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1959 Ford Anglia. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photo by Bill Vance

Following the Second World War, England was desperate for dollars, and its “Export or Die” policy was aimed at exporting as many products as possible to the United States and Canada. Principal among these were cars, and British cars began landing in North America in 1948.

Small sedans were exported by such established manufacturers as Austin, Morris, Rootes (Hillman), Standard and Jowett, as well as by Ford and General Motors. Ford’s and GM’s (Vauxhalls) became known as “captive imports.” Early imports were pre-war designs, but by 1949 most had launched their new post-war models.

Ford of England was much slower in updating its smallest sedans, the Anglia and Prefect, concentrating instead on its excellent 1951 Consul and Zephyr models that were thoroughly modern in styling and engineering. Their lines were influenced by Detroit, and under the hoods were up-to-date short-stroke overhead valve engines. They also pioneered the MacPherson strut front suspension designed by Ford engineer Earle S. MacPherson. These struts would go on to become extremely popular throughout the industry.

The obsolete little Anglia two-door and Prefect four-door sedans, on the other hand, were allowed to soldier on until 1953 with upright styling and such decidedly pre-war technology as solid axles on old fashioned transverse leaf springs, and a long-stroke, side-valve, four-cylinder engine that could trace its lineage back to 1932.

When the new, unit construction Anglia and Prefect arrived for 1954 their styling was modern and also American influenced. They had MacPherson strut front suspensions, but the old side valve engine was still there. It would take another five years for Ford to get around to replacing that hoary veteran.

The step to a modern engine came in 1959 for the Anglia and Prefect. Not only did the new little four have overhead valves, it was also a very oversquare design with a cylinder bore of 81 mm (3.19 in.) and a stroke of 48.4 mm (1.91 in.). It developed 41 horsepower out of its 997 cc (60.8 cu in.) displacement, five more than the old 1,172 cc (71.5 cu in.) side-valve four. It drove the rear wheels through a four-speed manual transmission, the first four-speed used in a British Ford.

While the two-door Anglia received completely new body styling in 1959, the four-door Prefect carried on with its existing style until it was discontinued in 1962.

The new 1959 Anglia was a quite pleasant design, with a grille sloped back at the top, and a chrome plated accent stripe that started as an eyebrow over the headlamps, and continued horizontally to the rear of the car. But the most striking feature was a reverse angle rear window which hit a rather jarring aesthetic note. But it did improve rear seat headroom, and would be echoed in later Mercury models.

The dimensions of the Anglia 105E, as it was designated, were quite compact. It had a 2,299 mm (90.5 in.) wheelbase, which was 89 mm (3.5 in.) longer than previously. It rode on tiny 520-13 tires, was 3,899 mm (153.5 in.) long, and weighed only 760 kg (1,676 lb).

Performance was modest, but still competitive with the most popular contemporary small car, the Volkswagen. The Anglia accelerated from zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 29.1 seconds, and reached a top speed of 119 km/h (74 mph) (Road & Track 3/’60). The Volkswagen took 27.8 to 96 (60), with a top speed of 115 km/h (71.5 mph (R&T 12/’59). Both gave up to 35 miles per gallon.

There was, however, one item in which the Anglia, and most other small cars of that period, suffered in comparison with the Volkswagen, and that was in ease of highway cruising. While the Anglia’s engine had to spin at a rather lofty 3,730 rpm at 96 km/h (60 mph), the VW’s overdrive fourth gear allowed its engine to turn only 2,940 rpm at the same speed.

That little Anglia 105E engine would prove to be extremely robust and very “stretchable.” By 1962 its stroke had been lengthened to 58.2 mm (2.29 in.), yielding a displacement of 1,198 cc (73 cu in.) and horsepower of 48.5. This was used in the Anglia 1200.

The stroke was lengthened again to produce 1,340 cc (82 cu. in.) and 1,498 cc (91 cu. in.) versions for use in the Ford Classic, Capri and Cortina. It was also so successful in powering open-wheeled racing cars that it is said to have encouraged Ford to proceed with its Cosworth-designed Cosworth Ford DFV (Double Four Valve) Formula 1 V8 engine that went on to win 155 F1 races, the most successful F1 engine of all time.

The Anglia was produced until 1968 when it was superseded by more modern designs. It is still remembered fondly by many former owners who valued its simple, sturdy design, nimble handling and excellent fuel economy.

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