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Dagenham's Ford Popular 103E.Thanks to Pete who sent over the great pics and story below, outlining why he bought a 1950s Ford Pop, when he already had a Vanguard and Austin Somerset sat in the driveway....
'Popular' misconceptions !!Growing up in the 60’s one was constantly aware of the variety, and range of choice offered to the increasing number of family car owners.
Not only were there a greater number of manufacturers still in existence but also each of those manufacturers seemed to offer a tremendous range of new and alternative vehicles, in keeping with the ‘modern’ age.
I bought mine from a guy that had purchased it to make it into a ‘Hot Rod’ (Oh how original!) and it only survived this fate due to the protests of his workmates. The car had been purchased new in 1957 and kept by the same owner until his death, when the car was passed to his son. Having spent quite some years sitting in a garage it fell victim to the number plate vultures who then sold it to the ‘customising’ crowd, and thus to me.
At first sight it looked nicely presented in what I believe was called Canterbury green, an inspection revealed it to be a very sound little car indeed and had at some time been part restored, with only the interior having been left original. It had several factory fitted extras including an oil bath air filter, external oil filter, interior parcel shelf and heater, making it quite ‘de-luxe’ for a Popular. The underside was in good order as was the engine and running gear, the battery seemed a bit ‘iffy’ despite the assurances of the vendor, but all in all it wasn’t a bad little car and money changed hands.
I had a journey of around 120 miles ahead of me and much of it was winding through the Derbyshire peak district national park in order to cross the Pennines for home, the petrol tank registered half full and the seller assured me that I would have plenty.
So off I drove, my first time in one of Britain’s once ubiquitous sidevalve fords, the sun was shining and my epic journey into the unknown lay ahead! The first thing I noticed as I drove along was the rather rorty exhaust note, certainly compared to today’s offerings, but the exhaust was in perfect order, and the sound not unpleasant and so added to the character of the car. The engine pulled willingly and a surprising amount of torque seemed to be produced by the 1172cc engine, making the three gears adequate.
As I negotiated the roads of Chesterfield heading west for the Pennines I decided to fill up with petrol just to be on the safe side, the car took just over three gallons to full and in I went to pay. I came out to what would soon become a familiar sight – an elderly chap was leaning on the passenger window, his hand cupping his eyes to better see inside as his daughter stood waiting patiently.
“Do you like it?” I said smiling to him as he became aware of my return.
“This was my first car this was, I bought one second-hand in 1961” he said with a misty eyed smile, “ I remember the wipers used to stop when you went uphill” he added with a chuckle.
There ensued a short conversation after which I bid him farewell; his parting words to me were “Make sure you look after it!” Praying that the battery had charged a little I pulled the starter and – vroom! Off we went! The sun was still shining and the car ran very sweetly indeed, my only concern being that dodgy battery, this journey was likely to take several hours and on the horizon, just to the west of the Pennine range there were very heavy, dark rain clouds looming.
The little Pop and I passed through towns and villages on route never failing to cause a reaction from those that saw her, on and on we ran on roads that included climbing steep inclines in the peak district, with equally steep descents on the other side! All this the car handled with aplomb, and all the while the scenery was glorious making this a truly memorable ride.
I soon developed a technique of letting the throttle off momentarily when the screen needed wiping, a sort of foot operated intermittent wiper! We passed through the heavy rush hour traffic of Manchester without incident, finally arriving home at twilight.
The following few days were spent as a mixture of driving and fettling the old car to better preserve it. The underside and chassis was excellent and needed only a generous coating of waxoyl, also applied to the roof guttering and other ‘water trap’ areas. A new fan belt was ordered after it was found to be the wrong one, and a replacement battery fitted.
The car was finally ready to use when something very unexpected happened…. I had recently sold my Phase II Standard Vanguard to a chap from Hertfordshire who came to collect it a week or two later, on seeing the ‘Pop’ sitting on the drive ticking over like a gem he immediately offered to buy it – and as I can withstand anything but temptation I sold it on the spot!
Looking back I think of that little Ford as a real eye opener, I had imagined that a vehicle of such basic pre-war design, driven by an antiquated small sidevalve engine would have been a recipe for abject boredom – but I was wrong. The gutsy little engine and sturdy build made for a very dependable and characterful mode of transport, the cars inherent simplicity becoming one of its strengths rather than weaknesses….. Er…. wish I hadn’t sold it now!
Thanks for this latest classic car story!!
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