Automotive history

Fibreglass and Ford: The Birth of Anadol, Turkey’s First Car Brand

by Ronan Glon
16 January 2024 6 min read
Fibreglass and Ford: The Birth of Anadol, Turkey’s First Car Brand
(Images: Ronan Glon)

If I say “turkey,” you will probably think about a sandwich. If I say “Turkey, the country,” you might think about a kebab or baklava; a car is unlikely to come to mind. And yet this nation lying at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East built about 1.3 million vehicles in 2022. Fiat, Ford, and Renault independently run decades-old operations in Turkey, and the Blue Oval’s division traces its roots to a failed attempt by a brand named Anadol to create a range of Turkish-built cars.

Anadol built approximately 62,000 fibreglass-bodied, Ford-powered cars over 19 years. Spotting one in the wild takes a great deal of patience and a little bit of luck; I didn’t have either, so I spent some time with five models tucked away in a dusty corner of the Rahmi M. Koç museum not far from downtown Istanbul.

Grab a coat – we’re off to Turkey.

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Anadol’s beginnings

Turkey’s first home-brewed car, the Devrim, made its debut in October 1961. It was developed at the request of the government, as part of an industrialisation plan, and built by a state-owned firm that specialised in manufacturing locomotives. Four prototypes were tested before the project collapsed.

Koç Holding, a massive industrial conglomerate based in Istanbul, was undeterred by the failure of the Devrim and reasoned that there was still space in the market for a Turkish car brand. It asked a subsidiary called Otosan Sanayi to find a partner with whom to design cars. England-based Reliant answered the call in 1963.

Anadol Reliant FW5
The Reliant FW5 outside of the Otosan factory in Istanbul. (Flickr/Alden Jewell)

Developed largely in England, the first prototype was known internally as the FW5 and powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine sourced from a Ford Anglia Super. Turkey’s two-door sedan used a fibreglass body to keep weight and manufacturing costs in check, and it featured a fairly elegant exterior design with little in the way of trim.

(Fear not, it wasn’t the Regal kind of Reliant – it was fitted with four wheels.)

As the production deadline approached, officials held a nationwide contest to find a name for the brand. “Anadol” emerged as the winner right before December 1965, when a prototype triumphantly drove into Istanbul, completing a 63-hour trek that had started in England. With this feat accomplished, higher-ups signed off on the project.

A1 (1966)

The Reliant RW5 became the Anadol A1. Not much changed as it transitioned from a prototype to a production model. Launched in December 1966, it was offered only as a two-door sedan powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine designed by Ford and rated at 48bhp. The engine spun the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission linked to a shifter mounted on the floor. Although far from epoch-shaping, the A1 did precisely what it was supposed to do: give Turkey its very own car.

While the A1 wore a “made in Turkey” label, many of the parts used to build it traced their roots to England. In addition to a Kent-built engine, which powered Fords like the Cortina, the electrical system of Anadol’s first car used Lucas parts and Smiths gauges. The suspension system was a blend of Triumph and Ford. With that lineage, it’s no surprise that the A1 enjoyed a successful career on the Turkish rally scene.

Anadol made several updates to the A1 over its nine-year lifespan. In 1968, the company fitted the 54bhp, 1.3-litre Kent engine in 1968, and it launched a redesigned model five years later. About 20,000 units of both A1s were built before production of the model ended in 1975.

A2 (1971)

Anadol’s goal wasn’t to remain a one-model brand, and it took a big step toward the mainstream when it released a larger four-door model, the A2, in 1971. The firm leveraged its expertise in fibreglass construction to create what’s widely credited as the world’s first mass-produced fibreglass-bodied four-door sedan.

Beyond keeping production costs in check, the composite body unlocked a significant and somewhat unexpected advantage: it was easy to chop up. Commercial vehicles were in short supply on the Turkish market during the early 1970s – Anadol offered a pickup starting in 1971 but had trouble keeping up with demand – so customers modified numerous A2s into home-brewed trucks and vans.

Early versions of the A2 looked a lot like the A1, with round headlights and a bright grille, and they used a 1.3-litre version of the Kent engine. Anadol launched a facelifted model in 1972 whose design was more closely aligned with the styling trends of the 1970s, and 1976 brought the second (and final) evolution called A2 SL. The sedan stayed in production until 1981. Approximately 35,000 units of the A2 were built, making it the brand’s most successful sedan. Many were used as taxis.

SV-1600 (1973)

With the sedan segment covered, Anadol turned its attention to the wagon market. While the SV-1600 was related to the A2, it received a more contemporary-looking front end and a slanted hatch that made it less boxy than some of the other wagons sold new in the 1970s (we’re looking at you, Volvo). The body of the SV-1600 was made from fibreglass, and the interior received folding rear seats.

Anadol made several changes to the SV-1600 during a production run of roughly 6000 cars that ended in 1981, notably a two-tone paint option made available shortly after the model’s launch. Not a lot changed under the hood; the SV-1600 was exclusively available with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine sourced from Ford.

STC-16 (1973)

In the early 1970s, Anadol set out to prove that it could do more than meet the basic transportation needs of Turkish motorists. It began to develop the STC-16, its first, last, and only sports car, with an eye on international rally competition. Beating a company like Lancia on its home turf would generate a significant amount of publicity for the brand and increase its sales – and perhaps it would open the door to export markets? In less than a year, Anadol had built the first three prototypes.

Designers gave the coupe a look of its own rather than borrowing styling cues from the A2. Again made with fibreglass, the model wore a long hood, a roof line that recalled the Datsun 240Z and flowed into a big hatch, and a Kammback rear end with four lights. The body hid a shortened version of the platform that underpinned Anadol’s other models, and the STC-16 used an 82bhp evolution of Ford’s familiar 1.6-litre four-cylinder Kent engine. The displacement, measured in cubic centimeters, allegedly explains the name: Sport Turkish Car 1600.

Anadol STC 16 rear quarter

STC-16 production started in April 1973, and you can probably guess the rest. Six months later, the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) announced an embargo against the United States, sending global oil prices on an unprecedented hike. Not only did the STC-16 burn more fuel than a run-of-the-mill sedan, but the cost of manufacturing its fibreglass body skyrocketed.

Production of the sports car ended in 1977 after merely 176 units were built, according to the museum. Many ended up racing, as the company had intended; the example pictured here was modified with twin Weber carburetors, a more aggressive camshaft, and a redesigned cylinder head that together increased its output to around 145bhp.

Böcek (1975)

Anadol’s entry into the beach buggy segment looked like a concept car that had escaped from the auto show circuit. Developed largely for Turkey’s tourism industry, the Böcek (which translates to “bug” in Turkish) was characterised by a flat and steeply raked front end, a soft top that snapped onto the top of the door sills, and a spare wheel placement on the rear-end that was both befuddling and innovative.

The closer you look, the wilder the Böcek gets: there are three lights on the driver’s side of the rear end but two on the passenger’s side. An assortment of five mirrors mounted above the windshield gives the driver a view of what’s behind the car. Turkey’s beach buggy is considerably more modern-looking than the open-top cars that ruled European beaches, like the Citroën Méhari, the Renault Rodeo, and the Mini Moke.

Power came from a 1.3-litre, 63bhp Kent engine that spun the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. Anadol had high hopes for the model, and even envisioned a pair of gullwing doors, but production ended in 1977 after about 203 units were built. Historians cite the economic situation in Turkey and the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis as reasons for the failure of the Böcek.

Anadol’s last stand

Anadol-A8-16-Turkish-Museum
(Wiki Commons/Rahmi M. Koç Museum)

The A2’s successor, the futuristic-looking A8-16 sedan, was the last new car released by Anadol. It featured a wedge-shaped front end and several parts sourced from within the brand, such as windows from the SV-1600 and rear lights from the Böcek. Around 1000 units were built from 1981 to 1984.

After that, the curtains dropped. Gradually moving closer to Ford in the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed Anadol to replace the A8-16 with a Turkish-built TC3-generation Taunus, though it continued making pickups until 1991. Ford Otosan still operates today as a joint venture of Ford and Koç Holding, and it builds the Transit van for many global markets (the United States isn’t one).

The idea of a Turkish people’s car could have been reborn with Saab bones. In 2015, the Turkish government bought the platform of Saab’s 9-3 from NEVS for €40 million, and the group unveiled a pair of Pininfarina-designed prototypes four years later. Production should have started in 2022; it didn’t. In practise, the current Fiat Tipo (known as the Ægea locally, where it’s built) has become the new Turkish people’s car.

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