1972 Austin 3-Litre – Ray Gallagher
Last year, after 17 years of service from our 1959 Austin A60, we decided to change cars as we felt we should have a car that both of us could drive. Having made that decision the next hurdle was to find a car that met our needs.
The first criterion was that it needed to be an Austin as much of our activity with old cars is based on that make. Next it needed to be a medium sized car (garaging restrictions) not needing restoration (aging restrictions) and an automatic with power steering. We knew meeting these criteria would be difficult, which proved to be the case, as there were no cars for sale locally that were suitable. So the search was widened.
Perusal of the Internet brought up a 1978 Austin Princess, a.k.a. ”The Wedge”, which was for sale in the North of England. This car met all the criteria and as well had only done 10,000 miles. It was in immaculate condition having been stored over the winter months to avoid it being driven on the icy salt covered roads. This prompted an investigation of the procedures and cost of importing a car from the U.K. Unfortunately these costs coupled with the price the car brought at auction made it an unviable proposition.
This then led to consideration to sourcing a car from New Zealand as the range of Austins sold in NZ was greater than here, the exchange rate was more favourable and shipping cost less. Once again a search of the Internet this time found a 1972 Austin 3-Litre which appeared to be in good condition, being registered and which met all our criteria. After some soul searching and phone calls to the owner we decided to buy it. Whenever I told anyone of what we were doing I seemed to be greeted with “you’re buying a WHAT?” so perhaps I should explain the WHAT we bought.
Design work on the Austin 3-Litre started in the early 1960’s and the car was intended to replace the ageing Westminster range of cars which first appeared as the Austin A90 in 1954 and went on to the Austin A110 in 1961 ending in 1968. Development of the car was subject to a number of competing influences. At the time BMC were short of cash and to save tooling costs the car had to share as much as possible with the contemporary smaller model which in Australia became known as the Austin 1800.
Also Austin was collaborating with Rolls Royce to develop a smaller Rolls Royce and Bentley range of cars. Prototypes were developed and tested using the Vanden Plas Princess as a base but powered by the 4 litre Rolls motor and using a specially developed hydrolastic suspension for rear wheel drive. Ultimately Rolls Royce decided not to proceed with the project and the Rolls motor was used in the Vanden Plas Princess. The new suspension was adopted for the Austin 3 litre which necessitated substantial modifications to Austin 1800 structure.
Launched in 1967 the Austin 3 Litre did not come on sale until 1968 with either a 4 speed manual gearbox with overdrive or a Borg Warner 35 automatic gearbox. It struggled for sales as it faced the first oil crisis with the public seeking more fuel efficient cars. Also BMC had now been merged with Triumph and Rover to form Leyland. Both companies had smaller more fuel efficient cars selling into the same market and sales of the Austin 3 Litre was not a priority of the Leyland management.
Production ceased in May 1971 by which time only 9992 cars had been produced. Last year only 48 of these remained on the road in England of which only 3 are automatics. So the car we bought is one of very few left on the road. It is classed as a 1972 model that being the year it was first registered.
Having decided to buy the car attention turned to what was required to get it here. Import approval was required and the target turnaround on approval of 15 working days extended to 26 working days. Also the arrangements to get the car to the shipping company in Auckland struck difficulties when the former owner had a car accident and was in Intensive care for some time. Eventually the Approval to Import the car arrived and we were told it was on its way to Port Kembla.
Now with the car in Port Kembla and all AQIS and other clearances in place I was able to arrange with the help of my sons, Glen and Neal to pick it up. Glen and I left early on the morning of 25 August for Port Kembla using the Club trailer and Neal’s Ford F150 truck.
After a stressful 2 hours paperwork and security clearances I was finally escorted onto the wharf to load the car. With the car safely loaded we were driving out of the Terminal to be stopped by a semitrailer with lights flashing and much arm waving, ‘what’s wrong now’ was our immediate response, to be returned with “hey mate can I take a photo as they wouldn’t let me take one while it was on the wharf?”. Sanity returned and we had an uneventful trip home.
With the car safely parked in Neal’s farm shed an assessment showed a couple of items needing immediate attention but generally the car was in good condition. A new radiator was made up and the steering rack overhauled together with a general check of the condition of the car taking place over the next few weeks.
In the meantime we took the A60 on the Silver City Spring Rally and were fortunate enough to sell it to a member of the South Australian Austin 7 Club who we had met on previous rallies with that Club.
On our return home the next step was a registration check and this showed some minor defects needing attention, as well it needed to be assessed for meeting the relevant ADR’s. This assessment showed it require some changes the most critical being the installation of rear seat belts, the anchorages existed, and also some other mechanical matters needed attention. With these done the car was presented for registration check again in December and complete with the Engineers Report passed.
The car is now mechanically sound but some detail improvements will need to be done over the coming months. It is a very nice and comfortable car to drive and we look forward to getting as much enjoyment with it as we did in the A60.
Anne and Ray Gallagher