The 96 Club, one of London’s most prestigious car clubs has discovered a rare 1936 Austin 7 Open Tourer which has sat untouched in a shed since the 1970s. The story behind this little car is intriguing and is the kind of genuine garage find that we petrolheads dream of discovering.
Last week, 96 Club president Michael Scott got a tip off from an Aston Martin owning friend, who happened to live in New York, that one of their friends had just bought a house in North London and mentioned there was some old car in the garden. Curious as to what it might be, Michael dispatched 96 Club Technical Officer and automotive journalist Simon Duval Smith to investigate. On arrival Simon discovered that builders had already removed four skips full of rubbish from the house and garden, revealing a shed with an old car still inside. With the help of the builders, Simon was able to dismantle the tin shed and much to the new owners surprise, it housed a very dusty but apparently sound automotive gem… a 1936 Austin 7 Open Road Tourer!
As the old vintage car was slowly dragged out into daylight, possibly for the first time in five decades, Simon was able to take in what they had found. Amazingly the Austin 7 Open Road Tourer was in remarkable shape for a vintage car that had sat in a tin shed. While it was covered in decades of dust, cobwebs and surface rust, both the bodywork and chassis were remarkably sound. Evidence of old oil leaks had coated some of the underside, which helped to preserve what is a delicate car. Even the front tyres still held air which was unexpected after standing for so long.
The engine bay was also in decent shape considering its age and while everything had a coating of surface rust, it was intact and mostly complete. The tiny little 747cc side valve engine is a very simple affair and one would expect it wouldn’t take much effort to get it running again once all the checks were done. An application of Simon’s unseizing recipe of ATF mixed with Acetone saw the motor spinning over freely on the starting handle.
On the inside the interior was covered in decades of accumulated grime and cobwebs, but it was all there. The seats were scruffy but everything else was intact, with the speedometer showing a credible 11,000 on the clock. While there is no fully stamped service book to confirm the miles, the tax disc on the windscreen which was dated to May 1970, suggests that it is likely genuine.
Even the side screens were intact. The hood however was torn and is quite possibly the original one that was fitted back in 1936.
Also found in the tumble down shed was a surprisingly large selection of spares, includes wheels, a spare engine and two gearboxes, two engine blocks, a new wiring loom and trafficators, plus lots of other parts that the previous owner had accumulated over the years. Clearly they had intended to keep the Austin going but that never happened for whatever reason.
So how did this little vintage British tourer come to rest in a shed at the bottom of a garden? Well the story goes that the previous owner got divorced, remortgaged the house and then defaulted, which resulted in the house being seized by the bank. It is possible the Austin 7 was stashed away in the shed to hide it during the divorce proceedings.
At the end of the day we may never know the whole story of how it ended up being left there. Further adding to the saga was the fact that the car itself became stuck at the property, as the rear access lane was built over by houses and a block of flats many years ago. It seems faith was determined to consign this little car to an entombed oblivion.
Whatever the series of events were that took place all those years ago, they all conspired to squirrel away this rare 1936 Austin 7 Open Road Tourer from sight. It is remarkable that it managed to survive intact and unmolested into the 1970s, especially when so many other Austin 7’s donated their parts to create Austin 7 Special racers. It is even more astonishing it survived in that shed at the bottom of the garden. No doubt the micro climate that is the city of London helped somewhat in this matter.
It may look like a bit of state right now but with a days cleaning of the interior, a good wipe down of the outside and some new rubber, this little gem will scrub up to be the genuine survivor that it is. A survivor with bags of patina, character and plenty of smiles per mile. The good news is that this Austin 7 is now in the hands of the 96 Club, who will put it back on the road as soon as it gets the TLC it deserves and once the pandemic restrictions have been relaxed. If one vintage survivor deserves to remain unrestored and given the oily rag look, it is this 1936 Austin 7 Open Road Tourer!
Thanks to Simon Duval Smith for supplying the photos