Surviving Austin Freeway prototype
Surviving prototype cars are scarcer than hens’ teeth, so we were pleasantly surprised to be told of one that not only survived the past 60+ years, but was in regular use until relatively recently.
Our publication of an Austin Freeway restoration in May 2023 sparked input from an Historic Vehicles supporter, who knew of a prototype Freeway that was until recently being driven by its owner, Roger Allan Foy. Sadly, he passed away in April 2023, aged almost 93.
R A Foy was an ex-employee of BMC Australia, where he worked in the Experimental Department. After the prototype Freeway had fulfilled its testing roles, R A Foy purchased the car in December, 1962.
Until late 2022 he drove it every week from his home at South Turramurra, in Sydney’s leafy northern suburbs, to Fagan Park at nearby Galston, where he had been a volunteer at the museums for 25 years. His last attendance was just before Christmas, 2022, when declining health caught up with him.
“I can confirm that the car is the first full prototype and is still in every-day use,” said R A Foy, back in 2018.
“The first photograph of the car was taken at Maroubra Beach, in December, 1960, when it was wearing a Morris Oxford V grille.
“The second photograph is of the same car, taken in December, 2000.”
This Austin Freeway prototype was built in mid-1960 at Longbridge, UK, to the full ADO40 mechanical specification. It was fitted with then-current UK Austin A55 MKII interior trim and external bright-work, including Austin-type tailfin trim strips.
It arrived in Australia in August 1960, whereupon the interior trim and dash was changed to the proposed Freeway style and a less restrictive Morris Oxford grille was fitted.
The car was used for multiple engineering tests, including braking, ride and handling, cooling, performance, fuel consumption, tyre evaluation, NVH (noise-vibration-harshness) and competitive comparisons.
It had clocked up a few miles in these pursuits, so when R A Foy purchased the car it had covered 38,000 miles. The speedo read 291,600 in 2018.
Two additional prototypes came from UK: a station wagon and a Wolseley version. These two cars were used for durability-type testing, with a high mileage proportion carried out on unsealed roads.
“The Station Wagon was operated for most of the time with Wolseley front-end sheet metal,” said R A Foy.
“This narrow-grille bodywork was used to create higher under-bonnet temperatures for testing, but that led to much speculation at the time that there might be a Wolseley station wagon version being developed!
“A then-new Borg-Warner Type 35 automatic transmission was also fitted to the wagon, for extended testing.
“Like my car, these two cars were sold to BMC Plant employees, but no record of their subsequent history is known,” said R A Foy.
He believed that his car was likely to be the only genuine prototype of any make in regular use in Australia and so could be unique. If there are others perhaps we could get them all together sometime.
The above story is written with the permission of the late R A Foy’s family.