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 mechanisation.
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 leather works with farming estate at Liancourt, near Paris, became 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. Afterwards, 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.
Nick Baldwin is a former chairman of the National Motor Museum Advisory Council, and owns several old tractors and historic vehicles. He has written a number of books about tractors and commercial vehicles, and is currently compiling an A-Z of the more than five thousand tractor makers that have existed in the past hundred years for 'Tractor and Machinery' magazine.