When the new 100E Ford Anglia was introduced in 1953, Ford stepped into the 1950s. It was a conventional 3-box design, with monocoque body and coil-over telescopic shocks in front –- what would become known as McPherson struts. The torque tube was gone and the rear springs were conventional semi-elliptic leaf design. The full-width body was a tidy downsizing of the 1949 American Ford 'shoebox' while the side-valve engine and 3-speed gearbox came straight from the old Prefect/Anglia. The 100E would be built until 1962 when the 'notchback' 105E would replace it and introduce a short stroke overhead-valve engine and 4-speed gearbox.
In the meantime, Ford's venerable Anglia 'sit-up-and-beg' two-door saloon would continue as an entry level model. Now named the Popular, it was even more Spartan than its predecessor. Selling for £443 in 1953, it remained the cheapest full-size car you could buy, and put a new vehicle in the reach of a growing number of British motorists.
New owners received just one gauge in the dash, a big speedometer with fuel gauge and generator light. There was no heater or turn signals, a single vacuum wiper which was inclined to stop over 40mph, and slap wildly on deceleration. The pathetic 5-inch headlights have been compared to a candle inside a brown beer bottle.
The car was very little changed from its 1939 ancestor -– even including a crank handle for emergency starting. The Ford Popular had a non-opening fabric roof, mechanical brakes, rigid axles and transverse leaf springs that transmitted road shocks from one side of the car to the other with jarring immediacy. The side-valve engine was now the larger 1172cc unit, but 0-50mph times remained around 35 seconds. At top speed the Popular was inclined to weave like a yacht in a stiff breeze.
Turn signal flashers were not offered, but many cars were equipped with an aftermarket unit later. However the 6-volt system makes flashers exceedingly slow at idle. An accessory heater could be fitted, but since the radiator operated on convection, a water pump had to be installed to direct hot water into the car. The ingenious installation involved running the water pump pulley on the back of the fan belt.
But Popular the model certainly was, with 155,340 sold from 1953-59, when the advent of the Austin Mini consigned it to history. Surviving Ford Populars are fairly numerous and spares easy to find. A few more colors were offered, but most you find will be black, grey, tan or green. They represent an ideal starter collector car, being reliable and simple to maintain, albeit very slow.
An odd footnote to the model is that it has become a favorite basis for drag racers to install Chevrolet and Ford V-8 engines, delivering alarming quarter-mile performances. Boxing the frame is the absolute minimum requirement in efforts to keep the car in a straight line. The loophole that enables these bodies to be so popular is the National Hot Rod Association’s requirement that certain classes of racer must be older than 1948. Since the Anglia/Popular didn’t change for 20 years, who could prove otherwise?