BUYING AN AUSTIN 7 - PART 1
Before you start:
▪ Join a Club - loads of useful advice and support
▪ Look at as many models as you can
▪ Read the many books on the A7
▪ Choose your ‘target model’
▪ Test drive a ‘good one’ in the Club
▪ Research typical prices
▪ Buy through a Club - member/advert
▪ Take someone knowledgeable along
▪ Check it has a valid Log Book/V5C and MoT
▪ Check numbers match those on the car
▪ Ask about car history - ask previous owner
▪ Check for originality - if that’s important to you
▪ Assess the current owner - engineering, knowledge
▪ Determine reason for sale
▪ Check paintwork and upholstery - expensive items
▪ Any signs of water leakage into the car
▪ Look at the oil - dipstick and under car!
▪ Look at water - oily surface or obvious leaks
▪ Is the car level both ways? and proper ride-height
▪ Do the lights work? - including stop-lights and indicators if fitted
Some Specifics (tech):
▪ Check hand and footbrake travel
▪ Check clutch travel
▪ Look at grease nipples - and where its supposed to come out!
▪ Jack up back wheels - check slack-motion and bearings
▪ Jack up front axle - check king-pins, steering slack and bearings
▪ Run engine and listen for timing gears, big/small ends and mains
On the road:
▪ Test drive for pick up, pulling, steering, stopping and general feel
▪ Do you feel comfortable driving it?
When you’ve bought it:
▪ Do the DVLA paperwork/MoT (if needed)
▪ Insure it at ‘agreed value’ with Richardson Hosken - excellent value
▪ Check all over thoroughly
Enjoy Your Austin Sevening!
BUYING AN AUSTIN SEVEN PART 2
If you are looking to buy an Austin Seven I thought this article might be useful to provide a focus on the various steps from initial ideas to final purchase.
This article might also be called “Buyer Beware” because if you let your heart rule your head, then it is possible to get seriously caught out just as in any used car purchase. Hopefully, if you do some research and proceed carefully you will come up with the car of your dreams at a sensible price.
In this first part of a two part article we look at personal factors, doing some useful research and where you might source your car. Next, we move on to making enquiries, visual assessment, and finally negotiating the purchase.
Personal preferences and circumstances
It’s worth asking yourself your reasons for wanting an Austin Seven. What is it that appeals to you and is there a particular type or model – most people who don’t know the range think “Chummy” or “Ruby” regardless of what it is, so this shows the need for research! In terms of style do you want a tourer, a saloon, a sports special or even possibly a van to advertise your business? Do you want a car that needs restoration, one that has already been restored or perhaps an original unrestored car? Remember it will always be cheaper to buy a restored or original car than to restore it yourself! That said you may enjoy the challenge of restoration as a hobby, but also consider your partner if you have one, in terms of spending two years in the garage on a promise of better times to come!
Do you have the necessary skills to do all the work or will you have to pay others for some or all of the restoration and do you have some decent accommodation for the project/vehicle?
Finally set yourself a realistic budget, which includes plenty of contingency for obvious things that might need attention and the surprises you didn’t know about. A full re-spray with preparation can easily cost £3000! You will get a better idea of price under the heading of “Sourcing Your Vehicle”
You would not buy a Japanese vase without doing some research so why buy an Austin Seven without doing the same?
It is useful to acquaint yourself with the basic history of the Seven from 1922 – 1939. Find out what models were produced and when and what they look like. Research the difference between each model through the years and the key dates of major mechanical changes like coupled brakes, larger crankshaft and three bearing engines.
Typically what might you expect to see on the dashboard of a 1927 car compared to a 1931 model and what do the lamps, wheels and upholstery look like?
A good reference book is “The Austin Seven” by RJ Wyatt. In it you will be able to track the complete history of Seven production with plenty of illustrations, not only showing the cars but things like wings and running boards. The appendix will allow you to see all the changes against a particular year and show chassis and engine number ranges.
Other than Wyatt, a good book is “Austin Seven Companion” published by the 750 Motor Club which contains a plethora of useful information and illustrations collected from many articles and publications – essential to ensure your prospective purchase has the correct back axle etc. If you want to look at original details then “Original Austin Seven” by Rinsey Mills is your book. All of these books are available to borrow from our Club Library run by Len Tomkins.
You need to know where you can find the relevant chassis and engine numbers on a car, and research on the internet on the Austin Seven Clubs Association website will help you with “Always Quote This Number” telling you where to locate numbers stamped on the chassis, engine and car. The A7CA website will have more information and links than you will ever need about Austin Sevens! There is also no substitute for seeing all the various models at the start or lunch stop of one of our Club Runs or at a rally such as 750 Beaulieu.
Sourcing Your Vehicle
The survival rate for Austin Sevens is between three to four percent representing about ten thousand cars worldwide - so where do you start? It’s probably a good thing to begin by just looking at current adverts in various publications and on the web. Pick up “Classic Car Weekly” for a free read in WH Smith or perhaps “The Automobile” might have one or two but don’t be discouraged by dealers adverts – an eight thousand pound car might go for six thousand privately and at the top end, a fifteen thousand pound car will probably go for ten thousand privately. In terms of prices, Sevens have gone up considerably since the so called recession, as retired folk with time and some money seek to satisfy a desire for a retirement project instead of leaving it invested at minimal interest. Dealers have taken advantage of the situation, screwing prices out to see what the market will stand and establishing a new price for a particular model once someone has paid it.
On the web the best site for variety and numbers for sale is “Car & Classic” but relax and don’t rush into anything! You can also look at eBay classified.
Just as in modern cars, there are some good dealers and traders and some bad ones. Someone who makes a living has overheads, they will have sourced the vehicle and advertised it but the problem is that unless they specialise in Austin Sevens they will have little knowledge of what they are selling and the bad ones out there operate without a conscience, so beware showroom shine and smart talking! However, if you are looking for something rare or exotic, then a dealer may be your only source.
You also need to be aware of “dealer speak” when responding to an inflated price “private” advert where perhaps part exchange is offered or the car takes on a female gender with phrases like “she runs well” or “she drives without fault”.
Another source is vehicle auctions, but yet again you need to do a fair bit of research into the way auctions run and the limited ability to assess the car. You will seldom find a bargain from the big boys who charge heavy buyers premiums, but that said if on the day everyone is looking in the realms of exotic cars, a lowly Austin might just slip below the radar if nobody is interested. You will usually get a better deal from a smaller provincial or country auction particularly if the main focus of the catalogue is a particular period or make.
The biggest auction in the world is eBay but you have to know what you are looking at and there are a number of risks involved. Never ever bid on something unseen – at worst it won’t exist or may be a complete mish-mash of bits hidden by skilful photography! To be confident on eBay you need to know your subject inside out, be prepared to travel quickly and experienced buyers often carry a wad of cash to clinch the deal outside of the auction! Auctions or the internet are not for the faint hearted or those who trust everyone!
Finally, you might hear of a car for sale through the club or through a local friend or relation. Such a contact will enable you to operate at a reasonable speed and allow you to quiz local Club members about their knowledge of the car and possibly its vendor. For the novice this is probably the best and safest route but you might have to wait a long time for the particular model you are seeking.
BUYING AN AUSTIN SEVEN PART 3
Having sourced your Austin Seven, this final part looks at Making Enquiries, Visual Assessment and Negotiating the Purchase.
Having located an Austin Seven that might be suitable, you now need to make some enquiries to tell you more about the car and its vendor. If the car is in a real auction, then the only information will be what appears in the catalogue. If it is on eBay then the information is supplied by the vendor together with photographs and hopefully a telephone number. I will say it again, please be very cautious - a good indication is the amount of “honest” detail and history that appears in the write up but even scammers can be very convincing!
Basic rules apply – does the car exist? – is it theirs to sell? – if it has a V5C does it line up with the vendors name and address and their length of ownership? History linking the car to its vendor can be very important in a prospective purchase!
As eBay can be a minefield and having given all the warnings, it is probably better to concentrate the rest of this article on making a personal purchase from a private or trade person.
With a private seller, don’t initially bombard them with too many questions. Perhaps begin by telling them who you are and that you are a member of a Club and what your interest is in their car. Tell them how you came to contact them and try to build a level of mutual trust. Would it be OK to ask a few questions about the Austin?
How long have you owned it? Why are you selling it? What can you tell me about the history? When was it last on the road? Where has it been stored? What documentation does it have? Do you know the chassis and engine number? You have to be realistic with the questions and try to build a good overall impression of the car rather than being too precise or “clever” with your knowledge. Leave the fine detail that you have researched, like how many flutes should be on the upholstery, until you see the car, unless it is a long way to travel, in which case you might be able to justify your need for such detail.
Finally, before you decide to go and see it, you want a fair idea of the price (if not advertised) and whether the vendor may accept an offer. At all times remain friendly, be genuine and fair and have a conscience relating to what is on offer and the circumstances of the vendor. We all like a bargain but it’s not ethical to con someone because of their vulnerability or ignorance of current values.
Having arranged to see the Austin Seven make sure you are seeing it at an address relating to the vendor. Weigh up what you see around you and if it confirms what you have been told.
When finally revealed what is you initial impression and does it appear as described? Is it unmolested or shiny and newly restored? Is it what you thought and what you want?
If a later Seven with steel panels don’t forget to take a tape covered magnet with you, its just as easy to fill a pre war car with fibreglass as it is a modern - look out for tell tale lumps or shadows in the paintwork and make sure you know where corrosion normally sets in. Pull back the carpets, take out the seats, open the spare wheel cover on a cowled radiator car. Take a torch and a blanket so you can look underneath and when you are looking watch out for oil leaks and corrosion and the correct chassis detail for the year of the car.
Remember the nice period number plate on the vehicle might not be the one you end up with! If there is no documentation linking an Austin Seven with the registration plate it displays then you will not be able to register it with that number. It needs a buff log book or a V5 or V5C or a pre 1983 tax disc, MOT or insurance certificate or local authority archive records linking the car with the number plate.
Now comes the time to use the information you have researched about your prospective purchase.
In my experience of authenticating cars for registration and I’m no expert, the most errors occur in restored upholstery together with Austins in the 1926 – 1930 range having the wrong radiator shell and/ or wings, running boards and headlamps. Also a confusing area can be between a late Chummy and an early four-seat Tourer. If you know what you want and have researched it you will know if it’s right!
Should it have a sunshine roof or a smokers hatch? Has it got the correct swage line for an RN? Are the bonnet louvres correct ? Does it have the right dynamo and ignition system? Is the carburettor correct? What about the speedo drive and the gearbox and the dashboard? What sort of rear axle and is it right for the car? Has it been converted to Girling brakes? How old are the tyres? If you have done the research you will know what is correct. It might look right and have patina but it could have been mixed up 50 years ago!
If it’s on the road and you are allowed to drive it, make sure first you know an Austin Seven clutch or you might break the vendor’s half shaft! Does it pull well? Does it smoke on accelerating from the overrun down a hill? Does the engine rattle when you take your foot off? Does it wander all over the road? Does it brake or just slow down ? Finally, if it has documentation, does it all match with the car and do the chassis and engine numbers match the year?
Now we come to the crunch! If you think you are going to buy it and it is a long way away then take a trailer and try and arrange before with the vendor how you can pay for it. Cash is king but be very careful! Anything other than cash will have to be cleared before you take the vehicle. If the car is everything it should be and is what you want then probably you can only ask what would be the lowest price the vendor would take and then start haggling at a reasonable amount under that.
However if your research shows necessary expense on things like paint, upholstery or incorrect body fittings and poor condition then you have something to bargain with. Be honest and stay friendly and never insult the vendor who may have declared most of the problems in the advert and priced it accordingly! Know what putting it right will cost you and use that to negotiate. Try a “praise sandwich” tell them the good bits, then fill in with the things that need improvement and finally end on a high. If all else fails leave your final offer for them to think about and walk away.
It’s impossible to do justice to all aspects of buying your ideal Austin Seven in this brief article but I hope it helps you first to be cautious and second to invest some time in getting to know the correct specification of your ideal car thus avoiding expensive mistakes – good luck in your search!