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The following article first appeared in:
Express Online - 22/25 September 2023 by Luke Chillingsworth.

Classic car owner brings 1930s Austin 16 back to life with iconic engine rebuild

A classic car owner has worked hard to restore the historic Austin 16 with a new gearbox and engine fitted.


Fred Leach and his beautiful classic Austin 16

A classic car owner has opened up on an Austin 16 restoration that brought the historic model back to life. Fred Leach, a member of the Austin 10 Drivers Club and chairman of the Cambridge and District Classic Car Club, admitted he “celebrated” when the car started up after working hours on refitting the engine.

Fred purchased the beautiful Austin in the early noughties and has worked tirelessly to bring the car back to its best. However, his love affair with Austin began almost 40 years ago when he first got a flavour of historic vehicles.

He said: “I started working for the AA in London when I lived down that way. One of the other chaps in the garage where we worked, he had an old Austin. I used to sort of look at it and help him with bits on it. I ended up buying one that had been in a slight accident and needed some work doing to it, that was back in 1980 or 81.

"I got that back on the road and for quite a few years I owned that and used to do regular trips to Holland and all over the place with it.” Fred sold the model on but got the bug back after meeting his present wife.


Fred has had to restore much of the historic Austin

After parting ways with one of the pair’s houses and paying off all the bills, the rest of their money got pushed into classic motoring. Fred spotted his current Austin in a magazine back in 2004 with the duo travelling down to Swindon to have a look.

They quickly agreed on a price and returned a couple of weeks later with a car trailer to pick up the stunning machine. He added: “The chap we bought it off was using it very little. As soon as we started to use it all the stitching started to break up on the leather, so we had that done.

“We had new carpets, I rebuilt the gearbox, I rebuilt the back axle. We had a new hood made for it. Finally we had it repainted in 2016 and a couple of years later I managed to break the engine. I broke the crankshaft so ended up having to rebuild the engine as well.


Fred first bought the car 19 years ago

“It’s not a shell-bearing engine. It’s a white metal engine so you have to have that done and there’s very little specialists around for that nowadays.” Fred admitted he secured all the parts to rebuild the engine days before the country was put into the first coronavirus lockdown.

However, he admits it was a “lot quieter” than usual at work which allowed him to gradually rebuild the internals. Despite spending hours on fixing the model, Fred admits he has no intention of leaving the car lying around.

He has travelled to Brittany with twelve other Austins of a similar era with the car clocking up 1,000 miles door to door. The Austin has also been to the Isle of Wight and a trip to Cumbria with Fred having one eye on another journey back to Holland.

He explained: “We thoroughly enjoy using it and we make the most of it. We do anything between 1,000 and 2,000 miles a year in it. Years ago I can recall driving their old car on a trailer behind a modern vehicle even though they are staying in a hotel or whatever. They are not driving it.”

Fred admits he has taught his son to drive the vehicle which has been a major feature of family events including two weddings. He revealed that there were no plans to sell the car which has enjoyed nearly two decades in his care.

He concluded: “The car’s with us for as long as we can. If it gets to the stage where we are getting on a bit and we can’t get out and drive it we will have to look at what we do. Fortunately we’ve got children but I’ve only got one son who’s interested in classic vehicles and because of his age, he’s more into the Escorts”