John F. Quilter is a man who owns a 1969 Austin America, or as we like to call it in Blighty, the Austin 1300 (AD0 16).
John has been the loyal custodian of his British Leyland classic since February 1971, when he purchased it from a main dealer car lot in Menlo Park, California.
The Austin America was built for confrontation with the mighty Beetle and cost the princely sum of $1085 including tax and licence. Not the quickest or even most desirable thoroughbred but it did have a manual gearbox, which was quite rare given many were sold in that location with the AP (Automotive Products) four-speed automatic transmission, specifically for use in the Mini.
As a newly minted naval officer, John was stationed aboard ship and home-ported in Long Beach California, so the car was stretching its hydraulic legs with regular trips from the San Francisco Peninsula to Southern California, a distance of about 450 miles.
Having grown up with British cars, mostly Morris Minors, John was fully versed in their maintenance and proper driving techniques, though the transverse front wheel drive Hydrolastic cars were quite a revelation and new to him.
British Leyland Motors
Following his three years as a naval officer, he returned to civilian life and was eventually hired on with the regional offices of British Leyland Motors as a warranty claims processor.
With a strong affinity to British cars and the various products within the vast British Leyland range, Quilter’s passion was now signed, sealed and delivered. A 32-year career would see the ex-naval officer finishing his successful employment in 2007 as the western region warranty manager.
The Austin America was, in fact, his daily driver until 1989, when he acquired a Jaguar XJ6 from the company which employed him.
John spoke of his Austin America, saying:
“At about this time when the Austin America had 88K miles on it, I had some preventative maintenance done by a well-regarded shop that knew these cars well, Minis being their forte. I had the engine removed, a new clutch, gearbox bearings, big end bearings, and oil pump fitted thought the power unit was operating quite satisfactorily at the time and had never even had the cylinder head removed. Now 30 years later it has 106K miles and still has never had the head off.
“Being always garaged and kept clean and fully maintained to almost aircraft standards it shows and runs as well as new. Unlike many in the UK and other parts of the USA, there is not one spot of rust on this vehicle. The chrome and Snowberry white paint are original with the exception of few panels and all interior trim is original.
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“Careful care and proper driving practices over the decades is the key. It has only failed to proceed once in 48 years and this was due to my poor installation of an aftermarket Quinten Hazell inner U joint on the RH axle shaft. Over the decades it has had a few generators, a starter, water pump, fuel pump, batteries, one Hydrolastic displacer re-hosed, and brake work. The clutch and brake hydraulics have been converted to silicon DOT5 fluid.
“It still gets regular use every few weeks though not for high annual mileages. Being quite rare on the streets of Eugene Oregon where I now live, it always gets comments from bystanders. A roomy and fine handling car it has served me well for 48 years.
“I think I got my value out of my $1085 investment and will continue to do so. I have won prizes at various car shows, most recently one for the best preserved original car in the show. I suspect the car may outlive me so for the benefit of any future owner/driver I have placed a laminated card on the parcel shelf with these caveats.”
John does advise those considering going down the ADO 16 path to stop and think before doing so, saying:
Be advised this is a fragile and antiquated car. As such it needs special driving skills. First, and foremost, if you are in a hurry this is not the car to use. These are slow, low powered cars that take patience in operation. The gearbox should be used with great care.
First gear is synchronised but never engage first gear a more than slow rolling speed. When changing gear when driving, move the lever slowly and deliberately, do NOT rush the shifts.
When sitting waiting for traffic to move, as at a stop lamp light, shift to neutral and remove your foot from the clutch. Only depress the clutch and engage 1st when ready to move forward. When driving keep your foot completely off the clutch pedal.
This is a car that should not be driven at speeds greater than 3500 RPM continuously – about 56 MPH.
If you need to go faster than this, take a different car on your journey.
These tips are conservative, proven driving practices that will preserve this vintage car for a long-continued life and reliable service.