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Austin A30/A35

Published: 28th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Austin A30/A35
How do you tell an A35 saloon from an A30? One give-away is the rear window; How do you tell an A35 saloon from an A30? One give-away is the rear window;
The A35 saw the first use of BMC’s long-running A-Series engine. The A35 saw the first use of BMC’s long-running A-Series engine.
Interiors are refreshingly uncomplicated yet fairly comfortable Interiors are refreshingly uncomplicated yet fairly comfortable
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What is an Austin A30 or A35?

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the smallest vehicle in the Austin line-up was the 900cc sidevalve Eight, a pre- War model which had been reintroduced in 1945. However, when the Eight was discontinued in 1947, there was no compact ‘economy’ Austin, since the new, overhead valve 1200cc A40 Devon and Dorset models were much larger cars. So Austin needed a new small car in its range, and it duly arrived at the 1951 London Motor Show, in the shape of the new A30 ‘Seven’ - being deliberately associated by name with Austin’s highly successful Seven of the1920s and 1930s.

The newcomer was a full four seater, with up to the minute features which included unitary construction, an overhead valve 803cc engine and independent front suspension. By 1956 it had been developed into the improved, more powerful (948cc) A35, and was sold in the hotly competitive market for small family cars.

Major rivals included the Standard Eight and Ten, the Morris Minor and the Ford 100E range. It is interesting to note that the Austin model number system used in the 1950s indicated the approximate power output of the engine in brake horsepower (hence A30, A35, A40 and so on). Today the baby Austins of the 1950s are revered for their cheeky styling, ease of maintenance, low cost of ownership and inherent character.


The earliest production A30s (from 1952) were all four door saloon versions (factory designated ‘AS3’), but from 1954 the model was revised (‘AS4’) and an additional new two-door variant (‘A2S4’) was also offered. The A30 was immediately popular with buyers, and offered good performance for its time, but Austin improved the vehicle in many ways for a revised version to appear in the summer of 1956. The new car was designated A35, and featured a larger, stronger and more powerful engine (now 948cc); this was the first of BMC’s famous A-Series units. A much improved gearbox was now employed, with better-spaced ratios and a snappy remote gearchange. A higher ratio differential was also utilised, facilitating more relaxed motoring at higher road speeds (sort of-ed). External identifying features (compared with the A30) included a larger rear window and a painted front grille (previously chromed). In addition to two and four door saloons, 5cwt van and ‘Countryman’ estate versions of both the A30 and the A35 were produced, and a short-lived A35 pick-up was also offered. This sold in tiny numbers, is extremely rare today and is now seen as the most desirable of all the baby Austins. Saloon production finished in 1959, making way for the new Farina style A40 (which incorporated the A35’s drivetrain and running gear) and of course the revolutionary Mini.

However, A35 vans were built until 1968, with 1098cc and 848cc versions of the A-Series engine being used in the later 6cwt examples (after 1962), in conjunction with a further developed gearbox (with baulk ring type synchromesh). It’s believed that the 1098cc vans offered the best power to weight ratio for a light commercial of the time.


By today’s standards the performance of an A30 seems positively pedestrian, but in the early 1950s the model was considered to be lively, offering a cruising speed of around 50mph, ultimately being capable of a sizzling 65mph! An A35 feels far more modern in character than an A30, partly because of the slick-acting remote control gearchange and the extra power available, plus the higher overall gearing, making long journeys less hard work. With willing acceleration, top speed approaching 75mph and a happy cruising speed of around 60mph or a bit more, an A35 is still a practical car for use in modern traffic conditions.

All models provide a supple and accommodating ride quality. Handling and roadholding characteristics are actually very good for cars dating from 1951, provided that the suspension is in good condition. For best results in everyday use, radial ply tyres are recommended; they radically transform the dynamic abilities of these fun driving Austins. Frugal fuel consumption is a major plus point with all versions; expect 35 to 40mpg in town use, and typically between 40 and 45mpg on longer trips (in fact up to 50mpg is possible in gentle use).


You can buy an A30 or A35 from around £50 upwards, but at this bargain basement level you can usually expect to spend much time and money on welding and other restoration work. For a solid, road-going example, probably in need of some tidying, you will probably need to spend between £500 and £1000. Excellent saloons and estates typically sell for £2000 to £3000, with panel van prices usually around ten per cent higher (and values are rising slowly). If you fancy an A35 pick-up, then you may need to find up to £10,000 for a superb example!

What To Look For

  • It is vital to examine the rear suspension mountings and surrounding steel. The structures in these areas are complex, and difficult to properly restore; rust here means instant MoT failure.
  • Look closely at the sill assemblies and adjacent floor pans. The sills are structurally crucial to the overall integrity of the body shell, and corrosion is often encountered; check from end to end. Inspect the inner front wings and all cross-car frontal panelwork. Salty mud collects around these areas and invites rust to get a grip.
  • Rectification can be a major job. Assess the condition of the front wings. Rust is often present in the lower rear corners of the wings and in the sections beneath the headlamps. Repair sections are available for these iffy areas, but unused new wings are virtually extinct today and if you find any you’ll have to pay the price.
  • Look in the boot. Rusting boot floors are often encountered; lift the floor mat (if fitted) and check the entirety of the metalwork here.
  • Peer into the hollow sections within the rear wings; it is not unusual to be able to see the road through the wing bottoms…
  • Take special care when checking an 803cc engine. The 948cc and 1098cc engines used in the A35s are tough, long-lasting units, typically capable of over 100,000 miles before oil-burning results in the need for overhaul. By contrast, the 803cc motor used in the A30 can suffer from early failure of the white-metalled big end bearings, resulting in a knocking noise under light throttle openings – check with the engine fully warmed up. Check too for water pump leaks on the 803cc engines; replacements are scarce and usually costly.
  • Check the transmission. Common problems on high mileage cars include noisy first and reverse gears, and a differential which ‘sings’ at higher road speeds; rectification is usually straightforward.
  • Front suspension overhaul can be expensive and time consuming. The king pins and bushes can wear badly if regular lubrication has been neglected, and the ride and handling qualities will be simply awful if the lever arm shock absorbers are worn (beware of cheap recon units here); check these aspects.
  • Make sure the brakes operate properly. Relatively heavy pedal pressures are an inherent feature of the A30/A35 braking system, but with the system in good condition the brakes are adequate for the performance of a standard example. Obvious faults such as pulling to one side under braking and/or a spongy feel to the pedal are bad (and pretty expensive) news.
  • Original brake cylinders are scarce and hugely pricey (especially the underfloor-mounted master cylinder); fortunately these days properly reconditioned, re-sleeved replacements (try Past Parts of Suffolk - 01284 750729) are becoming available at much lower cost.
  • Ensure that the interior is sound. The interior trim, although basic, adds much to the essential character of the vehicle, and if the upholstery is in poor condition, it can be surprisingly expensive to refurbish back to proper originality - which is why many aren’t.


If this car was good enough for F1 aces Graham Hill and James Hunt then it’s more than okay for us! The A30 range is line of fun-loving cheap runarounds that make fine starter classics. Apart from being super simple to maintain, these cars are easily upgraded and tuned to make them far better suited to modern roads. So before you opt for that Minor, try one of these for size.

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