By Maz Woolley
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
The Austin A40 Somerset was made for only two years replacing the more traditional A40 Devon and was in turn replaced by the much more up to date unibody A40 Cambridge. In essence the Somerset was a re-bodied Devon with a more highly tuned engine and styling similar to that of the larger A70 Hereford supposed to appeal to the American buyer as the UK was trying to export as much as possible to help it pay off its war debt. Powered by a 1.2 litre engine it could just reach 70mph.
The Devon was modelled in the Classix range to 1:76 scale in two and four door forms and was a very good model of that car, better in some respects than this more recent Oxford Diecast.
Most readers will be familiar with the contemporary Dinky Somerset #161 and the more recent Lansdowne in 1:43 scale. As far as I am aware no contemporary small scale model was made and although John Day Vehicle Scenics made the A70 I don’t think any other modern 1:76 scale model of the Somerset has been made.
76SOM001 Austin Somerset Black and 76OM002 Austin Somerset Buckingham Green
These models have been long awaited and have certainly caught the rounded shape and flowing lines of the original well. Viewed from the type of distance we usually look at them they are good models, certainly for their price.
The black model was issued first and is typical of most of these cars, In a sombre colour with normal tyres. The green model has fancy white walls which would not have been common at the time though are entirely accurate for the car carrying that registration plate although it lacks the headlight peak accessories fitted to that car.
The green car’s printed black screen surround merely emphasises the thickness of the casting and would have been better left off altogether.
One puzzle is the rear lights where the lower light appears to be a red reflector on real cars and not a silver disk as printed on the model.
The interior is simply moulded in red for the black car and brown for the green car. Door cards are included but seem to lack any moulded in fittings. The dashboard has limited moulded details but adequate for this scale.
Frustratingly the Austin of England script along the bonnet side is not printed straight on my models and keeps catching my eye. Another issue is the large vertical mould mark on the rear wing which can be seen on the model above. This is only the case on the driver’s side and appears on both the green and black cars.
There is a silver printed side chrome strip and quarter lights. Again the printed quarter lights emphasis the depth of the casting and might have been better left off.
The front end captures the car very well but the Austin badge is missing off the grill centre which would have broken up the large expanse of silver and there is no attempt to model the flying ‘A’ mascot on the bonnet. The grille could also do with a black wash but at this price point that is perhaps too much to expect.
Another view of the rear showing the neat number plate, but also the substantially overscale boot hinges.
The front of the Black version has higher contrast and looks better though it is more noticeable that the sidelights on the wing tops are left unpainted whereas on the original car they were silver.
Again the boot hinges look much too large on the black version.
Searching the web using the number plates shows the real cars exist and that these models capture the originals well and show most of their features if not all.
As seems to be typical of Oxford Diecast models recently there are quite a few minor faults which reduce the accuracy of these models but I am sure that most collectors will not be as critical as I am. The railway modelling fraternity with early British Rail dioramas will leap to buy these as will the growing number of 1:76 scale car collectors.
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