A June 2018 advert in Madrid, Spain for what looked like a low-roofed RK revealed car is bodied wholly in steel, including the roof.
According to the Gaydon Heritage Archives this car was originally delivered to Spain in September 1929, listed in the ledger as an “SPO” (most probably Special Purchase Order). This is the only explanation for its very rare body, with a similar design to the RK, but with a lower height. From running boards to roof it measures only 110 cm – see the upper picture next to an RF (2) variant. The rest of the body is standard.
A restorer that happened to see the car a year or more ago suggested that he thought the structure looked ‘original’ despite recent retrimming and paintwork.
The SPO classification has been seen for other cars, the first being the Lord Curzon car in 1925 which is featured in the Austin 7 Source Book. From scrutiny, an SPO was seemingly triggered whenever a deviation occurred from standard specification.
The question of “what does the classification of ‘export saloon’ mean?” still exists, as we don’t know whether one could have an export saloon without a SPO designation. Clearly this car has a different body style AND a different body material.
It is understood that the Madrid car has returned to the UK.
Another car – a coupe – was supplied to Spain and was also bodied in steel. There is a report in A7CA 09D25 by the then owner:
A forum thread discussing it is here. One remark from the thread was “Having seen the body prior to the restoration when all the inside frame was exposed, it has all the features of an Austin body of the time – so it is seems highly likely that it was built at Longbridge. This car has a standard rear seat in the back, whereas it is shallower than the usual Coupes.”
Has anyone else got details of export SWB cars in steel rather than aluminium? And any thoughts on why they might have been made?