General Manager of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company, Herbert Austin set the Birmingham firm on the road to motor manufacture in 1896 when he designed its first automobile, a twin-cylinder tri-car. The first production Wolseley though, was four-wheeled and, like Austin’s 1896 prototype, carried its single-cylinder engine horizontally. Wolseley’s directors did not share Austin’s belief in the horizontal engine’s virtues however, and he departed in 1905 to set up his own company at nearby Longbridge. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, the first Austin cars were powered by conventional inline fours with side valves arranged in ‘T-head’ fashion.
During The Great War, Austin manufactured munitions and expanded greatly as a result, employing more than 22,000 workers by the cessation of hostilities in 1918. When civilian production recommenced it was with a single 20hp model, influenced by the six-cylinder Hudson – one of America’s most advanced designs – that Herbert Austin has used during the war. Derived from that of the pre-war 20hp model but enlarged to 3,620cc, the four-cylinder sidevalve engine powered Austin commercials and a tractor as well as its passenger cars. A detachable cylinder head was used and the motor was built in unit with the gearbox, which featured a central change lever. Of 12’ 6” wheelbase, the chassis was able to accommodate the largest bodies.
This wonderful 1919 Austin 20 was believed to be the car of a New Zealand Diplomot , with the V5C stating it was registered overseas new. First imported to the UK in 1989 this delightful 3600cc 20 is fitted with its original blue and black Austin body- which is unrestored and original. The engine was subject to a rebuild in 2008 including new white metal bearings, oil-pump and valve stems and has covered less than 500 miles since. Coming from long term ownership this wonderful 4 cylinder coupe is ready to be used and enjoyed by its next custodian.