Everything we write about here at The Daily Driver Project feels personal – we’re so in love with vintage cars that each one we meet and get to know is special to us in some way. Week after week, we bring you stories and coverage of other people’s cars. Sure, we’ve formed a connection through meeting these cars and their owners at shows and special events, but we don’t typically have the opportunity to share a personal history with the vehicle itself.
This time is different.
Meet the family Austin, who holds a very special place in our hearts. Cute as a button, isn’t she? Previously owned by my grandparents, this little 1931 Austin was a part of our family for nearly 40 years. Of the five Austins that our family once owned, this girl was an absolute favorite.
Full of interesting textures and the patina of a bygone era, this pint-sized beauty has plenty of automotive character.
Sons Lance, Scott and Craig bought this for their father, Guy Railsback, as a gift in the 1970s. Found in El Monte on a used car lot, Lance had been looking for an Austin like this one for over a year. He happened upon the Austin purely by accident – while picking up wood from a lumber yard for a construction job, Lance noticed the little Austin, which was parked just around the corner.
Guy and his wife Nadine (pictured above) sold this Austin just over a year ago at auction to local resident Bruce Hearn, whose grandson is also named Austin. Bruce took that as a sign that he just had to own this car!
Bruce kindly brought the Austin by recently to show our family how the restoration of this vintage charmer was progressing. It was good to see this old girl again, and in such good hands. As we mentioned, Bruce lives locally in Whittier, and to date, this was the farthest trip the Austin had made since he purchased it.
Shortly after ownership, Bruce joined two car clubs, including the American Austin-Bantam Club, to learn more about his car and to find much-needed parts. As expected, these clubs and their members have been an incredible source of information on the history, restoration and care of these retro beauties.
Getting to know members of the Austin clubs led him to meet a man named Norm, who lived in Pasadena and had once owned a fleet of 25 Austins. After a few conversations and a visit, Bruce was able to purchase two engine blocks from Norm’s stock. However, he later discovered later that both blocks were unusable, so he then ordered a block from a gentleman in New Jersey who remakes them. He also purchased the extra internal parts needed to make it all run.
After a year’s worth of restoration, Bruce has had a chance to really get to know the Austin, solving some of her mysteries and still trying to find answers to a few others. He discovered that Model A and Austin parts are very similar, and as a result, some parts, like the side mirror, can be crossed over. After a long hunt for a radiator cap and coming up with one option for a $700 rooster cap, Bruce decided that a gas cap would work just fine for now. His next problem to solve? A slight knock in the engine. Despite his many hours of restoration, this little girl is still demanding his attention. Thankfully, Bruce is happy to oblige.
Bruce knew the tires needed to be replaced, and after quite a bit of research, he landed at Lucas Classic Tire in Long Beach, a company which manufactures tires of all sizes, including ones to fit his Austin. Originally warned not to take the wheels apart, it later became obvious that it was unavoidable. Later, putting things back together posed a serious challenge, so much so that he had a machinist friend fabricate a tool to enable the reassembly of the wheels. Thankfully, and after much effort, they were able to get everything back together and the Austin was back on her feet, so to speak.
Here’s my grandmother, Nadine Railsback. I have a strong memory of her driving this Austin to one of her favorite pastimes, golf. For years, she drove an Austin just like this everyday to her job at Baker Oil Tools in Huntington Park, including right up through the last months of her pregnancy with her first son. How she got behind the wheel (at 9 months pregnant) in this little car, we’ll never know! Notice how close she is to the steering wheel – Bruce had an upholsterer reduce the stuffing so there would be a bit more space and comfort while behind the wheel. Can you imagine the ride being any closer than it is here?
Here’s my Uncle Lance, closing the hood as Bruce gets ready to head off to a weekend errand at our local Home Depot. If only cars could talk! Spiffed up and sporting new tires, I imagine the Austin would say that she’s quite happy to be running about town.
When Bruce gets home, the Austin will have plenty of company in the garage. Bruce is also the proud owner of a TR6, a ’62 Ford Army Jeep, and a ’67 Morris Minor Tourer – and the Austin adds wonderful new variety to his collection. Each of his vehicles enjoy their time outside of the garage; his jeep has been used to transport veterans during the Whittier Holiday Parade, and the entire group made a fine showing at the Whittier Area Car Classic earlier this year.
We wish Bruce the very best as he continues to restore, drive, and enjoy his Austin. Nothing makes our family happier than to see it in his hands, where we know it will continue to receive the loving care it so deserves. We look forward to meeting up with the Hearn family and their many classic cars at future shows and events!