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Pinin Style: 1959 Austin A40 Farina

1959 Austin A40 Farina

In the late 1950’s, BMC was trying to add some style up and down their lineup as a way to hide pretty ordinary mechanical components. By contracting with Pininfarina, they were assured of the latest in Italian styling. The A40 “Farina” replaced the A35, which at best could be called “cute” and may be best known to US enthusiasts as Beauregard’s Taxi in the Great Muppet Caper. Kim P spotted this example of the A40 for sale here on Kijiji in Ontario, Canada for $1200 (Ca).

Austin A40 Engine

Although the styling might have been cutting edge, one look under the hood reveals mechanical components familiar to many British car enthusiasts. The A-series engine, here in 948cc form, was used in many BMC cars of the era including the original Mini and its derivatives, the Austin-Healey Sprite, and MG Midget. Many other components were shared, including pretty much everything you see in the engine compartment. The seller assures us that the engine runs despite having been in storage for more than 15 years, but is also including a later 1275cc engine from an MG Midget for a potential power upgrade.

Austin A40 Farina

Moving to the rear, we can see that this is not the Countryman version of the A40, which had an early rendition of a hatchback. Glass appears intact, as do most components, although there is a dent in the rear bumper and some rust present along the roofline. It’s nice to see intact taillights, and most trim and handles are there. These little cars had largely conventional underpinnings, with a-arm front suspension, semi-elliptic springs and a solid axle in the rear, but had an unusual braking system with hydraulic drums on the front and mechanical drums on the rear. I’m not familiar with other cars with this hybrid system, although I’m sure knowledgeable readers will enlighten me in the comments section! Thoughtfully, the seller is including a disc brake setup from a Midget that they assure will “bolt right in.”

Austin A40 Interior

The ad lists the interior as being complete, with door panels being described as excellent and seats good. The missing front bumper is currently found inside as well. Some repair is needed to the floorboard, but based on the interior picture there’s enough metal there for successful welding. I love the quaint dash with the multi-function gauge. Does anyone know what the large lever in the center of the dash is for?

Pat Moss's A40

The A40 Farina has a surprising competition history, with Pat Moss (Sir Stirling’s sister) and Ann Wisdom winning the Coupe de Dames and finishing 10th overall in the 1959 Monte Carlo Rallye. I even remember seeing them holding their own in saloon races at Snetterton in the mid 1970’s. I’d love to add this stylish saloon to my collection, but what about you?


  1. jim s

    interesting car and the parts may be worth the asking price. with either stock motor this is going to be a slow but maybe fun car to drive after an upgrade to the brakes. no interest in trying out the stock brake setup but would like to see how they connected the two systems. nice find.

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    • Smitty

      I like driving slow cars fast. I can haul ass around corners like I’m on fire without getting tickets. I’ll eventually sell one of my NSUs for something else and this has been on my wish list for a long time (although I’ll probably end up with a Fiat).

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  2. Alan Northcott

    Isn’t the switch in the middle a light switch, around the ignition switch? Think that was fairly common.

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  3. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    I’d like to have this just for the simple fact that it is different. While everyone is running around in their Midgets you can have something unique looking that is just as easy and affordable to fix. I’d want to drop the 1275 in there and pretend I was headed to Monte Carlo. Obviously the two women mentioned above were much more skilled and infinitely braver than I, but they would still provide the inspiration for my build. After which I’d be more than happy to hear the words, “you drive like a girl”.

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  4. Stewart

    I had a ’59 A40 as my first car! It’s a fairly common misconception that they the Farina styling house in Italy is the same as the better known Pinninfarina styling house however they are not the same. The seller is correct about the MG midget discs fitting straight on. The rear brakes are in fact hydraulic however they have a single cylinder which then opperates the drums via a mechanical linkage and I recall they were troublesome, to the extent I converted it to a Mk2 a40 system using slave cylinders from a Morris minor and had no issues with it again.

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Stewart, interesting information. According to what I read, both “Pinin” Farina and his son were at the introduction of the car…was this wrong? Also, thanks for the tip on how to get the rear brakes to non troublesome status!

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  5. Michael arkou

    The lever on the tunnel is the rear wheels manual lock,( I believe )
    The switch on the dash could be an interior light switch
    I picked up an Austin 1950 A40 that would have qualified as a barn find.
    It as about 8 years ago,and I bought it for the princely sum of $80.00 (Can)!
    It was the Devon model,two door and flippers (directional signals) that swung out
    just rear of the door post! I always wanted a foreign (Ha Ha )and I fun restoring it.
    I will watch the the auction on this,Lovely car.lots of fun.Very tough engine.

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  6. Paul B

    Friends bought one of these new in ’59 I believe, in light gray with black roof. Cute, cutting-edge styling at the time, as noted above. Fun, but slow as I recall. That’s about it. Full restoration on this would be a labor of love. A 1275 engine could make it much more practical to drive nowadays.

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  7. Kirk

    I can attest to the fact it runs … I was there the day it was loaded onto the dolly, then several hours later, on hand when it was driven into the garage. I agree with Jesse that it would be different.

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  8. cliffyc

    I think Alan has it right. Middle switch for the lights. You could(and still can),buy these long lever switches. They were an early nod towards ergonomics/driver ease,often fitted to Works type rally cars to work auxilliary lighting etc. Here in the UK tha A40 was very popular and this car would make a nice cheap vintage rally car as there a lots of modifications for the A-Series engine due to it’s use in the Mini. Happy Christmas to all from Merrie England. Have a good one people.

    Like 1
  9. Delac

    If this car were near me I would buy it today.

    I’m a bit too far for this one. Im in New Orleans.

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  10. David M

    The origInal hatchback, from 1961 the Mk2 offered this 3 door Countryman with the ability to fold the rear seats flat, the foreruner of the world’s hatchbacks. Built also In Australia and by Innocenti in Milan ( reciprocal as per the Mini) and yes it was designed by Pinnin Farina.
    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_A40_Farina
    August 1959 in practice at Brands Hatch Dr G C Shepherd broke the saloon car record in an Austin A40.

    These cars in the late 1960’s were beating everything up to 3.8 Jaguars in club racing! Google it to see amazing versions racing etc.

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  11. RickyM

    These are raced quite often. Google Austin A40 racing and look at images and you can see quite a few cool looking racing versions of it. Nice car ! Ditto CliffyC – happy christmas to all from the Garden of Kent in England.

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  12. Mike

    Since I am only within 50 miles of the 1959 Austin A40 , I would love to be able
    to see it,before it is sold.Beautiful vehicle!

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  13. Owen

    The long switch in the centre is the indicator (turn signal) switch. IIRC it had a clockwork timer to turn it off.

    Like 1
    • Keith B.

      Dear Owen, the original turn switch on the very first cars looked exactly like the two outer switches but was mounted at ninety degrees and modified such that it would flip left or right to activate the indicators.

      The later switch (as seen in this car) was timed by a rubber bulb behind the dashboard; turning the lever compressed the bulb which then – courtesy of a tiny inlet valve – would slowly draw in air and return the lever to its central (off) position. Naturally, over the years, the rubber perished and now most of us who still run the Mk 1s simply operate the switch and remember to cancel it after the turn is made.

      And Tom, thank you for your kind remarks about the A40 Farina Club here in England. We are currently having remanufactured batches of front and rear windscreen rubber seals, Mk 2 headlamp seals and, best of all, quarterlight rubbers. We would be pleased to ‘see’ you on our website at http://www.a40farinaclub.co.uk

      Best wishes to all, Keith Bennett, Club secretary

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  14. DT

    thats what I thought.So when I was in highschool,I had a Borgward,my friend had one of these,another friend had an Alfa,and we would street race.We would have these cars at full throtle most of the time.The Alfa,well it just wasnt fair,but anyway,I was almost always in front of the A40.The Alfa always in front of me.The driver went on to become a well known Alfa race car driver.I cant tell you how many times that Austin was on 2 wheels,they are tall and narrow.And prone to tip.Good times

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  15. Tom

    I am currently resurrecting an A40 Farina. Neat cars. Much of the bits are from corporate bins, so parts are not difficult to find. Great club support in England, as well. The rear brakes can be changed for Sprite/Midget brakes, and it is well worth while changing the 4.55 diff for a Sprite/Midget one. While raiding the Midget parts pile, also use the stronger axles.
    Contrary to common wisdom, my car featues a big bore 948 full of hot bits.

    Like 1
    • Sean Cainey

      I am trying to get a windshield for mine here in Merritt British Columbia Canada

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  16. John W.H. Busch

    My sister’s first car was a new 1960 Austin A 40. When I was just a little boy I went everywhere with her in that car. It was red with a black roof. She named it Robin and we loved that little car.A few weeks ago my sister Joy and I were talking about our younger days and how much fun we had touring around the countryside in Robin.Over the years I have kept my eyes open hoping to find a little A 40 wagon but with no luck. My sister passed away on Dec. 13 and low and behold I clicked on a website Barnfinds and there is a little A 40. I live in New Brunswick and if the little one is still for sale please e-mail me with price and location. Thank you and God bless.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Sorry John, but it looks like it already sold. Be sure to subscribe to our email updates thought because we do come across these from time to time. Thanks and good luck with your hunt!

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  17. Steve Lawson

    I had a 1959 Austin A40, MK I. I loved it. With the 6 gallon gas tank, I got 65 miles per gallon plus. The lever in the middle of the dash is the turn signal switch, if I,m not mistaken. Engines – the 950 BMC is easy to work on and as tough as nails. I would buy another one in a heart beat!

    Like 0

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