A friend of mine sent me an item about the 10 best cars in the past 50 years, and obviously there would be many different ideas from the enthusiasts. Unfortunately, for many people, they are only guessing, because just how many of the readers have actually driven a Porsche GT3, or even a Porsche Targa?
My friend, of course, was having a gentle, but not so subtle, dig at me for being a motorist for too many years. I have to admit that I started driving in the 1950s, and I also have to admit that it was my father’s car, and he didn’t know about the mischief I would get up to when my parents were away for the weekend. The car? A 1939 Austin 12, made at the beginning of the war. Remember that war? That was the one the Germans lost, so they could come back later and take over Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Mini. What was left, like MG and Rover ended up in China.
But back to Dad’s Austin 12. It was a large four door family saloon produced by the Austin Motor Company and was launched in August 1939 and produced until replaced in 1947 by the similar sized but larger engined Austin A70 Hampshire. With beam axles front and rear and mechanical brakes, it was more comfortable at rest than when in motion. It would not pass any of today’s design rules. Definitely one of the worst cars I have ever driven.
My first ‘real car’ which was mine and mine only, was a 1949 Austin A40 and was 10 years old when I took ownership. It was not a good buy, blowing up after two weeks. These days I would be more careful in pre-ownership checks; however, it was repaired and did serve me for the next 10,000 miles without too many hiccups. But it was painfully slow.
The A40 was actually considered a power machine in its day. A 1.2 liter straight-4 OHV engine produced 40 bhp (30 kW) at 4200 rpm. It also had front coil sprung independent suspension but retained a rigid axle and semi elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The Girling brakes with 9 in (229 mm) drums were operated hydraulically at the front and mechanically at the rear.
An A40 tested by The Motor magazine in 1948 had a top speed of 70 mph (110 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 37.2 seconds. Read that again – 37.2 seconds! To record those sorts of times, I think they probably had to use a calendar! Another in the ‘worst car’ category? Well, certainly in the slowest car category.
The next in my list of personal dreadful cars came from Italy, the home of GT motoring, Ferrari, Maserati and later Lamborghini. Mine was not a GT car, but a Fiat 1100 D I purchased for five British pounds and it was a well-worn example. So worn that it used more oil than gasoline. I used to collect oil from my local garage that had been drained from better cars coming in for a grease and oil change. Remember those days? In its heyday (the first week after coming out of the factory) the Fiat 1100 D boasted performance figures of: top speed 120 km/h (75 mph) (factory); acceleration 0-60 mph 27.2 seconds; 0- 100 km/h 30.2 seconds and 0-1/4 mile 23.2 seconds. My rather more knackered version would go nowhere near those figures. Another very bad car. Incidentally, I never sold it. I parked it on Tilbury docks in London, threw the keys in the water and hopped on to the MV Adelaide Star where I was to be the ship’s surgeon for the voyage to Australia. It may even still be there? However, being left in light-fingered London, I doubt it.