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Home <> Lifestory Library <> Explore By Location <> <> <> The Austin Seven Special

  Contributor: Tony HammondView/Add comments

Whilst working at William Osborne's boatyard at Littlehampton in the 1950s, Tony Hammond, then a young man in his twenties, enlarges on what was then a popular hobby among those in his age group.

'A favourite pastime for many motor enthusiasts at this time was the converting of a pre war Austin Seven saloon into a two seater sports car. These were called Specials. I decided that this was the thing for me, and when I spotted an abandoned 1928 Austin in a field I bought it for five pounds and I was on my way.

The next twelve months were spent tuning the engine, getting the ports enlarged and polished, fitting a carburettor from a Ford V-Eight, lightening the flywheel, and fitting a snazzy four-branch exhaust system to finish the job.

The front axle and suspension were sent away to a specialist company to be modified by lowering the chassis several inches. Finally an aluminium body was made and fitted onto a metal tubular frame. The net result was a nice little car that went like crazy, and in true Austin Seven tradition had great difficulty in stopping.

Time seemed to pass much more slowly in those days, and in addition to working on the special I was actively engaged in running the local small bore rifle club. The special was finished just in time for Bisley week and each morning I set out with fingers crossed and ears cocked for any odd noises coming from under the bonnet. I made the journey to Bisley for seven consecutive days without the Special missing a single beat, and managed to win one of the competitions; certainly a good week to remember.

I was not so lucky when my friend Clive Lancaster and I went to a meeting at Tunbridge Wells. I had just been selected to shoot for Sussex and was hoping for a quiet time before the competition started, but just as we got within sight of the rifle range the crankshaft broke, we managed to push the special the rest of the way and spent the lunch break taking the engine out. Luckily we were spotted by a local car enthusiast, who, after the meeting, towed us back to his garage and tucked the Special safely away.

Several hundred miles and two engines later my Special took a back seat to a company car when I finally left William Osborne's and started work for a London firm of industrial heating engineers.'

The finished job

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