The First Austin Lorry (2-3 Ton)

Around mid 1912 Herbert Austin decided to make his first Lorry, as was fitting from this visionary it would not follow the normal design of the day.

It was mainly in the area of the transmission that this vehicle broke new ground. The engine-gearbox was angled downwards towards the rear, this meant that the centre-line of the engine-gearbox and prop-shafts were all inline in the unladen weight. Yes I did say prop-shafts as on the back of the gearbox was a common differential from which prop-shafts connected to the rear wheel hub assembly.

This meant that the chassis frame side members had to be an open lattice section, it was also necessary to make chassis members deeper than normal, and also to retain lightness with strength all sections were flanged. This then allowed full up and down movement of the suspension with the rear wheels connected by a tube, this arrangement from an engineering point reduced the overall un-sprung weight which should have give the vehicle a better ride. You will notice that on the rear it uses two springs on each side, this was also a novel feature, that by combining two springs in this way, gave a fairly constant force on the wheels. The advantage of this is two fold (a) it will reduce the tyre wear, (b) it will stop the rear axle bouncing around when in the unladen condition so giving a smoother ride.

Tyre cost were particularly high in those days, and it has been worked out that in todays prices for every 200 miles covered £100 would be need to be set aside to cover replacement tyres when needed. So for a freight owner any vehicle that was able to be more economical on tyres and so keep freight cost lower was worth buying.

Note the petrol tank (not that big)

Another bonus this gave was that the loading height was just 2 ft 5 ins which also made it easy to get into the cab. Because of the inclined engine it meant that the starting handle was much higher, so this must have made starting difficult if you were under 5 ft 6 ins.

The engine was based on the 20 hp unit at the time, but still retained the 'T' individually cast cylinders heads, which had been dropped by all the other manufactures. It took till 1919 before it was superseded by the 20 hp monobloc version, but a decision had been made before hand by Herbert Austin to stop production of lorries and concentrate on making cars only.

3140cc Four cylinder gave 23.6BHP at 1,000 RPM

Cooling was with a rear-mounting radiator, this gave a more streamline front to the bonnet, and helped the engine cooling, perhaps not too cool for the driver though. Normally it was usual for the gear-change to be on the right hand side, but Austin decided to put the gate-change lever in the centre position, which made it easier to produce RH-LH drive versions. Cars had been fitted with centre gear-changes for almost fifteen years.

The front suspension used a straight axle beam with semi-ellpitic springs inside the chassis frame members. It gave a low loading height and yet maintained good ground clearance. The dished forged-steel wheels at the front allowed the Kingpin to be positioned to give centre contact. Steering was by means of worm and sector and gave the vehicle a 42ft turning circle.

The army's so it is said be came interest in these vehicles in September 1913. No 4 Infantry Division was holding manoeuvres in the Midlands, and hired a 2-3 tonner from a contractor. The senior officers in the division were so impressed that they sent in a glowing report on its suitability. So because of this report the War Office placed an order.

This side view clearly shows the different road wheels, front and rear, with braking only on the rear. As a platform version truck it was priced at £600 which was a great sum of money. These were used in the first World war by the Allies and the Imperial Russian Government.

No new models were made of this vehicle although various modification were carried out, mainly brought about by faults notified by the War Office. In fact the Russian Government in 1914 place a very large order with Austin, which included 100 of these lorries. A total of 2,038 were produced in the period from the end of 1913 to 1919.

On route to Russia

Panel Van version
Austin - 1913 2-3 ton twin-prop lorry 3
Special Flatbed

This is an interesting picture because at the end of 1913 Herbert Austin along with Du Cros and Kayser(Sheffield) decided that the company needed to go public as a way of bringing money into the company that would allow it to expand. So The Austin Motor Company (1914) Limited was born. It was quite common in those day for Industrialist to be shareholders in other companies.

Loading up at a Dairy

If you have any information on these vehicles,
please could you contact me