Copies of the new book about Birmingham's early car marques are available from www.brasspot.com
Did you know that Punch cartoonist, artist, inventor and builder of whimsical machines painted one of his artworks across the back of an Austin Seven?
A new Rowland Emett Society has been formed to catalogue and preserve his works. You can find the story of the Emett Austin Seven at:
There were more than 290,000 Austin Sevens produced between 1922 and 1939 and a further 100,000 built under license by other manufacturers including BMW Datsun & Bantam. The car did for the British market what the Ford Model T did for the American market introducing motoring to the masses in an affordable form.
In the beginning the competition was from the motorcycle combinations that proliferated in the early years of the 20th century but the small car won through and made its presence felt on both the roads and racetrack. The story of the Austin Seven begins with Herbert Austin:
Herbert Austin was born at Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire on 8th November 1866 and brought up in Yorkshire. After attending Rotherham Grammar School he moved on to Brampton Commercial College and then emigrated to Australia aged 17. In Australia he worked for an engineering company with his uncle Walter and married Helen Dron, the daughter of Scottish emigrants on 26th December 1887.
In 1883 Herbert Austin joined a company set up to manufacture sheep shearing equipment by an Irish immigrant named Wolseley but, by 1890, the company experienced difficulties and Austin returned home to manage the English arm of the company.
Experienced in the problems that subcontracting caused in maintaining quality levels Austin avoided them by acquiring a factory in Birmingham in which everything could be done under one roof.
The business grew and new premises were taken in Aston. Austin widened the range of work undertaken to include the newly-fashionable bicycle and progressed, as many other firms of that time did, into the production of motorised vehicles.
Austin's first vehicle was a prototype of a three-wheeler in 1895 which was followed by a number of other prototypes until Wolseley became a fully-fledged motor car manufacturer in 1899. In 1900 a four wheeled car was produced with a steering wheel instead of a tiller and the first cars were sold to the public in 1901 by which time the company had changed hands. Friction between Austin and his fellow directors grew as their ideas diverged and Austin left Wolseley to set up his own company in 1906.Wolseley carried on as an independent company until 1935 and as an upmarket marque until 1975.
Austin purchased a redundant printing works at Longbridge for £10000 and went into the production of the Endcliffe 25/30hp Phaeton. The company went on to produce vehicles as diverse as six-cylinder Grand Prix Race Cars and single cylinder Gladiators but the general range of cars were considered sturdy and dependable if unremarkable.
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