Our Cars : Keith’s Austin 1300 – 500 miles on

Winter’s coming, but Keith’s been putting some miles on his Austin 1300…

Austin 1300

The BMC 1100/1300 was one of the UK’s best-selling cars for much of the 1960s and well into the ‘70s, and became ingrained fully into popular culture. If you’re of a certain age, there’s no doubt you’ll have owned one, or known someone who had one – and, if not, you’ll have seen them in one of many scary 1970s public information films. I do know that if I mix radials and crossplies, my ADO16 will end up on its roof, especially if I’m called Reginald Molehusband or have a surname of Blunders.

One of my favourite films, Clockwise, has an 1100 as its central character, and the equally great Fawlty Towers also stars one. In both cases, John Cleese commits various acts of savagery on the ADO16 he’s in charge of – something I really don’t want to be doing with mine.

I bought mine on a whim. I’d been idly skimming through the pages of Classic Cars For Sale, for an article I was writing and landed on the BMC page. One thing led to another, and I was in conversation with the seller of this lovely Limeflower Austin 1300 De Luxe – some to’ing and fro’ing ensued, a test drive taken and, before I knew it, I was electronically transferring the money to him. Yes! I’d bought an Austin 1300.

I can’t tell you how excited I am by this. I really do love these cars and, although mine’s a wee way from being concours (not that I’d want to own a concours car), it’s solid, usable, has good paint and chrome, is largely rust-free, and is just absolutely adorable. It needs a few bits and bobs doing to it, which I’ll get to at the next update, but it’s overwhelmingly healthy, doesn’t look too rotten underneath and is actually – and amazingly – the first car I’ve owned that is registered as Historic.

So far, I’ve driven it around between the sleepy villages of Rutland, and as the exhaust needs re-hanging properly (I suspect it was damaged when being driven on to the delivery driver’s trailer), I don’t want to go too far or drive it too hard. But what I’ve found so far is that it’s absolutely delightful, and I’m absolutely smitten. It comes complete with the highly-charismatic A-Series gear whine when you pull away and, as you wend through the lanes, the Hydrolastic suspension rises and falls gently just as it should. As for the smell of hot vinyl and plastic inside, I’ve been transported straight back to my childhood and simpler times.

Being a 50-year old car, it’s far from perfect and I do have a few jobs to do. I want to service it, change the oil, re-mount the driver’s seat to give me a little more legroom, and fit some new number plates. Then it’s a case of tackling the paintwork, which has a few minor rust breakouts, as well as being a little on the dull side, and getting the chrome tip-top again. But, all in all, it’s a great little car to help me re-live my childhood, while enjoying the classic car lifestyle without having to explain my choices!

The good news is that there’s an absolute pile of spare parts with it which I’ll get to fitting over the next few weeks. There’s also a box with a new carpet set in it, as well as a new grille. I’ve not been through the entire spares haul yet, but I suspect I’ll be able to renew quite a lot of the car for free. For one, the brand new boot badge has already been fitted.

I’m just excited to have a car that I’ve admired and loved for so long. It’s fair to say that the 1100/1300 was one of the cars that inspired me to get into classic writing all those years ago. I just hope that this one performs admirably in the coming months and years, and I don’t need to resort to thrashing the bonnet with a tree branch in order to get it going again. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo: Richard Gunn

Austin 1300

Keith Adams

13 Comments

  1. For a 50 year old car, Keith’s Austin 1300 still looks good… full of character. Much better than the Allegro! Brings back memories of a friend’s Austin 1100 and my brother’s Morris 1300GT. After a few service jobs and minor repairs I’m sure it will give lots of nostalgic driving pleasure.

  2. This just reminds you what a winner this car was, and how BMC/BL wasted it. If it had been rebooted in the late 60s it could have lived on and saved the company the huge investment costs and embarrassment of the Aggro.

  3. Now, if asked I’d have said that car was Harvest Gold. I always thought Limeflower was that rather vivid yellowy green colour. A neighbour of my grandparents had a MGB GTV8 in that shade and I admired it very much. Doubtless someone will put me straight!

  4. One of the great cars of the mid 20th century – possibly greater even than the mini, with an unparalleled level of comfort at its price level. Slightly controversially, perhaps, I prefer the ingenious AP 4 speed automatic version

  5. It, Along with the SD1 is on the now Shorter Short list of cars that will be added to the collection once we move and have our converted barn for all the cars… the Later MK II versions IMHO are better, they lost the droopy rear end look, and with just a couple of minor improvements to the front made it ook 100 times better, although the MK I was a great car, they hit the nail on th ehead with the MK II, the GT 1300 is the one I will go for, it was one of the cars back in the day that really made me love cars, as much as I do today,

  6. A complete range of cars, from the basic Morris 1100 to the luxurious Vanden Plas 1300 and deservedly Britain’s best selling car in the sixties. I always rate the Vanden Plas 1300 for inventing the small luxury car long before Ford thought of creating the Escort Ghia, but somehow never carrying it off in the same way.

  7. Please don’t change the number plates for modern ones with the wrong typeface! I see loads of classics with their looks spoilt by this. Grrrrr!
    Those Blumels type look lovely (the front one we can see in the pics does anyway)

    • My Dad replaced the original silver on black plates on his 1966 VX4/90 with Bluemels white & yellow ones (raised digits). Looked good back then.

  8. My first car when I was 18 years old in 1976 was a 1970 Austin 1300 Countryman. I can still remember the reg -XRK242H. It was only six years old but already rotten as the proverbial pear (looked great down to sill level though).

    I should have had my suspicions when I knocked the seller down from £295 to £150 with a cheeky offer. I was expecting him to tell me to b**gger off but he said OK so I had to pay up ! It was great fun while it lasted though, especially when me and my girlfriend found out the rear seat folded back totally flat 🙂

  9. I remember dad having a couple of Austin 1100s as company cars before the Marina came out.
    Had hours of fun with one of those Airfix “Junior Driver” steering wheels that attached to the back of the driver’s seat, so I could “drive” the car !

  10. Of course do as you wish but personally I wouldn’t replace the number plates as they look fine and are probably original. Often original fit reflective plates are replaced with silver on black ones but this takes away the original personality of the car. Another thing often done is new plates with the post 2001 font size which look dreadful. Anyway, the car looks great, I do like the early 70s colours.

Add to the debate: leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.