DRIVING AN AUSTIN SEVEN
We have been driving Austin Sevens off and on since 1959. Our first memorable experience was driving back to Bury St Edmunds from Aylesbury in 1962. The car developed a nasty clonk from the rear axle area, we thought it was a tooth off the crown wheel perhaps. Monty, Dianne’s dad, soon diagnosed the problem as loose bolts on the hardy spicer universal joint on the prop shaft. Soon rectified. It helps to know how our cars work!
They are simple, but old. See: TOOLS & SPARES.
Being prepared for all eventualities helps having a good driving experience, on the way back to Gloucestershire, from the Isle of Man, we had a core plug blow out of the head, we had a spare plug and a gallon of water in the car. 20 minutes and we were on our way again.
To us, Austin Sevens are just the cars we learned to drive in. We believe driving an Austin Seven is a pure form of driving, you have no power steering, power assisted brakes or air conditioning. Our speedometer over reads by about 10%, 50mph on the speedometer is 45mph on the sat nav. If we collect a tail of modern cars we pull off the road to let them past. This is particularly important for commercial vehicles. These days lorry drivers are often on a bonus for time and economy in their work.
If going on an unfamiliar route it is well worth doing a bit of research on a map to plan using quiet roads. I drive a maximum of 150 miles a day if at all possible. The most I have driven was 240 miles, Lincoln to Aberaeron on the Welsh coast. That was because we could not find a B&B with rooms free. Again, if at all possible, book ahead. When booking on the continent try for a safe parking place. Hotels often have an underground car park.
We find using a Sat Nav very helpful both in showing the way and giving some indication of the road ahead. Having good rear view mirrors and flashing indicators are a must for safe driving.
We rarely exceed 45 miles an hour so driving in modern traffic needs careful attention, to other road users, and the road itself. Approaching a hill, it pays to accelerate to slingshot up the hill, maintaining momentum is important. A7 drivers try to avoid changing down the gears if at all possible. If driving in convoy with other sevens be aware that cars with different gear boxes change gear at different speeds. This can lead to slow cars impeding faster ones, keep a good gap between cars, especially in hilly country. Be aware that modern cars will pull out from side roads causing you to brake! They under estimate our speed and think we will hold them up being an old car.
when driving up a long hill in third gear, especially with a tail wind can lead to the engine over heating! Having no water pump we depend on airflow through the radiator for cooling.
We avoid motorways if at all possible, however we do travel on the M69 on the way up to Lincoln, from the A5 junction up to the M1 is always quiet, we then go one leg of the M1 to the A46. That is in a dedicated lane so no lane changes needed. On the continent we have used toll roads as they are usually quiet as well. We did have a local tail us, with his hazards on for about 10 miles in Spain, riding shotgun for us. We had no idea who he was. Turning right needs special care, when turning right on a busy road I put my arm out of the window as well as using the indicators.
Be prepared for lots interest from passers by, this was in Brittany. In pay car parks, don’t buy a ticket until you can escape the interested audience, other wise you will use the time talking.
What has really changed in the years we have been Austin Seven drivers is the internet. Now all we have to do for information is GOOGLE IT. There is an enormous amount of help and advice out there.