Re-Acquantance with the Standard Vanguard
A Spacious, Comfortable, Competitively-Priced, 2-Litre Family Car of Good Performance
As mentioned in another pert of this issue, we used a Standard Vanguard as a warm, comfortable and by no means lethargic means of seeing something of the V.S.C.C. Measham Rally. This was the first occasion on which we had driven or ridden in a Vanguard since sampling the original version in 1949.
The car we had for test last month was a Phase II saloon with overdrive top gear and a somewhat different appearance and detail appointments from that of the original model. Under Sir John Black, but recently retired, the Standard Motor Company instituted its well-known one-model policy (since broken to include the new Eight), the Vanguard being designed as a rugged, go-anywhere saloon of spacious interior and reasonable economy. On renewing acquaintance with this car one cannot but admire the simple 2-litre o.h.v. four-cylinder engine, for it gives this bulky saloon, of which the air drag factor must be considerable, the ability to cruise at an indicated 75 m.p.h. in overdrive top gear, and it has proved equally efficient in the Triumph Renown, Morgan Plus Four, Triumph TR2 sports two-seater, as well as in agricultural tractors; it also powers the newly-introduced Swallow Doretti sports car.
Under the conditions of our test the engine started easily with a minimum of choke, did not “pink” or run-on, and gave about 22 1/2 m.p.g. of National Benzole in a hurried 469 miles, although for half the journey the overdrive ratio was ignored. Had it been used more frequently, or the throttle foot been more lenient, we should have expected a still lower consumption of fuel.
Incidentally, before setting down our opinions of the Standard Vanguard, it might be remarked that, although it is by no manner of reasoning a sports saloon, it is a car which figures largely in modern rallies, including the Monte Carlo Rally. Indeed, did not an earlier Vanguard come first in the visitors’ class at Measham and a Vanguard-engined Morgan gain first place in the all-corners’ category?
Having thus defended a report on a spacious family carriage, let us say that this Vanguard starts off with the advantage of selling at a competitive price, for at its purchase-tax-paid cost of £787 (plus that ridiculous 7s. 6d.) it. is less costly than all but two other cars of the seven British saloons which come in the same category.
For the type of person for Whom it was designed the Vanguard offers spaciousness for up to six occupants on deep, comfortable Vynide upholstered seats, a useful performance, a mileage per gallon of well above 20, a big luggage boot with sensible lid and the spare wheel in a separate compartment below it, good interior appointments and a brisk performance.
For the enthusiast the very wide bonnet, which in our case cut off the view of both front wings, can be a little disconcerting (neither is its mascot very inspiring), and it must be admitted that on British roads a four-speed gearbox would he more useful than a comparatively wide-ratio three-speed box with an overdrive top. This latter point, emphasised because overdrive in any case costs extra, has, however, been looked after by Standard’s engineers by the recent introduction of double-overdrive, which has the effect of raising the indirect ratios instead of merely that of top gear. But your enthusiast will not be slow to appreciate that the Vanguard goes round corners and through bends satisfactorily for a car of this type, being a good deal less “sloppy,” in respect of both steering and suspension, than many family saloons. It also possesses good performance, expressed not only in terms of figures but in the no less important, if more abstract, aspect of covering the miles effortlessly, so that the not inconsiderable distance from Hampshire, where the test commenced, to the, to us, remote Shropshire hotel where the Measham Rally started seemed to have been comfortably abbreviated.
The handling qualities require some qualifications. Only on really tight turns does the steering seem low-geared (the three-spoke semi-sprung wheel asks three turns lock-to-lock) and it is rather heavy steering, pulling against considerable castor action, which prevents It from being “soggy.” It is rather “dead” steering in the modern manner but transmits-no wheel motion, although the wheel transmits some judder at times. On fast corners the Vanguard really behaves very well, for what roll there is is well controlled and the tendency is to understeer. I would summarise the cornering bv saying that the Vanguard is essentially safe but, due to its width and high centre of gravity, it is not quite so enjoyable as, for example, the average Continental saloon, under conditions the enthusiast regards as joyous. The steering becomes pleasantly light at speed and tyre howl is absent.
The 9-in. Lockheed 2LS brakes although adequate, never entirely reassured us, because considerable pressure was called for on the pedal and the retardation wasn’t progressive, so that the “treading on a block of wood” sensation tended towards locked wheels in circumstances of emergency. It must be realised, when considering the foregoing observations, that the Standard Vanguard’s primary appeal is as a comparatively small-engined, large, family car and regarded thus, is an outstanding car from the safe-handling point of view.
The hydraulically-operated clutch is smooth, if a little heavy, and the steering column (left-hand) gear-lever, nicely slender, is good of its kind, although with no positive reverse stop. To engage overdrive top gear the lever is pulled upwards. The action is smooth, prompt and positive, but a sensitive drver will try to synchronise engine speed so as to ease or obviate the load otherwise imposed on the transmission. This aspect of the gear-change is only awkward if third gear is called for when in overdrive top, for to go there direct is impossible, and to drop first into normal top takes time, and the double movement is distinctly awkward if hurried, particularly as the forward movement into third (lower ratios are at the bottom of the gate) is a lengthy one. Engagement of overdrive top noticeably reduces engine noise and enables a cruising speed (indicated) of 75 m.p.h. to be attained. In third gear the speedometer will show 55 m.p.h, The synchromesh is good, although the gears can be crunched if snatched. Sixty-five to 70 m.p.h. is a very easy pace for the Vanguard to maintain,
Visibility is good, in spite of a central division on the inclined windscreen, and rear-seat passengers benefit front the windows of the rear doors extending well back — they, like the front-door windows, possess ventilatory half-windows with easily worked catches. The rear window, too, is very wide, allowing a useful view for reversing, and, at night, reversing lights come into action when the gear-lever selects reverse gear.
The ride is comfortable generally but with a good deal of up and down movement over bad roads. The noise level is rather high, mainly from engine and transmission, but the body was free from rattles, which was especially commendable because the car was a demonstration rather than a Press car and had not been checked over before we borrowed it. Indeed, in over 500 miles’ driving it called for no attention, no fluid other than petrol, and had no deficiencies or failings in its mechanism. The oil gauge registered 50 lb./sq. in., the water temperature held 75 deg. C. and the petrol gauge was reasonably accurate, reading in litres as well as in gallons.
This provision of dial-type oil gauge, thermometer and ammeter is truly commendable. The speedometer, reading to 100 m.p.h., is less so, because its divisions and figures are too closely spaced for quick reference; it has total and trip mileage readings. There is no clock and no “full beam” lamps indicator. The fuel filler is under a flap in the near-side rear wing and has a catch which renders it tamper-proof by a control within the lockable luggage boot. The minor controls take the form of “frozen milk” knobs and it is unfortunate that they are in two rows and that the push-in starter button resembles them, because it is not easy to memorise their positions — thus a front-scat passenger can easily extinguish the lamps when searching for the interior lamp switch and the driver can switch off the heater thinking he has stopped the wipers. We did not like a wiring system in which the facia and side and rear lamps remain alight while the (very bright) interior lamp is “on,” merely to save one extra switch. We prefer a horn button to a horn ring which could be too often depressed inadvertently, nor is the horn note very pleasing. The facia illumination makes the white figures and dials very easy to see but is rather too bright. The headlamps gave a good beam, set for straight rather than twisting roads, and the dim position gave adequate light. There are twin rear lamps and twin reflectors as well, in addition to a number-plate lamp, so we felt that our broad stern was well protected. In heavy rain no water entered the Vanguard’s interior, which, vide Mike Hawthorn’s report in a Sunday newspaper, is more than can be said of another make costing not far short of six times as much.
The front seat has a very wide pull-out central armrest, which two persons can share, and the front doors rather pointless small rests, which, however, incorporate door “pulls.” There are deep, open, door pockets, a big lined cubbyhole with a rather awkward pull-up curved lid with external lock, and the usual shelf behind the back seat. It would be easy to carry three persons on the front seat for short journeys, or four slim adults could share the back seat; leg and head room are generous, entry and egress easy. The roof is plastic lined, which gives rather a cold atmosphere to the interior. The rear mirror is amply big. Radio and heater are extras; the former is the excellent H.M.V. with aerial controlled by a roof knob, the latter gives plenty of heat, particularly around the feet, and isn’t noisy.
The right-hand, under-facia hand-brake with ratchet-grip is rather clumsy but holds the car adequately. The driver’s door locks, using the ignition key. The tools are accommodated conveniently in a tray in the luggage boot. The screen wipers work very fast and clear a big arc of each half of the screen. Two screen vizors are provided. The well-padded, deep, bench-type front seat adjusts easily if not entirely positively and has a deep, comfortable squab.
In conclusion, the Phase II Standard Vanguard should satisfy a large number of family travellers, for it is a dependable, roomy, 80-m.p.h., 0-50-in-under-14-seconds saloon of very reasonable price and running economy. — W. B.
The Phase II Standard Vanguard Saloon
Engine: Four-cylinder, 85 by 92 mm. (2,088 c.c.). Push-rod o.h.v.; 7.25 to 1; 68 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m.
Gear ratios: First, 16.35 to 1; second, 7.71 to 1; top, 4.625 to 1; overdrive top, 3.6 to 1.
Tyres: 6.00-16 Dunlop on bolt-on disc wheels.
Weight: 25 cwt. unladen.
Steering ratio: Three turns, lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity: 12 gallons. Range approx. 270 miles.
Wheelbase: 7 ft. 10 in.
Track: Front, 4 ft. 2 1/2 in.; rear, 4 ft. 6 in.
Overall dimensions: 13 ft. 11 1/8, in. by 5 ft. 3 in. by 5 ft. 9 in.
Price: £555 (£787 7s. 6d. with p.t.); overdrive, heater and radio extra.
Makers: The Standard Motor Co., Ltd, Coventry.