The Evolution Of An Icon

Are you interested in, do you own, or do you simply have good memories of the Ford Popular of the 1950s? In those days the 'Pop' was everywhere; go down any street in Britain and you would see them despite the almost total lack of such accepted essentials these days as twin windscreen wipers, heaters and even flashing indicators! Perhaps a Ford Pop was a very simple car without much in the way of creature comforts, but for all that it did the job that it was intended for; basic, day-to-day transport for people who didn't have a fortune to spend, but who still wanted some means of transporting the family; in, if not complete comfort, at least reasonably tolerable conditions.

Was it easy to drive?

Hardly. It started life as Britain's cheapest car and it showed; the lights, powered only by 6 volts, were barely capable of lighting up the road and even starting it was an adventure, with a starting handle to get the engine moving; this was definitely an art to be developed since swinging it in the wrong way and experiencing a backfire could very easily result in injury! There was no such thing as a demister, let alone a heater, and in cold weather it was not unusual to find owners putting hot water bottles in their cars to try to clear ice off the windscreens. Vinegar could sometimes be used to clean the windscreen but it made the car smell awful. A piece of rag tucked into the corner of the screen was an essential extra to mop up the inevitable condensation on it but a bit of mess on the glass wasn't really important anyway, since the single wiper rarely worked properly. Want to signal that you were turning? Turn the switch and a little arm would pop out, practically invisible to the traffic behind you. Truly, in these days of almost universal air conditioning, automatic gearboxes and electric windows, it is difficult for those who have never experienced the earlier days of motoring to appreciate just what an adventure it was!

Was it long lasting?

It was a reasonably reliable car by the standards of the day but longevity was not it's main redeeming feature. The cooling system was rudimentary to say the least which didn't help reduce engine wear; very few vehicles managed more than about 40,000 miles before being either scrapped or rebuilt. Oil loss was endemic and much of it seemed to end up in the spark plugs; many a morning had to be spent burning them off in the gas oven before the beast could be persuaded to fire up. Nevertheless we loved them - most of the time, at least.

Surely it improved, as time went on?

Even as late as 1959, when production of the Pop finally ceased, the car still retained a side valve engine and three speed gearbox. There had been little modification in the intervening years and the engine would have been quite familiar to a proud owner who had bought a new car when it first came out. At the end it could hardly be considered a luxury vehicle, particularly by modern standards, but to be realistic it was always intended to be aimed at buyers who had economy first and foremost in their minds.

So why is it still so popular?

It's become an icon and, surprisingly for a bargain basement car, a bit of a status symbol! Now a car suited mainly for classic car enthusiasts, it comes in many forms, from pristine, elegant conveyances to hot rods with V-8 engines shoehorned under the bonnet which it has been very popular for, owing to it's lightweight construction. There are still many hundreds of them on the roads today but the prices have gone up somewhat; anyone looking for an example in reasonable condition should expect to pay somewhere in the region of 10 times the price it cost when it was new! This is not so surprising however when we consider that when it was first brought out the price of it represented anywhere between about nine months and a year's earnings for the average person.

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