1950 AUSTIN, DS1, A125 SHEERLINE SALOON
I purchased this car on 29 August 1988. My aim at the time was to have a large ‘limousine’ type vehicle and to restore it in fairly quick time. In hindsight how misguided was this aim ?
In the intervening years a number of “other” things got in the way, mainly career, building a house, retirement, restoring another car, travelling and so on and on it went.
This car is a fully imported Right Hand Drive ‘Export Market' standard sedan of British origin. According to the records at the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust the car was built at the Austin Factory, Longbridge, Birmingham, UK on 11th December 1950 and still has the correct original motor, body and chassis numbers as when it was despatched from the factory. The same record shows that it was despatched direct to Australia, but the name of the consignee is not recorded. However a plate attached to this car shows that Larke Hoskins, of 56 Palmer Street, East Sydney was the Australian Distributor, so it is fairly reasonable to assume that they were the consignee’s.
These types of cars (together with the A135 Princess) were the top of the Austin line, both in size and quality of finish. They were developed and produced in the post World War 2 period to compete directly with cars like Rolls Royce, Bentley, Daimler and similar. The only problem competing with cars of that nature was they had the name and reputations, Austin was entering the “race” at a very late stage, and suffered accordingly. During the course of their production run from 1947 to 1951 these cars became known as “a poor mans Rolls Royce”. The more opulent A135 “Princess” range, which had the same mechanicals, but was fitted with a Vanden Plas body, had a much longer production ‘life’ and greater success competing with the better known limousines.
When I acquired the car it was a complete car, partially dismantled, showing its age and previous usage. The person I purchased it from, a dealer type person from Blackheath, NSW had commenced a "restoration" by stripping the most easily removed panels, ie mudguards and front panels and the interior. He had hand painted the panels with some sort of ‘brown’ primer and that’s where the job had finished. End of "restoration", interest, money or whatever, so he sold it !
Basically the car was a sound car, very well worn with no accident damage evident, but with some minor rust showing. Sometime during its life it had been roughly repainted in a light sky blue colour. It was mechanically very well worn with extensive country usage evident on under body parts, ie stone damage, road metal "peppering", accumulated mud and dust. There was some minor panel damage, mainly to the mudguards, the left hand front door and the rear ‘beaver’ panel. The interior of the car was a shambles, through age and wear and tear. The upholstery and timber facings had suffered very badly with water damage from a leaking sunroof, and the whole of the interior was full of dust, caked mud, rats nests/droppings and snails.
Because a number of panels and most of the interior had been removed from the car and stacked “in” it, I was concerned whether all the relevant parts were with it. However when it was subsequently ‘sorted’ out all was well, as all the necessary parts appeared to be there.
My subsequent work on the car showed that my original assessment had been fairly accurate. Over the years from ’88 to early 2001 I did some restoration work on the car, mainly to the doors, and I made some “rust “ panels to replace the rusted parts of the car.
During this period the motor was dismantled and over the years was reconditioned, bit by bit, with the end result that the motor is now totally reconditioned and rebuilt.
In early 2001 after my commitments to AOA had finished, I really got serious about restoring the car. The previously dismantled panels were all refitted and aligned, and repaired where necessary. When this work was completed it was totally stripped and the body removed from the chassis. The whole chassis and running gear was totally dismantled, restored and rebuilt, to original “new” condition. The whole car, chassis and body was then sand blasted and painted in its present colours.
During the stripping and repairing of the body some good samples of the original colour scheme were located on some of the inner panels. This colour was reproduced and the car has been finally painted in a light green metallic colour, as close as possible to the original colour.
Probably the biggest ‘headache’ in the whole restoration was the restoration of the doors. These doors have a timber inner frame, which rots quite readily, particularly the lower portion, with a steel outer frame and steel skin. The problem being that when the doors were originally made they were constructed from the inside out, with the steel skin being the last thing put onto the door. All the fasteners and screws in the timber frame were put in place, from the outside towards the inside, before the skin was fitted. Consequently when it came to taking the timber frames apart, none of the fasteners or screws could be accessed from the ‘inside’ of the door, so it was necessary to break the frames to get them out. This had to be done carefully to retain as much as possible of the rotted frames, for patterns.
The end result is that all the doors have been totally rebuilt, but now they can be rebuilt from the inside of the door, with all fasteners and screws easily accessible from the inside of the door.
In November 2002 the restoration of the car was semi finished, but sufficient and good enough for it to be registered. At this stage, even though it was registered some of the upholstery and all of the interior wooden facings still required total restoration.
After its registration and upon being used, particularly in the hot weather, it became evident that it had a problem with overheating, despite the fact that I had made some modifications during restoration, in an effort to prevent the overheating.. These cars have a reputation, even in the UK for overheating. Subsequently a fair bit of further experimentation and modification was carried out in an effort to reduce the overheating. I’m pleased to say that the modifications were successful and the motor now operates within a temperature range of 165 deg F to 185 deg F.
Since its registration the upholstery has been completed by Dave Kracht of DNA Upholstery, Katoomba, NSW and I renewed all the veneer facings. My mate Warren Hopgood, who is a French Polisher by trade, completed the finish of the wooden trim, but with modern 2 pack materials, not french polish.
The history of the car is fairly well known. There have been 4 genuine previous owners, and 1 "restoring", before the car came into my possession. The name of the original owner, who lived in Orange, NSW is not known so little is known of its initial history. The subsequent four owners were an “SP” bookie in Orange, 2 farmers at Parkes, NSW and then the “restoring” owner at Blackheath. With the exception of my ownership and that of the “restorer” at Blackheath the car has spent all of its life in the Orange and Parkes areas of Central Western N.S.W.
Despite the fact that these are fairly large cars, at best they are really only a very comfortable 4 seater, and at worst a very ‘squeezy’ 6 seater. They have a separate ‘box’ section chassis with independent suspension on the front, typical of Austin/BMC vehicles of the era, the upper control arms being the shock absorber arms, with a lower ‘wish bone‘ control arm and coil spring, all mounted on a massive cross member of the chassis. The rear suspension is semi elliptical springs, with a solid rear axle. Braking is by large hydraulic drum brakes (12” x 2 ½”) front and rear, and steering by “cam gear” steering box. Power is from an o.h.v. 6 cylinder petrol motor of 4 litre capacity, driving to the rear wheels through a four speed manual gearbox and rear differential. When full of oil, water and fuel these cars weigh 2 imperial tons.
In short they are a very standard type of car for the era and with the exception of an in built jacking system had no outstanding innovative mechanical or other feature. They are quite luxuriously finished, with Walnut timber facings for dash and door trims, with very comfortable leather seats, fitted with central and side arm rests, front and rear, and plenty of leg room, for all seating positions. They had as standard equipment a good quality ‘Ekco’ brand medium and short wave radio, and a built in heater demister. They have quite good road holding ability and the ride experienced is very smooth and comfortable. Despite their size and weight they are reasonably ‘nimble’ cars on the road, being able to easily accelerate, keep up with, and stop with modern traffic.
I am looking forward to many miles of pleasant motoring in this car.