On this day in auto history – May 23rd

Sun 23rd May 2021

It was on this day in 1941 that the founder of the Austin Motor Company, Herbert Austin, passed away at the age of 71.

The son of a Buckinghamshire farmer, Austin emigrated to live with an uncle in Australia as a teenager and, following forays into sheep-shearing and printing, gained his big break when appointed manager of an engineering workshop owned by Frederic Wolseley in Melbourne.

Though the company specialised in sheep shearing machinery, Austin soon began turning his attentions to motor cars when re-locating to the UK in 1894 and he managed to raise £37,000 in capital to acquire an old print works in Longbridge, Birmingham to manufacture cars. The Longbridge plant was to become one of the most famous car factories in the world.

Austin was producing 17 different models as early as 1908 and its success saw him knighted in 1917 shortly before he embarked on a political career which saw him serve as a Conservative MP for Birmingham’s King’s Norton for six years. A Baronetcy came his way in 1936.

Eleven years after Austin’s death of a heart attack, the company which bore his name was merged with Morris Motors in 1952 before eventually forming part of the turbulent British Leyland combine in the 1970’s and then spinning off as Austin Rover in 1982. The Austin badge was eventually discontinued in 1987 when Austin Rover became simply the Rover Group.