This year, 2022, marks the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Austin Seven and this post continues the story of the car and the variants that evolved from the basic 1922 design.
As we saw previously, by 1921 the Austin factory at Longbridge was in receivership. To try to achieve economies of scale, as Ford had with their successful Manchester-built Model ‘T’, the factory had cut their model range to just one car, the large and expensive, 3.6 litre Austin Twenty.
Sir Herbert Austin wanted to produce a small car as an alternative to the motorbike and sidecar and, largely at his own initiative, embarked on the design of what became the Austin Seven.
With the first prototype of the Austin Seven emerging in July 1922, and the production version released at the London Motor Show in November 1922, it gave an opportunity for the ordinary family to purchase a simple, small, but perfectly practical vehicle in which they could travel in comparative comfort and safety, come rain or shine. The previous option of a motor bike and sidecar had meant being unable to hold a conversation, getting wet and cold, and coping with the inherent instability of a three-wheeled vehicle.
Also, in 1922, William Lyons and William Walmsley (we will come across these names in a future post) went into partnership to produce motorcycle sidecars. Their company name was Swallow Sidecars Ltd. They moved their business from Blackpool to Coventry in 1928. Just prior to the move, in 1927, the company started to produce both an open tourer and saloon coach-built body for the Austin Seven chassis with the resulting cars being known as the Austin Seven Swallow and Austin Seven Swallow Saloon.
Their design was less box-like and more stylish than their main competitors. It included two-tone paint and a quality interior. All for just £175. (By 1932, even this price had only increased to £187).
The example in the museum, shown above, was built in 1929 but production continued until 1933 with a total of around 2,500 two-seaters and saloons being made.
Many further examples of Swallow cars exist. The Swallow company not only built on the Austin Seven chassis but examples can be found on Wolseley, Morris, Standard and Fiat chassis. Irrespective of which manufacturer provided the basis of the coach-built Swallow, the distinguishing features of the resulting car were the high build quality and the exceptionally good value for money: features that would stand Swallow in excellent stead for what was to follow.