Author: Nick Baldwin
Like Henry Ford, Herbert Austin had farming roots. Both brought motoring to the masses and both attempted to take the physical drudgery out of farming by introducing mechanization. Austin imported American machines in the First World War and heard about the revolutionary new Fordson. His take on the new rigid, frameless technology was the 1919 Austin R, built at his Birmingham car factory. The inexorable reduction of the price of Fordsons saw Austin move his tractors to the more protected French market, where they soon challenged Renault’s dominance. A former leatherworks with farming estate at Liancourt, near Paris, became the exclusive home to Austin’s tractors, and diesel technology was adopted there long before it was introduced at Austin in England.
The Second World War saw Liancourt producing German military vehicles and the imprisonment and in some cases execution of the Austin management. The dreadful conditions at Liancourt were highlighted at the Nuremberg Trials. Afterward, there was a brave attempt to revive the French tractors and British Austin engines were used in Bristol crawlers. This book tells the fascinating and largely untold story of the tractors made by one of Britain’s biggest car makers, and also looks other uses of Austin engines in the Austin Champ and Gipsy.