The Return of my Austin 7 Opal EMT 853

In 1953 after passing my Driving Test, I purchased a 1936 Austin 7 Opal Tourer, Reg. No. EMT 853 This was my first association with Pre War Austin’s.

The car was in my ownership from 1953 until 1955, when it was replaced with a new Ford Popular, (Not a good move) this was followed by an A30 and many other modern cars.

As the years passed I still had a great affection to my little seven, and in 1976 when our children were a little older and not quite so demanding on our financial resources a 1929 Chummy Reg. No. PO 776 was purchased which is still in my ownership this car has always been great fun to drive.

After this I got the bug again for old cars, and carried out a full restoration of a 1935 Ruby Saloon, I then purchased a 1928 Heavy 12/4 Windsor Saloon Reg. No. RA 5406, this was in Yellow and Black and was affectionately called Bumble.  This car was well liked by the family. It was eventually sold to enable me to purchase a Derby Bentley.

In more recent times an Austin 7 Nippy  Reg. No. CDH 511, was purchased and was eventually sold due it being found difficult for some one of my age to get in and out of. About 2 years ago a 1929 Austin Heavy 12/4 Burnham Saloon, was bought, this one is named Norman after the man who carried out its re-build in the 1960’s. It now lives alongside the Chummy, they are both painted in the same colour and make a nice matching pair.

Over many years of being an Austin Enthusiast, I have always hoped that I could one day be reunited with my first Austin Opal EMT 853. Enquiries and adverts were made with the Pre War A7 Club and Classic Car Weekly, No response was received I more or less concluded that the little 7 had gone to the scrap yard.

In November 2011 the Classic Show at the NEC was attended, after spending several hours viewing many of the splendid exhibits, the Available Austins stand, was  in the corner of one of the Halls. I noticed a little Austin 7 Opal painted Bright Orange and Black in awful condition with Toy Teddy Bear’s placed on the Bonnet.

I said to my friend who was attending the Show with me that I must go and have a look at the car, as I owned one such vehicle at the age of 17. To my amazement it was EMT 853. I duly negotiated with the dealer and purchased the car on the following Monday.

The car arrives at home.

A week later the car was collected and brought home. At my age I would not have undertaken such a major project if it had been any other car. The front end had been in a collision at some stage rendering the Front Wings and Radiator Cowl beyond repair. The rear Wings and Wheel Arch’s were rotted away as was the back half of the Body and Sill’s. The  Floor was reasonable. The Chassis was in good condition apart from the O/S King pin Eye in the Front Axle.

It was decided to tackle the engine, as the first part of the restoration. The cylinder head was removed and it was found that the Valves on Cylinders 3 and 4 were rusted solid into their Guides, but the good news was that the Bores were good and the engine turned freely. The valves were duly replaced as were some broken cylinder head and manifold studs.

After this the Sump was removed and the Big End’s were also in good condition. The worst aspect was that most of the threads holding the Sump Pan on were stripped, these were duly re-tapped a size larger to resolve the problem. The engine was re assembled and fitted with a 1” SU Carburettor and an SU Fuel Pump.

The Exhaust System was also replaced. A New Wiring Harness, Side and Tail Lamps were fitted.

Moving on to the Body, I decided to tackle one side at a time.

Having removed the Wings and Running Boards, new Sills and Wheel Arch’s were made out of 1mm Steel, and carefully fitted, also the rear half of the body was repaired.

A pair of second hand Ruby Front Wings, and a Radiator Cowl, were purchased from County Austin’s. also Keith Marriner of Metal Work Developments made a new pair of rear Wings. New Running Boards and  covers were also bought.

Having completed the restoration of the body work. The wings etc were assembled to check and adjust the fit of the various components.

The car was then taken to Autotec at Lichfield for painting. It was taken to pieces again and each panel was painted prior to being re-assembled. The colour chosen was Dark Red for the body with Black mudguards. Whilst this work was being carried out all the Chrome parts were sent away for re-plating.

With regard to the interior of the car the Seats were re-trimmed by David Haden, of Walsall Wood, in a Dark Red leather, as were the Door Trims to the original pattern.

The Hood was painted and whilst not perfect it will be serviceable for the time being. Further to this new side screens and a spare wheel cover were made. I had an amount of Wilton carpet, and decided to make the carpets myself, Red leather was used to bind the edges.

When the body and interior were finished. My attention was then turned to the running gear. The following parts were fitted a replacement used Front Axle, Stub Axles, and new Brake Cables. The Brakes, Wheel Bearings were stripped and cleaned and found to be in good order. The Gearbox, Rear Axle, and Transmission needed only oil changes and greasing.

All this work has taken me just under 12 months to complete. The car was put back on the Road on 4th November 2012, Initially a number of short runs were undertaken, the car ran very smoothly and everything worked other than the petrol gauge, a replacement was bought off ebay.

After the initial run a set back came in December with a blown Cylinder Head Gasket. I have since had the head skimmed, this has cured the problem.

When I originally owned the car between 1953 and 1955, on a return journey from Bournemouth. I had the Crankshaft break. It was hardly surprising that this happened being a young lad I had a tendency to drive it as fast as it would go, our destination on that occasion was reached in record time. Despite this Crankshaft break, I managed to get it home under its own steam as the break was in the middle of the centre bearing, the two halves were knuckling together. The engine was rebuilt which included a New Crankcase, Re Bore and Crank etc. The car has not been on the Road for the past 40 years, it may not have done many miles after the re-build in 1954. As a matter of interest it still has a 3 Bearing Engine.

In conclusion it is very pleasing have found and to be driving this lovely old car after a break of 56 years I thought I would never find the car again.

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