Not quite 'Stationary Engines' but it may be of interest.....................

Austin Seven


Myrtle was 80 years old on Friday March 5th 2010!!

Chassis 103281,

747.5 ccs, 13 Bhp.

Type RK Aluminium saloon body,

"Myrtle" was purchased in June 1963, from a small advert on the back of a Land Rover during the National Austin Seven Rally at the Beaulieu Motor Museum. Her owner then was Colin Shears who lived in Exeter and ran a private transport museum in Devon. I had been looking for another Austin Seven, having had one some years before, but this time wanted a vintage one and preferably a tourer. I decided that, although a saloon, it was aluminium bodied and, advertised as 1930, it was 'vintage'. Later I found that it was actually made at the end of December 1929 and first registered on March 5th 1930. It was delivered on a trailer, was in rough condition but a runner, and, although originally 'chocolate over fawn', had been painted black and daubed with slogans. This was due to some previous owner having been a student at Loughborough College; in fact the car had spent all its life in the East Midlands.

Restoration involved removal of the body and a full strip down and rebuild of all components; soon after getting her back on the road again, I was married. By way of protest at my diversification of interest, the little Austin rewarded me by developing a squealing noise from the rear axle, thus spoiling our plans for a honeymoon trip to Cornwall. We went by Sunbeam Alpine instead. My wife and her friend had named her 'Myrtle' as not only was she green, but the sound she made when ticking over was "myrtle, myrtle, myrtle"! From around 1966 either my wife or myself used Myrtle for work daily, plus pleasure trips and the occasional rally, (where we had won a couple of cups and rosettes for 'Best in Everyday Transport class') until 1976, when family commitments forced a well deserved rest. She was brought out again in the summer of 1979 and did a few trips and rallies, but since October of that year, had not seen the light of day until March 1995. It only needed a new silencer, battery, fresh oil and a drop of petrol to obtain a M.O.T certificate and return her to the road but I fitted a new clutch shortly after. Currently Myrtle is 'sleeping', on axle stands, but soon I hope to get her on the road again.

Most parts are original, especially the black and white check interior trim which, despite the ravages of 68 years and the transport of a large Alsatian dog, is still in 'worn but useable' condition.

The cable-operated foot brake works on the rear wheels only, the handbrake on the front; this certainly encourages you to 'think well ahead'...! The 6-volt electrics are minimal, with the recently fitted brake lights the only concession to modern-day traffic conditions. The three gears are plain engagement so double-declutching is a must and top speed is a respectable forty-two miles per hour. The lack of modern technology such as flashing indicators, hazard lights, windscreen washers and seat belts, to name but a few, makes the annual MOT test an interesting exercise; whilst a few minutes spent watching the examiner look for the non-existant headlamp dimmer switch always causes amusement! The only original fitting missing is the "smoker's hatch" in the roof which had been re-covered shortly before I bought the car but the rectangular braided edged hole is still visible inside. Nearly forty years on, the roof covering still looks as good as when I first saw the car.

Over the years "Myrtle" has taken us on innumerable fairly long trips, including Exmoor with the infamous Porlock, Countisbury, and Lynton hills, the New Forest, and Beaulieu with all the camping equipment, the Wye Valley, and to Cornwall, (where she successfully tackled the infamous Blue Hills Mine trials hill), Land's End, and the Lizard on many occasions. In 1972 she headed up the M5 to her birthplace, the Longbridge Works in Birmingham, where she joined hundreds of others of her type at the "Golden Jubilee of the Austin Seven Rally". This included a parade of the city with a short stop at Lickey Grange where Herbert Austin and Stanley Edge laid out the original chassis design on the billiard table in 1922. In later days she has served as shopping transport to the local supermarket, to the chip shop in a neighbouring village, or for an evening's ride around the Chew Valley Lake, a local beauty spot. She also made a pleasant change as occasional transport to work in Bath via the lanes of North Somerset on a sunny summer morning.

Owning and using an Austin Seven has made us many friends over the years. Whenever or wherever you stop, someone wants to chat - mainly to tell you that they once owned one and wish they had it now. The questions follow a familiar pattern. "How much is she worth?", "Can you still get tyres..?", "What is the top speed?", and the inevitable "Do you want to sell her?". The answer to the latter is an emphatic "NO" - especially to the man who offered a Range Rover as a straight swap.........Range Rover (ugh!) indeed!!!

E.G.B. June 1995 (updated 2010)

(This article has appeared in a slightly changed form in the Newsletter of the Bristol Austin Seven Club Ltd )

"That which is well done, however humble, is noble" (F H Royce)

"Simplicity is the essence of design"

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