In today’s tough economic and environmental climate, fuel economy is a key factor in working out which car makes good financial sense. More miles to the gallon is a good thing, for both your wallet and the planet, and cars that can manage in excess of 40, 50 or 60mpg make themselves attractive ownership propositions as a result.
It may come as a surprise, however, to learn that one popular small car managed to break the all-important 40mpg barrier half a century ago.
The economic workhorse in question was the Austin A35, and its closely related predecessor, the A30. This cute-looking small car delivered unprecedented fuel economy – and had many other assets besides.
These days, the A35 and A30 both make attractive classic cars. If you are after something small, British, and economical, as well as a car that evokes Britain’s post-war motoring heyday, these two Austin siblings should be near the top of your list.
Let’s take a look at both cars in more detail.
Austin A35 and A30 model history
The A35 was, effectively, the A30’s bigger-engine and more powerful replacement. So, we’ll begin our story of these iconic Austin’s with the latter car.
What is an Austin A30? The Austin A30 was first seen at the 1951 Earls Court Motor Show, where it was presented as the ‘New Austin Seven’. That was a reference to the hugely popular Austin of 1923 to 1939, one of the most important cars in British motor manufacturing history.
The ‘New Seven’ was in fact designed to go up against the Minor, the small economy car from Austin’s rivals Morris, which had been introduced in 1948 and was doing big business in those tough post-war years.
Interestingly, the merger of Morris and Austin would happen the year after the A30 launched, in 1952: so the A30 and Minor quickly went from being rivals to stablemates.
After a good reception at the Earls Court show, the A30 was then produced at Austin’s Longbridge plant from May 1952 to September 1956. At launch, the car cost £507, some £62 less than its Morris rival.
Who designed the Austin A35 and A30? The cars were styled in-house by one Ricardo 'Dick' Burzi, an Argentinian designer who also designed the A40, A70 and A90 Austin’s.
The car had a few revolutionary features for the very early 1950s. For example, it was a monocoque construction. This made it both lighter and stiffer, and thus a better-handling car, than most of its rivals at the time.
Other innovations included the overhead valve engine and the small, 13-inch wheels. The already decent handling was further enhanced by an anti-roll bar at the rear.
The A30 also got a four-speed gearbox that featured synchromesh – meaning that gear changes took place while the gears were already revolving at the same speed. This ingenious innovation was later copied by the Hillman Imp and a raft of cars afterwards.
Austin made some canny savings with the car, which it was able to pass on to buyers. These savings included using just one windscreen wiper, as well as a single lamp to serve as a combined brake light and number plate lamp.
Only the driver got a sun visor: the passenger was not treated to this luxury, although it was available as an optional extra. You’d also have to raid the options list if you wanted a heater.
From launch, the car was offered as a four-door saloon only. However, by late 1953, two-door variants were also available at a slightly cheaper price for those not needing the extra convenience.
Even then, the A30 template had not been exhausted. The following year, 1954, saw the introduction of both a van variant and a closely related estate, known as the ‘Countryman’.
All in all, the A30 was a sorted little vehicle for post-war Britain. No wonder it was a thoroughly popular choice, with well over half a million two-doors, four-doors, estates and vans built.
The A30 had just one engine choice: an 803cc, inline-four unit. Modern drivers will probably find that, while the car is perfectly capable on level ground, journeys uphill can be a bit laboured. For a little more usable power, you may want to think about the A35. Talking of which…
What is the difference between the A30 and A35?
When the A30 was replaced by the Austin A35 in 1956, some 223,264 A30s had been produced. Not bad for a relatively short, four-year production run.
The two cars look very similar. How, if at all, do they differ?
Well, as we mentioned, one key difference was in engine capacity and power output. The A35 dispensed with the A30’s 803cc engine for a larger, 948cc unit.
This produced around 35 horsepower, which is where the new model got its name. A35 vans, meanwhile (known once again as the Austin A35 Countryman), were available in two engine sizes – 848cc and a relatively powerful 1098cc engine that put out an impressive 55 horsepower.
Again, these proved very popular workhorses. Indeed, there’s an A35 van – known as ‘Norman’ – in the collection of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Hampshire.
If you’re planning a visit to this wonderful museum, by the way, have a read of our feature on what to see at Beaulieu before you go. Run by the National Motor Museum Trust, it’s a wonderful way to see Britain’s rich and eventful motoring past.
Cosmetically, the two cars were similar. There are a few visual clues, though, that can tell you whether you’re looking at an A30 or A35.
For example, the rear window grew in size on the later model. The A35 also replaces its predecessor’s chrome grille with a painted front grille, with chrome horse-shoe surround. Unsurprisingly, the Austin A35 price went up, relative to its predecessor.
The A35 remained in production until 1959, when it was replaced by the Austin A40 Farina. Elsewhere, the estate soldiered on until 1962 and the van continued in production, impressively, until 1968.
Incidentally, both Austin’s had successful careers in motorsports – particularly in the saloon car racing championships of the 1950s. Austin A35 racing is still a popular event at historic vehicle meets such as Goodwood Revival today.
Common problems with both cars
These cars are all well over 50 years old now, so most will have led long and active lives.
However, the great degree of affection in which they are held – and their vintage status now – means that most Austin A30s and A35s will be very well looked after. Here are a few problems you should look out for, though.
You shouldn’t be too surprised that a car of this age (and one produced long before galvanisation became common) can be susceptible to rust. The van versions are particularly at risk, as they tended to be made from steel of a thinner gauge.
Watch out for any doors that are drooping or hanging loose. The culprit could simply be a worn hinge – but there could be rust in the A-pillars.
Other potential rust hotspots include the sills, floors, and bottoms of doors – especially the rear doors on the four-door variants. The box section that supports the radiator can also corrode, as can the boot lid and the rear wings just above the rear wheel arches.
Original Austin panels are now quite hard to find however, replacement ones are available. Membership of the A30 / A35 owners’ club – more of which in a moment – will help you to track down key parts. Parts providers Clayton’s Austin A30 and A35 Spares will also prove invaluable here.
Interior trim kits are no longer stocked for these cars. That means that, unless you have the skills yourself, you’ll need to call on a professional retrimmer. The original cars were trimmed in Rexine, an artificial leather fabric: very few of them contained real leather. Where the interior trim has been replaced, vinyl will have been used.
Happily, the A30 and A35’s internal wiring system was simple, so any problems should not be hard for a competent mechanic or electrician to fix. Problems are usually down to corroded earth wires or aftermarket accessories having been poorly fitted.
The merger of Morris and Austin in 1952 meant that the two marques were able to share engines.
So, the A30’s 803cc unit is also found in the Morris Minor, while the larger 948cc block in the A35 doubles up in the Austin A40 Farina and some early Austin Healey Sprites and MG Midgets.
This is good news, as most Austin A35 parts are easy to find and inexpensive.
Of the two engines, the 803cc will be more expensive to rebuild and will also require more regular maintenance. Frequent oil and filter changes are required, and the engine often simply won’t make it past 50,000 miles.
The A35’s 948cc engine is notably stronger. Engine upgrades are common and shouldn’t result in the car losing value.
Whichever engine the car features, be on the alert for blue exhaust smoke on start-up, as this means that oil is being burned. The cause is likely to be worn piston rings and bores.
Another common issue is a rattle to the timing chain, but this is an easy fix.
Gearbox and clutch
The gearboxes in these two little Austins are fairly robust and should last a good length of time. As mentioned previously, the cars introduced a synchromesh ‘box, which was highly innovative for the era. The first sign of an ageing gearbox now may be a weak synchromesh in second gear.
Parts will be harder to find for the A30 gearbox than for its successor. You’ll also find changing gear to be a more pleasant experience on the A35.
You should get 100,000 miles out of your A30 or A35 before the clutch needs replacing. The rear differential should be good for even longer than that: the exceptions here are diffs that are running low on oil.
This is not unusual, as they are quite prone to leak. Listen out for a diagnostic whining sound while driving.
Lancaster is the insurance broker of choice for classic car owners providing cover for over 88,000 classic cars (as of May 2019).
We arrange classic car insurance for over 40% of all MG Bs on the road and over 30% of all Land Rover 88s and MG Midgets – proving that classic car owners place their trust in us.
At Lancaster Classic Car Insurance Services, we aim to find the best price for your individual cover needs. We appreciate the importance of recognising the true value of your classic car and our team will be happy to talk to you through our benefits, such as agreed valuations and salvage retention.
We will offer you a tailored policy, bespoke to your requirements – this can include cover for:
Lancaster Insurance Services is committed to supporting the classic car clubs.
Owners club members may enjoy discounts of up to 25% off their insurance premium (the level of discount offered by each insurer differs and is subject to underwriting criteria).
At Lancaster we understand that not every situation is the same, especially when it comes to Classic Cars.
That is why in addition to our Lancaster Classic Car Insurance Services, we also can arrange the below:
- Modified Classic Car Insurance
- Multi-vehicle Insurance
- Wedding Car Insurance
- Limited Mileage Insurance
- Laid Up Cover
- Two Year Agreed Valuation
Are you passionate about Classic Cars?
Here at Lancaster, we not only provide Classic Car Insurance but we’re constantly looking for ways to support the Classic Car community at events, sponsorship's, giveaways and sharing care tips for classic vehicles.
We’ve partnered with the team at Meguiar’s to showcase one of their awesome products each month.
This time we’re featuring the Meguiar’s Ultimate Snow Foam contains a specialized Xtreme Cling foaming action that delivers an intense foam that sticks and clings to painted surfaces gently loosening road grime, dirt and contaminants.
Fine-tuned to carefully and thoroughly clean coated, waxed or sealed finishes while preserving protection and leaving a brilliant, swirl-free shine.
We will listen to your requirements for cover, and discuss the best options with our panel of expert underwriters, to see if we can cover your cherished vehicle.
In May 2018 the Department for Transport announced that cars that were built more than 40 years ago exempt from MOT testing, with the option for owners to voluntarily have their car tested if they feel it needs checking.
Where to find help with your classic Austin
Who can you ask for help with your Austin A30 or A35 technical issues? Well, one excellent place to start is the Austin A30 / A35 Owners’ Club, which is a lively, helpful and generally excellent community for both current and would-be owners of these two much-loved cars.
Benefits of joining the club include:
- Access to both local group meets and national events.
- A club magazine featuring club news, technical advice and more.
- Access to the Club Forum – an invaluable resource for all your technical and parts-sourcing queries.
- Technical advice.
- A free, regularly updated spares and services booklet.
- Discounts on your classic car insurance and breakdown cover.
Essentially, if you would like to make some savings on your classic car insurance, meet fellow A30 and A35 enthusiasts, or have access to a world of expertise about these wonderful cars, membership of the club will be a good idea.
How much does an Austin A30 or A35 cost to buy today?
Both cars are still around in reasonably good numbers today. And this is good news – for two reasons.
For one thing, it means that there is still a large, active owners’ community, centred on the club we mentioned above. That, in turn, means that there is still a wealth of expertise out there when it comes to maintaining these iconic vehicles.
There is also enough demand for spare parts to remain in production to this day.
The second benefit of the little Austins’ great survival rate is that these cars have not yet attained the rarity status that drives up prices, making them inaccessible to most classic car fans.
Depending on your budget, you will be able to find an A30 or A35 to suit you. Less meticulously maintained examples may change hands for as little as £2,000 or £3,000, while more lovingly maintained cars in original condition may fetch nearer £10,000 or £11,000.
That still seems a very reasonable price to pay for an iconic British car.
How many Austin A30 and A35 are left?
As of September 2022, the website How Many Left lists 861 Austin A30s and around 1,800 A35s still registered in the UK.
Where to buy an Austin A30 or A35
So, you’ve decided that you would love to own one of these classic Austin’s. Where can you find an Austin A35 for sale?
Well, thanks to the internet, searching for a classic car is much easier and more rewarding now than it was, say, 25 years ago. And we’d definitely recommend using the web as your starting point.
Classic Cars for Sale has a great range of older vehicles, A30s and A35s among them. The search filters allow you to search by marque and price.
If you need to narrow things down a little more, try Car and Classic, where you can search for cars within a particular year or period.
Classic Trader is the website and marketplace for the classic car magazine of the same name. This one also has some good search functions: for example, once you’ve inputted your preferred make and model, you can then zoom in further by organising your results by price, mileage – and even distance from your home.
Offline, the owners club will be able to point you in the right direction.
Buying a classic at auction
Another way to get your hands on a classic is to buy one at auction. And, like direct sales, this format has expanded dramatically in recent years, allowing buyers and sellers to go to market in a variety of ways.
Classic car auctions were traditionally held ‘in the metal’ only. However, when the COVID pandemic came along and stopped us from getting together in public, classic car auctions simply went online. Now, many dealers are continuing with both types of sale.
Whether you decide to visit some physical auctions or go digital (or both), there are definitely a few tips and tricks that should help you towards a successful auction experience.
Our top tips for buying a car at auction will get you started.
Hidden costs with buying a classic car
When you do come to acquire a classic car, some of the expenses you will face are fairly upfront and evident: such as the vehicle’s purchase price, of course. After that, you will have the costs of ongoing restoration and maintenance, keeping the car fuelled and, of course, your classic car insurance policy.
However, there are a couple of other costs that are less obvious but will need to be budgeted for. These are:
- A professional inspection of the vehicle.
- Garaging. Classic cars will need protection from the elements. An indoor garage is the best solution for keeping the rain, snow and wind away from your beautiful, but delicate classic.
- Buyers and sellers fees if you’re buying or selling at auction.
Checks to carry out on the day of purchase
Before agreeing to purchase, remember to check the following:
You’ll need the vehicle’s V5C registration document in order to tax the car, so make sure the seller can provide this.
Make sure that any repairs – from accidents, for example – have been carried out professionally. Any new paint job should match the original colour exactly, and all panels should fit snugly.
The engine should start cleanly from cold, without any worrying noises. The oil warning light should extinguish on start-up, and the clutch should deploy quietly and smoothly.
Check all controls are working properly – particularly important on a car of the A30 or A35’s vintage.
Is the Austin A35 a classic car – and does it need classic car insurance?
Undoubtedly, yes. By any reckoning, the A35 and its A30 predecessor are classics now, the last one having left the production line well over 50 years ago.
As such, they should be looked after, driven with care, and protected with classic car insurance. Speak to the specialists at Lancaster to get a quote.
Does it require an MOT?
No. UK law currently states that, when cars reach the age of 40, they can become exempt from their annual MOT. All Austin A30 and A35 models now fit comfortably into this group – so no, you do not need to keep submitting your baby Austin for its annual roadworthiness test.
You do have to apply for MOT exemption, though. Read our article on MOT exemption to find out how this is done.
However, most dedicated owners will still maintain the MOT or at least regular servicing to ensure their Austin is still fit for the road.
Austin A35 fast fact
Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park owned an Austin A35, and a van version of this classic British car crops up in a few of the famous films – including Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death.
Classic Austin insurance from Lancaster
We have a huge range of experience in arranging insurance for a wide range of classic cars. Among them, we have been proud to insure many of these charming baby Austin’s.
Benefits of insuring with us include:
- Choice of repairer
- Static show and historic rally cover
- Two-year agreed valuation
- Laid-up cover
- 24-hour helpline
Why not get in touch with us and arrange a quote to insure your Austin or other classic today?