The Seven was very much a product of Austin the man rather than Austin the company: In the immediate post-First World War period Austin – by then a public company – needed something other than its large, expensive pre-war designs to sell, but a conservative board of directors was reluctant to commit financial backing to a small car. The result was that Austin took on the design work himself, working at home with a single draughtsman. Cleverly, he patented several of the innovations in his own name, which allowed him to charge a royalty to the company for each car. When it proved sufficiently successful to clock up 290,000 sales Austin’s gamble paid off.
The key to its success and the reason why the Seven was able to take the bulk of the market from the cyclecars and sidecars so popular at the time was the fact that its design was very much a big car in miniature, retaining the proportions of a full-size car with a proper chassis and a four-cylinder engine.
Sevens were exported all around the world, notably to countries across the Commonwealth – and acquiring a car that has spent all its life in a dry Australian or New Zealand climate can be a smart move; certainly it can often end up being less expensive than a restoration project in the long run.
The 1929 Seven we see here is a perfect example of this, having spent all of its life in New Zealand before arriving at Forest Vintage in Gloucestershire. It’s survived the decades remarkably well and has a lovely patina to it that suits cars of this era so much better than an overblown restoration.
Being a 1929 model it features an electric start and the coil ignition introduced in 1928 but sits on the original chassis with the six foot three inches wheelbase, which was later lengthened by six inches. The Seven was never supplied with an integral boot and so the rack-mounted trunk fitted by a previous owner is a common solution.
ON THE ROAD
This Chummy still wears its original New Zealand registration, which unfortunately prevented a full road test, but there’s no reason to suggest it won’t sail through the formalities of British registration: Cars of this age merely require an MoT test in order to be issued with a UK number.
The Seven is a basic machine and as a result there’s not a great deal that can actually go wrong with it, and the specialist back-up is superb. The New Zealand authorities impose similar high standards to the UK for their annual roadworthiness check, which is reassuring.
The values of good, solid Austin Sevens have been creeping up over the last few years and as a result owners are now happier to commit to expensive restoration work. That said, it’s always going to be a lot cheaper to acquire one like this, purely because it doesn’t need restoring in the first place.
With only the formalities of UK registration required it comes with the bonus of being an original factory right-hand drive and so is ready to go. It really is an ideal hassle-free entry into the world of Sevens.
TOP SPEED: 50mph
GEARBOX: 4-sp man