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Great British Car Journey’s barn find proves Austin really is ‘Britain’s dependable car’

An Austin Heavy 12/4, which was owned from new by the same family for 90 years, is working once again despite having spent the last 43 years stored in an overgrown timber garage.

Purchased on 22 July 1931 by Fred Woodhall, the Austin 12/4 travelled many thousands of miles in the UK as well as throughout Europe. In 1961 the car was passed on to the original owner’s son and then great grandson, Charles Clarkson who has now donated it to the Great British Car Journey based in Ambergate, Derbyshire. 

Despite being forgotten about for more than 40 years, with only minor attention, the engine started, and the electrics worked. Additionally, the car’s brakes work, it pulls strongly in all gears, the dynamo charges, the radiator still holds water, and all major functions are fine; all testament to the manufacturer’s claim in the 30s that Austin was ‘Britain’s Dependable Car’.

Richard Usher, Chief Executive of Great British Car Journey explained: “I was absolutely flabbergasted when the car started given the storage conditions. The garage was so overgrown with ivy we couldn’t open the doors so had to physically remove them in order to get to the car. Once we got the car out and lifted the bonnet it looked like the engine had completely seized.”

The car retains all its original features and is in remarkable condition given its storage conditions. Now on display at the classic car visitor attraction, there are no plans to restore the Austin 12/4. Richard explained why: “We’ve given it a clean and a polish but that’s it. Great British Car Journey is all about preserving the history of vehicles and part of that is showing how they’ve been used and the life they have led.

“The fact this car has survived being driven many thousands of miles and is driveable after more than 40 years off the road is testimony to Austin’s build quality and Britain’s motoring heritage. I am delighted that we have been able to add this remarkable example of a pre war Austin to the Great British Car Journey collection.”