History of the 1947 - 1950 Austin A40
In 1947 the Austin A40 Devon and Dorset marked the first new post-war car to come from Longbridge. The former had either a four-door body or Countryman estate car, while the latter was a two-door saloon. All models seated four or five passengers and had an engine that drove the rear wheels. The Dorset ceased production in 1948 but the Devon continued to be built until 1952 in saloon form and until 1956 as a Countryman.
The Austin A40 Devon became very popular due to its simple mechanics, well-appointed interior and respectable riding qualities. The coachwork, which was built on separate chassis, lacked the running boards and exposed headlamps of pre-war models and there were front coil spring and double wishbone independent suspension – a first for Austin. At the rear, there was a rigid axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs. The front drum brakes were hydraulic and there was a mechanical system at the rear. The OHV engine was married to a four-speed gearbox with a floor-mounted lever. Options included a sliding sunroof and a heater.
The 1948 model year saw the introduction of the four-door (two at the rear and two at the sides) Countryman estate with a rear body of aluminium. The low-selling Austin A40 Dorset ceased to be available in the UK that September and from late 1951 onwards the A40 Devon was fitted with a fully hydraulic braking system while the Countryman gained a steel body. At this point, a steering column gear change became available although the Austin A40 Devon could never be considered more than a very occasional six-seater.
The power plant for all members of the A40 family was a 1200 OHV unit with a Zenith carburettor and a four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on the top three ratios.
The Austin A40 Devon is not built for speed but the 0-60 time of 37 seconds was reasonable for 1947 and the road holding is considered good compared with its rivals. The steering is not excessively heavy, the engine is robust and the leather-trimmed cabin and the Art Deco style fascia are delightful. Some owners do prefer the floor change to the later column shift. The four-door A40 Devon is the least difficult of the range to source as the Dorsets are very rare on British roads due to their short production run while the Countryman, despite its longevity, is also challenging to find.
Early models may also be hard to find in the UK as out of the first 30,000 A40s made, only 1,000 were destined for the home market. In terms of parts, chrome trim, grilles and rear bumpers can be hard to find but the flat glass can be cut to size. If the A40 has a cabin in poor condition, then its distinctive hide trim will almost certainly have to be replaced. Prospective buyers should check the front and rear wings and sills for corrosion and if the hydro-mech system has not been properly maintained and lubricated there is a real prospect that the rear brakes will not work.
Two of the main competitors to the Austin A40 Devon are the E493A series Ford Prefect and the Hillman Minx Mk III.