My First Car: European adventures in an Austin Seven

My First Car - Stuart Stearn

My First Car - Stuart Stearn - Credit: Archant

I bought this 1932 Austin Seven “cabriolet”, complete with a barrow load of spares, in 1961 for the princely sum of £15 when a pound was worth, well, a pound.

My First Car - Stuart Stearn

My First Car - Stuart Stearn - Credit: Archant

Petrol was about four to five gallons to the pound. The little Seven had a top speed of 47mph and anti-lock brakes. Well, you couldn’t lock them.

It only lost a wheel on one occasion and I only had to change the half shaft twice - to be fair, about a two-hour job. The masterful engine (side valve, updraft carburettor) was supposed to produce a mind blowing 17bhp. I doubt that mine ever did. The steering wasn’t bad considering the speed. I took my little Seven across Belgium, Holland and Germany into Denmark one summer with a couple of friends. The subsequent summer I took it down to northern Spain, the site of the first photo (the bearded chap is me).

The basic construction of the Seven was very sound, but the roof disappeared in a gale so I had to make a new one from an old tent, which worked okay. The windscreen wipers had a manual option, if you actually wanted to see where you were going. At night the anti dazzle headlights could clearly be seen if you got out and had a look.

But it was not without it’s positive points - the young lady in the car is Ann. We got married and are still together 51 years later. When we got married the car went on to a new owner for £12 and 10 shillings.


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We still have a cabriolet, though the rain doesn’t get in and you don’t have to go up steep hills backwards.

Stuart Stearn

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