In the 1960’s Austin Cambridges were as common as Toyota Corollas today. It was a working man’s car. People in Managerial level jobs went to work in them, and their children were dropped off to school in them – and in Sri Lanka at least, lots of children from ‘down the street’ were given a ride to school in them by friendly neighbours. It was not uncommon in those days for cars like Austin Cambridges to carry up to ten children on their way to and from school!
In Sri Lanka the Cambridges gained some notoriety as well – because bootleg alcohol brewers used them to carry their barrels of booze in the trunk. It is said that the common “tar barrel” which was used to brew the stuff, fits perfectly in the boot of the Cambridge!
The more common version of the Cambridge was the A55 which was the Mark 1 model. It was a totally new design which replaced the more rounded 1950’s version of the A55. Designed by arguably one of the most prolific automotive design studios Pinninfarina, the Farina Cambridge as it was known would have been a breakthrough design at the time – the sharp edged mudguards and the fins favoured in the 1960’s replacing rounded curves of the 1950’s. It is no coincidence that many a car of that era looked like the Cambridge. They were all designed by Pinninfarina.
The car featured here is an A60 Cambridge. The A60 was 5 BHP up on the A55 and the body and trim had subtle differences. The front grille was larger on the A60 and the tail lights had a different shape to the A55. The dashboard too was different to that of the A55.
The owner of the car featured here is Shanaka Jinasena. Shanaka bought the car some 3 years ago from his neighbour. His neighbour, late Mr Emanuel Thambiratnam was the first owner of the car. Having bought the car brand new in 1967, Mr Thamabiratnam took it and used it in Jaffna where he lived prior to moving-in next door to Shanaka’s house in Colombo.
Shanaka remembers that Mr Thambiratnam would fastidiously care for the Austin while he was alive. A mechanic would come home and do all the necessary maintenance periodically in his garage. Shanaka would often tell Mr Thambiratnam that if on any day the car was being sold, to please consider him (Shanaka) first. Mr Thambiratnam and indeed his family faithfully promised that they would definitely tell Shanaka if they were selling the car.
Just prior to Mr Thambiratnam passing away, he lived alone, as the rest of his family had migrated to England. After he passed away, the family members kept the car locked up in the same home garage for some months before deciding to actually sell the car. And as promised it was Shanaka who was given the first option of buying.
The car that Shanaka acquired was virtually a daily runner. It was all intact, albeit a bit tatty with age.
Shanaka being a true enthusiast wanted to restore the car to its original condition. Further he wanted to make it his daily runner with all the necessary upgrades which would enable it to be able to cope with today’s traffic conditions.
All mechanicals including the engine and gearbox were stripped and restored using all original spares. Virtually all chrome bits including toggle switches and dashboard trim were imported from England and replaced. All rubber beadings and trim edges were also replaced with brand new original items. Detail bits such as door locks and the little springs and screws that are part of the lock mechanisms were also replaced. Shanaka says that he made sure that everything in the car functions properly and indeed when washing the car not a drop of water would leak in to it.
Where upgrades are concerned, wherever possible Shanaka has used period upgrades such as twin SU carburetors, period Vacum Brake Booster and period air-conditioning unit. The original push-button radio retains its façade and works via a powerful amp and puts out sound through some high output speakers that have been installed discreetly. Shanaka can even plug in his i-pod in to the system!
The only compromise that Shanaka has made – if you can call it a compromise – is that he has widened the original wheel rims by 1.5 inches and shod them in radial tyres. This we think is a nice upgrade which gives the car not only good looks but better road-holding and ride comfort.
The car has been fully rust-proofed using Wurth products.
We asked Shanaka what it cost him to carry out this restoration. He said it cost him a “six figure sum” that starts with a number more than one! “Is it worth spending that kind of money on a car like this”, we ask. Shanaka has no hesitation in replying in the affirmative and says that more than anything there is sentimental value in this car as it was his friend and neighbour’s car.