When Austin shook

the jellymould

Austin A90 Atlantic

AT the end of the 1940s Britain was shaking with excitement over some of the sweeping jellymould car styles that were emerging.

Tired of the traditional boxy styles and black paintwork that were the hallmark of the war years, the driveways of Britain were eagerly anticipating something a little more exciting.

And one of the more unusual models to grace the showrooms was the Austin A90 Atlantic.

Launched in 1948, this was a classic case of trying to combine the automobile fads and fancies of Britain and America and ending up with a strange mish-mash of ideas that resulted in a real ‘love it or hate it' look.

The Atlantic was originally destined for the export market, hence its name, but it did not rev the engines of enough fans abroad or at home.

Granted, it was amazingly modern with sweeping lines, a cyclops-like driving light in the middle of the grille and an electro-hydraulic hood mechanism.

It featured lots of chrome trim including two 'flying A' adornments on the wings which by today's standards would be looked on in horror by the pedestrian safety lobby.

They look almost ready to scythe into some poor unfortunate like the knives that were said to be attached to Boadicea's chariot.

But in the late 40s and early 50s it was daring styling all the way and few gave a thought to the dangers of such frippery.

The hardtop sports saloon appeared in 1949 with an elegant rigid roof and extra wide rear window.

To me, this saloon was the better car with side windows controlled by quick-action levers. One rather cruel journalist posed the question that quick action window openers may be for the convenience of passengers affected by the soggy suspension.

The Atlantic was powered by a 2,660cc four cylinder in-line engine which later found fame under the bonnet of the Austin Healey.

This was a flashy car when I was a toddler. By the time I was gaining an interest in motors, many remaining examples were beginning to look very tatty round the edges. Like most cars of their time, Atlantics could rust with the best.

The Atlantic was one of the first post war cars to be designed from scratch by Austin and is reputed to have emanated from a sketch by Austin chairman Leonard Lord. However, the work is more likely to be by resident Austin stylist Dick Burzi.

Because of disappointing sales the Atlantic was quietly dropped from the Austin range. It was a good try and a quite remarkable car for its day but its styling went off faster than a pint of milk left out in the sun.


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