Barn Find Estate: 1954 Austin A40 Countryman

If you’re looking for an unusual project, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more eye-catching offering than a 1954 Austin A40 Countryman Estate. Located just southwest of Portland, Oregon, and offered here on Craigslist for $3,000, this British classic comes with a healthy assortment of everything needed to get it back on the road. Many thanks to T.J. for the tip!

Introduced in the era of post-war austerity, the A40 was aimed squarely at the overseas market. The government aspired to export fully half the cars produced in Britain, with critical manufacturing materials like steel allotted accordingly. So it was that the first truly post-war design to roll off the line at Longbridge was equipped with hydraulic brakes (up front– rear brakes remained mechanical), an American-style column shift for the four-speed manual transmission, and an engine no longer shackled by taxation linked to RAC horsepower calculations.

That engine was a 1.2L inline-four that produced a blistering 39.5 brake horsepower at 4200 RPM, with peak torque of 55 lb.ft. at 4400 RPM. If it looks a little familiar, that’s because it probably is: this was the first iteration of what would become the BMC B series engine, and would go on to appear in various guises in everything from sports cars to medium-duty trucks all the way to 1980. While the A40 has been described in print as “lively,” this is likely more a product of light weight and solid (for the day) handling. Zero to sixty happens in around forty seconds, and the original Dorset could just barely make 70 mph. It’s in economy, though, where this powerplant really shines. In September of 1948, Motor Sport reported getting roughly 27 miles to the American gallon, and that was on pool petrol. Who knows what the thing might be capable of if you fed it gasoline that actually burns?

There’s a definite appeal to a classic car that will still get noticed while not dealing you a gut punch at the pump. The seller suggests that this might make a great promotional vehicle, and I can’t say I disagree. In fact, in some situations it might be reasonably put to its original purpose. While I don’t know that it could replace a contractor’s work truck, anyone delivering flowers or hauling baked goods to the farmer’s market in a PT Cruiser might be served just as well, and with a bit more style, by an Austin A40 estate car. But even just as a unique ride on cruise night, this little import provides an interesting alternative take on the classic Fifties automobile.

Comments

  1. Fred W

    The A40 is also the basis for one of the most popular and well known British pedal cars

    Like 3
    • Martin Horrocks

      And the company which now holds the rights to those J40 pedal cars uses an A40 van for deliveries. It is actually a thriving business…..

      This Countryman is unusual and restorable, if only as a labour of love.

      Like 3
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Agree…..

  2. princeofprussia

    I love it! This would certainly be a fun project, and as small as it is, shouldn’t break the bank. I believe this Austin sported the same engine as that found in the Nash Metropolitan.

    Like 2
    • Martin Horrocks

      Correct. The Nash Metropolitan was based on this model, being the British idea of what an American small car buyer would want. It was also available in UK badged as Austin Metroplitan, but not many Brits wanted to look so conspicuous in the late 1950s…..the neighbours wouldn´t like it. Our neighbour had one. We didn´t like it.

      Like 5
      • Garry

        Without checking my sources, I think that you will find that the Nash had the 1500cc B series motor.

        The B series donk was based on this A40 motor.

        In the early 1950s, Austin A40s similar to this model did quite well in Australian rallies.
        An admirable Australian women, Granny Conway, drove a convertible A40 in the 1953 Redex Trial. Austin gave her a similar car for her efforts and she drove that car in the 1954 Redex!

        Like 2
  3. chrlsful@aol.com

    handy in merica as it is now. Many contractors stay pretty clean, golf shirt, kackies’n clipboard (esp for 1st visit). I can see it (of utility) as a DD for work AND rec but I always like em smaller (& cavernous). An i6’n 5 speed, discs all round, etc?
    Better than the mini-clubman, more like the thames van (the anglia was seen as a ’50s drag car in manya strip this side the pond).

    If needed I guess I could puta ladder under the bed in that gaping chasam seen below the rear dor? Pretty handy~

    Like 2
    • bone

      what ?

      Like 6
    • Andrew S Mace Member

      Maybe a folding step-stool would fit there? More likely, you’d have the spare tire in that spot, as I recall.

  4. Martin Horrocks

    Ref @Garry on the the engines. Checking the sources, both statements are correct The first series Metropolitan had 1200 like this one, the second series was fitted a 1200 B engine from August 1954 and a 1500 B fitted into the third series (lete 1955 until end of production.

    The strange reason for the change to B series (I didn´t know this) was apparently that the original design for the A40 couldn´t go beyond 1200cc as the block was designed to fit old pre WW2 RAC HP formula. This favoured long stroke, narrow bore engines for tax reasons in the UK and was not a suitable approach for higher revving long distance needs of post WW2 roads in export markets.

    The B series introduced a new block, which could later be easily extended to 1500, 1622 and 1798cc,. First examples were 1200 and apparently identical to the A40 unit in everything except the new block.

    Like 2
    • Garry

      Thanks Martin.
      Originally the BMC bosses said that the B series couldn’t go beyond 1588cc.
      Australian BMC engineers proved otherwise by taking it to 1622cc. The British then took it to 1798cc.
      Australian BMC then added two pots to the 1622cc block take it to about 2433cc for the Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80.

      Like 2
    • Pat Gill

      The 1200cc A40 engine is around 1″ shorter than a B series even though it looks like the same family, the short engines have the central oil filler cap and an external oil filter,

      Like 1
  5. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Thanks for the info guys – nice read !

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