When it was introduced at the famous 1948 London Motor Show, the Austin A90 Atlantic Convertible’s flamboyant appearance was noted by both visitors and the press. The A90 was originally sold as a four-seater drophead, but a mechanically identical four-seater coupe was added. The Austin Atlantic was intended for more affluent American buyers.
Beneath the charming bodywork were coil springs up front along with a live rear axle and leaf springs, drum brakes and a cruciform-braced chassis. The 4-speed gearbox was operated from the steering column, and the A90’s standard equipment included a heater, a central fog lamp an EKCO radio and an adjustable steering column. The A90 Atlantic was available with electrically operated side windows and top, while the gold-faced instruments added a further touch of trans-Atlantic glamour.
In October 1949, the Convertible was joined by the Austin A90 Atlantic Coupe, which was mechanically identical and could be specified with a fabric-covered roof. The A90 Atlantic Coupe further boasted the distinctive feature of a rear windscreen that could be raised and lowered via a handle above the driver’s side mirror. In 1951 the A90s were given an all-hydraulic brake system and Austin ceased building the Convertible in that same year, with the Coupe continuing to be made until September 1952.
Power for the Austin A90 Atlantic was provided by a 2,660cc OHV S4 engine with twin SU carburettors. The transmission was a four-speed box with synchromesh on the top three gears.
The chassis of the Austin A90 Atlantic was derived from the A40 Devon (q.v.) so despite its dramatic looks it is not an out-and-out sports car by any means. Its ride and road manners reflect its family saloon underpinnings. But although the Atlantic’s intended USA customer base did not take to a tourer with only four cylinders in a market sector was dominated by sixes and V-8s, the A90’s top speed was a very respectable 91 mph, with 0-60 mph coming in under 17 seconds. The 2.6-litre engine’s durability is demonstrated by the fact that over a seven-day period at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1949 an Austin A90 Atlantic broke 63 US stock car records.
In fact, Austin A90 Atlantic’s engine went on to power the Austin-Healey 100. For too many years the former was often sacrificed in the restoration of the latter but today this does benefit the spare parts situation. Brightwork and trim details can be very hard to find, while sourcing any example of the Austin A90 Atlantic might require considerable patience. Of the limited production run around 800 were sold in Australia and the Austin’s survival rate was limited by its propensity to rust. The Atlantic’s body was replete with mud traps and the coachwork of any surviving example should be carefully examined. Inside the A90’s cabin, hide-trimmed seats in a poor condition will not be cheap to restore.
The A90 Atlantic’s main domestic competitor was the Riley RMC, but the Austin’s blend of US opulence on a British scale had few if any British rivals.