1911 AUSTIN 15hp 'HARROGATE' TWO-PLUS-ONE SEATER
Registration No. FF 222
Chassis No. 4722
Engine No. 5903
Beige with maroon coachlining and upholstery
Engine: four individual cylinders, 3½ x 4½ins. bore & stroke, 2,838cc, side-valve T-head, water-cooled with pump circulation, pressure lubrication, Austin-Claudel carburettor, magneto ignition; Gearbox: four speed & reverse, cone clutch, shaft and bevel-drive back axle; Suspension: front, semi-elliptic leaf springs, rear Austin-patent full-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: rear wheel drum and transmission brakes. Wooden artillery wheels with Michelin detachable rims, 815 x 105 beaded-edge tyres. Right-hand drive with right-hand gear and brake levers.
When in 1905 Herbert Austin set up to produce motorcars in his own factory at Longbridge, he had nearly ten years' experience of making Wolseley motor vehicles behind him and a determination to independently demonstrate his abilities and to put his own ideas into practice. The first Austin motorcar took to the road in the Spring of 1906, a 4-cylinder 5.8-litre 25-30hp, having separate cylinders and T-heads, an aspect of design that was to remain an Austin feature throughout the Edwardian era. This was soon joined by a 15-20hp 4.1-litre car that evolved into the popular 18-24 model which continued in production with only minor changes until 1913. Larger horsepower cars were introduced into the range and three 6-cylinder 60hp cars ran in the 1908 French Grand Prix, cars of this type subsequently being added to the catalogue although few were sold.
For the 1909 season a 2½-litre 15hp model was introduced into the range and unusually for Austin it had a monobloc engine casting with a three-bearing crankshaft. It was re-designed for the 1911 season with half an inch increase in the stroke and reverted to standard Austin practice in having individual cylinders, also benefiting from a five-bearing crankshaft. It was well received and almost 300 were sold in both 1911 and 1912, only the 18-24hp outselling it in 1912 with almost twice the number finding customers.
Austin advertising in 1911 ran with the somewhat vacuous slogan 'The Car that set the fashion to the Motoring World', and the claim 'annual output 1,000 cars' when in fact 1910 had seen 579 cars produced, and 781 were to leave Longbridge in 1911. By the middle of the year the copywriters had begun to concentrate on the aspect of cars that anyone with experience of the Edwardian Austin will recognise immediately: the engineering integrity of the product. Thus the adverts now included the comment: 'Austin clients obtain a cleaner design, a better grade of material and workmanship, and a higher degree of finish than that found in any other car, irrespective of price'. A descent into hyperbole at the end, but it is difficult to disagree with the sentiment that lies behind it.
One person who obviously appreciated the merits of Herbert Austin's motorcars was Sir Henry Beyer-Robertson of Pale, near Corwen in Merionethshire. On the 5th September 1911 he registered as FF 222 a 15hp Austin two-seater, finished in dark blue and lined in black and white. To further demonstrate his liking for the marque, on the same day he also re-registered FF 22 to an 18-24hp Austin, whilst the previous year he had transferred FF 1 from a Lanchester to another 18-24hp, in this case a landaulette. Just to complete the picture of Sir Henry, he also owned a 10hp Wolseley, registered FF 2, so he must also have appreciated the earlier work of Herbert as well.
In former years, the Austin featured in the film "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. FF 222 today presents well and is in sound condition although at some time in its life it has been re-painted and re-trimmed. That apart it appears to have all its original instruments and under the bonnet the engine has the correct ancillaries. Since the body carries no coachbuilder's plates it is assumed to have been bodied in house and it appears to be what the sales catalogue called a 'Harrogate' two-seater. It is equipped with Lucas headlamps and paraffin sidelamps, and the Michelin detachable rims are an asset if the car is to be used - which after re-commissioning it is eminently suited to be.