Austin 3-Litre


Austin 3-Litre Buyers Guide

Austin 3-Litre's do come up for sale on a reasonably regular basis. There are a few areas to be aware of when looking at a car with the view to buying one, some parts are becoming difficult to obtain and such parts should be considered before any possible purchase.

Bodywork One big area to pay attention to is the bodywork, these are big cars and have several areas where corrosion can become established, some of these areas can be difficult to repair. Cars with heavily corroded inner sills can be made to look good with a new outer sill! It is a wise idea to inspect all areas of the car for corrosion, here are some guidelines.

Front lower valence, and box section behind it, these are obtainable at times at modest amounts of money. A Wolseley six front valance is the same (once the grille mount is removed)

Front wings and inner wings. New front wings are very rare, no part panels are available so any corrosion repair patches required will almost certainly need to be made by hand, wings corrode around the headlamps, and to the headlamp mountings, and along the rear and lower edges. The inner wings have a large mud trap along the top edge, repairing this area properly will require the outer wing to be removed. Templates to make repair panels for the headlamp areas are available via the owners club.

Doors, these normally corrode along the lower areas, they are shared with the Austin 1800, the door skins are also shared with the Austin Maxi, new skins and complete doors do come along at times, repairing the lower sections is reasonably staightforward to somebody with bodywork skills.

Sills and inner sills, these lower areas can suffer badly from corrosion and most cars will by now have had some repairs carried out at some point, the whole side of the car was assembled and welded on in one piece when it was built which can make certain repairs difficult. Just a straightforward sill replacement is an easy enough job, Hadrian panels still produce the Austin 1800 sills so these are readily available. A full new old stock genuine BMC sill can normally be found at reasonable cost, inevitably the supply of these will become more difficult in the future. The inner sill will come into view once the outer sill is removed, this houses the jacking point assemblies and will almost certainly have some corrosion present. Due to their design the inner sill is a difficult part to replace and is also difficult to obtain, again it is the same part as used on the Austin 1800. It is spot welded together with the door posts and as such is difficult to remove completely therefore some joining may be required along the upper edges. If new outer sills have been fitted, inspect the centre line of the outer sill along its entire length, this should be spot welded to the inner sill, if this area has no spot welds present either it has been poorly repaired or there is no inner sill behind it to weld it to. The picture  below shows a poorly repaired car, a recently fitted new outer sill covered these bad repairs! The next picture is the same car after a new inner sill has been correctly welded in. The bottom picture of this set shows the line of spot welds down the centre line of the outer sill where it has been correctly welded to the inner sill, this is a tricky area to view with the sill cover in place.

Floor sections, front floors can corrode, this is normally due to a leaking screen, floor panels are not available and will need to be hand made, this is quite straightfoward.                


Rear Valence, these corrode and are unobtainable, they are a straightfoward area to repair.

Rear wings, these corrode along the lower edges and around the arches, Austin Maxi wheel arches are available but are not a direct fit, some fettling will be required to fit these. No panels are available for the rear wing lower areas so any repair patches will need to be hand made.

Interior, Coverdale Carpets do a carpet kit, this is a good fit but is of a woolen type of carpet which is of a different appearance to the factory carpet, you can see a glimpse of them on the picture below. The seats on early cars are leather, deluxe cars are finished in ICI ambler vynil, the correct grain of Ambler is unobtainable, rear parcel shelves can be used to repair seat sections and then new vynil of the correct colour can be used to recover the parcel shelf, that way the seat repair will not be visible. There are quite a lot of wood sections in the car as you can see from the dashboard picture below, these can be refinished if required but this is quite expensive to do. The dashboard and door cappings do come as a coloured set, look on the back and you will see a four number code used to match them together as a set at the factory. Door handles and window winder handles are the same as MGB and a host of other BMC cars.

Engine, The engine is shared with the MGC, it is basically the same but does have some diferences. The MGC has a slightly enhanced camshaft, the sump is rear facing as opposed to the 3-Litre which is foward facing which of course means the dipstick is in a different place. Parts availability is excellent. Oil filters are the same as an automatic Austin Metro, air filters are the same as Vauxhall Viva GT. Oil pressure when driving should be about 55 to 65 p.s.i, at idle when hot  about 15 p.s.i.

Exhausts, New old stock systems are becoming hard to source and as such command something of a price. Specialists are able to make a bespoke system.

Gearbox, Again shared with the MGC, manual, manual overdrive and Borg Warner automatic gearboxes were fitted and parts availabilty for all these is excellent.

Rear Axle, These are very robust and failures are pretty much unheard of, mountings are becoming difficult to source. Drive shaft boots are now available again through the owners club or use a universal item. CV joints are very long lived as long as the CV boots remain intact.

Brakes, Front calipers are three piston items fitted to Rover P6, Reliant Scimtar and a host of other vehicles, these are easy to obtain as a re-con unit or as a repair kit, a complete repair kit for 2 calipers is around £150. Brake pads are the same as the cars listed above, front hoses are the same as Mk one Ford Escort, rear hoses are Austin Maxi but different handed (n/s Maxi is o/s 3-Litre and visa versa. Rear wheel cylinders are the same as Vauxhall Viva GT, please note they look the same as Austin 1800 but the bore size is different. Rear brake shoes are available through the owners club at a fraction of the cost of getting them relined. Discs and drums are purely 3-Litre.

Steering, The steering rack is a complex unit and was made by Camgears, seal kits are available but the centre double lip seal now needs to be remade, contact Neil if you need one of these seals as they are made in batches. Many cars fail their mot because testers do not know how the steering rack works, a fact sheet is available, if you need one you can download one by clicking here. (Pdf) Track rod ends are the same as Austin 1800, steering rack boots are the same as series one Jaguar XJ6 or use a universal kit.

Suspension, Front displacers are becoming difficult to source as used items, new items are sometimes avaible but expensive when they do appear. Rear displacers do come up as new old stock items, used are normally easily available, the rear displacers rarely fail. The spring units are normally available. Please be aware these units are now well over 50 years old, rubber does age and unused doesn't mean new! The displacer lower joints are the same as all other BMC hydrolastic equipped cars. Rear radius arms can sieze. (squeak from the rear when driving) . New and correct type radius arm bushes are made to order and are available through the owners club. Front suspension upper and lower  swivel joints are unique to the 3 Litre, new are obsolete, used are in good supply, lower front swivels are adjustable therefore when wear occurs this can normally be adjusted out. The front to rear and short front suspension pipes are available and are now remade to order in copper pipe and posted in a roll.

Chrome and Exterior Trim. Front Bumpers are the same as Wolseley Six, new ones do appear on a reasonably regular basis. Rear bumpers and rear quarter bumpers are unique to the 3-Litre, the rear bumpers are rare as a new item but occasionaly turn up. Rear quarter bumpers are rare as a new item but do appear now and again, expect to repair used ones at the front lower edge where the mounting bracket sits. Bumper over-riders are the same as Austin 1800. Sill trims are rare in good used condition, new ones are obsolete. New front grilles surprisingly do turn up sometimes. Headlight trims are quite rare as a new item but again occasionally turn up. Boot plinths are obsolete as a new item but used ones are normally available, re-chromeing is difficult and normally at the owners risk. Door handles are the same as Austin 1800.

What are they like to drive? You are bound to hear bad things about an Austin 3-Litre, that seems to go with the Marque for some reason, how many people who slag them off have ever driven one, one has to wonder? In terms of acceleration they are not particularly fast for a 3 Litre engined car, but as an "A to B" car there is little to touch them for a car of this size. Once you get the feel of it, a car with correctly working suspension will pretty much out handle anything of comparable size and age. Big Rovers of the time had the power edge but could not go round corners with anything like the poise and precision of an Austin 3-Litre. The ride quality is excellent and the cars feel sure footed and are a very relaxed long distance cruiser with the only noise really being a bit of wind noise from the front quarter lights at higher speeds.The car is well braked and certainly does not struggle to haul its weight down from speed. The steering has a quite light feel but very precise and with good feedback and response. Acceleration is reasonable, manual cars being slightly quicker in terms of building speed. The car is easily capable of keeping up with modern traffic.  Fuel consumption is around 18 mpg for an auto, and low 20's for a manual/overdrive car. In terms of driving comfort, just sit back in those massive comfortable seats and enjoy the ride, there is nothing quite like it. And be prepared to be stared at!

What should I pay? Prices are very much on the rise these days, top end cars have increased dramatically in value in the last few years, unfortunately some of the classic press are a little out of date with their price guides, this applies to pretty much all classics though such is the demand for classic vehicles at present. A basket case of a car which would realistically only be good for spares or a major rebuild could still fetch £500 to £1000 as long as it is complete. For a reasonable condition taxed and mot'd car you will rarely pay less than £4000 unless you get very lucky. The best examples are now changing hands for well in excess of £10,000. However, for this money the car should be correct in all details and have good provenance. You will see the odd car advertised for considerably more but these are very unlikely to sell, their long term adverts give testimony to this. If you are unsure about any aspect of a car you are interested in and would like some help or guidance, please get in touch.


Engine; 2912cc "New generaration C series" engine, 7 main bearing crank and produces 118 bhp on the early cars and 125 bhp on the later cars. Twin HS6 carburettors fed via a camshaft driven fuel pump, fuel tank holds 14.5 gallons. 

Gearbox; Options were manual, manual with a Laycock LH overdrive unit, or a three speed automatic which used the Borg Warner AS13-35EA gearbox. Interestingly the Prop Shafts are the same length no matter what gearbox is fitted.

Suspension; Hydrolastic with remote spring units, there is also an additional and separate hydraulic self levelling system with an engine driven oil pump to power this system.  This will keep the rear end at the correct height with up to 150lbs in the back, after this the rear will drop pro-rata with the extra weight that is applied.

Dimensions; Length = 185.68 inches, width = 66.75 inches, height = 56.4 inches,   wheelbase = 115.5 inches, kerbside weight = 3,377 lbs.