Rare Rides: Vintage England Via the 1957 Austin Cambridge

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Recently Rare Rides featured the Rolls-Royce powered Vanden Plas Princess, which was the very pinnacle of luxury offered by BMC’s coachbuilding arm.

Today we’ll check out one of the less luxurious cars British Motor sold to the proletariat: It’s an Austin Cambridge from 1957.

The Cambridge sedan entered production in 1954, replacing the short-lived and stodgy Somerset. Gone were the flowing fenders and bathtub styling, hallmarks of a “ Transatlantic” design theme Austin thought would appeal to Americans. The Cambridge was more modern, more tidy, and available in several different versions.

Cambridge nomenclature was always preceded by some lettering: A40, A50, A55, or A60. Sometimes the model name meant more power and equipment, and other times it meant a revised car. The A40 was the cheapest version, sold between 1954 and ’56. Powered by an inline-four of 42 horsepower and 1.2 liters, it was only produced as a sedan.

Produced concurrently between 1954 and 1957, the A50 had a 1.5-liter engine for a more serious 50 horsepower. BMC was keen on distributing this more powerful Cambridge abroad; Japanese customers received an additional wagon variant, and in Australia it became a ute.

A slight restyling for 1957 turned the A50 into the A55. Now called Cambrian for North American export, it received additional identities as the Austin 1/2 Ton and Morris 1/2 Ton when it donned the body of a commercial vehicle. This version was available as a traditional four-door sedan, a commercial sedan delivery and pickup truck, and a ute for Australians. The A55 had a slightly tweaked engine, offering one additional horsepower over the old version. Zero to 60 arrived after just 27 seconds.

1958 was the last year for the A55 version, as styling had grown dated and customers desired a larger sedan. A Mark II A55 started production in 1959. At 11 inches longer and two inches wider than the original version, the car’s sleek new body featured fins and was designed by Pininfarina for extra flair.

But the stylishness didn’t last long, as in 1961 the Cambridge was updated yet again to the A60 version. Passenger A60s remained in production through 1969, and the commercial version soldiered on through 1973. All were replaced by the Austin 1800.

Today’s Rare Ride is an A55 from 1957. It’s left-hand drive and presently located in Switzerland, where the seller asks $9,000.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 24 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Oct 08, 2019

    Correction: This car was developed for India, not USA. I would rather take Trabant of the same era than this, at least Trabant is a product of German engineering in its finest. Or Wartburg.

  • Glued Glued on Jul 14, 2022

    Fun fact: The only place BMC sold a two-door saloon of this car was Canada. This version wasn't even sold in the home market. Yay, fun fact!

  • Tane94 Yes and yes to both questions. GM and Fird have long used built-in-China components in their vehicles -- the GM 3.4L engines used in past SUVs being just one example. Why is the US so scared of China's manufacturing prowess? Why is the US so scared of China's ascendency to world super-power? Look at China's high speed rail network, including mag-lev trains, and then US trains. I would buy a China-built vehicle with no trepidation.
  • Theflyersfan Adding to what Posky said (and for once, I kinda agree with what he wrote), and as an auto enthusiast it kills me to think this, but why should auto makers care about enthusiasts any longer? Hear me out... It can be argued that the first real enthusiasts were those coming home from WW2, having served in Europe, and fell in love with their cars. And Detroit responded. That carried over to the Boomers and Gen X. The WW2 generation for all sakes and purposes is no longer with us. The Boomers are decreasing in number. The first years of Gen X are nearing retirement. After us (Gen X), that's when we see the love of cars tail off. That was the generation that seemed to wait to get a license, grew up with smart phones and social media, got saddled with crippling home and student debt, and just didn't have the same love that we have. They for the most part are voting on do-all CUVs. Yes, automakers throw us a bone with special models, but they tend to be very expensive, saddled with markups, high insurance rates, and sometimes rare. Looking at you Audi and Lexus. Friends of mine who currently have or have just raised teens said their kids just don't care about cars. Their world is not out in the open and enjoying the moment with the roar of the engine. It's in the world they created for themselves at their fingertips. If they want bland and an appliance, that's what will be built.
  • Kosmo Nope. Not ever. They are not our friends.
  • Aja8888 No, only Chinese food.
  • Rochester Assuming a quality build, competitive pricing and reliable service, then of course. The only people who think otherwise have a distorted (and shamefully manipulated) sense of nationalism. It's just a car, not an Olympic medal.