Shared Sump: 1969 Austin America – Sold?

Jan 2021 | Classifinds, Free For All Friday

February 2, 2021 Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

If you’re like me, certain cars of your childhood can evoke vivid memories, even smells. When I came across this 1969 Austin America originally listed for sale in January 2021 on Craigslist in Saverna Park, Maryland for $3,000,  it brought back the smells I remember as my parents carted five-year-old me and my younger sister around in it.  Comparing this asking price against the Collector Car Market Review confirms this private seller has his America priced between the #4 “Fair” appraisal of $1,800 and the #3 “Good” estimate of $3,800. 

If you’re not familiar with these cars, this synopsis from Todd’s Austin America Website provides a great overview:

“The Austin America was a special version of British Leyland’s two-door Austin 1300 Mk2. Approximately 59,500 of them were made exclusively for export to the U.S.A., Canada, and Switzerland.  They were sold from 1968 to 1971.  In the U.S.A., the Americas were intended to compete directly with the highly successful VW Beetle and throughout the sales, the marketing campaign advertised them as, “The perfect second car.”  Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, famed BMC designer for the Morris Minor and Mini, with bodywork designed by famous Italian automotive design firm Pinanfarina. The Americas, like their fellow 1100/1300’s in the UK, debuted Dr. Alex Moulton’s revolutionary new Moulton Hydrolastic pressurized liquid and rubber suspension system.

The Americas had a transverse-mounted 1275cc 4cyl. engine. They were front-wheel-drive through either a four-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Both transmissions were in the engine sump and ran in the engine oil. The optional automatic was unique in that it could be shifted manually through all 4 forward gears or left in drive as a regular automatic. This ingeniously designed and engineered car, along with its predecessor, the Mini, sparked the worldwide trend toward the now commonplace front-wheel-drive compact family sedan. The Americas are now very rare and probably fewer than 100 are still on the road in the U.S. today.”

With both of my parents working in the late sixties, they needed two cars.  Their biggest constraint was neither knew how to drive a manual transmission car, so at only $1,700 new, the Austin America was the lowest priced car in the U.S. with a truly automatic transmission.  Unfortunately, having the innovative transmission placed in the sump was our car’s downfall when vandals thought it would be funny to put sugar in the unlocked gas tank.  These were rare cars in the states when new and as Tood alludes to above, between British Leyland build quality and Prince-of-Darkness Lucas electrics, I have no reason to disagree with his assertion fewer than one hundred of these Americanized Minis remain registered today.

Here’s a great video of a 1970 Austin America equipped with the automatic transmission.  It’s fun to watch the driver massage the choke until the car is fully warmed up:

Unfortunately in this example, the original power train has been replaced by a Geo Metro setup that still needs sorting and completion of the electrical wiring.  God’s Speed with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“For sale is a 1969 Austin America into which we installed a ’94 Geo Metro engine and 5-speed transmission in place of the original motor and automatic transmission.

These cars have hydrolastic suspension – four fluid-filled “displacers”, two on a side, that make the ride smooth.

We replaced the original engine about two years ago, but the car has sat since then. The engine runs, but will need tuning up, and the CV joints need attention/alignment.

I rewired most of the car with a modern 12-circuit fusebox, including relays for the headlights, horn, and ignition, which is now push-button. There’s still some wiring that needs to be replaced, but everything lights up.

I haven’t included pictures of the interior because the dashboard isn’t back together, but I have all the door panels, seats, dash bits, etc. There is very minimal amount of rust: some below the doors (see the picture) and areas of the kick panel were replaced with fiberglass.

I don’t want to part with her, but progress has been too slow and I need to get rid of unfinished projects. That said, I’m not interested in dumb offers – these cars are quite rare and few are in good condition.

When I used to drive her people constantly commented on what a cool vehicle this is. There are active owner groups both here and abroad (the car was also sold as the MG/Austin/Morris 1100 or 1300, also referred to as an ADO16). Check out this promotional ad made in New Zealand: https://youtu.be/5TwOc62YXJc and this other compilation video: https://youtu.be/9poq98aJquA

The car is also a prime candidate for a more powerful engine, say, a Honda D- series or similar, if you want to go that route. Here’s one with a 1380 engine going at recklessly fast speeds in Annapolis: https://youtu.be/dtvZC0p2K9Y

Do you have an Austin America story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!

1 Comment
  1. Anonymous

    This was an update of the MG1100 which was sold through the BMC dealers. I owned a 1963 1100 and front-wheel drive was a ton of fun. The rest of the story is the nightmare of maintenance….

    Reply

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