HomePick of the DayPocket-size 1931 American Austin

Pocket-size 1931 American Austin

The Pick of the Day is a minuscule but stylish vehicle built in Pennsylvania


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.

austin, Pocket-size 1931 American Austin, ClassicCars.com Journal

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

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. Good morning.

    Very intrested in this car. But, I do not want the car to Norway before August.

    Two questions;
    1. Can you aske for a shipping price to Norway. The best is if it’s possible to Stavanger, but also Oslo/Drammen is OK.
    2. What amount regarding down payment, the rest before you send the car.

    Thank you, Leidulf.

  2. I love these little cars. I first saw one in Snohomish, Washington in or around 1980. It belonged to the fire department. These are very cool two person cars. Agree with the Philistine statement( made me laugh) that that red devil shift knob has got to go. You may ship this car to me C.O.D. Payable over the next ten years.
    God bless America

  3. Hi
    I filled out one of these a few weeks ago.

    Single I haven’t heard from you, does that mean you are not interested in buying my car?

    Thank you.


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