The A30, introduced in 1951, was Austin’s first post-war foray into the small car sector it had once dominated with models like the 7 and 8. The new car was refreshingly modern in an era where many small cars still had side valve engines and outdated chassis, thanks to Austin’s first monocoque body shell, and overhead valve engine. 12-volt battery and electrical system and decent standard equipment combined with keen pricing to ensure that Austin would do well in the small car sector once again.
While no one would mistake the A30 for a performance car, its solid underpinnings and lightweight build helped it on the way to a surprise win on the 1956 Tulip rally, trouncing some far more powerful machinery. The A30 today is a desirable and affordable classic car, offering no frills motoring in a very likeable package.
Which one to buy?
With a production span of only five years there were not a lot of major changes carried out on the A30. Four-door versions were available from the beginning, with the two-door models making an appearance in 1953. The introduction of the van body style and a more luxurious clubman version in 1954 completed the A30 range. There was also a convertible prototype model, however it never make it into production.
Over 223,000 A30s were built before the A35 was introduced in 1957, and there are still a number of good cars around today. The suspension setup of coil springs up front and leaf springs at the rear, as well as the basic 800cc engine, remained constant across body styles and most changes were to trim items.
As the average A30 is around 60 years old it's rare to find an original example, as most have had full body resprays and various modifications carried out to increase the modest performance of the original engine. As long as the mods have been sympathetically carried out, it should not deter you from buying an otherwise tidy car. Gearing is very short and even at its modest top speed of around 60mph the A30 is revving at around 4800rpm. The A30 is best enjoyed at lower speed around town and along winding country lanes where they can be appreciated.
The A30 and A35 have also become quite popular track cars, partly due to the fact that they can be converted into pocket rockets for very little money. There are many interchangeable parts with the MG Midget and other BMC cars. If you are looking for one of these track conversions though, it is worth getting in touch with a specialist.
Performance and specs
Engine 803cc OHV in-line four cylinder
Power 28bhp @ 4400rpm
Torque 40lb ft @ 2200rpm
Top speed 63mph
0-60mph 42 seconds
Fuel consumption 42 mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
• Spares for the A30 are in good supply and joining one of the owners clubs is a good way to get access to elusive spares, such as dashboard items, trim, seats or even items like new water pumps, which might be tricky to find elsewhere
• Gear changes can be a bit stiff when selecting first or reverse however this is normal as synchromesh was only available on the upper three ratios. Second gear synchros can give problems however replacing parts is not costly
• The all drum brake setup is reliable, however don’t be surprised to find a modified disc set-up to improve stopping distances, especially on cars with engine upgrades
• The engine was advanced for its time, especially for a small car, and today there are a lot of modifications available squeeze some extra power out of the unit. Some owners have also swapped these small 803cc units out for the larger engines found in the A35 and later models. As parts for the early 803cc engines are becoming scarcer, it may be advisable to look for a car with a later engines already installed
• Fuel pumps can get clogged up due to rust from the fuel tank, which can cause intermittent cutting out.
• Rubber mounts for engine and gearbox wear out over time. While the parts are readily available, the job is time consuming, requiring the driveshaft to be removed as well as the engine hoisted up
• Half shafts can cause problems, so refurbishing or replacing them with upgraded parts is advisable
• The suspension is rugged, however the car requires regular lubrication on the kingpins, bushes and bolts to avoid premature failure
• Rust is common and can render a car worthless with restoration often outstripping the initial purchase price. New body panels are not easy to come by, although repair sections can often be welded in. Check the car over thoroughly especially under the arches, boot floor and inner wings.
1951: A30 launched in four-door saloon body style
1953: Two-door version introduced. Four door versions are modified to give extra interior space
1954: Van body style and more luxurious Countryman estate are released
1956: A30 replaced by A35, after a production run of 223,000 cars
Clubs and websites
• www.austina30.co.uk - useful resource devoted to the Austin A30
• www.austina30a35ownersclub.co.uk - Austin A30 and A35 Owners club and forum
• www.austina30a35parts.com - shop specialising in Austin A30 and A35 parts and spares
Summary and prices
Buying an A30 can be a great way to get involved in the classic car scene, as these little Austins have a big following in the UK, and they embody the essence of early post-war small car motoring. £2000 will find you a decent condition example, pay much less than that and you will be asking for trouble. £5000 should be enough to find a recently refurbished example with some upgrades to the engine and running gear. Stick to a car that has been looked after and you will have many happy weekends chugging around the countryside.
Words: John Tallodi