Compared to the model which it superseded, the A40 Somerset, the Cambridge was like a breath of fresh air, boasting a completely new look from stem to stem.

Breaking away from the staid image of the early 1950s this time Austin produced a car with not even the remotest similarities to any of their previous models, and even more significantly very few carry-overs from previous mechanical components.

To the casual onlooker, the Austin A 40 Cambridge, was more closely related to the recently launched and much larger A90 Westminster than any other car in the company's range.

The A 40 Cambridge also established another significant precedent in that it was the first to roll off the Austin production line constructors around a chassis less, unit-construction bodyshell.

This was to prove to be a major development for Austin, waving a long overdue farewell to the procedure to producing cars with a  separate chassis,  replacing this outmoded design concept with a single construction unit.

A major step forward in the world of auto production.

The latest addition to the A40 family was narrower and lower than its predecessor, the A40 Somerset but no less comfortable and roomy for its passengers.

The A40 Cambridge was 'squarer' in appearance than the bulbous design of the Somerset, boasting a 'non-Austin' radiator grille profile, slightly hooded headlamps.

Other design features were a wing crown line which swept through from headlamp cowls to the tail, and a uniquely designed rear end which became a characteristic of the car’s design, which the motoring press rapidly nicknamed 'cow hips'.

Initially offered as either a four-door or two-door saloon, it became rapidly apparent to the marketing team at Austin that the two-door option was a non-starter and was quickly dropped from the British market.

Fitted with a 1.2-litre engine, an under-bored version of the new corporate B-Series unit from BMC, the Austin A40 Cambridge backed by a brand-new B-Series four-speed transmission,  capable of producing a comfortable 42bhp.

For increased driver comfort the A40 Cambridge retained its steering-column change control, while being fitted with the recently introduced hypoid-bevel B-Series back axle unit.

This A40 Cambridge’s driveline was not the first launched by BMC, as it had already been seen on the new MG Magnette ZA and was rapidly recognised as being the foundation of what was to become to be known as  BMC's 'building block' strategy which ran through the rest of the 1950s and 1960s.

Although the A40 Cambridge proved to be a steady seller, it was gradually overshadowed by the success of the larger-engined A50 version, and when the time came to restyle the shell for early 1957, the A40 itself was discontinued.

The next A40 to come off Austin's production line was the Farina launched in late 1958, was an entirely different type of car, based on A35 running gear.

During the three years that it was in production just over 30,000 Austin A40 Cambridge versions were sold.


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A guide to acquiring, restoring and maintaining UK or European Classic Cars of the Fifties and Sixties- as well as a recollection of the iconic cars of the era and the visionaries that produced them.