it pales in direct comparison to how much was scrapped
and crushed since these cars were abandoned in droves after what appeared to be "built-in" catastrophical failures of the
ring and pinion gears (also known as final drive pinion and crown wheel gears) between the gearbox and the differential on
standard transmission cars. Granted it didn't happen to all of the cars but I had it happen to every America I owned and I
owned at least 4 or 5. My cousin had it happen to him, my friend had it happen to him and there's a common thread of a built-in
weakness or a bad set of gearwheels selected during assembly at the plant that made the gearboxes and mated them to the the
Other Americas had sudden brake failures - it happened
to my friend and he was hurt but not too badly but the car was totalled.
I used to see Americas stacked up in scrapyards largely
intact but with failures of the gearbox usually. And the cars were largely worthless because nobody wanted to repair them
and nobody wanted them so they were crushed over the years."
Rich Brodrick in NY
"The [1968 Dark Green] Austin America was my first
car. I was captivated by front wheel drive and its appealing price. I recall test driving the car with my father,
who after being thrown against the door following my 40 mph cornering, politely asked to get out. Buying the car took
all my meager funds; in fact, I paid the last $100 in quarters. [I was living in Philidelphia, PA and bought the car
from the dealer "PhilPenn" who is still in business.] The love affair started.
My friends were somewhat enamored by
the car's quirky features: a window washer that had to be manually pumped, dashboard lights that were completely unmarked
and seemed to go on and off without any rhyme or reason, front seats that were hinged at the bottom and had to be lifted to
gain access to the rear seat and a suspension system that 'deflated' during highway travel. But with all of this, it was MY
car that was the 'date' mobile.
I drove the car hard, maybe too hard. I used to stop, then accelerate on steep
hills, just to spin the front wheels. When it snowed, I found empty parking lots to spin the car. One time I hit
a pole, but that was my fault.
Even when I started having trouble, the transmission
would not get out of first gear, oil began leaking and all my locks froze (it was summer), my America had a personal feel.
It was like a pet that was growing old. At the time, my girlfriend (now my wife), used to say it would be compassionate
just to trade the car in on something a bit more reliable. I choose to keep the car until the bitter end.
the bitter end? I used to work at a health car agency on the corner of a busy intersection. Parking was difficult,
so I took whatever was available. On this fateful day, I parked just ahead of the bus lane legally). About 3 PM,
I heard a crash. Looking outside, a bus had swerved to avoid a pedestrian and plowed directly into the back of my America.
The trunk was now just behind the front wheels. So much for the unibody construction.
It isn't often that a car
creates such lasting memories, but my America was one such automobile. One day I hope to see one again and take it a
test drive (at more reasonable speeds)."
"I had a 69 green automatic Austin America. I drove back and forth from Valley Forge Pa to Akron Oh when I was in the
Army. I couldn't keep up with the speed limit going up hill on Interstate 80. I had early problems with oil leaking through
the mounting holes (for fixing the casting on a jig while machining) in the bottom of the engine casting. Epoxy glue finally
fixed that. In the winter I had to bleed the front breaks every week. That was finally fixed by rebuilding the break cylinder.
I used to set the emergency break then backup slightly. This would raise the rear of the car. I would wait for someone to
walk by then drop it. Ha! Ha! The emergency break used to freeze in the winter and if the parking lot had snow the rear wheels
would slide instead of turn. It got old asking people if my rear wheels were turning when it was clear that the car was moving.
I finally lost the car in a snow storm. Someone in a big American car with rear wheel drive lost it coming down a hill and
front ended the Austin. The insurance company wouldn't even think of trying to fix it. When I would move I took out all the
seats (easy) except for the drivers and filled it with boxes. It sure held a lot for its size. When I was younger my father
owned an American Bantam (for a couple of months), a Crossly, and a Hillman Minx."
I don't know what brought me to your site about the Austin America, maybe it was an unconscious thing going
on. My Mom purchased a 1968 Austin new for her 50th birthday. She loved this car, and it ran fantastic. And a few years later
it held up under the pressure of a new 16 year old male driver, me. Never a problem of any significance with that car. Once
a garage changed the oil and didn't get the O-ring on the filter in right and the oil drained out on a trip; which required
a relative to come to the rescue of with a chain and pull the car to his home. He was a handy fellow and spotted the problem
quickly. One day on the way to work a car ran a stop sign and my Mom swerved to miss that car and hit a parked car. That
yellow America really bit the dust on that day. When the shop returned the car, it only made it 4 or 5 more miles before
the engine caught fire and the car was then totaled. I was driving it at the time. There was a funny electronic noise under
the hood and then the engine died and the smoke started streaming. My dad's best friend was a fireman and his truck was the
one to arrive to put out the fire. What a great car.
Mom replaced it with a 1970 America which was a kind
of burnt orange or red/orange. The yellow one had that super simple and fun 4 speed automatic, but the new one was a manual
which wasn't nearly as smooth. Also the new one had some serious problem with the steering right from the beginning. No
one seemed to be able to fix that steering problem, or so it seemed. My mom traded that second America for a 1968 VW bus.
I thought my mom got ripped off, but she was thrilled with the bus. One morning when the mercury showed about 10 below zero
I was driving that VW and was a couple miles from home when the engine went bad. After a rebuild that engine went bad again
within 3000 miles, so I never thought that trade was a good deal. My sister then later gave that America back to my dad. I
didn't know this until just a few years ago when I cleaned out the old homestead after my dad passed away. I found the registration
slips for that orange/red America that he had renewed all the way into the late 80's. So he must have fixed the steering problem
and kept on driving that car, though he had never told me about it. He loved the whole concept of that car with its advanced
technology suspension and front wheel drive.
My mom will be 84 in the Spring. She lost much of her sight
so she hasn't been driving now for many years, but I'm sure that when I mention that I'd been thinking about the Austin that
she'll think back on it fondly. She may even mention the English Ford she had back in the 50's which she also loved.
Thanks for making a web-site about the America, I'd completely forgotten about that car. I always felt bad about the
yellow burning, even though it wasn't my fault. I just felt bad that a car Mom loved had to go."
"Just a note, in the middle of the night I woke up and remembered that both
of those cars tended to run much rougher when it rained heavily and if there was real down pour sometimes we had to pull the
car over and wait out the weather. One thing that helped something Dad came up with, he used silicon spray on the wiring
and he fashioned a piece of plastic as a cowl to which he put over the front of the engine to keep water from getting on the
engine quite as much. He always said, "You'd think the English would design a car to run better in wet weather."
My folks had the Americas in the Lafayette area of Indiana."
"My dad had two of these cars 1967 or 68 to 70. In 10th grade, two friends and I overloaded one with a gigantic tent
and many supplies and drove from N.E. Arkansas to the top of Pikes Peak and back. Over the ownership period we had 4 or 5
manifolds crack because of the transverse mounted engine torque. There were no problems on the trip, however, besides the
strain of getting to the top of the mountain."