Motoring Monday: Austin Americas

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I was very surprised to find not one, but two Austin Americas for sale this morning. The Austin America was a model intended solely for the US market (surprise, considering the name, right?) based on the British Motor Corporation/British Leyland ADO16 platform, which itself was based on the original Mini. My family owned a Morris 1300 growing up, and I remember it being competent but unexciting; I was certainly happy when my parents traded it for an S-Type Jaguar! I saw a lot of these running around in the UK, and I’m sure someone thought it was a great idea to import them to America. My wife remembers a relative having one when they were new and liking it; unfortunately, I think they were in the minority. The lighter colored one here in the above picture is a 1970 model located in Milford, New Jersey, and it’s here on eBay where bidding started at $1.00 with no reserve! It’s a 1970 with just over 40,000 original miles, but there’s a catch; it no longer has an engine or transmission! Many of these cars are used as engine donors for Mini’s, and this one is no exception. However, the body is relatively solid, and the rest of the car is complete, including some of the nearly unobtainable trim.  Seems like a great parts car if you have another America, right? But where would you find another one of those?

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As it turns out, right here on eBay in Cornelia, Georgia! This one is a 1969 model that’s been sitting for a few years, but apart from some damaged trim and some dented body panels (hmmmm….) it is complete with drivetrain. The buy-it-now price on this car is $750, but they are interested in even lower offers. By my rusty math skills, that means you could well end up with a restorable car and a quality parts car for less than $1,000 – how many classic cars can you say that about? Cornelia, Georgia and Milford, Connecticut are a little less than 12 hours away from each other, and a good portion of the trip could be on some of the most beautiful roads there are through the Appalachian mountains. If you’re somewhere along the route or close to it, you could even do it on successive weekends and take the family along for a beautiful drive!

I found a lot of enthusiastic owners on the web, naturally most are out of the US, but for example, here’s a video news story celebrating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the platform in 2012. There’s a tremendous amount of technical information and owners’ forums as well, starting with ado16.info. Shoot, I’ve almost convinced myself it makes sense. Are any of you British car fans interested in trying out one of these “big mini’s”?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Jamesj

    These cars were never good to start with. I owned 3 when I was much younger. (They were cheap transpiration) Do not waste your time even thinking about these.
    The sooner they turn back into red oxide the better for everyone.
    There are so many things that go wrong with them, the hydraulic suspension, they rusted at the mounting points at rear subframe, causing movement, shearing brake lines and hydraulics …. I could go on….
    James

  2. dave57210

    If memory serves (likely not, but….) they came in 2 flavors – an 1800 and an 1100 – which was known as the “lemon hundred”

    • Ward William

      I used to have 1800s in Aus back when I was young. Beautiful cars to drive and the hydrolastic suspension gave a beautiful ride. I’d live to see one of the 1100s restored to original………but with a modern drivetrain.

  3. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    @ Dave57210 — the 1800 was a larger car. In the UK and elsewhere, they came as 1100 (1098cc) and 1300 (1275cc) variants; as far as I can tell we got the MG1100 and Austin America (1300) variations “officially” in the US. Anyone know of any others?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      This is the 1800, the ADO17 platform (one size bigger?) Although these were never officially imported, a few made it. There’s a 24 Hours of LeMons racer that’s been trying to almost give one away (<$500) for a while.

      • jim s

        have them list it on this site with photos.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff
      • Peter

        That’ll be me, but the link is there. I also race an America in Lemons, well race is a bit strong really, it is more wrenching than racing.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        @ Peter — happy to see you on here (as a fellow Austin LeMoneer!). Hope it sells soon for you!

  4. Jeff Staff

    There was a great, great junkyard near me that used to keep all sorts of funky stuff around (it has since changed ownership hands and now inventories all late model). They had two Americas and I always wanted to rescue them. Looked like they came in together and went out together….

  5. dsldriver

    I had a ’67 MG 1100. Basically the same car. Fun to drive but not very dependable. Not all that exciting to look at either.

  6. jim s

    the green one is an automatic. if you unbolt the motor from the automatic transmission/oil pan will it bolt up to a manual transmission/oil pan? interesting finds.

    • Peter

      No, the block is different.

      • jim s

        thanks.

  7. John

    I had a 70 automatic and a 71 stick. I actually loved both of them but they were largely worn out by the time they hit 80k. They had well known metallurgy issues in the rear suspension and keeping an exhaust system on one was a daily chore. But they were fun to drive and absolutely the best snow cars I’ve ever been in (with studded tires of course).

    I had always hoped that someone would put another little box like this on into production. Now with the BMW Minis, we have it. It’s amazing how similar the two body styles actually are.

    I have two new Minis, too. Love them both.

  8. Andrew cumming

    Wow, I have owned 1100’s and 1300’s in the UK and Australia and found them to be wonderful cars. They held the road like a mini but had 4 doors. The interior was really spacious and the suspension comfortable. Quality was on a par with anything else on the road back then. All in all a great car and I never ever had a problem with mine

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