The world's first hatchback, its design was by Pininfarina of Italy. At a time when Turin auto-design studios were, for the most part, consulted only by builders of expensive "exotic" cars, the manufacturers made much of the car's Italian styling, with both "Pinin" Farina and his son Sergio being present at the car's UK launch.
The car was a popular choice, in modified form, for competition work. Several examples are still to be seen taking part in historic saloon racing.
The A40 designation had been used on previous Austins, but the "Farina" suffix was new with this car; it was later applied to larger Austins which were also 'styled by Pininfarina' but, regrettably, with much more input from Longbridge.
The Farina name was not used in Sweden, where the car received the name "Futura" because a mix-up with a common type of brown sugar with a similar name was believed to be unavoidable.
In competition 1959
In the January 1959 Monte Carlo Rally driven by Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom the A40 won the Coupe des Dames, Houbigant Cup, RAC Challenge Trophy and Souvenir Award, "L'Officiel de la Couture" and was 2nd in class for standard series production touring cars up to 1000 c.c. The little car was 10th in General Classification.
The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April 1959.
In the closing stages of June's Alpine Rally (Coupe des Alpes), Moss and Wisdom lost the use of first gear on their A40 and were obliged to retire having completed the second stage of the rally still "clean".
In August that year in practice at Brands Hatch Dr G C Shepherd broke the saloon car record in an Austin A40.
Presented as a Saloon at the London Motor Show in October 1958, the A40 Farina was intended to replace the Austin A35, and was a capacious thoroughly modern small car, with a brand new distinctive hatchback shape and headroom in the back seat. It was a saloon, the lower rear panel dropped like a then conventional bootlid, the rear window remaining fixed.
The Countryman appeared exactly a year later in October 1959, and differed from the saloon in that the rear window now lifted up and had its own support while the lower panel was now flush with the floor and its hinges had been strengthened. It was a very small estate car with a horizontally split rear opening having a top-hinged upper door and bottom-hinged lower door. October 1959 also saw the standardisation on both cars of self-cancelling indicators and the provision of a centre interior light and, in early summer 1960, a flat lid was added over the spare wheel in the rear luggage compartment.
At launch the car shared the 948 cc A-Series straight-4 used in other Austins including its A35 predecessor. The suspension was independent at the front using coil springs with a live axle and semi elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The drum brakes were a hybrid (hydromech) arrangement, hydraulically operated at the front but cable actuated at the rear.The front drums at 8 in (200 mm) were slightly larger than the 7 in (180 mm) rears. Cam and peg steering was fitted.
Individual seats were fitted in the front, with a bench at the rear that could fold down to increase luggage capacity. The trim material was a vinyl treated fabric. Options included a heater, radio, windscreen washers and white wall tyres. The gearchange lever was floor mounted and the handbrake between the seats. The door windows were not opened by conventional winders but pulled up and down using finger grips, a window lock position was on the door handle.
A de-luxe version tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1958 had a top speed of 66.8 mph (107.5 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 19.5 seconds. A fuel consumption of 38 miles per imperial gallon (7.4 L/100 km; 32 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £689 including taxes of £230.
An A40 Farina Mark II was introduced in 1961. It had a 4 in (102 mm) longer wheelbase to increase the space for passengers in the back seats, and the front grill and dashboard were redesigned. The Mark II had more power (37 hp/28 kW) and an SU replaced the previous Zenith carburettor but was otherwise similar mechanically. An anti-roll bar was fitted at the front. The 948 cc engine was replaced in the autumn of 1962 by a larger 1098 cc version with an output of 48 bhp. The car now shared its engine with the recently introduced Morris 1100, although in the A40 it retained the "conventional" north-south orientation of the earlier unit. An improved gearbox was fitted at the same time.
Further changes were minimal. However, in 1964 a new facia with imitation wood veneer covering was fitted. This version of the model remained in production through to 1967. The brakes also became fully hydraulic, replacing the semi cable operated rear system that the Mark I had inherited from the A35. Nevertheless, the introduction at the end of 1962 of the similarly sized Morris 1100, followed by an Austin badged counterpart a year later, left the A40 looking cramped on the inside and outclassed in terms of road holding and ride; sales of the A40 Mark II progressed at a slower rate than had been achieved by the Mark I.
A Mark II was tested by The Motor in 1962. The updated version had a higher top speed of 75.2 mph (121.0 km/h) and faster acceleration from 0–50 mph (80 km/h) of 17.4 seconds. The fuel consumption at 36.5 miles per imperial gallon (7.74 L/100 km; 30.4 mpg-US) was slightly higher. The car cost £693 including taxes of £218
- 1958–1961 - 948 cc A-Series I4, 34 hp (25 kW) at 4750 rpm and 50 ft·lbf (68 Nm) at 2000 rpm
- 1961–1962 - 948 cc A-Series I4, 37 hp (28 kW) at 5000 rpm and 50 ft·lbf (68 Nm) at 2500 rpm
- 1962–1967 - 1098 cc A-Series I4, 48 hp (36 kW) at 5100 rpm and 60 ft·lbf (81 Nm) at 2500 rpm
Innocenti also produced A40s under licence from BMC. They began producing knock-down kit versions of the A40 in 1960 but soon progressed to produce the entire car in Italy. Innocenti's A40 Berlina and Combinata corresponded to the saloon and Countryman versions of the Austin A40 Farina.
The cars began using the larger 1098 cc engine in 1962, being renamed A40S at that time. For 1965 Innocenti also designed a new single-piece rear door for the Combinata. This top-hinged door used struts to hold it up over a wide cargo opening and was a true hatchback – a model never developed in the home (United Kingdom) market. 67,706 Innocenti A40 and A40S cars were produced
The A40 Farina was also produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia by the British Motor Corporation (Australia) Pty Ltd from 1959 to 1962. These Australian assembled vehicles had a very high degree of local content.
Appearances in film and media
In the film The Fast Lady, the unlikely hero Murdoch Troon, takes his first driving lesson in an Austin A40 Farina. In the movie, The Pink Panther, the crook who steals the dog drives an A40 Austin Innocenti.
In the TV series Heartbeat, the character of Dr Tricia Summerbee, portrayed by Clare Galbraith, drives a blue & black Austin A40 Farina Mk II Saloon Deluxe (ADO44) bearing the registration plate BNK228A (1963). This vehicle appears in various episodes of Series 11.