A Brochure for Saturday – Austin A110 Westminster de Luxe

For a car which sits at the top of its marque’s range, the Westminster brochure is neither inspiring nor imposing. 

It’s a single-spread leaflet, in half-tone.  At least it’s densely packed with useful facts, but the narrative does little to allure the prospective buyer. The date is indeterminate. The specification is that of the 1964-onwards Mk.II, but there is no mention of this in the title or contents.

In the BMC / BMH / British Leyland turmoil the Westminster was destined to be a car which history forgot. The publicity material suggests that by the mid-sixties, it was also largely forgotten by its manufacturer even before production ended some time in 1967.

The Westminster was no more than a bit-player in the tragicomedy that was Harriman-era BMC, but its tale, with all its twists and turns, is worth telling. I hope to return to this matter shortly.

6 thoughts on “A Brochure for Saturday – Austin A110 Westminster de Luxe”

    1. The overdrive is from Borg-Warner, from their Letchworth factory. B-W also supplied the optional autoboxes, a BW35 for the Mk.II, the DG for previous versions.

      Didn’t Vicar have a career interlude doing their PR. Or am I thinking of some other fellow?

    2. As far as I understand it, the B-M system required the driver to lay off the gas before changing down and only amounted to a virtual top-gear. The LdN system could be used in any of the gears and was instant. The cost was complexity, of course, but that didn´t stop it being used on Volvos until the 80s. It had many other applications. My dad´s Triumph 2500 had an overdrive – it was a rather fascinating device, activated by a button on the gear lever. I think it was the LdN system. For some reason, I find it rather fascinating fix to the problem of four-speed cars that needed more economy.

  1. Standard-Triumph offered the Laycock de Normanville overdrive pretty much across the board, even on Standard Eights and Heralds. The only exceptions were the FWD 1300 and 1500. They always worked on the top three gears, and by using the on off button a range of seven speeds was available. Bristol did something even cleverer with the overdrive being automatically switched out on changing from overdrive top to third.

    The Westminster gearbox story is stranger. The pre-Farina 54-59 cars had a four speed gearbox and optional overdrive. The 59-64 Farina cars got a new all-synchromesh three speed gearbox and standard B-W overdrive. After 1964 they got a new four speed gearbox and overdrive once again became an option.

    The new gearbox didn’t have synchromesh on first gear. I suspect the influence of Greek Al here – he didn’t hold with that sort of thing as it could obstruct changes from second to first. I think he had a point – the ways of the Mini / ADO 16 gearbox (which was descended from the one in the pre-war Austin 8) were easily enough learned.

  2. Please do return to this car, Robert. For whatever illogical reason, I liked this old barge. It was an uruffled cruiser and the body seemed so solid for the times over poor quality roads, a case where the paper spec somehow didn’t match the positive experience. The similar looking smaller Morris Oxford was the opposite, less than you hoped, a 4 cylinder wheezer. I liked that big old Austin C engine, something about it just appealed to me, even if it weighed half a ton, but it made the big Healey a lovely car as well. Ah, nostalgia …

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