1929 Austin 12 Burnham saloon


 • Purchased by the vendor in 1961 and believed to be a three-owner car from new
 • An extremely rare unrestored survivor with a totally original interior

The Appeal

Post-war classics are all well and good, but Vintage cars have that certain something – a quality of quaintness in their hand-made appearance, perhaps, or the more visceral driving experience – which puts them in quite a different league. If they appeal to you, your best bet is probably an Austin.

Austins were among the best-selling cars of the Vintage period, in large part due to the success of the Austin Seven, which remains extremely popular today. The Seven is an ideal Vintage car on account of its affordability, small size and large following including many grass-roots motorsports disciplines, but when we call it a crude car we are not being flippant. You really do have to drive one before you can comprehend just how crude it is… But its big sister, the 12hp Austin, is different. Larger and heavier it may be, but it’s well-liked for its durability, steady 45mph cruising speed and comfortable ride over long distances. In most respects, it’s the nicer car to own and drive.

This example represents a unique opportunity for a sympathetic enthusiast to require a remarkably original example with a rich history for careful preservation into the future. You will struggle to find another car with a totally untouched original interior, which is all the more impressive considering the estimated 100,000 miles this car has covered with the present owner.

Fresh from a recent mechanical overhaul, we’re sure the Austin will still be going strong in another 60 years from now. Since this year marks the centenary of both the Seven and the 12, why not put your new acquisition to the test with a run to some of the events being held around the country this year to celebrate the two important anniversaries?

The History and Paperwork

 • Registered new in Essex
 • The first recorded owner is one Herbert Almond of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, followed by James Gwynn of Woking, Surrey
 • The vendor purchased the Austin from Mr. Gwynn for £45 in December 1961
 • Besides being driven into London daily for a few years, the Austin has also regularly participated in shows and rallies since the early ’60s
 • The car has been little-used since 2008, but it was given a substantial engine overhaul in 2016 with further work recently completed by Autohistoric in Chiddingly
 • The paperwork file includes the current and historic V5s, some old MoT certificates and a large quantity of invoices from 2015 onwards
 • A collection of original factory literature and facsimile booklets are provided, including the original handbook in which Messrs. Almond and Gwynn inscribed their names
 • Other odds and ends include its 1961-62 tax disc and an old rally card from a Bean Car Club event
 • Scheduled to have an article written in a motoring magazine about its previous 60 year ownership

The Interior

 • Exceptionally well preserved as it left the factory
 • Splendid patina across all the surfaces
 • Equipped with rear window blinds, a smoker’s hatch and a home-made picnic table for the rear seats

In 2010, auctioneer Olivier Choppin de Janvry opened the door of a Paris apartment and, much to his amazement, found himself stepping through a portal into 1900. He discovered an interior furnished just as it had been during the life of its erstwhile inhabitant, Marthe de Florian, a demi-mondaine with links to figures such as Georges Clemenceau and painter Giovanni Boldini. We don’t want to get too carried away with romantic fancy, but we use that example to illustrate just what a time-capsule this Austin is.

We cannot stress enough that this Austin’s interior is almost exactly as it left the factory in 1929, albeit with one or two discreet modifications and a lot of timeworn beauty. The leather upholstery has aged like a fine brandy, acquiring the most wonderful patina but remaining intact, and the seats are still well-sprung and comfortable.

The door trim is remarkably well preserved, and we would draw your attention in particular to the wooden door capping, which is tremendously good. The wooden fascia is also a thing of immense beauty, blessed as it is with a veneer of patina. Unfortunately, the glass over the fuel gauge has been smashed and the gauge itself does not give a reading, but that’s not such a hardship. You’ll just have to make do with a fuel tank dipstick, as the drivers of so many cheaper cars had to!

Bidders should note that the Austin is spacious inside but would ideally suit a medium size person  (around, 6ft) in the driving seat. Also the new driver may need to organise position of switches, door handles and such to suit his needs. 

You may observe that rear windows are equipped with blinds, which are all in very good condition for their age, and the headlining is also superb. It is the carpets, though, which deserve the greatest fanfare. The Austin suffered a tragedy when, some years ago, a garage which had been working on the car threw away its original front carpet “because it had holes in it” but we are pleased to report that the original rear carpet remains, as does the carpeting around the doors and seat bases. Very few cars retain their original carpets, which is why this is particularly prized in Vintage Austin circles and is a serious contender for preservation awards.

Bidders will also be interested to note that the interior contains some interesting accessories. The vendor constructed his own picnic table for the rear passengers on the back of the front passenger seat. There is also a period Barnacle tax-disc holder and a valuable taxi ‘For Hire’ sign, which is a nod to the rôle Austin 12/4s played as London taxi-cabs from the 1930s through to the ’50s. Nota bene, the ‘A. Archer & Sons’ plaque is one of the vendor’s acquired accessories, and does not actually denote the car’s original dealership.

The Exterior

 • One of very few 12s remaining which have never been restored
 • Repainted below the waistline in 1978 while the paint above the waistline is all original
 • Tastefully accessorised with badges and other period items collected by the vendor

It is a universally acknowledged truth that most Vintage cars look their best after a spot of use, and this Austin is both well-used and well cared-for. The paint is not totally original – it was repainted below the waistline in 1978, retaining the original colour scheme of maroon and black. The paint above the waistline and the roof covering remain completely original.

The newer paint has now mellowed very nicely and harmonises perfectly with the original. When the vendor placed the Austin into storage in a friend’s garage for a few years in 2008, he was a little disappointed to return to it and find that slight damp had resulted in speckled paint over the bonnet and scuttle, but we do not feel it harms the appearance of a genuine ‘Oily Rag’ car.

The whole car is presented in a wonderful patinated condition, enhanced by the historic accessories accumulated by the vendor over the years. With a lifetime’s interest in antiques, he has managed to collect some rare and valuable items and distribute them tastefully across the car, including a brass fire extinguisher, Shell petrol can and several interesting radiator badges.

Luggage goes into the delightful Brexton trunk at the rear but, since the vendor was making regular journeys with three passengers and their cases, he commissioned a roof rack to be made in the early 1980s, constructed in the style of those fitted to the Low Loader taxis. Better still, the vendor has even agreed to throw in some vintage suitcases which he has been using for display purposes. We particularly admire the tan one with old travel stickers from Alexandria and Cairo.

The Mechanics

 • Almost £8500 spent on mechanical work since 2015, including engine rebuild
 • Recent work by Autohistoric involved fitting a new clutch and overhauling the magneto and carburettor
 • A steady and capable hill-climber, as we have experienced

The vendor estimates that he has covered close to 100,000 miles in his 60 years of ownership, and if that doesn’t convince you that the Austin’s mechanicals will last a lifetime, nothing will. Of course, things did start to get a bit worn out when the car was in its eighties, so in 2016 the vendor took it to a specialist which undertook an extensive engine overhaul, which included fitting new pistons and repairing a crack in the block.

Following on from that, the vendor experienced some teething troubles which he had remedied by Veteran and Vintage specialist Autohistoric in East Sussex. Autohistoric stripped and cleaned the magneto, cleaned the carburettor, fitted a new clutch plate and linings, repaired the faulty starter motor and fitted new battery cables. The vendor has also fitted modern flashing indicators as discreetly as he possibly could.

The car is still in its running-in stage and experimenting with different sparking plugs, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed locally for a while before attempting more serious runs . The vendor took us out in the car and we were very satisfied with its performance as it climbed the steep hill from Eastbourne to Beachy Head. Of course, one can’t expect a car of the 1920s to climb hills quickly but, rest assured, it will climb them. The steering, brakes and gearbox all seemed to us to be in very good order. 

We did notice that the car was quite smoky when started, but the vendor has raised this with Autohistoric and was reassured that the car is only burning off the residue of some sealing compound which was used on the gearbox when the new clutch went in. We are also advised that the tyres currently fitted are around 20 years old, so may be due for replacement. Bidders should be aware that the car does not currently have a valid MoT.

The Summary

Austin 12s remain one of the best Vintage cars anyone can buy; not one of the fanciest or the most glamorous, but definitely one of the sturdiest and most dependable with a special character of their own. This example is very much an archetype of the Oily Rag philosophy, with its beautifully patinated and highly original outward appearance matched with well-maintained mechanicals which ensure it bowls along as well as any restored car.

The charm of such a car is obvious and its historical significance cannot be understated. We sincerely hope the Austin will find a new owner who will cherish and preserve it just as the vendor has done.

Notice to bidders

Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.

As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the seller's discretion.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1929
  • Make Austin
  • Model Burnham Saloon 12/4
  • Colour Maroon & Black
  • Odometer 432 Miles
  • Engine size 1631
  • Town Eastbourne
Auction Details
  • Seller Type Private
  • Location Sussex
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
10 bids from 7 bidders
  • ne•••• £10,000 16/05/22
  • Du•••• £9,900 16/05/22
  • ne•••• £9,750 16/05/22
  • Du•••• £9,600 16/05/22
  • ma•••• £9,500 16/05/22
  • Be•••• £9,100 16/05/22
  • Du•••• £9,000 16/05/22
  • ze•••• £8,800 13/05/22
  • fa•••• £8,500 09/05/22
  • or•••• £1,500 09/05/22

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