America’s First Micro?: 1928 American Austin

1928 American Austin

At first glance you could easily mistake this 1928 American Austin as a full sized Chevrolet AB or a Ford Model A, but take a closer look at the wheels and overall proportions and you’ll notice that this car is entirely too small to be either. After seeing great success with the tiny Austin 7 in Europe, the Austin Motor Company decided to bring it to America. They couldn’t have entered the market at a worse time, as the Great Depression started just in time for them to launch the American Austin brand. Subsequently, there weren’t many of these made and very few remain today. Reader Richard B came across this 1928 American Austin here on craigslist and thought we might be interested.

American Austin Interior

This car has obviously been in storage for a number of years, but appears to have been restored previously. The seller didn’t provide any information about its current condition or any of its history. From what we can see, it looks solid with rust starting to show. It’s deceiving how small this car really is, so fixing it back up shouldn’t be as difficult as one might think. Finding parts should be a simple task, as it is essentially an Austin 7.

American Austin Motor

Just to give you an idea of how small this car is, take a look at the 750 cc four-cylinder. Even though it is a tiny motor, it takes up most of the engine bay. We don’t know the condition of the motor, but it looks like it is going to need work. Thankfully, working on it shouldn’t be very challenging and if it needs to be removed from the car, it could be done without an engine hoist. The Austin 7’s motor was known to be bulletproof, so we won’t be surprised if this one has many years of life left in it.

American Austin

When Richard sent us this link he posed the question as to whether the American Austin was America’s first microcar. Well we typically give that honor to Crosley, as it was the first we know of to be designed and built in the States. But, the American Austin may have actually beat them to it. Can you think of any earlier microcars that were built int he USA?

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Comments

  1. ed

    The cyclecars of the teens may have been the first microcars.

  2. fred

    Never like to see old cars left outside, but this one looks like it’s only been there for a short time and still very salvageable.

  3. Dave Wright

    Headline written by someone that never saw a Duryea

  4. Dave W

    Headline authored/wroten by someone who has not never, ever see’d a Duryea

  5. MikeH

    What’s that in front with the oval rear window?

  6. Dave

    I wouldn’t want to leave it there for very long, it looks pretty damp there. I would love to have and restore this car. It looks like it would be fun to drive.

  7. Ryan

    Too cool! I’m a young car guy, and love micro-cars! Not only are they better on gas than other makes, but they are ‘out-of-this-world-awesome!’

  8. Chris H.

    Miata or Honda S2000 engine/trans swap. Update the suspension, have some bespoke wheels made for a little more aggressive rubber, and it’d be the perfect little rocket.

  9. Mark E

    Having seen what restored ones go for, this seems like a VERY good deal if it’s in running shape! Bantams were on my dream list in the ’70s-90s but the trouble is you hardly ever see them for sale and when you do they are fully restored and in the $25k+ price range…

  10. rusty

    By definition a micro is 600cc or less…but although I have had heaps of True Micro cars I also had 7 Austin Sevens and I’d too like to break the definition of a micro car to include Austin Sevens.

    Although my Austin Sevens are completely different to these as mine were Australian Bodied..which had more of an English influence even though our body builders were more inspired by American design normally on the big cars. But for austin sevens I think we were more tied in to Englands company than your Austin.

    For instance your motor is a mirror image of an English Austin seven is it not?, Therefore Austin Seven parts wont easily fit. [looking at your photo thats seems true though I cant see the steering column so is that photo correct or reversed.

    I know somewhere in your Austin’s history the motor was made mirror image, I had thought that may had been Bantam’s doing but this photo proves it was instigated by American Austin..So dont count on English Austin sevens as donating many parts.

    I truely love the look of the yankee Austins…baby big cars, and had always wanted a Bantam roadster, and did find a fibreglass body here and aquired enough parts to construct a representation of one but never went ahead with it as the body was too flimsy being a drag car body.

    Did you know many big manufacturers are decended from the humble Austin Seven.

    ie BMW, Jaguar and Datson if you dont believe me look it up…although Datson was borrowed design.ie: Austin never allowed them to copy them..ironically i have parts of a Datson / Austin Seven motor still in my collection from the small amount of Datson Austin sevens that came to Australia..now these cars go for humungus money if you think Bantams do.

    There was a small shipment of Bantams bought into Australia in the day..I’d seen one for sale here years ago, it was a 4 seat tourer and not the most pretty Bantom [later model] infact it looked too close in design to an Aussie model except for the grille to warrant the premium price above ours here..though had it been the Bantam roadster I would have chased it.

    These Yankee Austins are truley great looking cars.

    • rusty

      oh and I guess in America the company indirectly descended from Austin seven was jeep

      look it up..the first Jeep was designed by Bantam who as you know began from Austin Seven..Its a shame that Bantam could not fullfill its orders for the jeep.in numbers. Though enough of those went out on the line to serve and they weree an instant sucees amoung GIs.. During the war Bantam survived by building jeep trailers and even for a short time after the war it continuede making civinilain version of said trailers but eventually died andwas bought by someone else and just faded away.

      Maybe today had they had the manufacturing clout of Willys or ford the name Bantam may have been a household name…love that little company who had its origins in the humbleAustin Seven…

      perhaps of all the cars designed over the years the Jeep is the most known car/vehicle by non car persons yet the Bantam company is hardly known by car persons..ironic..and yet most soccer mums drive a SUV a modern descendant of Bantam

  11. geomechs geomechs Member

    Nice little car. I’ve only been up close to one in my lifetime. I wouldn’t mind a project like this but I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve already got too many projects on the go. I sure hope this car goes to a good home.

  12. Harit Trivedi

    Could a Briggs and Stratton Garden car be described as a Microcar? Don’t really know, and it was electric powered.
    I have a Bantam too and several Austin 7’s. I still have to find an Austin part that fits the Bantam. My Bantam is dead for want of parts, its one of 6 that came into India, there are only 2 survivors.

    Cheers Harit

    • rusty

      wow harit

      thats pretty exciting

      what body style is the bantam, in australia only a few very late model Bantam 4 seater tourers that i know of came to australia…they had the big round nose styling…my fav is the early roadsters with flat grille and big headlights..

      I always love when American cars are imported into other countries its rather interesting especially when after the war it was every country trying to sell into America.

      and what is a Brigs and Stratton garden car??

      generally the old Micro car definition didnt normally cover electric though i think there is a good reason to overide the laws of old. Many electric cars were indeed as small as a micro…

      I’d say unless it was sold as a registered vehicle it cant be considered a car..i guess.

      I have a very small car body [smaller than most micros] with no running gear..in fact the remaining mountings points and such make me feel it was powered by something very small..like the size of a briggs…it seems i had found similar car on internet but again nothing ever looks identical.

      • Harit Trivedi

        Hi Rusty, both surviving Bantams are the 2-door hard top type. There was a convertible which was scrapped and few parts salvaged. Incidentally the other is a runner and belongs to a friend, both cars are together at one place. Till I got my car only one was thought to exist in India.
        About Briggs and Stratton, I made a mistake in naming. Its an Auto Red Bug with Briggs and Stratton motor. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_Red_Bug for description, and see images for Auto Red Bug. These were considered as Micro cars after all, and were arounf drom 1916.

    • john

      Hi, Harit. I didn’t know there were any American Austins or Bantams in India. I have been car-spotting all over India annually since the 1970s. My friend in Calcutta has a nice Rytecraft Scootacar, and I have seen or heard of 2 or 3 more in India. They are even smaller than American Austins.

      • rusty

        John said “My friend in Calcutta has a nice Rytecraft Scootacar, and I have seen or heard of 2 or 3 more in India. They are even smaller than American Austins.”

        Yes much smaller and there are a few Rytecraft Scootacars in Australia too…

  13. rusty

    great stuff Harit

    thanks fore that..

    man only two bantams..good stuff mate..

  14. David Wright

    Duryea built very small cars here in the US as early as 1895. I owned one that came with a carriage museum I bought 25 years ago, it met all the criteria of a micro car, 2 of us could pick it up…..it had a single cylinder engine, carriage type wheels and tiller steering.

  15. john

    interesting point is that the bantam engine is a mirror image of the English seven ,

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