Austin Atlantic Woody Wagon
The Austin Atlantic was an attempt to Americanized British styling right after the Second World War. It’s vaguely claimed that it was styled from a thumbnail sketch by Lenny Lord, then Chairman of Austin but it seems that the car was more likely the work of resident Argentinian Austin stylist Dick Burzi.
The styling of the Atlantic was controversial right from the get-go but it seems to have outlived its detractors to a large degree. But, I must say that this estate wagon brought with its whole new level of design elegance to the lost style of a British car trying to look American.
Its shape was certainly influenced American styling if the time with notes of Buick, Mercury and Pontiac all quite obvious. The Atlantic was built under the edict of Export or Die to generate much needed export revenue for England and was designed specifically to appeal to American buyers with its up-to-the-minute detailing, including Mercury/Buick-like fenders and doors, a wrap around windscreen, front fenders sporting twin ‘Flying A’ hood ornaments and swept down to a rounded tail, with spats enclosing the rear wheels.
A centrally mounted third, main beam, headlight was built into the letterbox style air intake grille, and the then unheard of luxury of hydraulically powered windows and top and flashing turn indicators.
The Atlantic was offered in multiple models over its four-year production cycle from 1949 to 1952. It came as a convertible, a three-window drop-head coupe, a fixed head, five-window and a Sports Saloon hardtop that could be ordered with its roof painted or covered in fabric. But never as wagon from the factory – Such a pity!
With the then British government’s edict of “export or die” and with steel allocated only to those who generated much-needed export revenue, the Atlantic was designed specifically was an export model and was suppose to appeal to American tastes.
It was powered by a fairly anemic four-cylinder Austin A70 OHV engine that had to haul around 3,000 pounds with an engine that produced just 88 horsepower. Surprisingly, it could run 91 mph and Austin broke 63 stock car records at the Indy Speedway in April 1949. Even with a $1000 price reduction in 1949, the four-cylinder 2.7-liter couldn’t compare the US made V8 engines. Only 350 were sold that year!
Several odd and a rare edition were created either as one-offs by the factory or by regional coachbuilders. Termed estate cars rather than wagons, one was used by the nun’s at a convent in Leith, Scotland. That estate/wagon featured a lifting rear door and sported a pair of curved Perspex roof panels. Nice ride for the gals!
This Atlantic wagon pictured here is of an unknown builder, but I think its one of the finer British woody wagon conversions of the time with its styling subdued and clear with a nicely flowing form and woodwork. It featured a steel roof and a clamshell rear doors with sliding rear glass for rear seat passengers.
Thanks to Wikipedia for my base notes on the Austin Atlantic.