First Day Out. — The de luxe model Anglia is here seen resting while its occupants consume lunch near Toul in Northern France.
With an Anglia to the Sun? No, the Ford Motor Company do not yet sell inter-planetary space ships but they can supply suitable vehicles for making a journey to the Continent where late season sunshine can be found, the Italian Riviera, for example. And so it was that we were to find ourselves at the wheel of a de luxe model Anglia, kindly placed at our disposal by Mr. Wheatley of the Ford Motor Co., for two weeks.
Long before the car actually arrived plans were made with Messrs. Townsend Bros., for having it shipped over the Channel, documents arranged with the A.A. and all the usual last minute arrangements made; these final preparations seem unending and at times one secretly envies those folk who have booked coach tours or similar organised excursions, although these thoughts are quickly dispelled as soon as one is on the boat.
September and October are late months in the season for many of the pleasure resorts of France, one must therefore press on southwards especially in October for much chance of warm summer weather so lacking in England last year. With this in mind we decided on the Italian Riviera, a corner of Europe we had not previously explored. The presence of a gleaming cream Anglia outside our City office on the appointed day convinced us that we were to be going somewhere after all. The car was then duly loaded with what appeared to be an immense amount of luggage for two people and we rose at some unearthly hour one Saturday morning and motored to Dover.
Fine weather prevailed and a comfortable crossing was enjoyed on the s.s. Halladale, which took time off to salvage a paravane which had been floating aimlessly about the Channel. Once at Calais we were soon off the boat, through the customs and ambling through the busy cobbled streets of Calais. It was only at about this point in the proceedings when our thoughts turned to the most desirable route and Switzerland, being perhaps the nearest point where inspiring scenery is reached, won the vote. Thus we set out from Calais for Arras, only to be delayed and misled by deviation signs and other obstructions. Once past Bethune, however, the long straight French roads, with little traffic, presented themselves. France is fortunate in possessing such desirable commodities as these roads so often a heartbreak to the British motorist who feels he must cross France to her more picturesque neighbouring countries. Switzerland, for example, is a country which can be more completely assessed very quickly, but France, by nature of her size alone, can only be appreciated after a stay of some duration when her hidden charms become apparent.
Our first night stop, after a leisurely run in from the coast, was at Soissons. At this juncture it must be mentioned that we had come “Armed to the Teeth” with camping gear, tinned food and so on in an effort to lessen still further the depletion of our small stocks of the Almighty Franc. How disappointing for the French Treasury! The night proved perfect for camping and by 9 a.m the following morning we were on our way for Reims, Chalons, Epinal and Mulhouse, a pleasant but rather uninteresting route, although the shortest for entry into Switzerland. Camping near Mulhouse on our second night we encountered what we had expected to be a dreaded enemy—mosquitoes. Having previously borrowed a seemingly vast mosquito net we got this out of the car with much glee, convinced of our ability to defeat these insects without difficulty. The game of erecting this in an already small, overcrowded tent began. This pantomime had to be seen to be believed — we spent two hours that night preparing for bed and were completely exhausted by these antics. After an hour or two of near suffocation in the net, which we were assured was large enough for two, we discarded it and waited to be bitten, and we were!
Basle soon came up on the signposts and we headed for Lucerne, being passed by dozens of Volkswagens and D.K.W.s. Switzerland, however, is a cosmopolitan country as regards its car production and one saw most of the cheaper British cars, particularly Anglias and Prefects which enjoy excellent service facilities in the main agents which we visited. A fair sprinkling of Minors, A30s and Land Rovers prevailed together with lone examples of obscure European makes. Mercedes-Benz 220s were much in evidence, particularly cabriolets and drophead examples in the hands of German tourists who seem more addicted to fresh air than are their neighbours in France where one very rarely sees open cars. Food shops in Switzerland again impressed us with their cleanliness as we purchased milk, vegetables and other necessities to supplement our tinned products, which as yet, weighed heavy in the boot of the car. This additional weight, however, did not upset the excellent handling qualities of the Anglia in any way, the steering was light and precise, the brakes effective and free from fade even on steep Alpine passes and the suspension quite adequate for some of the atrocious road surfaces encountered.
Continuing southwards from Lucerne early one evening keeping to the Como road we began the ascent of the St. Gotthard pass. By the time Altdorf was reached darkness had descended and the narrow winding road climbed up and up, the normally gay villages forlorn and deserted. On and on we went seeking a suitable camp site as the wind freshened and the scenery became more forbidding. Eventually a level spot was found near Andermatt and we turned in. The morning dawned clear and fine, however, and it was not long before the Anglia was sailing up the St. Gotthard’s well-surfaced gradients, the descent requiring more care on account of the many sharp hairpin bends and the thick morning mist.
And so to Como. The Italian Customs formalities were speedily dealt with, petrol coupons for cheaper petrol for tourists purchased and one more name added to the membership list of the Italian Automobile Club which entitles members to free parking in most towns, cheaper hotel rates and other advantages. South of Como one finds an Autostrada to Milan. These excellent motorways are well worth the small extra charge made for their use, a quick reckoning of the average speeds maintained on them soon convinces one of their indispensibility. Milan, never a beautiful city, did nothing to make us change this opinion of it as we passed through in pouring rain with rush-hour scooters, Topolinos and Millecento Fiats scurrying about in all directions. The rain continued. So did we, southwards via Piacenza, Parma and Reggio to Modena, home of Maserati racing cars. Here the weather improved, open air cafes abounded and we decided to forsake four wheels for four legs for a shop-to-shop stroll. The next thirty-seven kilometres to Bologna were soon accounted for, but rain clouds were still about as we entered this old town, one of the great centres of culture in Italy since the Middle Ages and possessing the oldest University in Europe. Finally, to Florence by way of the Raticosa and Futa passes, this pleasantly undulating route through many vineyards is by no means as strenuous as it sounds, the two passes are very minor ones and the summits easily pass unnoticed.
Arriving at Florence from the north much of the city can be seen from the hillside; we were unfortunate in coming when it was raining, but the beauty and character of this historical place can still be appreciated in poor weather. It was while we were admiring the scenery that the peace and quiet was disturbed by the crackle of an open exhaust and a red A6G Maserati sped past as if it were taking part in a race, one tried to imagine the attitude of a London policeman to this sort of thing, but motor-racing is Italy’s principal sport and one could almost visualise the shopkeepers and passers-by giving the “faster” signal as the car sped on up the hill.
Some time was spent in Florence examining a few places of interest, but so much time is needed to explore this justly famed city of art and architecture that we decided we would make a point of calling again another year. Taking our leave, once again in rain, in the direction of Pisa, by-passing the Autostrada which meets the coast road some miles north of Pisa where, again, we found ourselves on the road by night and, stopping to buy provisions at the seemingly ever-open shops, continued north along the Mediterranean coast which is dotted with small towns full of hotels and pensions, restaurants and bars. Soon after La Spezia the road goes inland and over the Bracco pass through heavily-wooded country where one encounters enormous lorries negotiating remarkable hairpin bends, many of the lorries carrying up to twelve Fiat 600s from Turin southwards. This winding road soon drops down to sea level at Sestri Levante, but after the next town, Chiavari, climbs up again in a series of hairpins to magnificent vantage points overlooking the coastline. Less interested in this scenery, however, are the local inhabitants who looked prosperous, most of them the proud owners of new Fiat 600s which were pushed round these bends in the true Italian manner making even moderately fast British drivers seem lethargic and disinterested.
And so to Rapallo, alive with British-registered cars. Here we stayed several days with friends, making daily excursions to such delightful places at Santa Margherita, with its interesting harbour, Portofino, the pleasure resort for the well-to-do, and Necci. At this juncture the weather turned fine and speedboats, water skiers, sunglasses and open-air cafés were much in evidence as the sun shone from the cloudless sky.
The return journey was by way of Genoa and round the coast to Cannes for the appreciation of more aquatic sports, and then north via Grasse, Castellane, Digne and Sisteron, the Route Napoleon, in fact. Then on by Serres and Monestier to Grenoble. This winter route from Nice is rather a desolate road in parts and the surface is poor, although reconstruction is in hand. Once at Grenoble, however, the surface improves since this is the main Turin road, and the Anglia cruised along at a happy 50 m.p.h., crossing the fast-moving River Rhone to Bourg and Chalon and following the N6 to Auxerre. This last section was completed with little or no effort. French roads may be long but they are well surfaced mainly and, in contrast with Italian roads, they carry little traffic.
Finally, two days were spent in Paris, at the time of the Motor and Marine exhibitions, the cold wind reminding us that we were returning to the winter season in London and the high prices of food bringing us back to reality after our modest expenditures in Italy. As a final gesture of goodwill towards France we called on friends in Lille before presenting ourselves at Calais to await the arrival of the s.s. Halladale. En route for Lille we sampled one of France’s comparatively rare Autoroutes, a rival of the German Autobahn and Italian Autostrada, and very good it was too, a fine dual carriageway with excellent crossovers with all the trimmings. On each of the three bridges that we passed under we remarked on the presence of rather damp-looking gendarmes standing on each peering unhappily down on the passing traffic. They looked so bored that we felt certain France must be a nation of very law-abiding citizens.
And so to Calais and Dover — proud of the travel-stained Anglia which had carried us without fault on a journey of over 2,500 miles over almost every kind of road. Motor Sport tested the standard model Anglia fully in July 1954 and reached the conclusion that this was a sensible motor car possessing many admirable qualities for a modest outlay of capital. We had no cause to refute this in the above test, only to amplify it. The Anglia is rather a remarkable car in many ways; it combines a family saloon with a sports car in that it has reasonable accommodation for four with a large luggage boot, suspension which will tackle any type of road and give a comfortable ride without too much roll or pitch, and a very willing and, of course, well-tried engine. This 1,172-c.c. side-valve unit is famous for its reliability and also for its power. Previously rather a harsh, noisy engine when used in the Ford austerity range, it has been silenced and modified to give 36 b.h.p. for use in the present Anglias and Prefects, which have a very fair turn of speed, 70 m.p.h. being quite within their capabilities and at which speed there is comparatively little noise although the small-diameter wheels always seem to be working hard at their job. The brakes were quite adequate, the steering light and positive, and the roadholding good in spite of the load being carried, although some roll was evident on corners, caused possibly by the addition of a roof-rack.
The interior layout is good and in contrast with some of its contemporaries the Anglia has ample width, so that passenger and driver are not too close together, there is adequate rear-seat leg room, and the large doors provide easy access to this rear compartment. Other desirable features about this de luxe model were the twin wing mirrors, so useful on the Continent, the sensible petrol filler, good engine accessibility when the forward-hinged bonnet is opened, interior light mounted above the windscreen, the powerful heater and the Ekco radio which, much to our delight, picked up our favourite programme from Dundee when we were south of Soissons.
Some points of criticism were the uncomfortable seats, thick windscreen pillars (especially noticeable in Paris and where the priorite a droite applies), the absence of any floor covering to the boot and the inadequate lights, although this might have been a case of maladjustment. Oil consumption worked out at just over 1,000 miles to the pint but petrol we were unable to check accurately as the mileometer became erratic soon after we had set out. The small lip on the parcels shelf allows articles to slide on to the floor.
The standard of finish of the paintwork was very high for such a low-priced car, the doors and boot lid were close fitting, leaving no unsightly gaps, interior headroom was adequate, and another practical feature was the provision of rubber mats, so easily washed, as the floor covering. The India tyres also deserve some credit for their trouble-free service on rough and muddy roads.
In all then, Fords have no reason to be uneasy about this excellent small car; it is a worthy example of British products and should hold its own against rival Continental models. It has proved itself in the world of sport in the hands of rally drivers and capable racing drivers alike, and represents very good value at the price of £574, including tax. Radio and heater amount to £31 17s. 6d. and £12 15s. respectively.—I.G.