Anders Ditlev Clausager, our esteemed SAHB Secretary, visited the Classic Motor Show this year. Held at the NEC near Birmingham in November, it is always full of automotive gems of every type and for every interest.
Anders was kind enough to send us these wonderful pictures from the show. We can see that this is his very personal view of his favourite cars – and the selection is, we humbly suggest, all the better for it.
The title picture is of an Austin A40 Dorset Tourer from Australia. The 4-door Devon, and its 2-door sister the Dorset, were Austin’s first post-war saloons, built at Longbridge and sold from 1947 to 1952, when they were replaced by the A40 Somerset. A prototype A40 Dorset Tourer drophead was built at Longbridge in 1948 but never put into production – but various versions of the Tourer were made in Australia from September 1948 onwards. This is one of them.
Despite Anders’s insistence that he takes poor photographs (to paraphrase the great Tommy Cooper “I have a motoring book and some professional photographs from Anders Clausager and David Bailey; unfortunately, Anders cannot take photos and David Bailey writes dreadful motoring books”), Anders is wrong: so sharp is this picture that we can just detect the script on the badge on the radiator: “Austin A40 Car Club of Australia”.
Borgward Isabella cabriolet
This right-hand-drive UK-registered Borgward is of a model made in Bremen in West Germany from 1954 to 1962. It was to have been marketed as the Borgward Hansa 1500, but the test vehicles carried the Isabella name, and this was so popular with engineering staff and the media that only a few hundred initial cars were built without Isabella badging. The grille did change over the years, so we think that this one may be a later car – or simply the more up-market TS version. We hope Borgward experts can help us with this.
This is a true rarity. The Austin Apache was built by Leykor (an abbreviation of Leyland and korporasie – Afrikaans for ‘company’) in South Africa between November 1971 and 1978. The Apache was the last BMC ADO16 (Austin/Morris 1100 and 1300) car to be produced. The Spanish manufacturer Authi also built a version of the car, called the Austin Victoria, at its Pamplona plant between 1972 and 1975. The car was styled by Michelotti and based on the chassis and various other components of the Austin/Morris 1100. Leykor executives saw Michelotti’s prototype in England and chose it for production in South Africa, where ADO16 sales had been falling. Nearly 22,000 were sold in total – but Apache models are almost certainly ultra-rare in the UK.
1980 Austin Mini Metro
The Mini Metro is not a rare car – but this one is the earliest known. Considered by many to have been the saviour of British Leyland, the Mini Metro was built for 18 years. It was named What Car? Car of The Year in 1983 as an MG, and again as a Rover in 1991. Over 2 million Metros of all types were built.
Healey Super Sprite
The Healey ‘XQHS’ Super Sprite prototype was built by the Donald Healey Motor Company as a prototype high-specification Sprite to be presented to the Board of BMC as a potential road and ‘weekend racing’ car in the spirit of the Austin-Healey 100S. It was built on a very early pre-production floor pan with many hand-made panels, with work starting in late 1957. The original Coventry Climax engine gave considerably more power than the standard model, and performance was further enhanced by the light alloy body designed by Barry Bilby. This unique prototype was fitted with 4-wheel disc brakes for testing before these were fitted to the early Sebring and Le Mans Sprites. The project was axed by BMC in 1961 because of the ‘foreign’ engine. The car now has a more normal A-Series power unit.
Volvo PV36 Carioca
The Carioca was a luxury car built by Volvo between 1935 and 1938. Carioca describes someone from Rio de Janeiro – and it was also the name of a dance that was fashionable in Sweden at the time of the car’s introduction. If you thought that it looks remarkably similar to the Chrysler Airflow of 1934 to 1937, you would be right. Many of Volvo’s senior engineers at the time had previously worked in the American automobile industry, and were thus heavily influenced by the latest US design trends. The PV36 was the first Volvo with independent front suspension, but still used the traditional Volvo side-valve engine. It was an expensive car, and Volvo only built around 500 of them.
Vanden Plas Princess 1800 prototype
This is another unique prototype, this time created by BLMC in 1971. Based on the Wolseley 18/85 version of the famous and well-respected 1800 ‘Landcrab’, it was a remarkably elegant design – but the project was cancelled by British Leyland. The car fortunately escaped scrapping by being used as a factory runabout and now lives in Scotland.
We could not present this report without including a Wolseley – in honour of Anders’s multiple-award-winning book on these excellent cars. Our favourite was this one: the 16/20 manufactured between 1910 and 1915. A side-valve 4-cylinder of 3,079cc capacity, it was introduced in 1910 as the Wolseley-Siddeley 16/20, and manufactured at the Adderley Park Works in Birmingham. By 1912 the Siddeley name had been dropped, but production continued until the factory turned completely to war work. And, as we can see from the W D (War Department) initials on the radiator, some of these cars were used by the armed services. The two poppies under the headlamps and the poppy petals on the floor are entirely appropriate – not least because the Classic Motor Show would have been in full swing this year on 11 November – apart from the traditional silence at 11 am that will have been meticulously observed, as always.
DKW Schnellaster van
And last but not least in our report is this delightful DKW Schnellaster, also known as the DKW F89 L. Produced by DKW from 1949 to 1962, it was, with its sister vehicle the F89 car, the first vehicle to be manufactured by the new Auto Union conglomerate in Ingolstadt after production recommenced after the war. Schnellaster translates roughly as ‘Rapid Transporter’. The Schnellaster’s single-box design with a streamlined sloping front, front-wheel drive and transverse engine make it the precursor of the modern minivan – and mechanically of the Mini and most modern cars. This layout, including trailing-arm rear suspension, allowed a flat loading floor only 40 cm (16 inches) off the ground. The van was also produced in Spain from 1954 and in Argentina from 1960 to 1969 – with a developed version being continued in that country as late as 1979.
We are very grateful to Anders Clausager for allowing us to use his pictures in our report. We only hope that the historical information that we have added will stand up to his rigorous review. He will surely let us know if any errors have crept in.