I’ll admit to having a guilt trip about this one. My dad
loved her. I just thought she was old and smelly. There was something about the
PVC upholstery that gave the car a very distinct chemical smell. So much so that
my mother was convinced we were leaking fuel. But looking back our old Austin
gave sterling service and later went on to be the family car for my sister and
her new family until 1968.

And they must have been good little motors (223,264 produced
in between 1951 – 1956) because despite my mother gripping the seat in fear of
being blown to kingdom come ours never broke down, blew up or otherwise
protested at my dad’s erratic driving. Somehow he never mastered the art of
navigating, steering and changing gear but the Austin A30 was a very forgiving
car. Which was more than his wife was when we got lost – yet again.

So what was there to be eight years old and embarrassed
about? Apart from Uncle Ron’s brand spanking new Mark I Ford Cortina and Monica
Moss’s gleaming black Austin Cambridge you mean? Probably it’s lack of speed because
with three forward gears and a 0 – 60 time of 42.3 seconds she was never going
to stun other drivers by skimming along the fast lane unless the road was empty
and Dad had steered her into it by accident, the Austin I mean, not Monica.

Hills were a bit of a problem too. I remember one outside
Hurstbourne Tarrant that nearly proved her undoing. That gradient was never
going to be conquered in top (third), or by the time Dad had got the hang of
it, second either. So up we crawled in first much to the distress of the people
in the rear view mirror and the twenty odd bewildered drivers behind them. Was
there a cow in the road they wondered? No just a man with no synchromesh on
first gear, an angry wife sucking furiously on a Barley Sugar sweet and a son
hiding in the back seat under his anorak.

Luckily a previous owner had modernised the car and fitted
proper indicators and unlike the base model version ours had two wipers, two
sun visors and a heater. She still smelled funny though, and continued to do so
to the end of her life, a smell so strong that even the combined delights of my
two nephews with full nappies and occasional projectile vomiting never managed
to overcome it.

But hey! The Austin A30 had a floor mounted gear change, which
should have made Dad’s job easier and a dash mounted indicator switch loud
enough to hear at low speeds but over 40 mph often meant the car following
wondered when and if we were ever going to turn left.

So why the guilt trip after all these years? Well, there’s
something cosy about the fact that the A30 looks like it’s been designed by
drawing round various sized jelly moulds and it’s cheeky little face always
looks as if it’s enjoying itself. You don’t see that many now (somebody will
correct me) which is a shame because in its day, at £507 it was £62 less than
its Morris Minor rival. The van variant, boosted into A35 format, went on being
produced until 1968. So where did they all go?

All articles ©Ian
Ashley 2015