Well into the 1950s there was still a demand for back-to-basics motoring, one that enabled families on regular incomes to afford a new car. Despite being based on archaic pre-war undergarments, the 103E Pop, ultimate development of the pre-war 8/10hp sidevalve Fords (such as the 7W Ten and 7Y), still found many eager buyers in the Ford showrooms. Ease of maintenance, excellent (and cheap) spares availability, and decent reliability meant that these old stagers were regular sights on Britain's roads throughout the 50s and into the 60s, as old examples were kept running thanks to their owner's ingenuity and indifference to newer car designs.
The engine fitted in the Pop was a 4 cylinder 1172cc unit, rated at 10hp (RAC), driving the rear axle via a 3 speed gearbox. Prior to the launch of the Pop in 1953, there was a slightly plusher car, known as the E494A Anglia, which looked quite similar at first glance. However the car shown here is definitely a Pop, thanks to the small Butler headlamps fitted to the front wings. The dash was a basic metal affair, and even the front bumper is painted rather than chrome plated. Alongside the Pop is another identical model, but finished in a darker colour - probably black! To the other side, and nearest the camera, is an early P4 series Rover, with a roof-rack fitted.
Ford Pops have a loyal following today, with survivors being split between original-spec examples, and those heavily modified by the hot rod brigade. Many customised Pops have V8s squeezed under fibreglass flip fronts, bolted down onto specially-built chassis, leaving little of the original Ford bar it's basic body profile in place. I suppose we'll never know what happened to the Ford Popular shown in these photos - where is 228 CHK now?
2. Another example, in Sidmouth.
This photograph turned up recently, apparently taken in Sidmouth sometime during the 1950s. As it features a Pop, parked on the right of this view, it seemed appropriate to drop it on this page! also in shot, a single-decker omnibus with a Castol sign on the back, and a handful of classics parked in the distance, amongst them an Austin A40 Devon in black.
3. A modified Pop and other Fords at Lydden Hill in Kent.
David emailed this photo over a while back, he took it at the Lydden Hill circuit in Kent, circa 1967. At first I thought the car (LFN 565) on the left was a Ford E04A Anglia, as the grille and bonnet are from that model, but the rest of the car looks 103E to me. The E04A's grille was more angular than the standard Pop item, and had removable side bonnet panels, unlike the later car. However the wings, single screen wiper, and painted bumper on the car below all suggest 103E. The centre of the grille has been heavily modified, and leather straps hold the bonnet top in place.
The bonnet side panels have been removed, presumably for cooling - I wonder what engine was under there!?!? Of course it could be powered by a standard 1172cc engine, and the panels simply removed to cure fuel vaporisation, a common gripe with the upright Ford 8s and 10s. Whitewall tyres, domed hubcaps, and non-Ford headlamps have also been fitted. Lurking in the background of the photo are various other classic Fords - namely a very modified 105E Anglia (648 BGH), a four door Cortina Mk1, and a beige 100E. BMC is represented by a Mk2 A40, and Bedford by a late model CA.
Added - a brace of Pops.
In a recent email, David (supplier of the photo above) sent over a snap of a couple more post-war Fords that found their way onto the family driveway - the example on the right was his, on the left his brother's. Over the decades he's owned a varied selection of sidevalve Fords, and has still to shift his enthusiasm for them, of which more another day (hopefully). Clearly the roads of Kent were poorly lit, judging by the exotic array of aftermarket illumination that his 103E supported. I'd take a guess at a pair of Cibies (correct identifications given further below), and a Notek in the centre, but I could be wrong, with a Lucas offering perched on the top of the Ford's grille. Did a 6v battery and a matching dynamo support this plethora of lamps?
Personalised touches on UYX 145 don't end with the lamps either. A fine assortment of badges adorn the Pop's upright grille - one for the AA, another for the RAC, and one more often seen on commercial vehicles back in the day, for the BMC Drivers' Club. The winged badge I'm not too sure about. Also note the rear view mirror, mounted on the bonnet, and a pair of small spotlights fitted either side of the scuttle. By comparison, his brother's car is closer to its Dagenham design, although an extra lamp and shiny headlamp surrounds do make an appearance. In the screen are a Castrol GTX sticker, and another reminding the driver of the recently-altered UK road sign designs. Magic. Thanks for sending over this photo.
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Further photos of this 15-year-old's modified Pop.
David's been in touch again, with the following extra photographs and background information on his modified Pop, reg. UYX 145 ... he was 15 at the time.
"The big (not Cibie) lights were in fact off my Vauxhall 14, the unknown badge was a St Christopher ... I could have done with a row of those considering the way I drove! I had an additional 12v battery, this is the car that also had twin carbs etc ... [here's] an angled shot of the car, showing the lights better."
"The hubcaps probably came off my first Anglia, but the 'wide' wheels were fitted a bit later, reverse Vauxhall 14 on the back and some 13" Ford wheels reversed and re-drilled for the front!.. see pic (above). Note the Peco exhaust ... can't for the life of me remember what happened to it ... may have sold it as I'm sure I wouldn't have broken it as it was pretty good. Managed to get in 'Car Mechanics' mag and won two pounds."
The following photo shows David's modified Pop engine, complete with period Aquaplane tuning gear.
Thanks for the update.
4. One of the last 103E Pops ever built.
Paul dropped me a line, with his memories and a photo of a 1959 Ford 103E that he bought in 1963.
"In about 1963, while living in Norwood, I bought a one-owner 1959 Ford
Popular from Bill Hatswell of West End Garage, Woking. It was recently
traded-in, in beautiful condition, and very low mileage. The only departures
from standard were seat belts and flashing indicators.
When I was preparing the papers to transfer ownership, one thing caught my
eye: I recognised the chassis number! I had seen one like it many times. I
worked for the Ford Motor Company at that time and the factory parts list,
which I often used, contained parts for all Ford 10hp models made from the
1930s, and it showed the part number by chassis-number range. I forget what
the final chassis number was (the chassis number of the last Ford 10 ever
built) but it appeared on every page, and my new car had a number just three
digits away! So I realised that my car, 563 LPC, was the third-last 103E
Pop ever. Built on the last day of production of the Ford 10, in the last
hours of that day! They'd been making cars like my Popular since the early
In late 1958, I worked in London's West End, at the 88 Regent Street Ford
showroom, and we usually had a humble Pop in there, looking out of place
among the Zodiacs all dressed up in two-tone paint, chrome wheel covers and
white-walled tyres. The showroom cars had plastic price tickets in the
windscreens, and I think the Pop was 443 GBP, plus tax. That was really cheap,
even then, but the BMC Mini knocked it for six when it came out shortly
after, at about 500 GBP.
It was quite good fun to drive and it was great in city traffic. I used it
every day to drive from Norwood to Cheapside, and I also went on long trips
to Wales and other places, although it wouldn't go over 60. Because of that,
I kept to the B-roads, and that brought its own benefits. It was dangerous
in the wet, however, because of the wipers stopping when you put your foot
down to overtake a long truck on a grey, drizzly day. When under full power
in the rain, Pop drivers developed a technique of snapping the throttle shut
for a split second every few seconds.
The only thing that ever went wrong with it was when it suddenly cut out
completely one day. I had a voltmeter with me. It was so easy to reach the
parts that sat under the bonnet. They all stuck up in front of you, and
there was nothing hiding and nothing that was hard to get at. I connected
one voltmeter lead to a battery terminal and simply ran the probe around the
primary circuit. There was current going into the distributor but none
coming out. I removed the cap and put the probe on both sides of the contact
points, and this found the problem. There was a tiny rubber washer to
insulate the sprung contact from the distributor base, and by tightening it
too much the last time the points were changed, someone had caused the
spring to just bite through, ever so slightly, so that the spring contacted
the base on occasions. I put a new fibre washer under, and never again did I
have any trouble. That taught me how important it is for cars to be simple
and easily accessible. If the same thing happened on a modern car, I
probably wouldn't even be able to find the bonnet catch.
In 1965 I sold it to my friend Norman Green, in part-exchange for his MGA. He
used it from his house in Annerley and, after he married, he and his wife
used it at their house in Bishops Stortford. I think his wife took it to
Chagford, Devon after Norman died, although I can't be sure."
5. Another classic Ford Pop with its owners.
The following four photographs feature a '50s Ford Pop with the family that owned it. The car's registration was PWD 435, a Warwickshire issue. The first photograph shows the Pop parked alongside "Alan's caravan" in 1960, the location was Swalecliff in Kent. The Pop is fitted with a roof rack, auxiliary spot lamp, AA badge, and what looks like externally-mounted semaphore indicators, fitted just ahead of the doors.
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Picnic stops were a common occurrence for this Pop-owning family. This photograph dates to 1959. In shot are two Ford Pops, parked on a grassy verge near Maidstone, again in Kent. PWD is nearest the camera, while another identical car is parked a short way away. A comprehensive picnic has been laid out, yum yum. A few moments spent peering closely at the Ford's nearside rear window reveals a collection of triangular "flag" stickers, the type often to be found for sale at seasides and other popular tourist destinations.
Another venue, another picnic. Once again a fine spread has been laid on. PWD is to the left, while a black Ford 103E has joined the fun. Note the spare wheel strapped into the Pop's open bootlid, and the hinged numberplate mounting on the bootlid doing its job. The black Ford Popular has been fitted with a chrome rear bumper and filler cap, probably sourced from a scrap E494A. Alongside is a two-door Austin A35, painted a light colour but fitted with a non-matching bootlid. Other classics parked in view include a Standard 8, Mk1 Consul, 100E, and a Hillman Husky.
The final photo in this particular quartet shows the Ford Pop parked in the New Forest in 1959, its roof rack well loaded with equipment. Sat on the floor, the un-named gent prepares a Primus stove for action. No doubt the picnic hamper wasn't far away, what a fine way to spend a sunny day.
6. Photos of a black Ford Pop.
Two old photos now featuring a 1954/1955 Ford Pop, registration NCR 818 (a Southampton issue). The first is a b/w head-on view of the upright Pop which, save for the large spotlamp, looks to be a totally standard example.
The second photo to feature this car is a colour view. The building in the background appears to be a holiday "let", possibly a converted railway carriage. To the right is a set of railway signals. Either the location is close to a railway line, or else the owner of the land collected railway-related items.
7. Fords in London.
Cars of many makes appear in this old London street scene from 1954. While Morris Minors occupy the shot to the left and to the right (in this instance a tourer), the first complete car in view is a light-coloured '54 103E Ford, registration OGP 518. Behind the Pop is another Dagenham favourite, in the curvy shape of a Mk1 Consul, while behind that is a Riley of pre-war ancestry. Something of American origin is parked behind the Riley, while further along is an example of SS Jaguar and, just beyond two chaps stood talking in the road, a Ford E83W van. What is the large black saloon in the distance, ahead of the van - a Humber perhaps?
8. 1957 103E.
Five interesting photographs have turned up of a Kent-registered 103E Pop, 829 BKK. The first sees the car parked in a driveway, very shiny and in fine condition bar a tiny ding on the nearside front wing. Unusually this example has been fitted with chrome-plated, or stainless steel, surrounds around the pop-up semaphore indicators, let in to the rear body just behind the doors. The basic specification of a 10hp Pop is clear to see, for example the plain painted hubcaps and bumpers, two tiny Butler headlamps, a single vacuum windscreen wiper, and no ornamentation around the bonnet side vents.
Image number two sees the car in the countryside, accompanied by two smartly-dressed ladies on a picnic. This shot almost has the feel of a staged publicity photo to it, but it's just a regular snapshot of a family who've gone out for a spin, and parked up to enjoy a snack and a cup of tea. This example has been fitted with two extra stop/tail lights, supplementing the original lamp in the centre of the bootlid, seen here lowered with a hamper on top of it - very handy.
And a closer look at the rear corner of the Ford. The hinged numberplate attached to the bootlid could be lowered, thus allowing the car to be driven with the bootlid in this position, enabling suitcases that wouldn't fit in the boot space to be transported with the registration still in view - in an identical approach later taken with the 1959-on BMC Minis.
Same car, different setting. The location would appear to be an industrial area. The Pop - perhaps following an unfortunate breakdown - now has an AA badge fitted to the grille.
Rounding out this mini-collection of photographs, the same lady stood once again with her prized Pop.
9. A Pop registered POP 376.
Next, a single snapshot provided by Stuart and from his own family's albums. Parked next to a Somerset sign is a 103E Pop which looks like it's being used for a family holiday. Was the allocation of a POP registration a happy coincidence, or somehow arranged by its first owner I wonder? Were many 103Es thus registered, perhaps through an arrangement made by a Ford dealer in the issuing area with the local registration office? POP was a Birmingham issue, introduced late in 1954 and used into 1955. Rear bumper overriders and a pair of aftermarket stop/tail lamps have been fitted to the Pop. The period roof-rack, groaning under the weight of its cargo, was definitely earning its keep!
10. Holidaying in 1968.
The following photo dates to 1968, and was provided by Kevin White who keeps this within a collection of family pictures. At the time, his family were holidaying in North Wales, staying in the touring caravan shown - can anyone identify the family's accommodation? The Pop has been fitted with aftermarket flashing indicators, and also a small metal roof rack. It was registered 416 GFM, a Chester series from 1958 (Pops of this shape continued in production until 1959). Thanks for the photo Kevin.
Due to their popularity, I have a number of 103E items on the site now, including the screensaver and a regalia section.