A great family car for under £400!
AT the time it was Britain’s lowest-priced car bringing affordable motoring to the working man and combining roominess with lively top gear performance.
It had no claim to refinement and was said to offer top gear acceleration superior to that of almost any other “economy” car.”
This was the Ford Popular in 1954, which would set you back just £275 plus purchase tax of £115 14s 2d, a total of £390 14s 2d for a car said by The Motor magazine to bring new car ownership within the reach of many people who could only afford a motorcycle or the uncertainties of purchasing a send-hand vehicle.
It went on “as a knockabout vehicle to be left always out of doors and used mainly for short runs in town or as a farmer’s car with external carrying capacity and with ample weight on the driving wheels the Popular has merits quite independent of its low cost.”
The car was developed out of the earlier Ford Anglia which was converted to the Popular in 1953. The original 933cc engine was replaced with the 1.172cc size and it could hit 60mph.
The Motor Road Tests of 1954 cars said: “The Popular is very far from extravagant as is indicated by out overall consumption figure of 36.4mpg which covers a proportion of quite hard driving – even 10mpg better economy would only save 24s per 1,000 miles on petrol cost.”
The review went on enthusiastically: “The fact that this model which is being made in very large numbers, is more than able to keep up with other traffic, accelerating briskly even without skilled use of the gearbox, is important in these days of congested roads on which too-slow vehicles can be obstructions.”
The car was Spartan to say the least. The basic model had no heater, glove locker, sun visors, warning lights, ashtrays, radio or map pockets. But it did come with a starting handle and you could buy it in black Bristol fawn, Winchester blue or Dorchester grey.
The Motor said: “Orthodox simplicity characterises the interior and exterior furnishings and decoration of the Popular.
“Externally, a very few parts such as the door handles and bonnet hinge are chromium plated. Inside the body there is conventional trimming in relatively inexpensive leathercloth and fabric and conventional wind-down windoews in the front doors (it came with two doors only).
Elbow width for two people was said to be “quite adequate” and the rear seat headroom and knee room were amply even for tall men.
Basic is probably the kindest way of describing the car as indicated by this:
“Although quite comfortably, the front and rear seats do feel slightly ‘cheap’ in respect of skimpy padding over their internal springs.”
Great play was made of the car’s performance in top gear. The Motor said: “Top gear performance is what really gives this model its character and makes it unexpectedly attractive despite its rather austere specification.
“Below 15mph in top gear snatch in the tgransmission can set in and above 50mph the acceleration tails off rapidly towards rthe top speed of a mile a minute, but between these speeds there is a fine surge of power available.
“It is very rarely necessary to change out of top gear on a hill and to quote a specific example, three people and their weekend luggage were taken up the sharp hill which climbs out of the city of Winchester towards Alton in top gear despite a starting speed of little more than 20mph. When pulling at such low speeds, however, the car pinked quite considerably on the standard-grade fuels.”
There was a word of warning about driving fast with the windows closed which was said to produce a slightly oil smell inside the car. But in 800 miles only one pint of oil was used.
The Popular grew out of the Anglia, which in turn came was the post-war version of the Ford 8 of the 1930s.
According to the book The British Motor Car 1950/51 by AH Lukins the Anglia was “avery robust piece of motor engineering incorporating many modern refinement.”
The Anglia cost £329 2s 9d including purchase tax.
Written by The Editor - 14/05/2005 19:07:55
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