Back in the good old days, race cars weren’t the result of millions of pounds of testing and development. Instead, they were home brew creations built using existing cars. Chopped, rearranged and given more power, it was these wonderful machines that would pave the way for post war motorsport. It was a brilliant time, there were few rules, little red tape and as such, builders could go wild with their creations.
The trick for these budding builders and racers was to start with a car that was plentiful, and there were few more readily available than the veritable Austin 7. Herbert’s ‘baby’ had been the car to bring motoring to the masses, and as such, the streets were positively awash with them. Simple in construction, small and incredibly light, many saw their racing potential. Lose the body, hop up the engine and you were there.
Many 7 based racers were nothing more than standard cars but with smaller, lower bodies fitted. Others, however, pushed the envelope considerably further. Cars like this 1938 Austin Special, for example. Look at its gleaming, polished body, its low and imposing stance and that engine which is far from standard. This is about as far removed from the car on which it’s based as possible.
Built in New Zealand for Formula Libre events and for the Chelsea Sugar Works Hillclimb, no expense has been spared in its creation. The chassis is indeed that of an Austin Ruby, but it’s been boxed and strengthened with new tubular crossmembers. The front axle is factory, but has been split so as to create independent front suspension. The track has been widened by some 100mm.
The ‘boat tail’ body is a polished work of art, and sits inches from the ground. A roll hoop has been fitted, and the now single seat interior is awash with motorsport kit like a bucket seat, race dials, TRS harnesses and a Sparco steering wheel. It’s strictly business in here.
Finally, there is the engine. It’s an original Austin 7 unit at its core, or at least that’s how it started life. Now though, the cylinder head has been reworked, there’s a forged crankshaft, custom pistons and rods, a race camshaft and, oh yeah, a supercharger. In original trim, the engine had 17bhp. It now has 55bhp! And when you consider this car weighs roughly the same as a napkin, that’s a lot.
Ready for competition, the little Special is now back in the UK and looking for a home. A welcome sight at Prescot, Shelsley Walsh, Goodwood and more, this is a car that deserves to be out on track. Buy this 1938 Austin Special and you’ll experience motoring in a way you never thought possible.