Austin A99 Westminster

(1959 to 1961)

The first Farina-styled Austin to be be introduced was the A40 of autumn 1958, and this was followed by the new B-Series range at the beginning of 1959. The new large cars - Austin A99 and Wolseley 6/99 respectively - were the third Farina-styled cars to be launched in a matter of months.

It is important to realize that these two cars replaced a varied selection of early-BMC products in a successful rationalization move. After 1959 there was no large Riley or large Morris. But it was not all logic, for the body structure of this new Austin A99 was built at Longbridge, while the near identical Wolseley 6/99 shell was produced at Cowley!

The A99 followed the same Farina-inspired lines as the Austin A55 Mk II/Morris Oxford family, but was an altogether larger, squatter and somehow more impressive monocoque, riding on a 9ft wheelbase and using the latest version of the C-Series engine. This had been enlarged to 2,912cc (the same size as that introduced at the same time in the Austin-Healey 3000), used twin SU carburettors and produced 103 bhp. This was matched by a new transmission - an all-synchromesh, three-speed gearbox with Porsche synchromesh, and there was Borg-Warner overdrive on top and second gears; steering column gear-change control was still standard and Borg-Warner automatic transmission was optional.

Coded AD0 10 in the BMC scheme of things, the A99 and the badge-engineered Wolseley 6/99 were mechanically identical and utterly conventional in all respects. The suspension layout was similar to, but not the same as, that of the superseded A95/A105 cars, and there was a rear anti-roll bar on the original model, plus servo-assisted front wheel disc brakes. The new model provided undistinguished handling and performance, and was both heavy and bulky, but at least it was very roomy - in other words, it could not possibly have been more different, in looks or in design philosophy, from the startling Minis which were about to be launched from the same factory. Alec Issigonis was always happy to admit that he had had nothing to do with the design of these big cars.

The Wolseley 6/99 was virtually the same car, but had a different nose with the traditional Wolseley grille, and a much more luxuriously trimmed and equipped interior.

 

Austin A99 Westminster specification

Produced: Longbridge, 1959-61. 13,410 cars built.

General layout: Unit-construction, pressed-steel body-chassis structure, in 5-seater, 4-door saloon car style. Front-mounted engine driving rear wheels.

Engine and transmission: BMC C-Series engine, 6-cylinder, ohv, in-line 2,912cc, 83.34 x 88.9mm, 103bhp at 4,500rpm; 158lb ft at 2,000rpm; 3-speed gearbox, all synchromesh; Borg-Warner overdrive standard on top and 2nd gears; optional Borg-Warner automatic transmission; live (beam) rear axle with hypoid-bevel final drive.

Chassis: Independent front suspension, coil springs, wishbones and anti-roll bar. Cam-and-peg steering. Rear suspension by half-elliptic leaf springs and anti-roll bar. Front disc and rear drum brakes. 7.00-14in tyres.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 9ft 0in; front track 4ft 6in; rear track 4ft 5.25in; length 15ft 8in; width 5ft 8.5in; height 4ft 11in. Unladen weight (approx) 3,305lb.

Distinguishing features from previous model: Entirely different monocoque and Farina body style from superseded A95/A105 models.

Typical performance: Maximum speed 98mph; 0-60mph 14.4sec; standing 1/4-mile 20.4sec: overall fuel consumption 19mpg.

Launch Price: £1,149

Derivatives: The Wolseley 6/99 was mechanically identical and shared the same monocoque, but had a different nose style and upgraded trim. Both cars were superseded by the Austin A110/Wolseley 6/110 models in autumn 1961.

Fate: Discontinued in 1961 and replaced by the A110, which used the same basic design.

Trivia fact: Austin Westminster A99: ADO10 (Austin Drawing Office 10). Rally driver Pat Moss's legendary outright win on the 1960 Liege- Rome- Liege rally would not have happened if Syd Henson from Ferodo had not stolen the gearbox drain plug from his Westminster to keep Pat's Healey on the road. Pat's future husband the great Eric Carlson then followed her all the way in an A99. This was not uncommon, many parts were shared between the Westminster and Healey and A99s or 6/99s were sometimes entered into events as competitive cars; to be driven by mechanics and sacrificed if the leading Healeys needed a part. An A99 also appears briefly as a police car in the Michael Caine film, "The Ipcress File" along with an A55 Mk11 Estate.

 

Source: "The Cars of BMC" - Graham Robson (Motor Racing Publications, 1987)