The Austin Motor Company was a British manufacturer of automobiles. It was founded in longbridge by Herbert Austin in 1905. Austin had earlier worked in the automotive industry as the Manager of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Company eventually merging into the British Motor Corporation Ltd in 1952 where the marque was used up until 1987. The trademark is currently owned by Sanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) following being transferred from bankrupt subsidiary Nanjing Automotive.
Austin’s first car was a conventional chain driven five-litre four-cylinder model of which about 200 were made in the first five years. Like other manufacturers of the era Austin expanded rapidly during WWI fulfilling War Office contracts for everything from artillery to aircraft including an armoured car which is now a collectors item. The workforce expanded at this time from 2,500 to 22,000.
At wars end, Herbert Austin decided to stream-line his production to the vehicles based on the 3620cc 20hp engine. Production using this engine included cars, commercials and even a tractor. It was not a successful venture and the company ultimately went into receivership in 1921. Austin managed to pull itself through these hard times following the appointment in 1922 of several new managers in key positions. These included Ernest Payton as finance director and Carl Engelbach as production director. Between them, Payton and Engelbach steered the company into a successful operation during the inter-war years. The British Tax Code for engines was such at the time that it encouraged small vehicle manufacture and Austin produced several small cars aimed at the mass market including the ‘Twelve’ and ‘Seven’. In 1930 Austin was the most produced car in England. At one point, the "Baby” Austin was being manufactured all around the world including under licence by the fledgling BMW Company of Germany (as the Dixi), by the Japanese manufacturer Datsun; as the Bantam in the United States and as the Rosengart in France.
Ernest Payton became chairman in 1941 on the death of Lord Herbert Austin and lead the business through the heady days of WWII still building cars but also manufacturing trucks and aircraft, including the Dambuster Lancaster Bombers of the 617 squadron and a ten ton utility type truck.
Austin’s commercial vehicles included the FG (previously the Morris FG). It is said the FG was the workhorse that kept Britain running in the 1960s. These Austin FGs and later the Leyland FGs all had petrol or diesel longstroke engines but while they produced good torque they barely travelled at more than 40mph.
In Australia, the Adelaide based company of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV), founded by the late Sidney Crawford in March 1934, became the All British Motor House distributing Austin and Fiat cars, Caterpillar tractors and Leyland trucks. Crawford had begun retailing vehicles in 1922 .The trucking industry was still very much in its fledgling stages and the sale of commercial type vehicles in its infancy. By the end of the 1930s the CMV organisation had attained distributor ship for Diamond T trucks, Case farm tractors and Commer and Karrier trucks.
The Loadstar was the first truck to be designed by Austin after WWII and was built by the Austin Motor Company during the 1950s. It was available in either drop sided or flatbed models and was sold in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia. The Mk III, which was introduced in 1956, had a redesigned front end and interior. Austin also produced a military version known as the K9, most of these had a round hatch in the roof of the cab and were usually used as ambulances, water carts or recovery vehicles.
One thing Australians remember about the Loadstar was that it lacked power but made up for that with reliability. Overheating was also an issue particularly with Australian operators who tended to load with as much as they could fit on rather than to legal limits. Loadstars were often seen on farms loaded to the hilt with wheat, wool or supplies and the bonnett propped open with a bottle or stick in an attempt to increase airflow.