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    The #1971 #Austin-3-Litre / #Austin Malcolm fell in love with the 3-Litre shortly after falling in love with his wife, Annie. The car in question was this one, bought brand new by Annie’s dad in 1971. ‘Back in the Eighties when Annie was a bus driver, her Sierra went wrong one day’ Malcolm explains. ‘She got the Austin out of the garage and took it to work and the rest is history. She was hooked and so was I!’

    Malcolm reckons there’s nothing quite like travelling in a sorted Austin 3-Litre: ‘There aren’t many cars that are as comfortable as a3-Litre,’ he says, ‘and this one only has 60,000miles on the clock – it’s like new. It’s Annie’s car really, but I’m more than happy to just lounge around in comfort on the massive passenger seat!’
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    POWERING UP A CLASSIC BARGE

    Car #Austin-3-litre
    Run by Martin Buckley
    Owned since October 2014
    Total mileage 47,549
    Miles since
    acquisition none
    Latest costs £400

    For some reason, having run one in the late 1990s, the #Austin 3-litre was an itch I had to revisit and scratch properly. I tracked down a nest of them to #Rover-P5 specialist David Green near Ipswich, including a really rather smart one in Mulberry, which was beyond my budget, and a less smart example for about £6000. But it was the semi-derelict car at £2000 that had my name on it. It just wanted to be saved, sitting there slumped on its Hydrolastic suspension with mostly original grey paint, rusty wheels and surprisingly smart interior.

    The history was murky, but it seems that #VFL659H started life with a coach-hire company in Sheffield. Some work had recently been done to the engine, although I was disappointed to find that it was seized solid when attempts were made to get it running after it turned up in Cirencester. Actually it didn’t really matter because some of the inspiration behind the idea of having a 3-litre was to create a tuned engine for it – head polished and ported, stronger valve springs, bigger carbs and so on to make the thing really go. Not a cheap exercise, though, and once I’d done some digging it began to look as if even getting the 3-litre lump up to MGC spec (with flat-top pistons to raise the compression) might go beyond what I wanted to spend. I found an #MGC engine for £950, but somehow that didn’t excite.

    Then a 4 litre R conversion was suggested: the #Rolls-Royce F-head straight-six from the VdP barge. Now that has the right feel about it, not simply because I would be gaining 50bhp and losing 100lb (the #FB60 has an alloy block), but also it would look right under the bonnet in the way a #Rover-V8 or some modern engine just wouldn’t. Yes, I know #BMC dabbled with putting a #Rover engine in the #ADO61 , but there was also a proposal for a sort of poverty Bentley using a 3-litre shell powered by the 4-litre unit. Although I’m not a big fan of putting the wrong engine in an old car, I feel a 4 litre R lump is totally in the spirit of this motor. It will give it much more acceleration and a meatier but more refined character – hopefully.

    It is easier said than done, of course. Finding a suitable 4-litre donor engine was simple enough: a C-registered scrapper was extracted from a garage in Liverpool for £400 where it had lain undisturbed since #1979 . My only fear was that this engine would turn out to be seized, too, but applying enough electrical grunt got it to spin over freely enough, even though it has still not coughed.

    Rough measurements reveal that the two engines are basically the same size, but that there is an issue regarding the position of the sump and oil pick-up on the R-R engine and the location of the Austin 3-litre’s crossmember. I am reasonably confident we can overcome this, however. In a few days, Mike Connor will start taking the engine out of the Vanden Plas 4 litre R and getting to grips with how it will fit into the #ADO61 shell, hopefully without too much major surgery. Rust-wise the 3-litre is pretty sound, although it has the usual problems with the front valance (which has pretty much disintegrated) and a variety of scabs.

    Inside, it just needs a couple of carpets and window-winder handles. To keep momentum going, I’ve had the wheels shot-blasted and they will be fitted with a set of ex- #Lancia-Gamma tyres. Having semi-committed myself to this project, I am relieved to say that the 4 litre R donor was a shed, so there was no temptation to take pity on it and try to get that one going, too.

    ‘I am not a big fan of putting the wrong engine in an old car, but a 4 litre R is totally in the spirit of this motor’
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    THINKING AGAIN ON ENGINE SWAP

    Car #Austin-3-litre
    Run by Martin Buckley
    Owned since October #2014
    Total mileage 47,549
    Miles since February
    report none
    Latest costs £100

    I’ve been working hard to keep momentum going on the #Austin 3-litre project. The engine has been removed from the 4 litre R donor car and I have started the process of selling off the remains. The front seats have gone to a man who wanted them for his A95, which doesn’t have recliners, someone else wanted the rear badge and I have had some enquiries about the front brakes and suspension for grafting onto an A90 Westminster racer. If anybody needs any more bits, or even better would like to take the rest of the car for £400, then be my guest. The doors, bonnet and bootlid are all worth saving and, of course, there are items that are unique to the VdP 4 litre R, such as the rear lights.

    Looking at the #B60-RR engine, it is slightly longer than the C series, but we can lose some length by getting rid of the cooling fan and its associated pulleys and fitting a slim, modern electric item. Mike Connor of CCCR is about to get the lump running ‘on the bench’ and clean it up, but the issue of the crossmember and the sump fouling each other remains. Jon Wills is confident that this won’t be a problem, but I am not in a hurry to start chopping the car about because I haven’t ruled out the possibility of staying with the original engine. Neil Kidby of the Austin 3-litre Owners’ Club offers great encouragement and tells me that “a lot of people have talked about doing this conversion over the years”. I hope I am not about to find out why they didn’t bother!

    In the meantime, Wills is tackling the Austin’s rusty front valance. You can’t buy a new one, of course, so the only solution was to make one. Jon put panel-beater Antonio Lobo on the case; using the English wheel and hammers, he made the valance in three sections of 20-gauge sheet steel, cutting out the holes for the bumper. The metalwork directly under the grille had plenty of holes in it as well so that has had new pieces let in, along with the horizontal ‘flick’ that covers the gap between the bottom of the grille and the bumper.

    Wills bemoans the fact that panel-beaters with Antonio’s traditional skills are few and far between now that modern cars have become so throwaway: his modern counterpart is ‘strip and fit’ man who has not been trained to think about how to reconstruct the front end of a rusty motor car because, since the mid-’90s, rotten cars have not really existed. Cotswold Classic Car Restorations has been advertising for a panel-beater for two months with no success.

    I hated the modern plastic numberplates fitted to the 3-litre so I bought a set of Tippers’ excellent silver-on-black type with the separate plastic digits, and also got hold of a set of window-winder handles that are shared with ’70s MGBs. Looking for some bedtime reading over Christmas, I happened across Jonathan Meades’ memoir of life in Salisbury in the 1950s and ’60s An Encyclopaedia of Myself, which, among lots of car-related references, included an entertaining chapter about local characters Daniel and Bunty Richmond.

    It turns out that Meades’ father was Daniel’s fishing buddy and the eccentric cultural essayist, film maker and former Times restaurant critic confirms some of the well documented eccentricities of the couple (as well as some other revealing comments, but I won’t spoil it for you). He even alludes to Richmond’s car as ‘a sort of ungainly giant Austin Maxi’, which I am assuming is the legendary Downton 3-litre.
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    votren911
    votren911 updated the group picture
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