1949 Austin A-90 Atlantic Convertible
Chassis no. LB6759538227
These days, the Austin name is virtually unknown in the United States. But to Britons of many generations, Austin was as ubiquitous as Chevrolet. And like Chevrolet, there was a wide range of offerings, from the diminutive 750cc Austin 7 to the large Austin 28. And as a motorist became more financially secure, he or she could climb the product ladder to drive a roomier or more powerful Austin even a limousine.
To regain financial solvency following World War II, Englands industries had to produce and export vast quantities of finished goods. The official government policy amounted to export or perish. So, Austin converted back from war production to consumer goods. At first the cars were warmed over prewar models, but an international buying public deprived of new cars welcomed them gladly.
By 1947, the new, small 1,200cc A40 series was available in several different models. It was followed by the 2.2 liter A70 series in 1948 and by the still larger four-cylinder A90 series in 1949. The A90 was initially launched in drophead coupe (convertible) and fixed head coupe versions, although a sedan followed.
The A90 Atlantic drophead rode on an 8-foot wheelbase and used independent front suspension and a live rear axle suspended by semi-elliptic leaf springs. Stopping duties were handled by drums hidden behind16-inch steel wheels. Power came from an overhead valve 88 horsepower 2,660cc four-cylinder engine and reached the rear wheels by a column-shifted four-speed manual.
At a fairly heavy 2,996 pounds, the Atlantic was no road burner, but it was a comfortable car capable of keeping up with the traffic of the day, thanks to its prodigious torque rating of 140 pound-feet at a low 2,500 rpm. Once rolling merrily along it would top out at approximately 92 mph.
What the A90 lacked in sheer performance, it more than made up for in style. The nosewith the exception of its three lamp lookappeared very American with its narrow air intake The top of the hood was quite flat and the heavily sculpted sides evoked a Hooper Daimler as they flowed down and back to skirt the rear fenders. This modestly priced car ($2,795) was equally at home doing family duty and pulling up to an exclusive club.
Inside, the Atlantic featured a pair of bench seats and several amenities unheard of in a mid-range car from any line: hydraulic top and side windows. It would easily accommodate four to five people. The metal dashboard was beautifully detailed and housed a complete set of stylized instruments and lovely bakelite knobs.
Stylish it may have been, but the American buying public didnt respond in nearly the numbers anticipated. Another factor in the cars disappointing sales was that the Austin had a limited American presence. Although it was possible to buy one in several major markets, service and parts could be an altogether different proposition.
This particular Left-hand drive Austin A90 Atlantic was fully restored by David Lawrence Restorations of Canada between 1990 and 1996. Beautifully finished in ivory with a burgundy interior piped in cream, it is finished off with a tan canvas top. Featured in AutoWeek in 1995, this rare Austin won the Grand Marshalls award at the Greenwich Concours in 2004 and followed up with recognition as the best post war open car at the neighboring Fairfield Concours.
Sadly, this strikingly different looking and very usable model never caught on in the United States where they are seldom seen. Thanks to an engine and transmission shared with the Austin-Healey 100/4, many key mechanical parts are readily available. And with that, torquey four, the Atlantic will trundle along happily at 60 mph for hour after hour.
- Please note that the article published in Autoweek was actually the April 4 2005 issue and not 1995 as stated in the catalog. A copy of this magazine will accompany the car together with a British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT) certificate.