Car of the Month : May 2003
May brings us an example of the larger Issigonis car: the Austin 1800.
The example featured this month is a member of the Boucke family fleet, having been owned by Alexander’s father for many, many years. Thanks to a comprehensive restoration, it will no doubt go on to live many more years. This is the car’s story in Alexander’s own words:
This Austin 1800 ‘S’ came into our family 30 years ago, as a replacement for another 1800 ‘S’ that was a write off after an accident on the motorway. Back then the 1800 was already a rare car in Germany, and my father did try a few single-carb cars to replace the old one, but did not find them Sufficiently strong. So after a long search (the S was even much more rare) my father bought this damask red example as an ex demonstrator. At least that’s what they claimed – but the car was on the second engine, had worn wheel bearings all round, the red seats have been changed to black ones… Anybody who knows how hard wearing these cars are, can see that the car had more then the claimed few thousand kilometres on the clock. But since there was no other 1800 ‘S’ around this one was bought and sorted out. And since then the only other twin carb 1800 I have seen in Germany in all my 34 years was a red Morris, already scrapped with the doors, trim and cylinder head left over…
The car then had the usual hard life as the main car of a big family (we were growing from 4 to 6 then). The autumn leaf coloured seats and trim from the previous, crashed car replaced the black ones. After about 10 years both front wings needed replacement and a set of sills were fitted over the rusty old ones. Some more rude welding took place, as well as another engine went into the car. It must have been about 1985, when a large tree next to my parents house broke and a more then 10m long part of it fell onto the front part of the 1800’s roof. But due to the extremely strong body only the windscreen broke and the roof was bent down on the front. After this was repaired the car received the needed new paintwork – damask red again. And – since the brown seats did not look very well by then – the black seats and trim did move back into the car.
The car looked very good again and stayed in regular use until in 1990 it was apparent that some drastic work was needed to keep the 1800 from being scrapped.
So in the following winter my father bought lots of tools, a pair of original sills and learned to work with the welder…
The first part of the restoration meant replacing all the rotten parts of the sills, the floor and a few little spots along the rear wings. And there was quite a good amount of rot under these cover sills… I took from Dec. 1990 to March 1991 until the lower and rear half of the car was solid again. Every little piece of rust was cut out, all the affected areas shot blasted, new repair sections made (as for the lower corner of the rear wing seen on one of the pictures). The following test was no problem – everybody was impressed with the quality of the work. During this time the decision was taken, that the car should get the colour of my father’s first 1800 again: Bedouin. So when the car came out of the garage, it was mostly red, with black sills, many patches of primer and some bedouin beige areas.
The car went back to irregular use then until Oct. 1992, when the second session started. This time the front wings, still in good condition, were removed. There was a lot of work needed on the lower front valance and the upper part of the A-posts. After 2 years and 5 months the last welding spot was done… But not by fitting the wings – these were converted to screws, for better removal just in case…
All the bodywork took about 800 hours of work – 600 done by my father and the rest split between one of my brothers and me. We would certainly not have put all this labour in any project car, but since the 1800 has been in the family for so long, this added the necessary emotional aspect for keeping this car instead of searching for a better one.
Some two years on, and the trusty Austin finally received a new coat of paint – Bedouin beige finished by a layer of clear coat lacquer. We did not do this ourselves, since we did not trust ourselves to get a really professional and perfect finish. And just to top all this, I found a complete set of trim in red my father always wanted to have…
Right now the car is having the pampered life it deserved after a long working time. That does not mean, that the 1800 is not used. Just last year it did a very good job as a holiday transport. After the 1300, that we intended to use for our journey to England, failed on a rusted rear subframe, the 1800 took it’s place. I just checked all the fluids – and off we went for nearly 2500 nearly trouble-free kilometres. Only the brake servo stopped working under way and forced a little training for my right legs muscles – specially along Yorkshire’s hills.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.
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