This Ford’s Popularity Covers Decades...
FORD’S DAGENHAM PLANT TOOK JUST THREE weeks to get back into production following VE Day in May 1945, and by the 21st June the first car rolled off the line; a pre-war design Anglia 8hp.
The Anglia E04A was a revision of models that can be traced back to the Model Y in 1932; Dagenham’s answer to Ford’s lack of a small car in Europe. A price war began with other UK manufactures.
Ford produced a basic version of the ‘Y’ and naming it the Popular, the only mass produced new production car to be sold for under £100, a trend that would re-emerge after the war.
Revised again in 1948, the Anglia E494A maintained the ‘lowest UK priced car’ label but due to export quotas, home buyers found it very difficult to obtain one even if they had the £309 purchase price.
Into the 1950s even the government realised that the home market needed to be fulfilled, after five years of war followed by another 8 years of austerity the late used car market didn’t exist anymore. Ford de-trimmed the E494A, fitted a slightly larger engine and brought out the 103E Popular in 1953 and priced at £390 including tax it offered a new car for used car money; this ensured motorists would ‘sit up and buy’. Options included a choice of four colours and a second windscreen wiper, also supplied without indicators; hand signals only.
Ford began production later in 1953 at Dagenham and this continued until 1955 when it was transferred to the recently acquired Briggs Motor Bodies in Doncaster where it remained until 1959. Briggs had been building bodies for Ford as well as other manufacturers since 1930 (including Riley and Jowett) and they even had a factory in Dagenham; of the 155k Popular’s assembled, 63,500 left the Carr Hill Plant in Doncaster. So what did the discerning motorist get for under £400; well it was more a case of what he didn’t get.
No radio, no heater, no chrome trim, just painted bumpers and one vacuum powered windscreen wiper, smaller headlights and a non-opening windscreen.
The interior trim screamed budget, the dash was a pressed steel panel and the soft furnishing mainly vinyl. However, you did get 17 inch wheels running cross-ply tyres, and the chance to take four down to the coast as long as you weren’t in a hurry.
Ford managed to provide transport for the masses at the right price. It was also a good looking car, minus the luxuries but packed with character and still sought after today, often by those who feel the desire to squeeze a V8 under the folding bonnet.
‘It takes a while to get up to speed’ reported current owner and my chauffeur for the morning Simon Pope. He had already mastered the three speed gearbox that offers a rolling start in first and a medium jog in second but quickly into third the 63-year-old Pop settled down and made reasonable progress, albeit unlikely to get any kind of speeding ticket. I must admit this little Ford was a joy to spend time in, saying that, I think a few hours on a Bank Holiday Monday trip to the seaside may not be so pleasant. Simon is younger than most wizened classic enthusiasts, he appreciates the older car and enjoys learning the quirks and is able to adjust to driving accordingly.
The Popular is compact to say the least but that was one of his reasons for the purchase; releasing the car from the confines of his garage took some manoeuvring with care which explains his original desire for an Austin Seven. Having owned several 70’s Ford’s including a Mark 1 Escort his new home in Sussex would not be able to accommodate a classic of such bulk.
Previous owner Julian Hakes had drawn a list of tips and advice which Simon followed, including number 8 the cold starting procedure; ‘I normally do this from the passenger side with the window open’ he wrote. This offered a chance to feather the throttle and the choke, sometimes susceptible to sticking can be positioned correctly, it worked and within a couple of minutes the 1172cc side valve was ticking over smoothly.
Ford realised the used car market had become stagnant post war and Government restrictions when ‘selling on’ before three years ensured late low mileage used cars didn’t exist; especially when austerity required new cars to be shipped abroad. The Popular would go some way to getting the nation mobile again and this car would have left Dagenham and straight into the hands of Robert Charles Chappell on October 22nd 1954.
The original buff logbook tells of a London car that moved to Lincolnshire after three years and remained with the same family until 1966 at least, passed down from father to son; there the trail stops.
Future owner Julian Hakes was brought home from the maternity ward in his father’s Ford Popular and it was that same car he learnt to drive in.
Years later Julian enjoyed a visit to the Motor Show at Earls Court in 2005 and the Ford Sidevalve Owners Club had 649 XUE for sale on its stand; it became Julian’s first car. Julian confirmed it had been well looked after over the years and in very original condition, this continued under his ownership. An internet advert in January 2015 took current custodian Simon on a treacherous journey north to see the Ford; thick snow and towing a trailer behind his Land Rover added to the saga.
The new owner is thrilled with his ‘Pop’ and Julian was happy that the car was going to a good home; the kind of classic deal we all enjoy.
The future for this 57,500 mile much loved Ford is bright, being pampered and driven with care it may well be around in another sixty years; not bad for the worlds cheapest new post-war car.
from p. 18 of issue January 2017
Subscribe now - http://classicmotor.co.uk/classic-motor-monthly-subscriptions