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