1931 Austin Burnham

The Collection’s Exhibit

Herbert Austin has the distinction of having twice been a successful motor manufacturer. As works manager he made the Wolsleley one of the best selling cars in Great Britain but fell out with the company’s owners. In 1905 he found finance to form his own Austin Motor Company and the following year invited a large group of motorists to his new factory at Longbridge, near Birmingham. By 1934 Austin was Britain’s largest car maker.

The first Austin car was the 24/30 with four-cylinder engine and chain drive, and within a few years the company was making a range of vehicles with varying body styles from 15hp to 50hp, and even a 100 horsepower Grand Prix racing car.

Following the First World War, Austin attempted to follow Henry Ford by initiating a ‘one model’ policy with the 3620cc 20hp model as the basis for a number of body styles, cars and commercials, but slow sales forced the company into receivership in 1921. Salvation for a restructured Austin Motor Company came in the form of the Seven. Launched in 1921 it was an immediate hit with the British public, and would remain in production until 1939.

With the Seven revitalising the company, Austin further developed his larger car range, based on the 12hp and 20hp models, and after 1930 began to introduce further vehicles with both four and six cylinder engines from 10hp with model names such as Sherbourne, Burnham and New Windsor to denote particular features. The 12/4 was to continue in production until 1935.

This car was bought new by Mr A. W. T. Vale of Streatham, London, and was used regularly until 1956 after which it was stored in his garage. It was received by the Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society as a bequest from the Vale family in 1989 and still retains its original paint colours.


Manufacturer: Austin Motor Co Ltd, Longbridge, England
Model: Burnham 4 seat saloon
Engine: 12hp 4 cylinder inline, water cooled
Top Speed: 65 mph

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