“Does my Seven still exist?”

It is not unusual to meet someone at a local show who opens the conversation with “I/my father/grandfather had an Austin Seven, I wonder if it still exists.”  Frequently it was a Ruby and they recall how much it cost; the registration mark/number; its colour and all the holiday trips made with it, and what it was sold for! The answer can be found by visiting a few websites. 

A7CA offers good advice at https://a7ca.org/chassis-register/tracking-down-my-old-car/  

The first step is DVLA at https://vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/ where, entering the registration mark reveals if the vehicle exists, whether it is insured and has a current MoT certificate, if required, or a SORN.  If it is not listed with that mark it may either a) have a new mark, b) have been exported or c) no longer exists.  However, some cars not listed by DVLA can still exist in a sad state in barns/garages, long-since unloved, and the owner has not informed DVLA and put it on SORN to preserve ownership of the registration.

The DVLA record might show that the registration mark is now assigned to a modern car as it had been sold and the original Seven could now have an age-related or later, sometimes a post-war, mark.  If the car still exists it will be listed under the new mark, in which case it might be difficult to trace. 

If the Seven is listed by DVLA it should be included on the A7CA Chassis Register at Chassis Register | A7CA - Austin Seven Clubs' Association  under the original, or new, registration mark.  Some original marks are included in the A7CA Chassis Register if known to the current owner.  The Club it was last registered with can be identified and contacted with an invitation for the current owner to get in touch.  The Club is not permitted to give the enquirer the owner’s details due to the Data Protection Act.  Present owners do like to know about their Seven’s early history; some have even been able to retrieve early documents, once thought to have been lost, which were kept by a previous owner.  If the car is not listed on the Register it may still exist as there are owners in the UK, and overseas, who, being independent, do not belong to an Austin Seven Club or know of the Chassis Register, but finding any trace of the car is now nigh on impossible.

 If, after these searches, there is no happy ending then it is highly probable that the once much-loved Seven, which gave a family many wonderful memories, no longer exists.

Another question which sometimes ensues in the conversation is where was the car first registered?  The Club website has a section on Registration Marks allocated to County and County Borough Councils from 1903 which are found on our Sevens. Be aware that some marks, eg RK, were re-allocated in the 1950s.  ‘Glass's Index of Registration Marks 1929-1965’, published by Glass's Guide Service Ltd., gives the years/months when marks were issued.

The Kithead Trust also lists pre-war registration marks at Trace a Registration Mark | Kithead Trust  A useful extra on their site is the section on Motor Vehicle Records at Motor Vehicle Records | Kithead Trust listing the vehicle records now held by Local Record Offices or the Trust.   Unfortunately, with the closure of Local Taxation Offices, once vehicle registration and taxation had been transferred to the DVLA computerised system in 1977/78, some Councils destroyed early records and original buff registration books in their possession.

For anyone wishing to further research the history of their Seven a useful book is:  'How to trace the history of your car: a guide to motor vehicle registration records in the British Isles.'   2nd Edition.  By Philip Riden. ISBN: 1898937257.  Pub:  Merton Priory Press, Whitchurch, Cardiff CF14 1DD.  (Now out of print but should be available in local reference libraries).

This article, written by Doug Castle, appeared in CA7C Seven Focus in December 2022, pp10-11.