Thursday September 21, 2017
The 100E is the epitome of a car that could never fall into the category of ‘Forgotten Classic’. Today there is a thriving owners’ club for the Ford that was once as much a part of British motoring as traffic lights on black and white striped poles. On a personal note, when growing up in the 1970s, I saw a good many customised examples, often driven by gentlemen whose look was inspired by Les Gray, the lead singer of Mud.
When the 100E Anglia and Prefect were launched at the 1953 Paris Motor Show they marked a major development in Ford GB; Dagenham's first unitary-bodied small car. The styling, with overtones of the Consul Mk. I, looked appealingly contemporary, flashing indicators were a notable fitting on a cheap British car of that time and there were independent coil springs at the front. Both models were powered by a 1,172cc side-valve engine, with the entry level Anglia having two doors with four on the more upmarket Prefect.
Ford commissioned a splendid launch film for the 100E, with various ultra-Brylcreemed chaps sternly testing Anglias and Prefects and a 1950s ‘housewife’ praising the Anglia’s ‘parcel shelf’ and ‘adjustable seats for long legs’. Indeed, the 100E was not overly endowed with equipment although Prefect owners at least gained twin sun visors. The three-speed transmission was not a strong sales feature at a time when the Minor and A30 had four-speed gears and a further anachronistic touch was the vacuum wipers; the passenger one was optional on the Anglia. These worked from the inlet manifold vacuum and some readers will remember how pressing the throttle when climbing a hill resulted in the blades slowing to a crawl, accompanied by various wheezing noises.
Early 1950s publicity showcased the 100E as the ideal car for respectable suburbanites or, in one intriguing picture, apparently about to take part in a trial run of The Wicker Man. In 1955, Ford introduced the Anglia and Prefect De Luxe, with extra chrome to proclaim your enhanced social status to the neighbours and the Escort and Squire estates ‘for the man with the load on his mind’. The arrival of the Anglia 105E in 1959 did not mean the complete demise of the 100E, as the Prefect was facelifted as the 107E, with a 997cc OHV engine and, at last, a four-speed gearbox.
Meanwhile, the 100E Anglia was repositioned as the strip-spec 100E Popular - the last British side valve Ford and a major rival to the new Mini. The very early 1960s was a time when the Issigonis masterpiece was regarded with some degree of suspicion by conservative-minded drivers. ‘Does the sideways engine mean that it won’t go forwards?’, ‘why are the wheels so small?’ and ‘where is the boot?’ were just some of the depressing questions faced by BMC’s dealers.
It must be said that, even by the standards of nearly six decades ago, the last version of the 100E was not renowned for its luxurious interior; the Popular De Luxe was decidedly Spartan while the basic Popular took concept of economy trim to new levels. Ashtrays, opening quarter lights, a boot locking handle, a courtesy lamp and warning lights for low oil pressure and main beam – these were all remote dreams to the standard Popular driver. However, the 100E was capacious, looked like a ‘real car’ to conservative-minded buyers and at least it came with ‘moisture proof, flush fitting head lamps’. At a price of £494 2s 6d it was also ‘a car your bank manager will approve of!’.
The Prefect 107E ceased production in 1961 while the Popular was made until 1962, the year that Ford launched their new Consul Cortina. For the past nine years, the 100E range had become truly at home in a world of pipe smoking, tweed jackets, shops with brightly striped awnings and moaning about that new coffee bar on the high street. And, let us not forget that in 1965 the Prefect was encountered by a field researcher for The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, while 1980s ITV would not have been quite the same without Roland Rat in his pink Anglia.