Austin Twenty

Austin Twenty is a large car introduced by Austin after the end of the First World War, in April 1919 and continued in production until 1930. After the Austin 20/6 model was introduced in 1927, the first model was referred to as the Austin 20/4.

Austin Twenty
Austin circa 1920 3851581011.jpg
Twenty Allweather coupé 1919
Also calledAustin 20/4 (from 1927)
ProductionApril 1919–1930
15,287 produced[1]
AssemblyLongbridge plant, Birmingham
Body and chassis
Body stylesaloon, tourer, coupé, landaulette[2]
16-cwt light van[3]
Engine3,610 cc (220 cu in) Straight-4[2]
TransmissionSingle-plate clutch; four-speed gearbox; propeller shaft to back axle with helical-bevel gearing[2]
Wheelbase130 in (3,300 mm)[3]
SuccessorAustin 20/6
Austin Twenty engine
ProductionApril 1919–1929
ConfigurationStraight 4-cylinder
Displacement3,610 cc (220 cu in)[2]
Cylinder bore95 mm (3.7 in)[2]
Piston stroke127 mm (5.0 in)[2]
Block materialCast iron, alloy crankcase
Head materialDetachable
Fuel systemIgnition by magneto[2]
Fuel typePetrol[2]
Oil systemLubrication by forced feed[2]
Cooling systemCooling water is pump circulated[2]
Power output45 bhp (34 kW; 46 PS) @2,000 rpm
Tax horsepower 22.38[2]
SuccessorAustin 20/6

Before 1919 Austins had been expensive prestige cars. In the 1920s there were people who believed the four-cylinder Twenty comparable with if not superior to the equivalent Rolls-Royce. If the coachwork were light enough the Twenty could also give a three-litre Bentley a run for its money. The final inter-war version was the enormous, extremely elegant fast and powerful side-valve Twenty-Eight of 1939. The overhead-valve (25) Sheerline and its companion Princess were to continue the line after the Second World War; however, by the 1930s Austin had lost its aristocratic cachet, having become well known for its Twelves and Sevens.[4]

The deceptively potent four-cylinder Twenty found fame at Brooklands both in private hands and with works drivers Lou Kings and Arthur Waite (Herbert Austin's Australian son-in-law and competitions manager).[4]

One model policyEdit

Before the First World War Austin had produced a range of expensive cars including a 3.6-litre 20-hp car but, influenced by the manufacturing philosophy of Henry Ford, Herbert Austin decided that the future was in mass-producing a single model and chose that size. The Longbridge plant had been considerably enlarged for wartime production, and it was there that the company had a base to put the theory into practice now with the capacity to manufacture 150 cars a week.[4]

During the war Austin had owned an American Hudson Super Six which he clearly admired. Its overall layout would form a basis for the design of the new one model car policy.[5] The car would, however, prove to be too large for the home market, only about 3,000 Twenties had been sold by July 1920.[4]

Massed motor-car production, first British exampleEdit

Perhaps hoping to help The Times published a long item at the beginning of June 1920 in which they professed admiration for Austin's enterprise in launching on the British market "a car made on American lines". The result, they said, "is good but not of the class of the old 20-hp. It would have been wiser to have given the new car a new name. The whole finish is poor. The engine vibrates at anything over moderate speeds and sometimes at low speeds. It is difficult to access the power unit and the whole car is difficult to associate with the 10-hp and 15-hp, the famous 18-hp and the 20-hp which did so well in the 1914 Alpine Trials.[6]

"However it is true the car is an excellent hill-climber, runs very quietly, accelerates rapidly and has very good steering. The (unfortunately) central gear change is good if a shade coarse. The wheel brakes worked by their side lever are excellent", but the transmission brake worked by the pedal was described as "indifferent". "The car holds the road well at any speed and the springing is good. The coachwork is comfortable enough but the open body is rather ugly".[6]

Summing up the motoring correspondent suggested that "if pains were taken to damp out engine vibration and a slightly higher price set which would allow more 'spit and polish'...Austin will do a lasting service to the country and to their shareholders".[6]

Receivership for AustinEdit

The one-model policy was rapidly dropped in mid-1921 when Austin's company was placed in receivership. Six months later in November 1921 Austin launched his Austin Twelve, in many ways a scaled-down Twenty.[5]

Four-cylinder engineEdit

The engine with its 95 mm bore and 127 mm stroke had a cast-iron cylinder block with detachable cylinder head mounted on top of an aluminium crankcase. It developed 45 bhp at 2000 rpm. As an advance on pre-war practice, the engine was directly bolted to the four-speed centre-change gearbox, which drove the rear wheels through an open propeller shaft.

The car driven by A E Filby from London to Cape Town and back in 1932 and 1935
Mayfair limousine 3.6-litre 1926
with aftermarket bumper
Mayfair limousine 3.6-litre 1926


The chassis, based on that of the Hudson, was conventional, with semi-elliptic leaf springs on all wheels and rigid axles front and rear. Wooden-spoked artillery-style wheels were fitted. Initially brakes were on the rear wheels, only but front wheel brakes were fitted as standard from 1925 and at the same time the wheels became steel-spoked.


At its 1919 introduction three body types were listed; a tourer, coupé and landaulette.[7] These were joined in 1921 by the Ranelagh fixed head, two-door, coupé. For 1922 the Grosvenor limousine and landaulette, a Ranelagh four-door, fixed head, coupé and Westminster drop-head coupé were added.

A 75 mph Sports variant was added in 1921 with a modified higher-compression engine and wire wheels, but it was very expensive, and only around 23 were sold.[5]

As well as the cars, a range of commercial vehicles was also built on the chassis.[3]

By the end of October 1921 Austin were able to advertise that 6,566 Austin Twenty cars were now on the road, 2,246 had so far been delivered during 1921, and that distributors and agents were showing unbounded confidence with their orders for Twenties and the new Austin Twelve, placing large contracts for 1922.
Prices at Works were: tourer £695, coupé £850 and landaulet (sic) £875.[8] Marlborough landaulet, £950 at Works.

Effective 4 April 1923 in response to harsh market conditions but in public attributed to improved facilities for manufacture and lower cost of materials and labour, prices were reduced to the following:[9]

  • Chassis £500
  • Tourer 5-seater £595
  • Westminster 2-door coupé £750
  • Ranelagh 4-door coupé £750
  • Marlborough Landaulet or Limousine £750
  • Mayfair Saloon Landaulet or Limousine £850[9]
Twenty 4-cylinder tourer May 1927
Ranelagh 6-cylinder saloon 1925

20/6 Six-cylinder engineEdit

Austin Twenty
Austin 20/6 Gordon Landaulette, 3.4-litre, 1929.
ProductionMay 1928—mid 1932
Body and chassis
Body stylesaloon, limousine
Engine3,397 cc (207 cu in) Straight-six[10]
3,610 cc (220 cu in) Straight-4
Transmissionsingle-plate clutch; four-speed and reverse gearbox; propellor shaft to back axle with helical-bevel gearing[2][10]
WheelbaseRanelagh 136 in (3,454 mm)
Mayfair 130 in (3,302 mm)
Whitehall 120 in (3,048 mm)
Carlton 120 in (3,048 mm)
Track 56 in (1,422 mm)[10]
Kerb weight36 long cwt (4,032 lb; 1,829 kg)[10][11]
PredecessorAustin 20
SuccessorAustin 20/6
Austin Six engine
20 / 6
ProductionOctober 1926—mid 1938
ConfigurationStraight 6-cylinder[10][11]
Displacement3,397 cc (207 cu in)[10]
Cylinder bore79.35 mm (3.124 in)[10]
Piston stroke114.5 mm (4.51 in)[10]
Block materiala separate casting from the head and crankcase. crankshaft is carried in 8 bearings[10]
Head materialdetachable, pistons are aluminium[10]
Valvetrainside-valves are on the nearside of the block. tappets are automatically lubricated. timing is as the back of the engine.[10]
Fuel systemdual carburettor, fed by gravity from vacuum tank on dash. manifold provides heating for the mixture[10] Fuel feed by Autovac[11]
Fuel typepetrol[10]
Oil systemforced feed[10]
Cooling systemRadiator is within an external shell, fan is operated by belt and there is a pump to force circulation of water[10] There is an adjustable thermostat[11]
Power output49 bhp (37 kW; 50 PS) @2,000 rpm[10][11]
58 bhp (43 kW; 59 PS) @2,600 rpm[12]
Tax horsepower 23.42[10][11]
PredecessorAustin 20/4
SuccessorAustin 28

New body October 1926Edit

The car that was destined to succeed the Twenty, the six-cylinder 20/6, was announced at the October 1926 London Motor Show[13] with production really starting in early 1928, and until 1930 the two different engines were sold alongside each other, but 1929 would be the last year of full production for what was now called the 20/4.

There was a 12-volt electrical system for lighting and starting. Timing was at the back of the engine. From there on the off-side were driven in-line the generator, water-pump and magneto.[10] Reported refinements for the 1929 Motor Show included: chromium-plated exterior fittings, Triplex glass, improved (dome type) "mud wings (front mudguards) and new gas (sic) and ignition control levers "neatly placed above the steering wheel".[14] For 1930 the specification included Biflex magnetic dip and switch headlights and wire wheels.[15]


The engine, clutch and gearbox, which was centrally controlled, all formed one assembly that was held in the frame by two brackets with a rubber-lined frame at the front. The rear axle was three-quarter floating.[10]


Steering is worm and worm wheel type. Beneath the hand wheel there is a convenient ring-operated horn switch.[10]


Behind the gearbox there was a "locomotive" transmission brake operated by a hand lever on the off-side of the gear lever. The brake's shoes were to some extent self-adjusting but might be regulated by two hand screws. "This brake is intended to be more than just a parking brake". The four wheels had brakes operated by rods from the brake pedal. Compensation was made so that balance was preserved in the back and front sets of brakes. The application was partly taken by rods but finally by cables. The brake drums were enclosed and have outlets for water or oil. The front braking mechanism was simple, there was only one arm which had anchorage above the pivot pin and did not turn with the wheel. The cams were at the bottom of the drums and the steering pins were hollowed to allow the necessary expanding control.[10]


The front and back springs were half-elliptical. At the back they were carried under the axle. Both sets had lubricating gaiters and shock absorbers. There was no camber to the forward springs. There were no stops behind the back shackles.[10]


  • Open Road tourer 4-cylinder £425
  • Open Road tourer 6-cylinder £525
  • Carlton saloon 4-cylinder £495
  • Carlton saloon 6-cylinder £595
  • Marlborough landaulette 4-cylinder £475
  • Ranelagh limousine or landaulette 4-cylinder £575
  • Ranelagh limousine or landaulette 6-cylinder £675[16]

Road testEdit

Seats are comfortable. The speedometer only showed up to 60 mph, within the engine's capacity. No sign of overheating. Clutch satisfactory, lower gears much quieter than on previous Austins. Brakes suspension and steering were not at all bad but could be made better.[10]

Twenty four Mayfair saloon 3.6-litre
Twenty six Ranelagh limousine 3.4-litre

New body August 1932Edit

Austin Twenty
Ranelagh 20/6 limousine 1935
ProductionAugust 1932—mid 1934
Body and chassis
Body stylesaloon, limousine
Engine3,397 cc (207 cu in) Straight-six
PredecessorAustin 20/6
SuccessorAustin 20/6

"A body design that makes this magnificent seven-seater even more than ever like a £1,000 car. Its streamline front, waistline moulding and petrol tank housing, all new, enhance its superb lines".[17] Syncromesh was added to the gearbox in mid 1933. Other minor improvements included: illuminated semaphore direction indicators, side deflectors for the front door windows and an interior visor, a lockable metal spare wheel cover.[18]

The Twenty remained available as a Ranelagh limousine or landaulette both on a wheelbase of 11 ft 4in., £595, or as a Whitehall saloon with a 10 ft wheelbase £515.[18]

Ranelagh rear view 1935

Road testEdit

This 7-seater limousine has four good doors and six side windows. Front seat is fixed as is unfortunately the windscreen but the screen is large and gives a good view. The back seat has three armrests. The occasional seats fold away neatly, give enough support to the back and knee and toe room is well arranged. Equipment includes such fittings as: two interior lights, five blinds, parcel net and ventilator in the roof, bag pockets on the doors. Upholstery in the rear is cord and in front is leather. There is a large cupboard to the left of the instruments. An amplifying telephone (to the driver) is provided. The gear lever has a catch for reverse and a quiet-second together with syncro-mesh is provided. There are just the four brakes which are applied by rods and cables by hand lever or by pedal. The half-elliptical springs have Silentbloc shackle bushes and zinc interleaves and are damped by hydraulic shock absorbers. Price £575.[11]

New body August 1934Edit

Austin Twenty
Ranelagh 20/6 limousine 1936
ProductionAugust 1934[19]—mid 1938
Body and chassis
Body stylesaloon, limousine
Engine3,397 cc (207 cu in) Straight-six
Wheelbase136 in (3,500 mm)
track 57.25 in (1,454 mm)
Length199 in (5,100 mm)
Width70.5 in (1,790 mm)
Height76 in (1,900 mm)
PredecessorAustin 20
SuccessorAustin 28

"Clean-cut beauty in the modern trend". "Entirely new frontal design including a longer bonnet and new-shaped radiator and rear panelling". Syncromesh on all but first gear.[20] Flush direction indicators with automatic return. Bumpers are fitted fore and aft. The spare wire wheel and its tyre are now carried in the boot and the luggage platform on the door can be swivelled to one side. Dip and switch of the headlamps is controlled by a foot button. The Jackall four-wheel hydraulic jacks, workable from inside the car, will raise all four wheels at once or the front and back ones in pairs. The brakes are of Girling type.[21][22]

Road testEdit

The engine has been greatly improved in its running as to its smoothness and refinement probably due to the revised carburation. Syncromesh is often obstructive for second gear. The landaulette will do about 65 miles an hour in top gear. Price £650, landaulette and limousine.[22]

Mayfair 20/6 saloon 1936
  • 1933— 629
  • 1934— 491
  • 1935— 555
  • 1936—
  • 1937— 380

28 Six-cylinder engineEdit

Austin Twenty-Eight
Ranelagh 28 limousine 1939
ProductionJuly 1938 – September 1939
Quantity 300 (sold)
Body and chassis
Body stylesaloon, limousine
Engine4,016 cc (245 cu in) Straight-six[25][26]
Wheelbase136 in (3,454 mm)[25][26]
Track front: 58 in (1,473 mm)[25][26]
Track rear: 60 in (1,524 mm)[25][26]
Kerb weight
39 long cwt (4,368 lb; 1,981 kg)[26]
PredecessorAustin 20
SuccessorAustin Sheerline
Austin 28 engine
ConfigurationStraight 6-cylinder
Displacement4,016 cc (245 cu in)[25][26]
Cylinder bore86.36 mm (3.400 in)[25][26]
Piston stroke114.3 mm (4.50 in)[25][26]
Block materialCast iron. Aluminium pistons with anodised surfaces. Four-bearing crankshaft with a vibration damper.[25][26]
Head materialaluminium, detachable[26]
Valvetraininclined side valves, inlet larger than exhaust, pressure lubrication for the tappets[25][26]
Fuel systemdowndraught carburettor, coil ignition with automatic advance[25][26]
Oil systemfloating filter pick up for the oil pump and anti-surge valve[25][26]
Cooling systemforced water circulation thermostatically controlled[25][26]
Power output90 bhp (67 kW; 91 PS) @3,200 rpm
Tax horsepower 27.75[25][26]
PredecessorAustin 20/6 engine
SuccessorOHV Austin Sheerline 3460 cc and 3995 cc "100 hp engine"

New body July 1938Edit

The last of the Austin range to be given Dick Burzi's new body shape it was announced twelve months after the entry into production of Austin's update of their Sixteen into their stubby-nosed Eighteen, a 50% more powerful engine in a longer-nosed (by 18 inches) body. The new body which only shared its general appearance with the smaller Eighteen was described as notable for its roominess and luxurious comfort. Generous seating with a flat unobstructed floor together with draught-free ventilation by sliding quarter windows, sound insulation for all the steel body panels and generous luggage accommodation were further new features.[27] Equipment includes a reversing light.[25] The price of the new Twenty-Eight was £700.[25][27]

Other improvements across the board included: pistol-grip handbrakes under the dashboard, increased luggage accommodation, piston-type hydraulic shock absorbers, more accessible batteries and a quick-filling petrol tank.[27]


Steering system was by Marles-Weller.[25]


Brakes were by Girling.[25]


Rigid axles back and front supported low-periodicity positively lubricated half-elliptical springs with hydraulic shock absorbers and jacks.[25]

New engine July 1938Edit

The new 4-litre engine was announced to a gathering of Austin agents and distributors at Longbridge at the end of July 1938. The design with the alloy cylinder head having proved so successful on the Austin Fourteen it would now be applied across the range. It included a higher compression ratio, "upwards of 6 : 1" which in combination with the larger inlet valves improved fuel consumption and power output.[27]

The cylinder bore was increased by 7 mm from 79.35 to 86.36 mm lifting cubic capacity from 3.4-litres to 4-litres. The tax rating was increased from 23.42 to 27.75 but the power output went up from 58 bhp (43 kW; 59 PS) @2,600 rpm to a reported 90 bhp (67 kW; 91 PS) @3,200 rpm.[25]

The previous eight main bearing crankshaft was replaced with a four-bearing crankshaft fitted with a vibration damper which decision fitted with the then current trend.[25]

The new detachable aluminium alloy cylinder head was fitted over inclined side valves and anodised aluminium alloy pistons. Pressure lubrication was supplied to the tappets, coolant temperature was controlled by thermostat and coil ignition was provided with automatic advance.[25]

Road testEdit

A new and roomy seven-seater which has much to recommend it including the price. Unusually good windows, long and fairly deep give a good view and enhance the appearance of the car. The cushions and shaped squabs are comfortable, the compartments are divided by sliding glass panels. There are folding foot rests, blinds to the division window, shaped armchair backs to the seat and a double arm rest in the centre. The occasional seats give reasonable comfort, the doorways behind are wide, the boot has two good-sized fitted suitcases with the spare wheel below and its platform is designed to take 1½ cwt 168 lb (76 kg) of extra luggage.[26]

The new engine has the extra refinement in running noticeable in the other new Austin units and shows much improvement on the former Twenty. The horn button and the signalling lever are on the top of the thin three-spoked steering wheel. The brake lever is inverted and under the dash. Accessible it does not interfere with entrance and has a thumb-plate trigger. The greatest comfortable speed was 70 miles per hour.[26]


In 2004 Martyn Nutland reported there were just two still in existence and some part of a third car.[23]


  1. ^ Baldwin, Nick (1994). A-Z of Cars of the 1920s. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-53-2.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Motor Show. Price increases, Austin, The Times, Tuesday, 11 November 1919; pg. 8; Issue 42254.
  3. ^ a b c Motor Transport. The Times, Thursday, 7 February 1924; pg. 5; Issue 43569
  4. ^ a b c d Martyn Nutland, Brick by Brick: The Biography of the Man Who Really Made The Mini – Leonard Lord, 2012, AuthorHouse ISBN 978-1-4772-0318-7
  5. ^ a b c Wood, Jonathan (August 2009). "Austin Twenty". The Automobile. UK. 27 (6). ISSN 0955-1328.
  6. ^ a b c Massed Motor-Car Production. The Times, Saturday, Jun 12, 1920; pg. 11; Issue 42435.
  7. ^ "Austin Twenty: The price of cars". Austin Advertisement. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  8. ^ Display advertising, The Austin Motor Co Ltd, Northfield, Birmingham. The Times, Friday, 4 November 1921; pg. 17; Issue 42869
  9. ^ a b Austin. Display ad. The Times, Thursday, 5 April 1923; pg. 16; Issue 43307
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Cars of To-Day. 6-cyl. Austin Twenty, The Times, Tuesday, 15 May 1928; pg. 22; Issue 44893.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Cars of To-Day. Austin Twenty, The Times, Tuesday, 5 September 1933; pg. 8; Issue 46541
  12. ^ Cars of To-Day. Austin Twenty, The Times, Tuesday, 28 August 1934; pg. 8; Issue 46844
  13. ^ British Twenties, The Times, Wednesday, 27 October 1926; pg. 19; Issue 44413
  14. ^ Austin. Display ad. The Times, Friday, 18 October 1929; pg. 21; Issue 45337
  15. ^ The Motor Show. Austin Twenty, The Times, Monday, 21 October 1929; pg. 22; Issue 45339
  16. ^ Austin. Display ad. The Times, Tuesday, 20 March 1928; pg. xliv; Issue 44846.
  17. ^ The Austin Motor Company Ltd. Display ad. The Times, Tuesday, 6 September 1932; pg. 9; Issue 46231
  18. ^ a b Cars of 1934. The Times, Tuesday, 15 August 1933; pg. 8; Issue 46523
  19. ^ New Austin Models, The Scotsman; 14 August 1934;
  20. ^ The New Austin. Display ad. The Times, Tuesday, 14 August 1934; pg. 7; Issue 46832
  21. ^ Austin Motor Company Limited. Display ad. The Times, Tuesday, 13 August 1935; pg. 23; Issue 47141
  22. ^ a b Cars of To-Day. Austin Twenty, The Times, 14 July 1936; pg. 8; Issue 47426
  23. ^ a b Martyn Nutland, Few Coronets, Few Kind Hearts, Austin Times, 2004, Vol 2, Issue 4
  24. ^ Martyn Nutland, Brick by Brick – Leonard Lord, Authorhouse, Bloomington IN 47403 ISBN 978-1-4772-0318-7
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Cars of 1939. Austin Models and Prices, A New 28h.p.. The Times, Wednesday, 27 July 1938; pg. 4; Issue 48057
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Cars of To-Day. Austin Twenty-Eight, The Times, Thursday, 9 February 1939; pg. 10; Issue 48225.
  27. ^ a b c d Austin Car Programme:The Scotsman; 27 July 1938;

External linksEdit