Austin 7
Austin 7

Austin 7: Britain’s answer to the Model T

America had the Ford Model T, Britain gave the world the Austin Seven.

It is 100 years since Herbert Austin introduced the Austin Seven, which offered Brits an affordable, new found individual freedom to travel without relying on public transport.

Newspapers of the day heralded the car as ‘Motoring for the Million’ and the ‘first civilised motor car of really small size’.

Many versions of the Seven were offered over its life, the most famous the car in which a 15-year-old Bruce McLaren won his first-ever race.

Austin Seven was Britain’s equivalent of the Model T Ford, except it was smaller and cheaper.

The car was designed in the billiard room of Austin’s home.

He scaled down a large car, rather than scaling up something based on a four-wheel motorcycle.

The original 1922 four-cylinder Austin Seven engine had a bore of 2.125 inches (54mm) and stroke of 3 inches (76mm), giving a capacity of 696cc and delivering 7.2 hp.


By 1925 the 7 had propelled Austin to 10 per cent of the UK market.

It’s local rival, Morris, was way ahead with 40 per cent.

By 1935, however, Morris was down to 31 per cent and Austin had improved to 23 per cent.

When Austin and Morris merged in 1952 the Austin company was by far the more dominant.

The 7 was built under licence in many countries.

BMW and Datsun both built 7s.

The first BMW car, the BMW Dixi, was a licensed Austin 7.

It was called the Bantam in the United States and the Rosengart in France.

In Australia. Holden’s Motor Body Builders imported the rolling chassis and fitted a local body.

1929 Australian bodied Austin 7 Meteor
1929 Australian-bodied Austin 7 Meteor


One of the most famous “re-builds” of an Austin 7s were those built by Sir William Lyons and his business partner William Walmsley. 

They had established the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, which was very successful, and were also keen to get into car building business.

In 1927 Lyons acquired an Austin 7 chassis and constructed the first Swallow car. 

By 1945 Lyons’ company would be known as Jaguar Cars.

The 7 has a long and legendary racing history that began not long after it was released.

One was entered in the 1923 Easter events at Brooklands in the UK.

It led all the way, averaging 94km/h. 

An Austin 7 was the first racing car of Lotus Cars founder, Colin Chapman, and driver/constructor, Bruce McLaren.

A racing version of the Austin 7 was steered to victory in the inaugural Australian Grand Prix of 1928.

In keeping with the racing tradition, Australia’s biggest historic car racing event, held at Winton each year, is organised by the Austin 7 club.

David Burrell is the editor of


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