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Austin Freeway

This article was written several years ago by COOC member Nairn Hindaugh, an Australian Austin Freeway owner. The article is an excellent overview of the Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80 so we reprint it here in its entirety.

As the owner of a 1964 Austin Freeway and member of your Club, I thought your readers may be interested in the history of the Freeway in Australia, as well as the sister car, the Wolseley 24/80.

Late in 1959, the Austin A60, Morris Oxford Series V and Wolseley 15/60 were introduced to the Australian market. Identical in most ways to their British counterparts, they differed only in the size of the B Series engine ­ 1622cc against 1489cc. Australia was the first country to have this engine, almost 2 years before the UK market. Hence the A60 instead of A55 Mark II.

Although these cars were reasonably tough and rugged enough for the Australian market, they were priced evenly with the current Holden and the just introduced Ford Falcon, both featuring 6 cylinders, mated to 3-speed gearboxes. Australians in those days were convinced that if a car was any good it had to have at least 6 cylinders, and these types of cars commanded about 70% of our market.

BMC Australia had a tough time selling the new 1.6 litre Farina range, and the Australian management were very keen to compete with GM and Ford on their home ground. Consequently, it was decided to add an extra two cylinders on the existing 1622 engine making the swept volume 2433cc. The engine was coupled to an adaptation of the metropolitan gearbox, which was 3-speed, and steering column change. To fit the engine in the existing bay, the radiator was placed in front of the bonnet locking bar, just behind the grille. The suspension was strengthened and there were numerous other changes on the mechanical side.

For the Austin, a new grille was developed, being 3 piece, covering the whole width of the car, the outer two pieces being cast, while the inner slats were stainless steel. The rear fins were taken from the Riley and MG variants, and appropriate badging used. A chrome bezel was used to separate the two-tone colour unique for this car. The bonnet used was from the A60, but an extra inch was welded to the bottom of the leading edge to create a lower effect. A chrome strip was skilfully used to cover the seam!

Inside, the Morris Oxford was used, and in place of the clock, a round emblem with the word "Freeway" was inserted. Bench seats with hard-wearing vinyl were used in fairly bright colours. The steering wheel boss featured the BMC Rosette super-imposed over the map of Australia. Rubber mats covered the floor.

The Wolseley 24/80 (2.4 litres, 80 horsepower) was identical to the 15/60 except for an inch longer wheelbase, as with the later 16/60. In other words it retained the fins of the earlier model. The car was trimmed with leather, and the same dash as the 15/60 was used. The only difference externally was that the 24/80 featured a small "Wolseley Six" emblem above the stainless steel rubbing strips at the rear of the front wings. The Wolseley was painted only in single tone colours.

The 6 cylinder range, consisting of Austin Freeway sedan and station wagon, and Wolseley 24/80 was released in April 1962. The code number for the range was ADO 40, the later Mark II's were YDO 3. BMC had rationalised the dealer network, and it had been decided to sell small cars under the Morris name, family cars as Austins, and luxury as Wolseley. The 1622cc engine was therefore put in the Morris Major Elite, which was a heavily reworked Wolseley 1500.

The Freeway did not sell in the quantities BMC had hoped, because both Holden and Ford released lower and very much more modern models in that year. The Freeway also suffered early reliability problems, with number 5 and 6 bearings not receiving oil, with the usual disastrous results. This was later rectified, but a lot of the damage had been done.

An automatic transmission was offered as an option, being a Borg Warner 35, 3-speed which was very popular, particularly with the Wolseley.

However, the Wolseley fared much better, and consistently by 1964 outsold the Freeway quite well. When the Mark II series was released in October 1964, it was the Wolseley which received all the attention, with identical styling to the 16/60. The engine power was increased to 84bhp through larger valves and there were other small mechanical changes. The Freeway was mechanically changed in line with the Wolseley, but the only change outside was a "MK II" badge (the Wolseleys got one of those too) and new colours.

Again, the 24/80 sold well against the Holden Premier and Falcon Futura, but the Mark II Freeway was phased out after a few months. The interior trim in the Wolseley was in very soft expanded vinyl, and looked very similar to that in a Mercedes Benz 220 SE, and was just as comfortable.

The Austin 1800 replaced the Wolseley on the assembly line in October 1965, and stocks of the 24/80 lasted through till late 1966. These were the last Wolseleys to be sold in Australia as new cars.

The whole range is now known to be a strong, robust one, because the cars that have lasted are still in good order. They have very few rust problems, as we don't put salt on our roads, and BMC Australia had a very good Rotodip rustproofing system to start with.

The cars were not really raced or rallied, although twin carburettored Freeways could reach just over 100mph. To prove this toughness of the Freeway, one was driven around Australia in 9 days in 1962 which was a record, and no mean feat for a trip of over 8,000 miles on largely unsealed roads.

My own Freeway was first registered in January 1964 in Pemberton, Western Australia. The original owner's son took it to Mount Isa in Queensland in 1983 where he sold it to the man I bought the car from. This owner managed to scrub the entire front end out between Mount Isa and Brisbane, a trip of 1845 kms (1150 miles).

I bought the car in April 1983 for $150 because of the lack of rust and the fact that it had only 78,000 miles. The interior was virtually spotless and I had the car resprayed in its original colours, Shadow Blue with a Platinum roof. Since then, I have had no trouble with the car ­ it passed its Roadworthy with flying colours, and because I have a company car, it only gets used for club outings. It shares a garage with a 1970 Mark II Austin 1800 Saloon and a 1970 Mk II Austin 1800 Utility which is another uniquely Australian vehicle.

I hope all these ramblings are of interest ­ I just love the Freeway because it feels so solid ­ not like the modern Japanese cars which proliferate our roads today. It has character, and a certain honesty which is hard to beat.

As the advertising jingle said in 1962 ­ "Makeway for the Austin Freeway".

Nairn Hindaugh.

Australia

 

Specification:

Austin Freeway 4-door Saloon (also available as a Station Wagon)

Number of cylinders 6.

Cubic capacity 2433cc.

Compression ratio 7.7:1

BHP 80.

Overall length 14ft 6.1/2 in.

Overall width 5ft 3in.

Height 4ft 10in.

Turning circle 37ft.

Wheel-base 8ft 4 3/16 in.

Max. track 4ft 33/8 in.

Fuel tank capacity 10 Imp.gals.

Appearance: Generally similar to A60 but note differing frontal treatment. Full-width radiator air-intake with grille of thin bars and incorporating oblong side/indicator lamps. Headlamps are high-set; straight-through wing line rises slightly at rear to form "fins"; pointed, vertical tail-lamp clusters (exactly like the MG/Riley Farinas). Angular styling of bumpers; those at rear wrap around to wheel arches. Disc wheels have plain hub-caps. The interior features the dashboard of the Morris Oxford V and VI.

 

British Motor Corporation (Aus.) Pty. Ltd.,

Joynton Avenue,

Zetland,

Sydney, N.S.W.,

Australia.