Austin 3 Litre

The last big luxury Austin

 

The story of CGU 473H

The car was bought new by a Mrs Keetch in August 1969 from Mamos Garage in Stanmore Middlesex. Mrs Keech says she bought the car "on a whim" but was very pleased with the car, the only fault she ever had was a rear wheel cylinder which cracked when the car was quite new, over-tightening of the brake pipe was blamed, and this was rectified under warranty. The car was then used for visiting family in Scotland and Gloustershire, as well as the normal day to day driving until 1978. From 1978 until 1984 the car had very little use due to "London traffic" says Mrs Keetch.

 CGU 473H shown parked outside the house where she spent her first 15 years.

Mrs Keetch reluctantly decided to sell the car in November of 1984. In April 1985 the car had her first look at Suffolk when a new owner aquired her. Another two short ownerships followed. That is really where my story  of CGU 473H begins, I spotted her sitting on a local garage forcourt, the suspension was a bit low but she looked fairly sound, the owner turned out to be the Son of the garage owner, she was mot'd and I parted with the £200 asking price and drove her away, becoming owner number five in September of 1987. She even came with her original service book and some history, this is how I came to be able to contact Mrs Keetch her first owner. I still have the lovely reply letter Mrs Keetch sent me. I did some basic maintenance on the car and used her as daily transport for almost four years. I even took her to Guernsey once, I found her brilliant for long distance cruising.  With my Daughter newly arrived I decided to carry out a restoration and use her just as most classic cars are, when the sun shines.

Pictured above is the car as purchased by me in 1987.  Pictured below is the car during its first restoration pictured here in primer waiting for its colour coat in 1991.

After being restored the car then led a pampered life with very little mileage for the next few years. Classic and Sportscar Magazine did a feature on Austin 3 Litres in 1994 and used this car for it. Below is a picture from the Magazine photshoot.

I was not using  her much and had a moment of madness in January 1998,I sold her. I knew I had made a mistake and tried to buy her back almost immediately. I had first refusal but had to wait until 2012 to achieve my goal. The car had suffered in the intervening years and was now a badly repaired wreck, she was very stripped out, had incorrectly fitted sills and awful welding repairs all over the place. I must admit my desire to own another 3 Litre faded after I sold her because I didn't think I would ever find another one so nice. I have owned about 26 of these over the years including one of the two surviving estate cars. For some reason none of them ever felt like this one. The offer to have my old car back was too good to miss, she was 320 miles from me, a non runner and in an appauling state so transport was a bit of an issue! I had seen some pictures of her plight but was still rather shocked by her condition. Pictured below is the sight that greeted me upon her return in April 2012. Things do not look good but she is in far worse condition than she looks!

Having got the car home I carried out an evaluation of not only the car as a whole but also of the work that had already been carried out. The basic car itself was not too bad really but the repaired areas were a serious mess. It was at this point I decided the best way to repair her was to cut out all of the previous bad repairs and pretty much start again. Genuine BMC sills and inner sills have replaced the mess of previous repairs, to give you some idea of the standard of the previous repairs, pictured below is the sight I faced when I cut the drivers outer sill off.

New old stock panels have been used where available but many other areas have had to be hand made, the drivers floor and front valence being the most interesting, or should that be challenging. Pictured below is the rusty remnants of the left side of the front valence and the new hand made section nearing completion before being welded into place.

So here I am restoring a car again that I first restored in the early 1990's. The picture below was taken on December 17th 2012, after eight months of countless hours of work, this was the day she went off to the bodyshop for a respray.

After an etch primer coat, then a self level coat followed by two coats of high build primer, five coats of gloss were applied, all of which were baked on in a spray oven, the picture above was taken on January 11th 2013 just after she came out of the spray oven, the doors, bonnet and boot had just been refitted.

After around 1000 hours of work, she passed her mot on March 23rd 2013 and is now in regular use again, she drives just like she did in 1987 when I first drove her. The following set of pictures were taken at the end of March 2013, just 11 months after she was returned to me as a wreck. The number plates are the ones she left Mamos Garage in Stanmore with in August 1969. For reasons of safety a laminated windscreen has been fitted. This wonderful car has once again been the car of choice for family holidays. In 2017 she even went back to Guernsey for another holiday visit, 560 miles over a very enjoyable week.

 

I hope this story has been of interest to you and maybe inspire you to restore a car which to many would be beyond any sensible hope of returning to the road.  Oh, by the way she is not for sale and never will be!

 

This car has appeared in the following publications; Cars That Time Forgot, a book by Giles Chapman, Classic and sportscar magazine, (Five page feature January 1994) Classics magazine (Comparison to an MGC August 2002) Practical classics magazine (Six page readers restoration feature June 2013) She was one of the runners up in the Practical classics 2013 readers restoration competition. She also came in the top ten cars for Practical classics restorer of the year competition in 2013, this meant she was on display at the NEC on April 12th and 13th 2014 as pictured above. The timing of the show meant we ended up using her on a long since pre-booked holiday to North Yorkshire, no such trip would be complete without parking outside Scripps Garage of Heartbeat fame for a photo. She did 750 miles in eight days and ran perfectly throughout. Proving beyond doubt that they are a car you can use! Fuel consumption was a respectable 20mpg overall. In 2017 as part of the 3 Litre 50th anniversary celebrations, the car was featured in the October issue of Practical classics magazine, and in the November issue of Classic and sportscar magazine. The car is also on the cover of my book, The story of the austin 3 Litre.

By way of a footnote; My interest in Austin 3 Litres really started before I bought this car, I spotted an identical car parked on the forecourt of a Pub in Felixstowe in 1982, a knock on the door, £50 parted with, and there I was being towed the 12 miles back home by a mates Cortina with no footbrake and only the handbrake to slow my progress. (As you do! Cheers John.) A look round the car when I got home revealed a leaking brake master cylinder and very little else wrong with it, no rust holes anywhere and it had never been welded. After a few weeks sitting in my yard, a friend persuaded me to part with it on the condition it would not be banger raced, he got it mot'd the same week and within the month it was duly destroyed in a banger race at  Foxhall Stadium in Ipswich. I was somewhat annoyed such a good car ended its days like that, I have taken one badly rotten one that way myself but I couldn't bear to see it happen to a good one. I promised myself another good one with the intention of keeping it, and thus sort of putting right what I thought of as being a previous wrong, this is the car that fulfilled that ambition.