British Beauty: 1949 Austin A90 Atlantic

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

British cars are Jamie’s specialty, but I’ve loved these cars for so long that I couldn’t help myself. This is a 1949 Austin A90 Atlantic and it’s listed on eBay with an unmet opening bid of $3,999 – and even at that price the reserve won’t be met. Or, you could throw $4,000 on the craps tables in Las Vegas, Nevada, where this car is located, and try to win several times that amount to restore this super rare gem. Just kidding, I’m not condoning gambling; but, if you’re feeling lucky there’s nothing I can do about it.. And, in the case of being unlucky, this is the only photo in the ad! Mind. Blown. It’s 2017 isn’t it? And, this is one of the rarest cars shown here, at least by me, in quite a while, isn’t it? So, why in the name of all that’s right with the world would someone who is trying to sell such an incredibly desirable and incredibly rare car put just one measly photo in their sales ad!? Ok, I know, I’m preaching to the choir. And, in all fairness to the seller, they say that more photos are coming soon.

In case you’re wondering what the eBay car could/would/should look like, here is a restored version from the fine folks at Hagerty. For the record, Hagerty lists a #4 fair-condition car as being valued at $13,900. Surely the car for sale in the first photo isn’t anywhere near being in #4 condition, but it gives a ballpark number to rattle around in your skull while you figure out how much to bid on it. A #2 excellent-condition car should be $32,800 and a concours car would be $47,200. So, there’s a lot of room here to do a very nice restoration and not lose your shirt. Austin Motor Company offered the A90 from 1949 to 1952 as initially a convertible but a coupe was offered a year later.

I don’t know why I love this design so much, it’s almost cartoon-looking like the tires should have an X-shaped pair of band-aids on them like a Donald Duck car would. The US received around 350 of these cars out of almost 8,000 of them that were made in total and there aren’t many left, really anywhere, not just in the US. This isn’t a speed demon by any means, with its 2,660 cc, 162 cubic-inch inline-four, but it had around 88 hp which was a decent amount of power. The Atlantic was designed with hopes to appeal to US customers with its Pontiac-like hood trim and other big American car look-alike features, but it couldn’t compete with American V8 cars and that hurt US sales. The fact that Jaguar’s drop-dead beautiful XK-120 (my favorite/favourite car of all time) debuted at the same time, that hurt sales elsewhere. I don’t know what the car for sale here would really be valued at just from looking at the one photo. Does the engine run or is it even complete? Is the top there, or at least the parts for the top? How about the interior bits and pieces? It’s almost as big of a mystery as to why I love these cars so much. I haven’t seen one for sale on eBay in years and have never seen one in person. Have any of you seen one in person? I know that Jamie has!

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Comments

  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Nice write up, Scotty!

    8+
    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Staff

      You’re too kind, Jamie.. thanks!

      5+
  2. Joel Milhazes

    the one i pictured is impossible to find in portugal whit left hand drive

    1+
  3. AlanB

    More pictures added by seller …

    5+
  4. Sam

    Lots of potential….neat car. Kind of a “mash up” with influences from Packard, Hudson and Nash with a Saab frontend and Tucker third headlight.

    3+
  5. Puhnto

    Always had a soft spot for these. Had a Dinky Toy model of it when I was a little kid. (Still have it somewhere.)

    4+
  6. doug6423

    Beautiful candidate for a Restomod. Custom chrome wheels with a pearl red paint finish.

    2+
  7. John

    Hey everyone!! I’m the seller of the Austin Atlantic on Ebay! I have added more pics and more to the description on Ebay. Scotty – many thanks for the write-up, and by the way, I have an XK120 AND a ’70 XKE Roadster as well. I also have a Facebook page for part of my collection (search Facebook for The Cole Car Collection) – you’ll see some quirky and unique cars in my collection. I really hope this little car goes to a great home, and someone that will get it back roadworthy – I would love to see it finished. I just have too many projects at this time which is why it’s up for sale.

    11+
    • Derek

      Is that the car collection that Norry’s 2CV racer (the shark) ended up in? D.

      0
    • Peter

      I there John, its Peter from Australia. Don’t have your mail box listed on this old lap top I have with me, so cannot mail you directly. Currently in Vegas, but we have a very tight schedule, and it is not likely to get the time to meet with you. If you do part with the car, please let me know so that I can update my records. Also, fell free to pass on my contact details. Any prospective buyer made need details on possible parts etc. Did you by chance find out if the steering column still has the extension spline beneath the modern steering hub. Please drop me a line when you can. Regards-Peter

      0
  8. Howard A Member

    Looks like a giant pedal car. I love it!!!

    6+
  9. That Guy

    I always figured the creators of the animated movie “Robots” started with a picture of this car and built a movie out of it.

    2+
  10. RayT Member

    Always had a soft spot for the A90: if it hadn’t been built, there might never have been an Austin-Healey “100.”

    That said, I remember seeing a few nice ones in Southern California back in the mid- and late-1950s. When in decent condition, they were more attractive in person than in photos.

    1+
  11. chad

    Own?
    heck I’ just like 2 C if commin down the rd,
    esp at nite – with those 3 headlights?!

    1+
  12. Blyndgesser

    The engine is basically a lower-powered version of the one in the Healey 100-4, so it could be made a bit quicker if one were so inclined…

    1+
  13. Wayne

    Drool. Taken at a museum in NZ

    5+
  14. Wayne

    Same car

    6+
  15. Alec

    Saw one of these last month at a show in Enfield north London – stunning car, even has hydraulically operated (not electric) power windows.

    3+
    • Alec

      Here’s an interior shot showing those power window switches 🙂 very advanced for a British car at the time, I believe they were an optional extra.

      2+
  16. Alec

    Rear view too

    2+
  17. Garm

    Are the rear fenders cut where they went over the wheels?

    0
    • Bill McCoskey

      Garm; No, there should be a set of spats [US speak – Fender skirts], the top edge for the spats is the flowing body line.

      The A90 was a case of a British car company thinking Americans would like such a car, and didn’t do their research before sending them to Austin Dealers in the USA.

      Years ago I was doing research for a book on the various car dealers in the Washington DC area. I got to knew Joe Herson, Sr, the owner of the BMC/Austin dealership in Bethesda, MD, [Manhattan Import Auto], he said Austin kept sending him A90 cars, both coupes & dropheads, and he ended up selling most of them at or below cost. As soon as one sold, Austin sent another one, while not sending him the other Austins like the A35 & A40 that were in demand. People wanted the A35 & A40 cars for driving around the city [Washington DC], and he said the little “Estate” cars were more desired than the saloons.

      Manhattan Auto sold BMC, Austin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Triumph [motorcycles and cars], and Porsche. Mr Herson said he came very close to giving up the Austin line, but before he did, the Austin Healey 100-4 came out. He said the 100-4 cars would sell in advance of arrival, before he could even put one on the showroom floor!

      And on another note: back in the late 1960s, with British bikes not selling well due to the stiff competition from other bike manufacturers, Mr Herson wanted to sell the newest craze: Japanese motorcycles, and he was able to obtain a Honda dealership, but the deal almost didn’t go thru because Honda insisted he also sell the tiny Honda cars too. They finally struck a deal when he agreed to take no more than 2 Honda cars at a time, with the factory only shipping another car after one sold. Of course, Herson’s Auto Group is today, one of the largest Honda Automobile dealerships in the US, with 6 locations!

      1+
      • Alec

        Thanks Bill that’s a great story. Such a pity BMC didn’t listen to their US dealers and customers. If they had done so they might still be in business with dealers throughout the US!

        I read somewhere that US BMC dealers requested the Morris Minor (photo attached) with a slightly larger engine capacity (1200 or 1500cc) to suit the American market. These were engines they already had in production fitted to other models (e.g. Wolseley 1500 / Riley 1.5 here in UK and Morris Major / Austin Lancer in Australia), but BMC management considered that 850cc (later 1000cc) was adequate and their requests were ignored.

        Incidentally, the Morris Minor in the photo is an early one I saw at a show recently, and it has a period aftermarket supercharger conversion!

        0

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