Wandering around the annual Beloit Autorama, one of the largest car shows in this part of the midwest, I spotted this lovely little Austin A40 sitting, oddly, amongst some customized street rods. This is not a lonely little petunia in an onion patch, it’s a custom rod, too, and possibly a fairly potent one.
Austin A40s were manufactured from 1947 until well into the 1950s and were available in a wide variety of body styles. Two-door saloons, such as this one, were called Dorsets while the four-door versions were called Devons. They featured body-on-frame construction, rear wheel drive and 1.2-liter inline 4-cylinder engines cranking out a meager 40 hp.
Why someone living in northern Illinois would want to convert an Austin A40 Dorset into a street rod is anybody’s guess but here it is. External clues of the customization are subtle and limited to garish chrome wheels and slotted bonnet and boot. Inside, the firewall appears to have been pushed back into the passenger compartment, the seats have been repositioned rearward and the steering column has been replaced with a stock GM unit.
More significantly, the Austin’s miniscule I-4 has been replaced by a Chrysler 340 cid V-8. The 340 was part of Chrysler’s LA family of V-8s – “L” for light, these engines were a good 50 pounds lighter than the traditional A-series engines. The 340 was introduced in 1967 and was used primarily in compact and mid-size Chrysler products such as Challengers, Road Runners and Dusters.
The owner of this Mopar powered Austin didn’t leave the bonnet open for inspection so one is left to guess what modifications may have been done to the engine. The car obviously is much, much faster than stock, though, and is still a handsome little post-war saloon. What’s not to like?