Out now: the Autocade Yearbook 2024
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Out now: Autocade Yearbook 2024

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Herbert Austin had worked for Wolseley before starting his own car company in 1905. Rapid expansion soon followed, and Austin employed some 1,000 people by 1910. Difficulties after the Great War saw to Austin introducing a small car, the 7, exhibited at the Olympia Motor Show in 1922.

The 7 was a hit and ensured the company would continue growing, even during the Great Depression. By 1936 Austin was elevated to the peerage, becoming Lord Austin of Longbridge, though he passed away after a short illness in 1941.

Under Leonard Lord, Austin produced the A40, A70 and A90, geared for export, in line with postwar British Government policies. The Nash Metropolitan was also manufactured by Austin for US sale. In 1952, Austin merged with Nuffield (which included its archrival Morris) to become British Motor Corp., which was, at a point in the 1960s, the second-largest car manufacturer in the world.

In 1959, BMC introduced the Mini, sold with both Austin and Morris marques initially. It proved another world-beater for BMC, and its larger 1100 and 1300 models were also successful for much of the 1960s.

However, after BMC and Leyland merged to become British Leyland in 1968, Austin fell on hard times, creating ill-fated models such as the Allegro. Austin briefly recovered in the early 1980s with its new small car, the Mini Metro, but by the middle of the decade, the marque began disappearing from various models. Metros, Maestros and Montegos were officially marque-less by the end of the decade, and the snob value of the more upmarket Rover brand began adorning their successors.


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