The Austin A40 Devon/Dorset

The Austin A40 Devon was the replacement for the Austin Eight, Ten and Twelve h.p. saloons. It was a four-door saloon, with a ‘sister’ two-door version, the A40 Dorset. The ’40’ indicated the 40 BHP power output of the engine, though early prototypes were designated with the ‘Ten’ name, using the old RAC hp rating.

It used a new 1,200cc overhead-valve engine – a predecessor to the similar ‘A’ and ‘B’ series units, which formed the basis of many of Austin, BMC, BLMC and British Leyland engines for decades to come.

The car had a separate chassis, and was fitted with independent front suspension, a new feature for Austin saloons. From a style perspective it was more streamlined than previous Austins, with no running boards or separate front wings, and headlamps built into the front bodywork.

The A40 Dorset used the same chassis and running gear as the A40 Devon, and was originally planned with a slightly (4 inches) narrower track. However, although announced as such by Leonard Lord on the official launch 78 rpm record, an intriguingly-placed sticker on the record sleeve, under the heading ‘erratum’ indicated that the two cars had identical track measurements.

A large proportion of Dorsets were exported, many to Australia, where locally-built open-top versions were available.

The A40 Devon had a number of commercial derivatives – van, Countryman (estate) and pick-up. These used the Devon body shape (as opposed to the later A40 Somerset body) and production of the commercials continued until late 1956, with saloon production ending in 1952.