The Mad Austin Man of Marina Del Ray

             “Collector Car News” August, 1991

             Randy Williams is a collector by nature. He and his wife Fern collect art, wooden sailboats, toys and models, stained glass, and mission furniture. Fern has a pair of German Shepherds, and a multitude of parrots and large Japanesse fish. Even their home is a collectors item. Originally owned and built by Rudolph Valentino in the ‘20s, the Marina Del Rey showplace has been in a constant state of restoration and revision since they bought it a few years ago. Randy’s favorite collection is his old cars.

             He has owned collector cars since high school. Jags, Benzes, Maseratis, ‘Vettes, and classic T-Birds have passed through the Williams garage over the years, though the ones that seem to have a special place in his heart art the cute little cars from the British Isles. These are not only restored and collected, but used as daily transportation.

             Although there is a black Cad Allante in the garage for formal (and long distance) occasions, the classic Brit-iron are the Williams car of choice. Randy started collecting Morris Minors, and still has a few, but changed to Austins when the Minors became too commonplace. One is not likely to see another Austin, even in car-crazy LA.

             Randy has owned a few pre-war Austins, a ‘32 roadster and a ‘36 sedan, but found them unsuitable for day-to-day traffic and has opted for more powerful and roadworthy cars from the ‘50s. His present fleet includes a ‘50 A-40 delivery van and a ‘53 A-70 Hereford Drophead (the convertible version of the featured woody) that are under restoration.

 

 

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Two of the cars, the sedan and the convertible, are Austin A-40s. The A-40 as well as a number of other English manufactured goods, was introduced after WWII. As an effort by the British government to rebuild its war-shattered economy, steel allotments were based on export volume and “Export or Die” was the slogan. And export they did! During 1948, the cars first year, 9672 brave Americans made a bold and daring move; each buying a small, virtually unknown British car. In February 1950, it was announced that the Austin A-40 had been identified as the single product which had earned more U.S. dollars for Britain than any other— over $70 million in three years. Over 77 percent had been exported!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             The A-40 Sports drophead coupe is a rare car indeed. Len Lord, managing director of Austin, saw a need for a post-war convertible sportster but had his hands full cranking out sedans and commercial vehicles for a car starved world. Dick Jensen of Jensen Motors was looking for a chassis and running gear for his first post-war luxo-speedster. A deal was struck for Austin to supply Jensen with chassis components for its new PW convertible, while Jensen would build aluminum sports bodies for the A-40.

             The new four-place Austin open sportster was introduced as the Earls Court Motor Show in 1950 and was well received. Production began in early 1951. Designed as a sports car for the man with a young family and aimed at the American market, the A-40 Sports fell short. Americans loved the Brits for their low-slung, rakish roadsters and a smaller, les powerful big car couldn't compete with a slightly more expensive Ford or Chevy ragtop. Only 643 of the 3500 A-40 Sports that were built between 1951 and 1954 ever made it to our shores. It was replaced in mid-1954 by the Austin-build, steel-bodied A-40 Somerset convertible.

             The Williams A-40 Sports was found in a hot rodder’s garage in Berkeley, California in 1985. The rodder had purchased the unrestored, original car a few years earlier, taken it apart and was unsure what he wanted to do with it. Lucky us! Randy bought it and towed it back to L.A. to start a long restoration. The original engine was rebuilt and the body was resprayed the correct pea green. The tan canvas top and leather interior were fitted as were a set of very un-British wide whitewalls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Randy found this one (a 1953 model) in Canada in 1986 with only 54,000 on the clock. It had been owned by a veterinarian who spent much of his time overseas working with wildlife on the Serengeti and hadn’t driven it much. Though worn, the wagon was solid and original, still sporting two tyres that had came with the car new! Williams flew to Canada, bought the car, checked it over and drove it down the West Coast and home. Other than the failure of one of those old English tyres near Seattle, the trip was uneventful. Since coming to California the woodie has been resprayed the original tan but spiced up with some black fenders and whitewalls. The original leather interior is still in superb condition. The wagon is a major hit wherever its shown.

             To say this collector is an Austin enthusiast would be an understatement. Williams formed the American Austin Registry in 1985 and has kept track of the almost 300 Austin cars and trucks that are presently registered and is always looking for more. There are no dues or fee to register your car and members can be a boon to owners searching for parts. He can be contacted at: P.O. Box 5180, Ocean Park, California 90409.

 

 

                                                                                                                                  —Rick Feibusch

 

 

 

 

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             Randy’s ‘51 Devon sedan started life in Canada but made its way down to San Jose, California where it was used by a schoolteacher until the brakes failed in 1964. It was stored in a lean-to-shed when Randy found it in 1986. The car had no rust or damage to speak of and was towed to L.A. for a mechanical and cosmetic restoration.

             Deserving a special note is Randy’s Austin A-70 Hereford Countrymen Estate Wagon. The A-70 series Austins are bigger cars that use the same big four that powered the early Austin-Healey 100-4 roadsters that are so popular today. Only 1515 of the wood bodied Countrymen Estates were built, a few came to this country.