Vintage PR Shot: Ford 1959 Popular 103E – Suddenly It’s 1932, Or Retro Before That Was Cool

Yes, this “vintage” car was being sold new in the UK as late as 1959. And yes, it’s essentially a 1932 Ford Model Y, the first all-new car designed by Ford specifically for the European market in 1932. Which means: transverse leaf suspension on solid axles front and rear, a single vacuum-operated wiper, no heater or defroster, a very spartan interior, no chrome anywhere, a 30hp 1172cc side-valve four, mechanical brakes, 6V electrics, and a crank handle that came in handy all-too often.

So why did exist and why did it sell quite well?

The answer is that after the war and well into the fifties, there was of course a huge backlog of demand for cars, including from would-be buyers that couldn’t afford a new one. And there were restrictions on new cars sales, as export sales got priority. Normally, these would be used car buyers, but due to cars being out of production for six long years, there really weren’t many usable used cars to buy. Ford saw this niche in the market and exploited it by keeping the old Anglia/Prefect in production after the new versions arrived in 1953. It was renamed Popular, and stripped of everything that wasn’t absolutely essential in order for it to move and transport four persons, making it the lowest-price new car in the UK, by a good margin. The only other choice for buyers was to pay £100 more for a proper Anglia 100E, Austin A30 or Morris Minor, or a pre-war car, most likely ratty and very tired.

A car tested by The Motor magazine in 1954 had a top speed of 60.3 mph (97.0 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 24.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 36.4 miles per imperial gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 30.3 mpg‑US) was recorded. The test car cost £390 including taxes; that’s £11,360 adjusted, which is about $15,500 adjusted dollars. Not all that cheap, given the low purchasing power of the times.

It came to be known as the “Ford Pop” and soon became the UK’s most popular hot rod, the equivalent of 1920s and ’30s Fords in the US.