Austin Twenty EXP1 Prototype

OB6912 is quite an imposing motorcar of a size and quality that surprised me on my first acquaintance and inspection, the fit and finish as well as the feel and movement of all the controls, there is a distinct air of quality and attention to detail. From the initial developed in 1917, also more recently during her ground up restoration during the 2000’s. A letter on file from Bob Wyatt, President and Founder of the vintage Austin register, further confirms the car importance and provenance of OB6912 or EXP1. Once you climb aboard and start her OB6912’s 4 cylinder 3.6 litre engine give a fantastic turn of speed cross all four gears, this was fact was echoed in period publications which stated ‘that an Austin Twenty could beat a Bentley 3 Litre or Vauxhall 30/98 in competition’. A car of significant road presence, which you sit aloft, in a rather superior position. With room for five passenger in the rear two of which on the fold up occasional seats just behind the auster screen its perfect vintage motoring for the larger Catholic family. OB6912 the experimental Austin 20 tourer is one for the automotive connoisseur


By the end of WW1 Austin had the largest car manufacturing plant in Britten stretching to some 58 acres. After 4 dark years of war, Sir Herbert Austin was invigorated by the opportunity’s which lay ahead. His visit Ford’s Detroit factory and view the mass production methods of the Model T had.

So with a new world ahead Sir Herbert Austin launched is new 20hp on the 22nd July 1919 OB6912 also known as EXP1, it is understood that The first prototype Austin Twenty began to take shape in the chassis erecting shop at Longbridge during 1917, the design outline and specification was published in the September's issue of The Austin Advocate magazine. Like the Hudson Super Six, the newcomer featured a substantial ladder frame chassis equipped with all-round semi-elliptic leaf-sprung suspension, rear wheel brakes, an engine of monobloc construction with in-unit, centre-change gearbox and a sheet metal radiator cowl. Displacing 3610cc, its unstressed side valve four-cylinder engine developed 40bhp @ 2,000rpm (an output sufficient for Austin to later warrant that the chassis could reach 70mph)... The car was to be no slouch and eminently tuneable, privateer Felix Scriven's `Sergeant Murphy' and the Works' `Black Maria' both proved that an Austin Twenty could beat a Bentley 3 Litre or Vauxhall 30/98 in competition (Scriven's mount reaching 104mph at Brooklands).

Following the completion of OB6912 works test driver Edgar Wren embarked on a nationwide tour across the dealer network drumming up orders for the new 20hp. With a projected price of just £495 for the Tourer and thanks also to the efforts of sales organiser Alfred Dupuis who travelled the Commonwealth and was reliant merely on photos and specification sheets, Austin had attracted some £6,000,000 worth of orders by July 1919. However, the company could not fulfil them. The government tax on excess war profits meant that Austin could not afford to fully equip his expanded factories along with the aftermath of World War One had resulted in a severe shortage of skilled labour. Without the hoped-for economies of scale, Austin found itself losing money on every Twenty sold and thus had to introduce a `temporary surcharge' of £100 per car in October 1919. Things went from bad to worse with the global economic slump of 1920-1921 and by December that year, Austin was in receivership.

Presumed lost for many years, `OB 6912' was re-registered with the DVLA on August 2nd, 1983. When EXP1's rolling chassis when found buried beneath it was treated to an extensive `ground up' restoration during the 2000s with replacement parts being sourced or made as necessary. Using period photos as a guide the car's Tourer coachwork was painstakingly recreated and fitted with such niceties as an Auster screen, fold-out occasional seats and deep-button Black leather upholstery. There can be comparatively few cars that have been featured in magazine articles ninety-one years apart but as well as gracing the pages of The Autocar in November 1918 and The Austin Advocate in July 1919, `OB 6912' was the subject of a four-page article in The Automobile for August 2009. All these are held in the OB6912 history file along with photos of the restoration. A very much overlooked motorcar, which in my opinion is a must buy for the sheer joy of owning an important part of British automotive history.

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