The Standard Vanguard Phase I and Phase II is a rear-wheel-drive, 5/6-seat saloon that was initially intended for Standard’s overseas markets; ‘Made in Britain; Designed for the World’. The 1941 Plymouth-inspired body was mounted on a sturdy chassis with anti-roll bars fore and aft, independent front coil springs, and a live rear axle with leaf springs. The four-cylinder 2-Litre engine was based on the Ferguson tractor unit.
The Vanguard Phase I made its bow in July 1947 and by the following year had replaced all of the pre-war type ‘Flying Standards’. The price was £671, but British motorists could only aspire to put their names on the waiting list as the adverts warned that this new Standard was ‘for export only during 1948’.
Early models had a gear lever on the right of the steering column but in 1949 this was changed to the left. Overdrive was available from this year onwards, and the Vanguard also gained slightly altered doors and separate sidelights. Van and pick-up variants appeared at this time, and these were delivered in primer! A somewhat more glamourous model was the Vanguard convertible made by Impéria of Belgium, although these are very rare.
THe 1950 model year saw home market deliveries commence in earnest, and the saloon was augmented by an estate car (with vertically divided rear doors). In late 1951 the Vanguard gained a larger rear window and a simpler radiator grille; this incarnation is known as the Phase IA.
March 1953 saw standard launch of the Phase II, which boasted ‘notchback’ styling in place of the previous ‘Beetleback’ body, a hydraulic clutch and a much larger boot – all for £836 19s 2d. The estate car become available as a two-door model, but none are known to survive. A year later the Vanguard Diesel was the first oil-burning car to be made in the UK. The front chassis was reinforced and for £1,099 motorists could own one of the slowest big saloons on the road; top speed was 66mph.
The Phase II was replaced by the radically different Phase III in September 1955 although the light commercial variants continued until 1958.
The engine for most Standard Vanguards is the 2,088cc I-4 power plant with wet cylinder sleeves to allow for ease of engine overhaul. As compared with the Ferguson unit, there is no governor to maintain speed, plus modified ignition and valve timing. The diesel unit is a 2,092cc I-4 plant that was originally designed for the TE-F20 tractor. All Vanguard Phase I and Phase IIs have a 3-speed column change with synchromesh on all gears. The optional overdrive on second and third is desirable as it does improve the Standard’s cruising abilities. This was initially mechanical, but from the later Phase IAs onwards there is an electrical system.
The Standard power plants are famously robust, and some owners believe that fitting radial ply tyres will significantly improve the Vanguard’s road manners. Check the chassis outriggers, outer and inner sills, rear arches, floors and, on the Phase II, around the roof guttering for rust. Worn kingpins might denote a chassis that has not been regularly greased.
For far too long the Vanguard, especially the Phase I, has not been fully appreciated. This was probably the first attempt by the British motor industry at building a ‘world car’ and you just have to compare the Standard with its contemporaries to see how advanced it looked back in 1947.
The Standard Vaguard Phase I’s nearest contemporaries were the Austins A70 Hampshire and Hereford and the Morris MS Six. Phase II of the Standard Vaguard competed against the Ford Zephyr-Six Mk 1 and the E-Series Vauxhall Velox but its closest rival was possibly the Humber Hawk Mk V.