The Austin Ant (development code ADO19) is an interesting car, because it was a proposed military replacement for the Mini Moke overseen by Sir Alec Issigonis that featured a clever four-wheel-drive system spun off its A-Series engine. A Freelander-style transfer case fed its power from a transmission-in-sump system to a bespoke rear axle via a short propshaft.
Work on the project started in 1964 and, as can be seen from this car’s minimalist styling, there was probably a little way to go in its development – although there’s definitely a family resemblance to the brilliant BMC 9X supermini. In the end, six experimental cars and 24 full engineering prototypes were built before the project was canned in 1968.
The conventional wisdom is that the Ant was killed in the wake of the BMH/Leyland merger – after all, it brought Rover into the family, and the Land Rover was already doing very good business, thank you very much.
The car in these images is in Australia and is one of two down there (with a further two in New Zealand), and exists alongside a further two in South Africa, one in Greece and five or six in UK. This one is powered by a 1098cc A-Series and its four-wheel-drive system comes with high and low ranges. This one is currently not running and hasn’t done so for 40 years.
The owner Craig Watson says: ‘It is not the original engine – that was changed in 1978 – and the one currently in the car is from an MG 1100.’ It’s the seventeenth Ant built and is car number 103, being the third one completed. Sadly, the rear fibreglass roof panel is missing, but otherwise all the unique parts, including the gearbox, transfer case, exhaust manifold, rocker cover, rubber side strips, chrome grille strips, mirror arms, etc. are there.’
He adds: ‘Yes, it needs a full restoration, but I wouldn’t sell it. There is no structural rust and very little surface rust, including in the driver’s side footwell and the front right wing. Body is galvanised steel and a lot of the paint has peeled off. There are some panels which still retain original paint in good condition, so getting an exact colour match is possible.’
As an important piece of BMC and Alec Issigonis history, the Ant is extremely interesting. Question is would it have succeeded if it had made it into full production?
- Further reading: Ant Hill Mob, on Classic & Sports Car