The Austin 12 is an immensely durable mid-sized vintage car that was in production using the same primary parts from 1922 until the commencement of the war. They remained in use in rural areas of the UK as taxis well into the 1950s.
There are a large number of Austin 12s imported as chassis into this country. Again, most have local bodies (often by Holden). All of these have the high-waisted moulding around the body. All bodies are of steel construction, and the later models are more distinctly American in styling. Early models had a gate change 4-speed gearbox, later changing to ball change. All have a water pump in line with the magneto. Earlier cars rely on magneto ignition (the standard fitting on early cars was an angled drive ML G4, but BTH, Lucas G4, or Watford F4 or FO4 can be used to good effect).
Spark plug modification can usefully improve performance.
Early cars had 20 inch and later cars had 19 inch Sankey wheels. Wheels in good condition are now hard to come by
The early versions were of 1633 cc capacity, alter enlarged to 1800 cc to deal with growing body weight. The five main bearings are fed by pressure lubrication. Four wheel brakes and a four-speed gearbox are standard. First gear is incredibly low, such that all but steep hill starts can be achieved in second gear. The gear change is slow and can lead to a considerable loss of momentum in steep country, requiring frequent use of second gear with consequential wear.
They are a practical four-seat touring car, with speed which is noticeably superior to the Morris Covley/Morris Oxford and many American equivalents.
Its touring speed in undulating terrain is in the order of 85-90kph, but the white metalled big ends have a tendency to fail at sustained speeds in excess of 85kph. At least one car has had new conrods made with shell bearings, but the improved performance is marginal, and the durability not yet established. If one respects the maximum top speed, there are thousands of miles of trouble-free motoring. The water pumps corrode, but the castings are available as machined reproduction parts. The impeller is bronze and may need sleeving. After almost 90 years, most gearboxes are noisy on the intermediate gears, but even the noisiest gearboxes will continue providing good service for tens of thousands of miles. Clutch bearings and linings are still readily available. Clutch springs may be purchased off the shelf at Bunnings.
Although there are not many technical books specific to the Austin 12, there are a number of incredibly useful links that have a large amount of information to keep the Austin 12 running. Spare parts books and instruction manuals often come up for sale. The Registrar has a collection of technical articles accessible to the financial VSCCA Club member by arrangement.
Thornton Rutter “Motors of Today” is a contemporaneous technical book.
Austin 12 Resources and Links
Touring Round Australia in an Austin 12/4 Tourer in 1926, Austin Memories website
The Vintage Austin offers great practical articles including:
1. Relining the Austin 12 clutch
2. Changing the Austin 12 water pump
Austin Reproduction Parts (austinrepro.com) used to have a small selection of spare parts but have sold that aspect of the business. Contact details will be published shortly.