Austin Motor Co. Ltd, Longbridge Works, Northfield, Birmingham, England / Societe Anonyme Austin, Liancourt (Oise), France
The Austin Motor Co. was founded in 1905 by Herbert Austin, with the first car being produced the following year. In 1913 Austin also began to build trucks, but with the onset of the First World War the factory was turned over to the production of munitions. During the war, Austin was involved in selling imported American tractors, and when hostilities ended he turned his attention designing his own machine, spurred on by the success of the US-built Fordson. Rather than develop a completely new engine for this tractor though, he chose to use a proven 20 hp power unit that was already being used in Austin cars and trucks, and was available in either petrol-only or petrol/paraffin versions. When the Austin Model R tractor emerged in 1919, it was evident that its design owed a great deal to that of the Fordson. In fact it was better engineered and more powerful than its American rival, but the down side was that it was considerably more expensive and questions were also raised about its reliability. Nevertheless, Austin tractors were exported as far afield as Australia, South Africa and South America.
Austins also proved particularly popular in France, and to overcome the problem of high import duties imposed by the French government, Austin decided to open a factory there at Liancourt in the Oise region north of Paris. Production at the Liancourt factory began in August 1919, with tractors initially being assembled from parts shipped from Longbridge. Sales were high and the French import restrictions now worked to Austin's advantage, keeping the American Fordsons out. French-built Austin tractors were even exported back to England. When tractor production ended at Longbridge in the mid-1920s, Societe Anonyme Austin, as it was known, began to develop its own models that incorporated a number of improvements on the original English design. By the end of the decade, a whole range of Austin tractors were available, including two different widths of vineyard model and industrial versions on either solid rubber or pneumatic tyres. The 1930s saw the introduction of diesel engines into Austin tractors, and these models were offered at least until the start of the Second World War, when the Liancourt factory fell into the hands of the invading Germans. As for Herbert Austin, he died in 1941 at the age of 74, and in July 1952 the Austin Motor Co. merged with the Nuffield Organization to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC).
English-built tractors (1919-1924?)
The Austin Model R was produced from 1919 and used an Austin four-cylinder petrol/paraffin engine. This had a bore and stroke of 3.75 x 5 in and developed 27.39 hp at 1500 rpm. The tractor had two forward speeds and one reverse with a cone-type clutch, and was fitted with a tubular radiator and very large belt pulley. A Zenith carburettor and North and Sons (Watford) Ltd magneto were used. English-built Austin tractors seem to have been painted green with red wheels.
French-built tractors (1921-1939?)
Photo of French-built Austin 22-35hp from a 1931 trade journal (click on image to enlarge)
The first French-built Austins of the early 1920s were basically just English tractors assembled in France. At some point though, they took on their own identity, with the most noticeable differences being the addition of a water pump as standard and oval radiator surround, and replacement of the short, deep two-stopper fuel tank with a longer, shallower tank that passed under the bonnet. The first distinct French-built model to be featured in advertising seems to have been the A.M.26, which emerged in 1926 (it appears that the last two digits in this and subsequent model names indicate the year it was introduced). A novel form of removable rear wheel grip was provided in the form of two semicircular bands with lugs attached for each wheel, which were fixed together using a pin and wedge. The A.M.26 was followed by the slightly-modified B.O.28 model, with disengagable pulley and changes to the clutch and gearbox, perhaps intended more for threshing contractors? Other variants included the I.B.A.28 and I.P.E.29 industrial tractors on solid rubber tyres and pneumatics, respectively.
In 1929 the S.A.3 model was announced, together with a V.33 vineyard version - these featured numerous improvements, including three speeds and an improved air-cleaner. The early 1930s saw the introduction of a whole new range, with the flagship model being the D.E.30 15-25 hp tractor. Two different widths of vineyard tractor were now offered - the V.34 and the V.90 - and a larger, more powerful 22-35 hp model also joined the lineup. Flat-topped mudguards and an even more sophisticated design of air-cleaner were standard. The 1930s also saw the introduction of diesel versions of the 15-25 hp and 22-35 hp models, as well as the introduction of a larger 45-55 hp tractor, all of which used Austin's own design of diesel engine. Prior to this, some Austins had been fitted with proprietary CLM diesel engines.
(Click on images to enlarge)
Austin Model R (serial no. R131) at the Little Casterton Working Weekend, Lincolnshire, England in 2012.
Austin Model R (serial no. R205) at Onslow Park Rally, Shropshire (UK) in 2006 and the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk, Netherlands in 2008.
Austin Model R (serial no. R240) at Onslow Park Rally, Shropshire, England in 2007.
Austin Model R (serial no. R1290) at Carrington Rally, Lincolnshire, England in 2005.
Austin Model R (serial no. R1803) at the Williams sale, Herefordshire, England in 2012.
Austin Model R (serial no. R2042) at the World of Country Life, Exmouth, Devon, England in 2012.
Austin Model R (serial no. R2277) at Stapehill Abbey Museum, England in 2006.
Austin Model R at the Somerset Vintage & Classic Tractor Show, England in 2006.
Austin Model R at the Bedfordshire Steam and Country Fayre, Old Warden Park, England in 2006.
Austin Model R at the Mid Devon Working Rally, Crediton, Devon, England in 2006.
Austin Model R with replacement wheels at the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum, New Zealand in 2006.
Austin Model R at at Tractor World, Malvern, Worcestershire, England in 2010.
Austin Model R at Carrington Rally, Lincolnshire, England in 2011.
Austin Model R at Dairyland Farm World, Newquay, Cornwall, England in 2012.
Austin (serial no. 716) at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Dorset, England in 2010. This tractor is fitted with a special manifold, manufactured by Memini, which enables it to run on either petrol or diesel. Note also the presence of a water pump.
Austin at Carrington Rally, Lincolnshire, England in 2005. This appears to be a very early French-built tractor, which still carries the English-style radiator.
Austin (heavily modified) at the Mezogazdasagi Gepmuzeum, Mezokovesd, Hungary in 2006.
Austin at an auction in Cornwall, England in 2010.
Austin (serial no. 1599) at the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk, Netherlands in 2011.
Austin (serial no. 1907) at Carrington Rally, Lincolnshire, England in 2009.
Austin at Onslow Park Rally, Shropshire, England in 2005.
Austin Model B.O.28 (serial no. 2954) at the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk, Netherlands in 2011.
Austin Model B.O.28 (serial no. 3011) at the Mid Devon Working Rally, Crediton, Devon, England in 2009.
Austin Model S.A.3 (serial no. 4261) at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Dorset, England in 2005.
Austin Model D.E.30 (serial no. 5045) at Carrington Rally, Lincolnshire, England in 2008. It is unclear whether the wheels were factory-supplied or pneumatic rims were added to cut-off steel wheels at a later date. Note the LATAM winch fitted in place of the more usual pulley.
Austin Model D.E.30 (serial no. 5511) at the Musee Agrivap, Ambert, France in 2002.
Austin Model D.E.30 photographed in Devon, England in 2006.
Austin Model D.E.30 at the Vooroorlogse Tractorshow Bergeijk, Netherlands in 2008.
Austin 22-35hp (serial no. 5398) at Onslow Park Rally, Shropshire, England in 2005. Note the all-round higher profile.
Austin 22-35hp at Breamore Countryside Museum, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, England in 2012.
Austin vineyard model at the Musee Maurice Dufresne, Azay-le-Rideau, France in 2007.
Austin V.34 vineyard model at Onslow Park Rally, Shropshire, England in 2005.
I would like to thank Andrew and David Seeley, as well as the Amis-Collectionneurs d'Anciens Documents Agricoles (ACADA), for their help with compiling the information on this page.
Copyright © 2006-2012 David Parfitt. All rights reserved.