Wednesday October 2, 2019
‘A lot don’t know what it is. Or have never heard of an A105 Vanden Plas and are shocked. But everyone loves them - young and old’.
As any classic enthusiast already knows, there is no such car as an ‘ordinary’A105, the Austin that wowed all suburbia with its fog and spot lamps and whitewall tyres, but this particular model features a walnut veneered dashboard, pile carpets, elaborately trimmed seats and wool headlining.
In short, Liam Dover is the proud owner of an ultra-exclusive 1958 Vanden Plas version.
The story of the A105 VDP commenced when the coachbuilder received a request from Leonard Lord, the chairman of BMC, to create for him a specially trimmed Westminster.
The Kingsbury works converted the Austin in a mere fortnight and Lord was so impressed that he observed ‘You want to make some of these’.
The new flagship Westminster made its public debut at the 1958 Motor Show, and Vanden Plas went on to produce a run of 500, each helping to maintain the A105’s profile before they were replaced by the A99 “Farina” in April 1959.
The “Long Boot” A95 Westminster and its twin carburettor A105 stablemate made their bows in late 1956 and quickly gained a name for themselves as “business class” transport that was smart, well-appointed but never flamboyant.
‘The Austin A105 is an excellent car and given a flick-switch overdrive control, floor gear-lever, and stiffer suspension it would constitute a vehicle very close to our ideal for fast motoring of the family as distinct from the sporting variety’ concluded a Motor Sport test of February 1958.
Such an Austin provides the ideal bass for an “executive” car for owner-drivers who regarded the Princess IV as too large for their purpose.
As compared with the standard model, there were special paint finishes, discreet extra badging and a cabin that would tempt any Humber Super Snipe owner to their nearest Austin dealer.
Liam came across NSK 519 four years ago when it was ‘a bit rough as it was kept in a stable shed for years. A guy kept it to use it for a museum collection.
A tree surgeon came across them while on a job and was told to take the cars away. Not knowing what he stumbled upon, we picked the car up at a very cheap price!’.
At the time, the A105 sported the ‘wrong badges on the wings and the wrong colour flash through the car – it originally came in all black.’
The restoration process included obtaining ‘a lot of chrome work, new wings front and rear and bumpers’, but at least the floor was ‘surprisingly good’.
The Austin was further treated to an engine rebuild, a ‘full paint job’ and ‘new shocks bushes all around’.
In terms of motoring, Liam finds the A105 be ‘pretty good’ a ‘very smooth engine, comfortable ride – it holds up very well with modern traffic’.
As with later examples of the A105, the VDP was offered with a choice of floor or steering column four-speed gearchange (the latter was not popular with the motoring press’.) or, as with the Dover Austin, optional Borg Warner automatic transmission.
Power steering was not on the list of extras, but Liam does not regard its absence as a disadvantage – ‘Character of the ‘50s!’ as he puts it.
The success of the A105 Vanden Plas led to a generation of coronet-badged upmarket BMC and BL products – and NSK 519 is a prime example of one of the most desirable Austins of the 1950s.
WITH THANKS TO: Liam Dover