Austin A90 Atlantic
Smooth lines at the Rear
Date when launched 1948
Discontinued in 1952
2,660 cc 88 bhp at 4,000 rpm Max torque 140lbs/ft at 2,500 rpm
Length 14ft 9.1ins Width 5ft 10ins Height 5ft 1ins
Wheelbase 8ft 0ins Track front 4ft 5.5ins rear 4ft 7.5ins
Price ex Works
Convertible Sept 1948 £952 Radio £32
Hampshire fixed head Sept 1948 £597 sliding head Sept 1948 £607 Radio £32
Colours in 1948: Ensign Red with Beige upholstery and Red piping.
. . . . . . . . .. . . . . Mink Blue with Blue upholstery and Cream piping
. . . . . . . . .. . . . . Blue with Blue upholstery and Cream piping.
. . . . . . . . .. . . . . Cream with Scarlet upholstery and Cream piping.
. . . . . .. . . . . . . . Sea Foam Green with Maize upholstery and Green piping.
So how did this car evolve with its
unusual design for the period. After the War the Government were
encouraging industry to export to America to earn dollars to pay of
the national debt. The motor industry along with Austin had rise to
the challenge, but they were only the tried and tested
Leonard Lord thought that he could increase sales if he produced a sports car as this would widen the range he could offer to the America market. It needed as we would say today the wow factor so it would have plenty of chrome and have a streamline shape. To keep costs down it would use the current mechanical components from the A70. Although the basic shape was drawn by Leonard Lord it was Dick Burzi who had to translate it into proper drawings. It appears that this project was give top priority as it had become Lord's little baby. One cause for concern was in the line of the bonnet, as it was impossible to follow the original lines because of fouling the air cleaner. Leonard Lord insisted that a solution must be found, so a new air cleaner was designed that went along side the rocker box, and this was one reason why it used SU carbs instead of the down-draught Zeniths.
A90 Atlantic Prototype
Note the following, split screen, no door handles, doors released by a foot pedal, rear of door by the sill.
Austin of England badge on the L/H side (bonnet) no badge on the side
The original prototype had a spilt screen along with other features that were changed in the production version, it was known in the works as the 16 hp sports. Because of the curvature of the windscreen it was impossible to obtain curved glass at the time, so the light blue prototype had a Perspex one instead. It was in July 1948 that having been run-in round the local roads it set off along with a A70 Hampshire prototype across Europe, returning back in about three weeks with over 5,000 miles on the clock. The chassis was based on the A70 along with most of the other mechanical components. This did tend to compromise the ride and handling of the vehicle.
The car was the star of the Austin stand for the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show, this was the first show for ten years, because of the war. I am sure as it took centre stage it must have caused quite a stir, this was a car that fulfilled very little boy's dream. The car was billed as a car for those wanting sports car performance with saloon car comfort. At the time it included as standard adjustable steering column a EKCO radio along with a heater. By the touch of a switch the hood could be open or closed in under 25 sec which turn out to be not always reliable, because the hood when down took up a lot of room it did restrict the room for the rear passengers. To give room for three people on the front seat it was necessary to have a pistol hand brake and a column gear change, not the best way to change gears on a vehicle that was trying to create the sporting image.
To make an impact on the American market Alan Hess decided that they need to show that this car with a four cylinder engine was quite capable of competing with the normal six cylinder engines of the day. So the plan was to go to the Indianapolis Speedway Track and go and break the American stock car records. After a few teething troubles it managed to capture in total 126 records over the seven days.
Indianapolis Record Breaker
The hard-top Atlantic, or Sports saloon as it was also called, made its debut at the 1949 Earl's Court Motor Show, this model gave greater room in the back, and ventilation was improved as the centre section of the rear window could be wound down, which was quite a novel idea. Over the life of the car the production figures showered that it was evenly divided between the convertible and hard top.
The very market that the model had been designed for America, seamed very reluctant to buy them with only 350 been delivered. To improve the sales it was decided to reduce the price by $1,000 but this still did not revive the sales. One of the best market turned out to be Australia were 821 were imported.
Perhaps they should have called it by another name, this use of names is interesting, because when the Rover 800 was imported into the States it was called the Sterling, and that suffered the same fate as the Atlantic.
The Last A90 Atlantic Body going down the Line