COLONIAL CAR OF THE MONTH
Geoff Hall’s story of his 1938 Austin 7
This 1938 Austin 7 started its working life being registered to Wilbur Walker, at the Police Station in Dimboola Victoria. I’m not sure if it was the pursuit vehicle, or just his mode of transport to get to and from work, but I like the idea of it being used in high speed (35-40mph) chases through the country roads of Victoria.
In 1951, it made its way to Melbourne where it spent some time in Bentleigh, Caulfield, Black Rock and Thornbury, before my father took it on as his first car in Ivanhoe Victoria. He drove around in it with his mates who also had Austin 7’s in similar states of disrepair, but they all had great fun. Especially with the windscreen folded down for less wind resistance.
One day the car almost fell over but my Dad’s sailing friend knew which way to lean, and with the suicide door popping open, and pirouetting the car, they managed to stay the right way up. On another adventure, the front wheels got stuck in the tram lines and the car steered itself into a nearby depot.
During this time, Dad also bought a spare Austin 7, but after a couple of years, he upgraded to a Ford Cortina and the Austins started resting at my grandparent’s house.
As the car was taking up too much space, it was dismantled for easier storage, with a view to restoring it. One day my father found out that his ‘spare’ Austin 7 had been taken to the tip, so he hurried over to pick up the good one before my grandfather disposed of it.
Dad shifted the car in a double horse float to his friend Otto’s farm. The car sat in a hay shed for a few years before moving again.
The car then followed dad to his new family home in Canterbury, where under the house, the floor pan, steering wheel and other parts became a playground for his young sons and daughter.
That’s when we started talking about restoring the Austin 7. When I was 5, I brought one of the wheels to school for show and tell … and later, Dad said “Maybe when you’re 14 we can start restoring it”.
That didn’t happen, but all of the parts went to a new family home in Belgrave, when I was 19, so the dream of restoring the car was still alive, though the reality seemed a long way off.
I picked the car up from Dad in 2005 – I still had a dream ... and at the age of 34 started on the long road.
I joined the Melbourne Austin 7 club and the Canberra Antique and Classic Motor club where I met up with some Austin 7 owners.
I didn’t do much for the first few years - children came along and house renovations, but I kept at it and 8 years later got it registered.
I did a lot of it myself—welding, rust repairs, new woodwork body work, and some painting. Most of the mechanical parts were sourced from a half-restored Austin 7 that I bought along the way. This made the project an achievable dream.
Eight years later, and a lot of late nights in the garage, the car was registered just as it reached a couple of milestones, it turned 75, and in December 2013, it was 50 years since my father took ownership of it.
In March this year, Dad helped me take the car to Shannons Wheels, and had his first drive in the car for a very long time.
I must add that I could not have done it without help and services from the following people and organisations:
- My Dad, David Hall, for holding on to the parts for all those years
- Paul Grant – my uncle, who lent me his welder and other tools for extended periods of time
- John Partridge – who lent me the bandsaw and other wood working tools
- Paddy Martin – helped with spraying undercoat and other odds and ends
- Brian Hourigan – who did the first coats of Green and showed me how to paint
- Auto Paint Supplies, Fyshwick—for friendly advice and matching the green from my old dashboard
- Graham from Civic Smash Repairs who prepared and painted the black guards
- AA sandblasting
- Classic and Vintage Bulbs in South Australia
- Robert Pegg from Pegg’s Auto Trimmers who turned a body shell into a car
- Eddie Walewicz Glass who supplied and fitted the windscreen
- Austin 7 Club Victoria – a great source of parts and advice. People are amazed when I say I could buy a brand new head for a 1938 car and have it delivered in a few days
- Ken Walker and Harry Crawford – for their interest in the project from start to finish.