On the occasion of the Roy Fedden Trophy Trial we used one of the latest Ford Prefect cars to cover the event for Motor Sport. The Ford Motor Company has put motoring within reach of the masses from the time of its immortal model-T onwards, and anyone who contemplates, better still visits, the vast Ford organisation at Dagenham, cannot fail to be interested in its modern products, even though these are of a utility nature.
It was an interesting reflection that in the trial we were setting out to watch no fewer than 26 of the cars entered were using Ford engines identical to that in our four-seater Prefect saloon with its adequate luggage accommodation and very generous passenger space.
Consequently, one’s concentration was largely on the engine-unit, although its silky power output, its effortless functioning and its response to the throttle disguised that good output of power, which, for a moderate weight, has endowed it with such popularity and fame in the specialised sphere of trials-car construction. It certainly made itself heard at upwards of 40 m.p.h., but with a merry, taut Ford-sound. Like the rest of the car this engine gave the reassuring impression of being unburstable, even when propelling this quite spacious saloon at a speedometer 65 m.p.h. It also started reasonably quickly when the car had become covered in frost after nine hours in the open, and pulled well in top gear from 15 m.p.h. onwards. It was notably smooth and pink-free, and didn’t know the meaning of “flat-spots.” Moreover, it provided the very necessary economy so essential to almost all of its in a “second-string” car or for everyday motoring—the petrol consumption was 29 m.p.g., and most of those miles were either faster-than-normal ones along the main Bath and A 30 roads or low-gear ones along lanes, by-ways and the thoroughfares of London. Aunt Agatha, on her own coupons, would get 35 m.p.g. or more.
The Prefect has rather harsh suspension by modern standards and there is appreciable up-and-down movement over the more pronounced bumps, but bad roads are smoothed out quite effectively, and at least it is stomach-lenient springing. The steering is pleasantly high-geared for these days—two turns of the spring-spoke wheel from lock to lock—and there is adequate castor-action. Nor does more than a trace of return motion and vibration reach the driver’s wrists. This effective steering offsets to a considerable extent the effect, on fast corners, of lateral movement and a tendency to roll which seems inseparable from the employment of transverse springs in a car built high enough to negotiate, without anxiety, the very roughest tracks.
The Ford Prefect saloon weighed some 6 or 7 cwt. more than the aforementioned trials specials which employ the same rugged, powerful side-valve Ford Ten engine to such advantage. Consequently, its brisk acceleration and contented cruising at an indicated 50 to 55 m.p.h. was all the more marked, and showed how potent a lightweight like a Dellow must be, although the wide ratios of the three-speed gearbox (16.9, 9.7 and 5.5-to-1) did not encourage more than a speedometer 35 m.p.h. in second gear. The gear-change handles nicely, thanks largely to a rigid lever of sufficient length, and in the gear-change, the engine note and the car’s manner of handling, the present Prefect reflects its ancestry, for the original Ford Ten was a willing, rapid and useful economy car of like characteristics.
In other ways, however, worthwhile development has clearly taken place. The 10-in. Girling brakes could hardly be improved upon, the pull-out hand-brake is effective, the clutch a bit tricky but entirely slip-free, while the car now has the demeanour of a much bigger, full-family conveyance. It covers the ground with a lack of effort at average speeds that would be refreshing to anyone who lost touch with this “Ten” in the late thirties. And, preach the purists who decry cars made of “pressed tin” as they may, the fact remains that the fittings on this Ford are well made, its doors swing nicely, the handles and window winders are secure, the seats, especially the front-buckets, are really comfortable (but might be higher), the exterior finish looks genuinely durable, and the Prefect as a whole, engine, chassis and body, feels as if it will be doing the job ten years hence nearly as well as it does now. Which is just what Ford intend their cars to do. The appearance is smart, yet unobtrusive. Oh, yes, and there are four wide doors, a neat facia carrying electric clock, speedometer with inset odometer, ammeter, and a sensibly pessimistic petrol gauge; proper running-boards; a luggage locker lid width drops flat for extra luggage; very powerful inbuilt headlamps with good foot-dimmer; self-cancelling direction-indicators; full-width parcels shelves under the facia and behind the rear seat, and various other conveniences, yet the basic price is the modest one of £310; p. t. raises this to £396 17s. 3d. The Prefect is, indeed, the third most-inexpensive car on the British market and, as such, represents excellent value, especially when Ford durability and world-wide servicing facilities are taken into consideration.
We covered over 300 miles in the Prefect and it made us appreciate that today Ford is offering to the world better utility motoring than at any other time in their history—and, to those who know the previous Dagenham products, that is saying a very great deal!—W. B.