So that went well.

Comments Off on So that went well.

So, after debate and searching I ended up buying an Austin 1300 Auto. A car that doesn’t exist.

The Austin 1300 is, frankly, quite a pretty car.
Morris 1300
And I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot and been intrigued by BMC’s Hydrolastic suspension – which apparently gave impressively good handling and ride for its time.

However, the 1100/1300 series only, so far as I’m aware, came as an Automatic in the 1100 series. I’ve only ever seen 1100 automatics which must have all the power of a wet lettuce; possibly even sufficient power to pull the skin off custard, so when I came across this wee beastie, I was a bit keen. It’s a 1300, but it’s been fitted with the automatic engine and box from a car a decade newer, the Austin Metro.

Mmm, Hydrolastic goodness...

Hardly likely to be awesomely powerful, but enough, I thought to keep up with traffic and trundle up and down motorways for my shifts. Also, simple enough and filled with common-as-muck parts that I can repair it.

Unfortunately, it was in Newcastle. A mere 295 miles away from home (by the route I ended up unintenionally taking). So having agreed to buy the car based on lots of photos and a description I bought my train ticket, hopped on the train, and headed north. Newcastle put on a pretty face for me, and the train journey was actually delightful. Aircon worked, the train was on time, and apart from a mid-journey train swap (which took about 5 minutes) due to an unnamed fault on the train we were on, completely uneventful.

I tried out the Newcastle Metro which feels gloriously 70s (despite being opened in the 80s), all that we’ve discovered brown, and it’s the new black that went on then (I used to have a 1982 Golf, it was like they’d only just discovered Brown and needed to use it everywhere). Also, apparently, home to the only railway station in Britain with signage in Latin. Didn’t know that.

And finally arrived to see the car. A quick once-over revealed that the owner had neglected to mention that it was wired by a lunatic. You know the ‘spiders on drugs’ experiment?

Spiders on various drugs made these webs


Well, the wiring of the engine bay looks much like it’s been done by a spider on Amphetamines and Caffeine. No planning, wires that go nowhere, and completely random layout.

However, the current owner swore blind it’d been absolutely fine for the past 2 years.

So, I budgeted in my head for wiring the loom in the engine bay, the rest seeming (thankfully) intact. Then I budgeted for a new carpet and underlay, because it’s got badly fitting domestic carpet (£120ish). The rest of it, well, it was sporting a year’s MOT and it both ran fine and stopped fine so I decided it was worth, as we say, a punt.

Of course, things went downhill from there.

As I struggled down the A194, intermittent traffic flow problems ongoing, I had, rather suddenly, to do a stop of the variety that I’d rather avoid. Not quite an emergency stop, but pretty rapid from a fair speed. All went well. Until I thought “that exhaust’s got a bit louder”. Then I put my foot on the accelerator and realised that ‘a bit’ was somewhat of an understatement.

A mile down the road I pulled into the services and peered under the car expecting to see a broken exhaust hanging down, but no. I couldn’t see anything amiss. I could hear it, but couldn’t see it, which lead to my overly optimistic hope that I might be able to just patch it up for the time being. It turned out that in fact, about a 2′ long section of the exhaust had dropped off. Which is inconvenient. Especially since I’ve now discovered that it’s a, and I use this term most loosely, custom exhaust. Apparently made by chopping up a Metro exhaust. Having spent a lot of time on the phone I’ve managed to find a company that’ll supply a metro front section, and a company that’ll make up a rear section for a 1300 to fit. Hopefully it’ll all go together, though this did involve a ‘delightful’ trip to a exhaust company (called Ablefit) who invited me to bring it in for them to have a look. After a 20 minute drive through hideous traffic in a car with no exhaust, first they declined to look at all, then they literally glanced under the car, stated the exhaust was a huge bodge, and said they’d not be able to help anyway because they had nothing even faintly appropriate.

So we won’t be using Ablefit to fit the exhaust when it does arrive – they’ve joined Hanham Motor Company as companies I wouldn’t dream of letting touch a car of mine because they’ve been awful in some way or other.

Anyhow, back to the journey. By this time I’d discovered one of the car’s other foibles. The speedo’s grasp of reality was, well, faint, at best.

Whilst it certainly indicated higher numbers as we went faster, and lower as we went slower, keeping up with the other traffic on the A194 had required a top speed of about 40mph, and the engine sounded like it was working much harder than it should’ve been for that speed. By the time I’d hit the motorway it’d dawned on me that on a free flowing motorway it was unlikely that everyone was doing 50mph. I finally gave in and broke out my GPS and there, on screen, was the truth. At 50mph indicated I was doing 70mph.

Apart from the near heart attack that I’ve been through potentially several speed cameras, possibly at well in excess the speed limit (although mostly at the speed of the surrounding traffic), I now had to run my GPS to keep track of speed – and had another joyous thing to add to the now growing list of repairs. Speedo recalibration.

Still, apart from a slightly sticky starter motor, and the exhaust dropping off, it sucked a minute amount of dinosaur juice on the way home, it was pretty comfortable, and the ride really is astonishing for a car from 1971. The autobox seems to function as it should, and it runs nice and smoothly, so far.

My quick glance underneath says it’s tatty but serviceable. I can’t say it’s in excellent condition, but nor does it make me weep. That said I’ve not looked inside the sills or anything like that…

Anyhow, it should do for whilst we’re converting the minor and I’m hoping not, after this, suck up too much money that’s meant to be going on the minor. I’m also hoping that with a cut-and-polish it’ll look a wee bit more respectable, and we can maybe recoup some of these costs on selling.

The newest member of the fleet is home, but still sadly without an exhaust. Anyone got a mk III 1300 exhaust spare?

Despite all of this, I’m so far not writing it off as a lemon, and we’ve not hit the price point where I start to think thoughts like that…


Kate's allegedly a human (although increasingly right-wing bigots would say otherwise). She's definitely not a vampire, despite what some other people claim. She's also mostly built out of spite and overcoming oppositional-sexism, racism, and other random bullshit. So she's either a human or a lizard in disguise sent to destroy all of humanity. Either way, she's here to reassure that it's all fine.