Car Restoration Projects
A Freeway family affair
This largely original Austin Freeway MkII has been tastefully refreshed by a mechanically savvy father and son team in Victoria.
Although British cars, trucks and motorcycles dominated the Australian landscape in the pre-WWII and early post-War years, the Poms didn’t adapt their vehicles sufficiently to suit Australian conditions.
Even when the Australian-made Holden arrived on the market, English car makers took years to react to the six-cylinder revolution, while Ford and Chrysler brought out their own Holden competitors.
When finally released in 1962, Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80 models were Australian-built variants of the Austin A60 Cambridge and Wolseley 15/60 respectively, both locally powered by a six-cylinder version of the BMC B-Series engine.
These vehicles were something of factory ‘hot-rods’, with the 2.4-litre, 80bhp, Blue Streak six slotted into an engine bay designed for a four. The radiator was positioned in front of the engine bay cross member, rather than behind it!
BMC Australia’s PR, Evan Green and Modern Motor Magazine’s publisher, Jules Feldman, drove one around Australia in nine days and six hours, proving the vehicle’s durability.
However, the Freeway slightly out-powered the 75bhp Holden EJ, but was out-performed by the Falcon and Valiant, and lacked the interior space of the Big Three.
(Interestingly, a wider-cabin version was prototyped in Sydney, but never went into production. We’ve outlined this development in the Austin entry in our Car Brands section of this website.)
Freeway sales were poor, averaging around 660 cars per month, compared with Holden’s near 12,000 and Ford’s 4000 sales per month.
However, the Austin Freeway was a good-performing sedan that rode and handled well. It was well equipped by contemporary standards, offering windscreen washers and a fresh air heater/demister.
The original Freeway was replaced by the Freeway MkII in October 1964, with more power, power brakes, revised rear suspension and improved seating. It was short-lived, being phased out a year later, in favour of BMC’s Min-inspired, front wheel drive large models.
Refurbishing the Freeway
Our featured Freeway was bought by Ed H from a car collector in East Gippsland. That guy had purchased it from Clare, in South Australia, in 2017, where it had was something of a barn find, having travelled only 22,000 genuine miles.
The original owner had bought it new, in March 1965, but it was last registered in 1988, in South Australia. The car came with the original pre-delivery worksheet, driver’s handbook and service book.
Ed H conceived the Freeway project as a family affair, with assistance promised by his father, Danny. The aim was to rejuvenate the old Austin and use it to attend car club rallies, as well as other weekend activities.
When Ed picked up the car its paintwork was in surprisingly good condition, needing only a cut and polish to bring back the original lustre. However, the interior was in need of work and the vinyl floor was well worn.
Years of inactivity meant that the complete brake system needed to be overhauled and the fuel system was gummed up.
“Because the car was a barn find,” said Ed H. “It also had about 40kg of red earth from the farm it was found on.”
The boys set to work in Ed’s garage, replacing the brake lines and wheel cylinders, and got the drum shoes re-bonded. They also fitted a new master cylinder and vacuum servo.
The Zenith carburettor was rebuilt and the float level reset. The rusted exhaust system was replaced, from the headers back.
They replaced the sump seals and rocker gaskets, and fitted an upgraded timing chain cover. In went a new clutch.
The door rubber and boot rubbers were perished and were all replaced.
Sound deadening was installed under the new carpet that was installed to replace the original vinyl.
The boys also replaced all the suspension bushes and overhauled the Armstrong hydraulic lever shocks. They fitted new king pins and replaced the old rubber with new 185mm Bridgestone tyres.
Since finishing the project in 2022, Ed H and his young family have attended many functions in the Freeway that always turns heads.