The A70 Hampshire was introduced in September 1948 as the replacement for the Austin Sixteen. Using the same robust OHV 2.2 litre 4-cylinder engine as its predecessor, it took its styling from the smaller A40. Indeed the chassis for the original A70 was adapted from the A40 too. The prototype Hampshire was subjected to a rigorous 5,000 mile test through Europe to Norway and back to Longbridge.
The Hampshire extended Austin’s ‘Counties’ theme for naming new cars that had been introduced with the Devon and Dorset. The A70 rating was once again taken from the 70 B.H.P. power output, in the same manner as the A40 range. The Hampshire also featured a column-mounted gear change, a feature which would appear in subsequent ‘Counties’ models and would allow the closely-mounted front seats to be aligned as a bench to allow the occasional seating of a third front seat passenger.
The four door body was of what was described as a six light design and it looked like a scaled up Devon as it shared the same front chrome grille and side window glasses. The rear wheels were enclosed by detachable spats to emphasise the car’s flowing lines.
A wooden-bodied Countryman version was available (from Jan 1950) and a longer-wheelbase chassis was available for commercial applications, including pick-ups, vans and metal-bodied estate cars. At least two convertibles variations were also built by well known European coachbuilders.
A Hampshire hit the headlines in 1949 when it was driven from London to Cape Town in 24 days, knocking an incredible eight days off the previous best journey time. This was not an ‘official’ Austin works record attempt but motoring enthusiasts Ralph Sleigh and Peter Jopling did have the blessing of Alan Hess and Leonard Lord. Their return to Britain was heralded with a grand celebration at the London headquarters of Car Mart, Austin’s leading London distributor.
Production of the Hampshire was short lived, and ceased in 1950, when the car was superseded by the A70 Hereford. This makes the Hampshire very rare today.
Total production of the Hampshire saloon was 34,360.