American Austin was a short-lived US automaker that produced tiny cars in Butler, Pennsylvania, after its founding in 1929 by British entrepreneur Sir Herbert Austin. After going broke in 1935 during the throes of the Great Depression, the company was reborn as American Bantam.
The Pick of the Day is a 1931 American Austin coupe that looks something like a shrunken Ford, although it was styled by famed industrial designer Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, who imbued it with a small but undeniable presence.
The idea here was to present American drivers with the kind of thrifty automobile that Europeans drove, minuscule vehicles that got terrific fuel mileage and were able to duck under the taxation rules of the day, which penalized larger engine displacement.
The fact that American drivers faced no such taxes and that gasoline was cheap and plentiful did not deter the manufacturer. The Austin seemed to appeal to the public, though, which overwhelmed the small company with orders, at least until the economic turmoil took its toll on sales and tanked the enterprise.
Sitting on a 75-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 10 feet and weight of just over 1,100 pounds, the Austin coupe is powered by a 45 cid L-head inline-4 engine that musters a resounding 13 horsepower.
“For what it lacks in speed and size, the little car is a little spitfire that is a joy to drive,” according to the Kentwood, Michigan, dealer advertising the coupe of ClassicCars.com. The dealer also advises the obvious caveat that “the little car won’t fit everyone.”
“The car is finished in a beautiful navy blue over black fenders and features disc wheels on all four corners,” the seller notes. “Complementing the exterior is a soft cream-leather interior that despite being spartan feels top quality.”
The photos with the ad show a trim minicar in apparently decent condition, with some use-related patina but still presentable. The door handle on the passenger side seems to be missing, and some Philistine replaced the shifter knob with a garishly ugly, bright-red Devil’s head. That would need to be jettisoned even before the door handle is replaced.
The asking price for this small and unusual American Austin is also diminutive, at $12,900. The possible downside would be fending off a constant barrage of clown-car comments.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.