In England, pre-war motoring and home-built ‘specials’ have a vibrant events calendar and enthusiast scene. Specialising in unique often hair-brained and bizarre vehicles built before WWII, these unusual builds can be seen fighting it out across trials, up hillclimbs and around circuits, putting on an incredible spectacle for onlookers in the process.
As with anything specialised, however, there is a pretty hefty price to pay for a genuine pre-war ‘special’ so what if you want to take part in these unique events without having to rob a bank in order to finance your vehicle?
Well, the answer seems simple, in theory; You build your own. At least, that’s what the owner of this 1933 Austin Seven ‘Special’ decided to do, and the results are certainly worthy of a few dropped jaws!
Having decided on building their own ‘Special’ the first order of business for the creator of this Special was to find a chassis. This came in the form of a humble Austin Seven, which is a sensible move - millions were made, parts are (somewhat) easy to source and there is a strong enthusiast movement for the Seven here in the UK. More importantly, the steering, brakes, axles and wheels were all present.
With the idea of a JAP V-Twin-powered ‘Special’ playing heavily on the builders mind, this notion was quickly put to bed due to the prohibitive purchase price of such a motor. Thankfully, a Japanese V-Twin came up in the form of a Honda CX500 which was duly purchased, stripped of its engine and ancillaries, and sold on.
Now the engine and chassis were taken care of, the bodywork could begin in earnest. Initially, the creator mocked up the design with cardboard before hand-beating the alloy panels to shape using a sandbag, mallets and an old truck prop shaft to create curves in the material - true old-school British grit was used to build this ‘special’ just as it would’ve been back in the day. The wooden floor was made out of an old Mahogany wardrobe, while the 19-inch wheels allowed the fitment of low-cost motorcycle tyres.
There is a staggering level of ingenuity with this build. As the builder states, they liked “turning old scrap and throwaway junk into functioning items” and there are plenty of examples on this build, including the handbrake lever which is a repurposed handle from a set of railway points, the front grille is made from chicken wire, and the dashboard switchgear is all handmade - remarkable stuff.
Having purchased the car in its complete form, the vendor has thoroughly enjoyed exploiting the surprising performance and attention that this ‘Special’ draws wherever it goes, providing - as the vendor states - “raw, classic driving at its best!”
Included with the vehicle is the V5 ownership document showing one prior owner, an old MOT certificate (though, of course, the vehicle is exempt from mandatory testing) the original dating certificate for the Austin Seven chassis, the registration document from the DVLA and copies of two magazine features that the car has starred in.
With a car like this, we’re not sure you could actually call it an interior, more so a cockpit!
Regardless, the interior of this Austin Seven Special is in fine fettle, if a little unusual in its nature. The single-seat driving position suits the diminutive proportions of the car well, with the seat and lap-belt restraint appearing to be in great condition.
The wooden floor certainly looks solid enough, while the dashboard and switchgear detailing are in good shape, along with the rope-bound steering wheel which is a period-correct modification for extra grip.
During the vendor’s time with the vehicle, the seat has been re-upholstered and a fitted tonneau cover has been acquired.
The hand-beaten bodywork, unusual recycling and homemade features are strangely fitting on this ‘Special’ and give a true sense of a creative gentleman racer making his own fortune and taking every opportunity possible to get out on track.
The bodywork is in genuinely remarkable shape, given its construction method and rigorous use while out on the road and taking in off-road trials. There are a few patches of staining around the air intakes and exhaust outlets, though the majority of the body wears a mild ‘patina’ with pride in the same fashion that Le Mans-winning vehicles wear their race dirt with dignity.
The large 19-inch wheels look to be in good shape, as do the upright windscreen, chicken mesh grille and exhaust, all of which also exhibit a hard-earned patina finish.
While the vehicle remains largely unchanged from its original incarnation, a set of mud guards have been added to comply with road legislation, while a set of vents has been trimmed into the bonnet in order to aid cooling.
In no uncertain terms, we are informed that this pre-war special ‘homage’ isn’t what you’d call slow, with it best described as shifting along at a pace akin to a “bat out of hell!”
The 550cc Honda V-Twin engine looks to be in great shape, with the low displacement being offset by impressive low-down torque which shifts to frightening performance thanks to the incredibly low weight of the vehicle which is apparently capable of speeds in excess of 80mph.
There are no known mechanical faults with the vehicle, though a good old-fashioned tune-up is never a bad idea with vehicles of this age. Being motorbike engine-powered there is no reverse gear. As the current vendor states, however, this is not a problem on account of how lightweight the vehicle is, meaning it can be reversed by simply pushing it back.
Pre-war vehicles are somewhat of a niche culture within the automotive world, often appealing to those that value ingenuity and mechanical design over aesthetics and safety. This home-brew Austin Seven Special may not be an authentic pre-war build, but it captures the spirit and ethos of the genre perfectly and has proven itself numerous times both on and off-road.
Offering the rare chance to acquire a competition-ready vehicle that is also road-legal and will turn heads wherever it goes, this is an opportunity not to be missed by anyone looking to get involved with the pre-war competition scene in any capacity.
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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 sellers discretion.
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