The Ford Motor Company staged a red-letter, or should I say a five-star, day for British journalists on September 23rd, when we were invited to the Crystal Palace to see and try the three new Ford small cars — 997 c.c. o.h.v. four-speed Anglia and Prefect and 1,172 c.c.. s.v. three-speed Popular. For this purpose a greater area had been put under canvas than ever before in the U.K., and thus Dagenham could greet its guests in a gay lounge of vast dimensions and lunch them in an even more imposing dining-hall, while outside in the sunshine every conceivable Ford car and commercial vehicle was displayed, including a selection of historic vehicles which have carried the illustrious name of Ford since the era of the model-T.
The morning was occupied with an introduction of “The World’s Most Exciting Small Car” during which the Ford Motor Company saw fit to stage a comic sketch wherein a confirmed Volkswagen enthusiast is introduced to the new Anglia and made to realise what a relatively inferior car the VW is when compared to the 1959 Ford. This is surely the very first occasion on which a manufacturer has shown the product of a rival alongside his own new product. Ford thereby displayed publicly the fear they have of Volkswagen competition throughout the World and thus paid Wolfsburg the finest possible compliment . . .!
During this skit the Ford publicist lost no time in showing that a VW “bonnet” is sometimes reluctant to prop itself open and is of flimsy construction but carefully avoided reference to the relative purchase price, engine life and tyre longevity of the two products! He quoted the new Anglia as beating the VW on the following counts: m.p.g. 43 against 38; 0-60 m.p.h. in 30.5 sec. against 32.4 sec.; 30-50 m.p.h. in top gear in 16 sec. against 22 sec.; 46 in. leg-room against 42½ in. and 50/50 weight distribution against 44/56. These performance items I shall check with interest when testing the latest Ford but to discuss them at length would be as petty as was this attempt by Ford to “take the micky” out of a well-proven, low-price design. Another stunt, as improbable as the other was indiscreet, was seen when 14 hefty lads emerged from the Anglia to demonstrate the generous capacity of its body and boot!
After what some would describe as the “bull” was over, and lunch had been partaken of, we were able to drive various Ford Anglias round what was virtually the pre-war Crystal Palace circuit, which involved starting on a brief straight, flinging the car through a very choice right-hand bend, on through the snake without lifting off, round a sharp right-hander, and up to some 55 m.p.h. along the top straight. It was then necessary to brake hard and select second gear for a right-hand right-angle, after which all the road could be used, inner rear wheel lifting and spinning, through another snake, which was followed by a rough approach to a left-hand bend leading to a downhill sweep from which a right-hand curve led back to the bottom straight. The big selection of Anglias had been hard at this for several previous demonstrations but the only casualties we observed concerned a punctured tyre, two minor prangs and an engine failure. The better drivers were lapping in 1 min. 36 sec., remaining in second and third gears throughout.
The new gearbox, controlled by a rigid central lever, is a delight to handle and the exciting “oversquare” engine has an exceedingly light throttle to which it responds admirably. Maximum in second gear is a speedometer 40 m.p.h., with considerably more than 60 available in third. The typically Ford two-spoke dished steering wheel controls rather dead, light steering. The steering tendency is faint understeer, almost a neutral action, until quite pronounced roll induces some oversteer. The rear end breaks away first but tyre scrub provides a damping effect so that with the existing 39 b.h.p. it is impossible to make the tail come round very far. Indeed, the outstanding impression is of the really excellent control afforded from soft, comfortable suspension. The brakes faded surprisingly quickly, and in some cases also tended to grab, but it must be remembered that continuous “lappery” of such a short and sinuous circuit is very hard on drum brakes and these Anglias had had plenty of this treatment.
Ford are very anxious not to introduce anything smacking of “gimmickry” and the only startlingly new aspect visible on the Anglia is the reverse-angle rear window. This has the advantage of allowing the maximum possible opening of the luggage-boot lid, apart from the more important advantages outlined in Motor Sport last month, but it does do away with a parcels’ shelf behind the back seat. However, there is a full-width under-facia shelf and a particularly deep sensibly-inclined facia well, with lockable lid on the de luxe model. Another good feature is the provision of two steering-column stalks, the left-hand one for flashing the headlamps, the right-hand one actuating the horn. Visibility from the driving seat is excellent, with notably slender screen pillars.
I was able to chat with Mr. Vic Mould, Ford’s Test and Development Executive Engineer, and was interested to learn that apart from trying many competitive cars, such as VW, Renault Dauphine, etc., the Ford Motor Company has experimented with various suspension systems, including different forms of i.r.s. They make the significant point that they are not opposed to i.r.s. but do not consider that a system built down to the cost-level of an inexpensive car gives any advantage over their revised rigid-axle ½-elliptic layout, nor could it be made anything like robust enough or quiet enough to meet Ford’s exacting standards. The new Anglia has longer ½-elliptic rear springs with a minimum of leaves, a damper leaf being fitted to control axle movements when the car is lightly laden, as opposed to the more usual attempt to provide increased stiffness under full load. MacPherson i.f.s., which has much to recommend it, is retained but the new layout has the same periodicity front and rear, yet it is said that this has not induced pitching. Judder as the drive takes up has been eliminated.
On the subject of Ford’s exciting new 997-c.c. engine with its extreme “oversquare,” Mr. Mould said that he purposely built an engine of the same swept volume but with smaller bore and longer stroke before passing the new engine for production — this experiment showed no improvement over the new unit, which obviously has all the advantages of a short-stroke engine without any accompanying disadvantages. Already Formula Junior and other competition exponents are contemplating the very considerable degree to which this new Ford engine should be capable of being tuned. Perhaps Ford has similar ideas, for there appears to be a big margin of safety both in the major engine components and in those of the new four-speed gearbox. Meanwhile, I hope to publish a full road-test report on this new Ford Anglia in the December issue. — W.B.
Footnote. — Already one of Mr. Fastnedge’s young ladies has appeared posed beside the new Ford Anglia, associating it with Roman sandals, slacks and a thick, long-sleeved woollen sweater. Both car and girl are “worth looking at” and remind us that the latest Ford has Smith’s instruments on its facia. — Ed.