Thursday September 21, 2017
In the days before the launch of ITV in 1955, advertising a new car in cinemas was a very popular practice. And during the interval between the B-film and the main feature, who would not be enthused by this promotion for the Austin A30? Mere words cannot describe how wonderful this commercial is, from the script to the scenes of this splendid little car in action, especially as it reassures the viewer about the efficiency of the hydro-mech brakes. Another major sales asset was Dick Burzi’s styling of the monocoque coachwork (a first for Austin) and it can be seen to its best advantage in this Pathe footage celebrating the A30’s launch in 1951.
In early publicity, the A30 is given the suffix of ‘Seven’ – you can hear the name strongly emphasised in this newsreel of the 1951 Motor Show - although the application of the famous pre-war name to Austin’s latest model was short lived. The ‘small car with the great big heart’ was more than able to stand on its own considerable merits and the early publicity seems to have two main themes, the first of which is best described as ‘nuts and bolts’. The reader is taken through the intricacies of the 848cc OHV engine (‘quick and efficient valve lift’), how to use the counterbalanced windows and quarter lights for optimum ventilation and how the front seats are ‘instantly adjustable to one of three positions’. Yes, here is a lightweight Austin that is as dependable as any A40 Somerset and, despite being the narrowest car on the market at the time, it had plenty of cabin space and the luxury of ‘foam rubber’ seating.
The second theme of A30 advertisements and brochures is one of modest but genuine glamour, with the Austin being variously depicted outside of country cottages, arriving at rural pubs or attending the sort of picnics where hard-boiled eggs and lashings of ginger beer are doubtlessly on the menu. This air of joviality extended to the PR for the 1954 Countryman where the driver wears a cheese cutter cap, has the reassuring looks of a young Kenneth More and, as is so often the case with British automotive publicity of the 1950s, smokes a pipe. Such illustrations were also important to reassure potential buyers that a new A30 Countryman was eminently socially respectable, i.e. that your neighbours wouldn’t automatically think you were driving a converted van.
The A30 was replaced by the A35 in 1956 and in November of that year, Austin introduced the delightful if not overly practical Pick Up. It’s load bay contained two vestigial seats for transporting workmen and brochures depicted the utility hard at work on building sites but the lack of a tailgate – and HM Government’s imposition of Purchase Tax – limited its chances. The van was rather more successful, outlasting the 1959 demise of the A35 saloons by nine years and I am especially fond of an early illustration with a wide boy style driver posing in the manner of Sydney Tafler or Michael Medwin.
Above all, the various forms of marketing convey a sense of justifiable pride in a model that was the first new car for countless motorists. ‘Buy Austin and Be Proud Of It!’ was the Longbridge slogan of the 1950s – and it is one that so many enthusiasts would instantly agree with. And to demonstrate the quite awesome charm of the A35, here is a BMC promotional film made by Pathe concerning the adventures of a two-door saloon on the RAC economy run in a pre-motorway age England.