test page: The Freddie Henry Nippy

I had made contact with a past owner of AOG a few years back. Recently, the present Italian owner was in touch and it seemed a good time to research this Nippy a little more. The image of the car is shown in Jonathan Wood’s book and Bryan Purves’ Austin 7 Source book:AOG 947 J Wood book photo

We know the car is in the late 199000s which suggests a steel Nippy, but the screen is clearly has the blunt ends of the 65 despite the wings having Nippy -style side lights:

AOG 947 screen

The car also appears to have a removable starter handle:

AOG front piece

The car is hinted at in a letter from Henry to the A7CA (1980D) – italics have been added:

Cara Casa Editrice; 10th September 1980

Dear Editor,
I was glad to see the photo of Bill Depper with ‘Grasshopper’, COA-121, I shared the original car, AOX-3, unblown but later blown, with Wallis Milton in the works trials team. At the time I was working for Colonel Arthur Waite, Lord Austin’s son-in-law, who was a Director and also Racing Director which included all competition. He sent me on a number of Trials and Rallies and I was timekeeper in the racing team. The first trials car Wallis and I shared was a 1931 fabric saloon with one of the Ulster T.T. engines and prototype 4 speed box. It was faster than the road holding could cope with. The next was a 1932 Ten with high and quick lift camshaft, synchromesh box, aluminium head, downdraught carburettor, van springs, low ratio final drive, close ratio 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and many other special features. Then we had an early ’65’ (Nippy) with pressure fed crank in its Ulster engine and finally AOX-3, made to measure with adjustable pedals and seat squab. I could tell many stories of encounters on the road with unsuspecting drivers of Brooklands Riley and Sunbeam 3 litre cars who did not understand how apparently standard Austin Sevens could be so fast. The third gear performance of the 1931 fabric saloon on Long Compton Hill near Banbury was quite incredible and we were stopped by the Riley driver who insisted on seeing under the bonnet. He saw the of-side of the engine only and did not realise that on the near-side, the Ulster exhaust had been swept down under the running-board and the ‘goodies’ invisible from the off-side.

Lord Austin insisted on all trials cars looking like standard touring cars until Singer started running a team of special Le Mans cars. He then agreed to let us have AOX-3 which caused quite a stir on the road at first.

With kind regards,
Yours sincerely,

The car was owned in late 1960s by Gerry Serpell-Morris who bought it in 1967 for £100 and sold it in 1972, considerably improved for £350:

How interesting that my old car has surfaced again. I did sell it to an Italian and took it to Heathrow to be air freighted to Milan. I think the purchaser was connected to the Michelin family.  Because of bad weather the aircraft got diverted and the car put in a very cold hangar. When he collected it water had frozen in the aluminium Cambridge head which was on it and cracked it. He did not complain and later sent me the Xmas message which I have attached and also a picture of it after he had fitted the larger original wheels which I had but had never fitted.

All the documents went to him with the vehicle. I have a number of photographs and the original receipt for a £100 when I purchased it from a guy in Gedling, Nottingham in 1967; it was red when I purchased it.  I never knew about the Freddie Henry connection until the Jonathan Wood book was published.

So what has happened to it since it moved to Italy?


After the sale in 1973, the car was not registered in Italy despite the previous owner alerting the registration authority in Britain that the car had been sold abroad and its British registration ceased. After many years, he died and as part of the Estate, the car was sold to a local dealer from whom the present owner rescued it. No paperwork survived with the car. I hope that it will manage to retain its AOG plate re-registered here in the UK on the basis of its esteemed Austin connections.

Gerry Serpell -Morris adds:
What wonderful photos of my old car! The dashboard looks as if it is the same one I re-made to replaced the poor plywood one which was in it when I purchased it. I wonder where the original large windscreen has gone? It certainly did not have fly screens when I had it. It does look in very nice condition overall though.
Hopefully despite having no DVLA documents relating to the car, my copy of the original receipt and a dated newspaper article which shows it with its number in 1967 may help with proof.
You may also be interested to know that the Lincolnshire Branch of the Pre War Austin 7 club celebrates its 50th birthday next summer. I was a founder member and hope to go to the event. Saturday 15th June 2019 will be the day. See details on their website here.