From the Past - 2

This is a series in five parts of articles recalling the years
 when our 'Sevens' were on the roads.

Spares;  Servicing and repairs at Austin Dealerships
Feature Articles; 
Maps and AtlasesTouring and holidays; 


NB -  GB Sterling:  1/- old currency = 5p decimal currency.  (Some conversions below have to be approx as 1d does not equal 1p; a ½p has been rounded down).

Inevitably the D-I-Y motorist would require spare parts, either from the local Austin dealer or a specialist parts supplier, here offering a good range of items at 1932 prices; valves at 1/3 (7p), valve springs at 4d (1p); con-rods 12/6 (62p); 5 wheels and tyres for £11 with £2 10s 0 (£2.50) discount for trading in your old wheels; a 6v battery at 19/6 (97p) or the cheaper version at 14/9 (74p) with 2/6 (12p) carriage and brake linings and rivets at 2/3 (12p)  for a set of four with 4d (1p) for postage.

Service A7 advert


Servicing and repairs at Austin Dealerships
There were those owners who were not able, or did not wish to, undertake the routine maintenance, or any repairs, themselves, and preferred to have the work done at the local Austin dealership.  The Austin Motor Co., like other manufacturers, set out standard charges for the various tasks to be carried out on each model.

Sch of charges

The Austin Big Seven Schedule of Charges for Repairs, Pub No: 1713 of September 1938 sets these out and the various amendments to The Austin Service Journal give an idea of the costs for parts.  These charges applied to work on standard cars of the current type only and not special models.  They were based on the current average workshop costs throughout he country and the Company retained the right of making alterations without notice.  Additional work required where parts are seized or rusted was charged extra.  The charges (unless otherwise stated) did not include the supply of any new parts, which, in the absence of instructions to the contrary, would be fitted by the repairers at their discretion, and charged for extra, together with any oil, grease, and petrol used for testing purposes.



Look at these for a few examples of the cost of jobs and parts.

Grease at all gun nipple points 2s 3d (11p): ditto but including front hubs and checking oil levels of engine, gearbox, steering box and rear axle 4s 3d (21p) – the cost included grease used but not oils. 

Fitting new rear springs and making short road test, both springs £1 2s 6d (£1.12p) and the rear springs cost 16s 2d (81p) each whether for home or export market. 

Removing and refitting, or fitting new radiator 7s 0d (35p) plus the cost of repair to the damaged radiator or £4 11s 6d (£4.57p)  for a new one with filler cap, drain plug and washers. 

Removing and refitting or fitting a new ammeter, petrol gauge or oil gauge was 4s 0d (20p) on the 'Forlite' or 3s 6d (17p) for the combined instruments on the 'Sixlite', plus the cost of the gauge.  Removing and refitting or fitting a new tank unit for petrol gauge (including removal of the petrol tank) was 8s 6d (42p) and the new tank unit cost 12s 0d (60p) and a new petrol tank with filler cap was £2 8s 6d (£2.42p). 

Tuning up engine and testing car on road (includes adjusting tappets, cleaning and adjusting sparking plugs and contact breaker points, cleaning out carburettor jets and filters, setting slow running) was charged at 8s 3d (42p).  If the cylinder head was removed for decarbonising and grinding-in valves, cleaning and adjusting spark plugs and contact breaker points, cleaning out carburettor jets and filters, tuning up engine and testing car on the road the cost was £1 10s 0d (£1.50): ditto, but also removing base chamber, connecting rods and pistons, re-boring cylinder block without disturbing engine in frame and fitting oversize pistons and new shell type connecting rod bearings the cost rose to £4 12 6d (£4.62).  If the engine was removed from frame and re-boring away from the chassis it was £6 2s 6d (£6.12)

Removing gearbox and clutch from engine, when power unit is out of chassis then there was an additional cost of 4s 6d (22p).  A new crankshaft cost £4 3s 6d (£4.17) and regrinding a crankshaft cost £1 12s 6d (£1.62).  Pistons with gudgeon pins cost 7s 3d (37½p) each and scraper rings 2s 3d (12p) each, clamping pins for connecting rod were 2d (1p) each.  For removing the gearbox from chassis, dismantling and stripping clutch, fitting new clutch parts as necessary (excluding removal of flywheel) re-fixing and testing car on road was £1 12s 6d (£1.62), and £1 15s 6d (£1.77) to include removal of flywheel and fitting of new or reconditioned flywheel.  A new flywheel with facing and starter gear was £2 0s 0d (£2.00); pressure plate with facing at 18s 10d (94p); facing for flywheel and pressure plate was 6s 6d (32p)

On the front axle the fitting of new bearings, and/or new grease retainer to front hub was 4s 0d (20p) per hub.  Removal of front axle assembly from chassis, re-fixing, balancing brakes and making short road test was £1 0s 6d (£1.02) and £1 7s 6d (£1.37) extra whilst the assembly was removed for complete dismantling and overhauling, and fitting new parts as necessary (excluding relining brake shoes).  To remove the rear axle assembly from chassis, re-fixing, balancing brakes and testing car on the road was 19s 3d (96p) and an extra £31 19s 6d (£31.97) for dismantling and overhauling and fitting new parts as necessary. 

Adjusting brakes by means of adjuster at each wheel was 2s 0d (10p).  For removing wheels, drums, hubs and brakes shoes, cleaning and degreasing operating mechanism within the brake drum, road testing and making any adjustments necessary on the front or rear axle was 14s 6d (72p) per axle or £1 2s 6d (£1.12) for both axles together.  Ditto but also fitting re-lined shoes, and/or new brake drums and/or any other new parts was 15s 6d (77p) per axle or £1 4s 6d (£1.22) for both, new brake drums were 7s 0d (35p) each and supplying new brake lining and rivets and fitting to brake shoes was 5s 3d (27p) per shoe.  If whilst that job was in progress new bearings and/or grease retainers were fitted it was an extra 9d (4p) each time. 

Tracking up the front wheels was 4s 3d (22p); examining and adjusting steering gear and connections generally, tracking up front road wheels, tightening spring clips and testing car on the road was 18s 0d (90p) with the cost of new parts extra. 

In real money terms and relative to earnings, was the cost of motoring any different to today?

This article now slightly modified, written by Doug Castle, originally appeared in Austin Big Seven Register Members Newsletter December 2008 pp7-8.


Feature Articles

All magazines had feature articles in every issue, many were about travel and places of interest to visit; the general magazines had comparative tests between similar cars of manufacturers competing for the same market.  Few articles were topical for the time of the year, but the early magazines were attempting to educate the new owner-driver on how to drive, to maximise economy etc.

The Light Car and Sidecar Magazine of December 2 1932 had a feature item 'Winter Motoring in Comfort' suggesting the proper equipment essential for the full enjoyment of motoring in the colder months, for few small family cars had any heating except for that which came in from the engine compartment.  Keeping warm could be achieved with fur-lined foot-muffs; apron-like rugs and even a Thermorad exhaust car heater with regulator which took heat from the exhaust pipe.

Winter driving, Austin Seven

Later in the 2-page article there was advice on 'Driving on Slippery Roads' suggesting the fitting of non-skid chains, made and advertised by several manufacturers of car accessory items.  The radiator-muff was also considered to be essential to keep heavy rain and snow from the radiator mesh.

Winter Driving 2 Austin Seven

Winter Driving 4 The AA asked that motorists leave the AA Members Badge uncovered so that it could still be seen by their Patrolmen.


Maps and Atlases
All motoring magazines had articles extolling the benefits of touring and holidays using the car.  As motorists became more adventurous and driving long distances maps and atlases were produced by Ordnance Survey, whose work also formed the basis of maps and atlases produced by Bartholomew, Geographia and many others.  Many were cloth based for durability for this was the era of keeping items in good condition and making them last for many years; but there were few changes to our roads system in those days.

Broch Map 1

Large scale maps were fine for planning a route before starting out, but rather cumbersome when opened up in the car.  However, they did show unbroken roads for hundreds of miles.


Broch Map 2














 broch map 3  


Motoring magazines attempted to boost sales, perhaps more in the short-term, with pull-out map supplements, or sponsored booklets,  were produced by Geographia or Bartholomew.  These were small-scale maps split by page size and probably did not match at the margins from one page to the next.  However, they were ideal for the glove, or door, pocket.






Broch map 4Touring and holidays
The freedom to travel anywhere, at anytime, now available with a car gave the motorists who could afford to do so, the opportunities to journey farther afield.  Many would pack the car with children, luggage and family dog and set off from, say London or the Midlands, for the long, tedious and sometimes arduous, journey down to the west country to visit family or for their annual holiday by the coast.  For some it was a two-day journey.

Articles, and maps, in the magazines offered suggestions for touring Britain and Europe and the best places to visit, quality hotels etc in which to stay whilst travelling the immediate area.  Some magazines produced a small sponsored road atlas as a 'gift' whilst Austin produced . . .







 Continued in 'From the Past - 3'

 Complimentary Magazines:  Specific motoring advertisements; 
Insurance;   Motoring accessories; 
'Sunday afternoon' accessories