Rare Brit: 1950 Austin A90 Atlantic Sports Saloon

European economies took many years to recover following World War II. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Britain, where food and fuel rationing remained in place long after hostilities had ceased. The government acknowledged that the country couldn’t rely on domestic revenue to boost the flagging economy, so they encouraged manufacturers to embrace the export market. Austin was happy to step up to the plate. The result was the Austin A90 Atlantic. This was available as both a Convertible and a Sports Saloon, and its target market was the United States. Sadly, it managed to miss that target, and by a very long way. Today they are a rare sight, and that makes this 1950 Austin A90 Atlantic Sports Saloon a bit of a treat. It will need to be restored, and it will take a dedicated individual to tackle the work. It is located in Fresno, California, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The auction has been set to open at $5,000, but there are currently no bids. Barn Finder Kyle K spotted the A90 for us, so thank you so much for that, Kyle.

The styling of the A90 is interesting, and it is a car that looks sleek and svelte from a ¾ rearview. The front isn’t quite as convincing, with the Cyclopean center light, which is reminiscent of the Tucker. The vehicle was initially developed as a Convertible, with the Sports Saloon following hard on its heels. This was an easy process because Austin essentially took the Convertible and welded a roof onto it. This gave the car impressive structural rigidity and improved comfort for rear-seat passengers. This A90 is complete, and its rust issues appear to be minimal. There are holes in the floors, but fixing these should not be difficult. The panels look clean, with not much more than surface corrosion. The Black and White paint that the Atlantic wears isn’t original because you get the occasional glimpse of its factory Seafoam Green. The chrome and trim are present, including the moldings that run down the center of the hood and the trunk lid. Once again, Austin drew inspiration from an American manufacturer for this styling twist. In this case, it was Pontiac. All of the glass is present, bringing us to another interesting design quirk with the Atlantic. Two-piece windshields were not an uncommon sight at this time, but this is a classic that features one that is three-piece. The main area is what is essentially flat glass, with an additional curved section on either side. Thankfully, this glass, along with the rest, is in good condition.

Austin knew that to be competitive in the American market, they would either need to develop a new engine or to extract the best from what they had available at that stage. Their budget didn’t allow for the development of a new unit, so they stretched the existing 4-cylinder motor that had seen service in the A70. They increased the capacity from 2.2-liters to 2,660cc, and this allowed it to produce 88hp. Those ponies found their way to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. The resulting performance wasn’t startling, with the ¼ mile journey covered in 20.9 seconds. Given enough road, the A90 could find its way to a top speed of 95 mph. This A90 has been sitting in a warehouse for many years, and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that it doesn’t currently run. However, the engine does turn freely, so it might not take a lot to get it coughing into life once again. Even if a rebuild is required, that should be a straightforward process. These are a simple engine, and most competent individuals should be capable of performing a rebuild in a home workshop. Even if the buyer doesn’t feel up to the task, getting it professionally rebuilt won’t be that expensive. Parts availability will not be a problem. Even though the Atlantic was built in limited numbers, this engine saw further service (in modified form) in the Austin-Healey 100.

If the next owner is going to strike dramas with the restoration of this classic, then the interior could be where these dramas occur. The seats are still present, but quite a few trim pieces are missing. Items like door trims should be able to be made with no real dramas, but it is the dash that could be the sticking point. More specifically, it will be the gauge cluster. This was a distinctive feature in the A90, and the one that is fitted to this car isn’t correct. It has been pieced together from a number of sources, and none of it is factory original. It might take some hunting to locate another cluster, thanks to the rarity of these cars. However, that same level of rarity would make it well worth the time and effort.

Austin pinned many of its hopes on the A90 Atlantic, and they fervently believed that they had produced a car that the American public would receive with open arms. To demonstrate its potential, they even undertook speed and performance trials at the legendary Brickyard. Sadly, it wasn’t enough, because even though the company slashed the price of the car to the bare bone, it failed to sell. Total production was split relatively evenly between the Convertible and the Sports Saloon, but that still only saw 7,981 cars built in total. Of these, a mere 348 made their way to the USA. Austin then tried to enter other markets with the A90 but suffered the same levels of sales success…or failure. Today, it is believed that there are less than 1,000 cars left in existence across the globe and that the American count is in double-digit territory. That makes this a very rare vehicle, both domestically and globally. It also makes it deserving of a full restoration.

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    From the photos, this chap appears to own at least 3 of these.

    Like 4
  2. alphasud Member

    You learn something new on BarnFinds every day. I have never seen this model before. Can’t help but to think they were thinking of the Tucker with the 3rd headlight. I’m sure that created confusion with oncoming traffic at night.

    Like 3
    • Bill McCoskey

      alphasud,

      Take a look at the Tatra T-87 front end and 3-piece windshield. I’m betting they styled some of the A-90 Atlantic from the Tatra. The T-87 was made thru 1950.

      Like 3
      • Richard Kirschenbaum

        Confirm!

  3. Dual Jetfire

    Looks like a 46-50 Packard with Free Flow styling.

    Like 2
  4. scott m

    Thought of the Tatra with the 3rd headlight. The windshield reminds me of a Panhard, and that lovely side sweep of a Bentley. My first thought of the roof was that it looked like a factory hard top, so I guess I was on to something. The large greenhouse would make it a delight, and this would be a lovely saloon when restored!

    Like 1
  5. S_W

    I knew someone 5 years ago that had both a coupe and a convertible, both in rough condition. Now this seller who has three, none of them in what I would consider decent condition. I wonder how many of these are still drivable or in reasonably decent condition?
    A different design for sure, and definitely a case of the Brits not having a clue as to what would sell well in the USA.

  6. Puhnto

    Always loved these. Never seen the hard top. I think it goes back to the Dinky Toy version I got in the 1950s. (Still have it.) Black with a red interior. I guess I was the target customer, but as a kid, the Dinky version was as close as I ever got.

    Like 1
  7. stephen arnott Member

    Never saw many of these even back in the 50’s in the UK.Dreadful rotboxes.

    Like 2
  8. Graeme I

    At the time these cars were styled to appeal to the US buyer, but sales were very poor. Today a quirky rarity and definitely worthy of a better future. Let’s hope it gets saved.

  9. Martin Horrocks

    At the end of an expensive restoration you will have something that drives worse than it looks. Hard to know which was the more hopeless English post-war gamble, this or the Triumph Roadster. Or possibly the Singer SM1500?

    Actually, those 3 would make for the worlds slowest drag race.

    Would be much better to buy a Healey with needs….whoever is selling sure has a thing for post war Austins!

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