Austin A90 Atlantic – 1948

Oops! The launch of the Austin A90 Atlantic at the 1918 Earls Court Moto Show in London was a gallant but misguided attempt to create a postwar export winner, by appealing directly to the American market with a car that looked vaguely . . . American.

Unsurprisingly, the USA had plenty of American-styled ears of its own, and preferred imported vehicles to have the cachet of patently European design. Sadly for Austin, this meant that the Atlantic was successful on neither side of the Atlantic – despite heroic marketing efforts that included rally outings and record attempts – and production was ended in 1952 after fewer that 8,000 of these distinctive vehicles had been built .

It’s a pity, because these streamlined two-door cars are certainly appreciated (and appreciating in value) today. The first Atlantics were convertibles with an interesting optional power-operated mechanism to close the hood. A hardtop sports coupe version followed in 1949 which had an unusual wind- down rear window. In fact, the styling wasn’t truly American, but did include a rounded front end with five chrome strips and central fog lamp, plus bravura touches like a ‘Flying A’ mascot on each wing as well as the central Austin winged motif. Those teardrop wings swept down to a sloping tail with enclosed rear wheels.

It also sported novel flashing traffic indicators rather than the more usual semaphore arms and offered optional hydraulically operated windows and an Ecko radio.

But the Americans still weren’t convinced, and only a few hundred were sold in the States, though buyers in Europe and British Commonwealth countries were more easily impressed and nearly half the total production run was exported to Scandinavia and Australasia. Few examples of this interesting failure have survived, as handling was poor and rust-proofing wasn’t a priority.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN;

UK

FIRST manufactured;

1948 (until 1952)

ENGINE:

2,660 cc Straight four

PERFORMANCE:

A top speed of 92 mph (148 km/h) was claimed, with a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 16.6 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The A90 was not replaced when it was discontinued, though the engine lived on in the classic Austin Healey 100 sports car and another Austin A90 appeared in 1954 – though this was the entirely different Westminster model.

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