Cars I have driven #4 – 1956 Austin A90 Westminster

17 Jul

After the Wolseley broke I needed wheels. I was a networker before they coined the term and one of my contacts told me about an Austin A90 Six Westminster that was being traded in for an Austin 1800 at the local BLMC dealer. The Westminster had had just the one owner from new and the car had been bought from , and serviced by, the same garage.

Now this was 1971 or thereabouts and an enquiry about the car revealed that it could be mine for £8 which was about one week’s wages for me. It was an MOT failure, but only because the front shocks needed topping up with oil and some cosmetic things that I could do myself. Hands were shaken and cash and car keys exchanged. I had a new luxury car, albeit one slightly older than my first.

The A99 was a 1956 de luxe model and had a 2.6 litre straight six. The bodywork was black with a red leather interior and she was a good runner having been cosseted from new. Once again the gear change was on the column which allowed finger tip gear changing.

A pal and I took the car on a long weekend break once. Coming home the clutch pedal went to the floor late on the Sunday as we drove up the A3 towards London on our way home to Essex. A quick check revealed and empty master cylinder, so we topped up and got away again, only to find the same problem within a few miles; the seals had gone. It was about 10 in the evening, so we waited until the small hours when traffic was lighter and got way with the aim of trying to drive through central London without stopping.

All went well until Bank. The torque from the big 6 had helped my run in second and third gears with plenty of anticipation approaching traffic lights, but at the multi way junction in the heart of the City a drunk stepped off the pavement and I couldn’t get it out of gear fast enough as I emergency stopped and we stalled.

My pal and I had opened our respective doors and stepped out ready to make a running push start when the lights changed again when two of the |City of London Constabulary’s finest appeared from the shadows. They stepped behind the car and with a quick “alright lads” they helped us push the big old beast and I managed to snag third gear sans clutch and we were away exchanging waves
with the thin blue line. Coppers were wonderful in those days.

A trip to Halfords the next day equipped me with a master cylinder repair kit and I had her fixed in no time. I can’t remember why I parted with her in the end; I think that it was because of problems with the SUs. Anyway, a decent Ford Consul came along and I bought that, as I’ll tell you about next time.

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