You may remember the British car brand Austin. Up in smoke along with most of the rest of the British motor industry due to doing just about everything wrong that was humanly possible to do wrong. “Orstin of England” latterly produced dull but honest family transport, and the popular image of an Austin owner would be a person who was totally conservative and middle of the road.

Even though a late starter, Austin became to motoring in the UK what Ford was in the USA – transportation for the masses: Ford with the Model T and Austin with the Baby Austin (Seven) – a tiddler car that was amazingly versatile.

There were flashes of radicalism and flirtations with excitement – the racing Minis and the Austin-Healeys come to mind – but back in the twenties and thirties, Austin had a daring streak and dabbled in motorsport quite successfully.

Around the world, the backbone and innards of both Ts and 7s became the basis of thousands and thousands of racing cars.

In New Zealand, the Ford E93a and 100E motors of 1172cc were the bedrock of many home-built racing cars, while in the UK their popularity was equalled by the tiny 750cc powerhouse of the Baby Austin.

Jim Bennett's Impulse was inspired by the Austin 750 Twin Cam (inset right) which, in turn, drew inspiration from the 1934 Mercedes-Benz W25 Grand Prix car (inset left)

With enthusiasts building their own cars, the factory also got into the act with various ‘Brooklands’- and ‘Ulster’-inspired road cars and then the famous R‑Type – a dedicated, factory racing car. It was not a thing of great beauty and couldn’t make up its mind if it was a one- or two-seater. But it was effective, and four of them were built and campaigned with great success.

They earned nicknames – ‘Dutch Clog’ and ‘Rubber Duck’ – the former because of the shape and the latter because the chassis seemed to be made of the best India Rubber and flexed. Badly!

One of the four came to New Zealand and in the hands of (mainly) Ron Roycroft and George Smith proved pretty effective. That car is now in Australia.

But there was another single-seater Austin racing car that was as pretty as the R‑Type was ugly. This was the 750 Twin Cam. Three were built between 1934 and 1936 and were in a constant state of modification and improvement.


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