The Ford Popular was built in the UK between 1953 and 1962. It was a budget car for the general population that featured rod-operated drum brakes, 6 volts electric lighting and required a starting handle. Users could only access the boot with a coach key. It had no demister or heater, and cooling was done by using a thermosyphon. The car was powered by a 1172cc, straight-4 side valve engine that produced 22kW of power. Its engine had a 3-speed manual transmission, and the body was a two-door saloon with a two-door coupe utility being produced for the Australian market.
In addition, the car had a single vacuum-powered wiper, very little chrome and no vinyl trim. Most units had their bumpers painted and did not have a trim on the side of it's bonnet. If you own one of these basic cars, there is lots of room for improvement, which would only be limited by the size of it's body. This guide takes you through some of the modifications you can effect on your Ford Popular to make it versatile, high performing and usable for today’s leisure driving.
Due to the engine compartment limitations, there is a limited choice of engines that can fit. The best engine that you may go for may be the 1500GT pre-crossflow made for the Cortina Mk1 or 2. You can combine the engine with the 2000E gearbox or the 1,200cc gearbox. Both of these choices make your little car fun to drive on the road. An actual cross-flow engine can also work although you may have to do a few modifications here and there. The 1600E Cortina engine or the 711M Ford Kent engine is a good choice.
If you are fascinated by high power engines, consider going for a two-piece half shaft instead of the standard ones. This is because the standard ones can only handle 50bhp at most.
Fitting the engines on your Ford Popular may require a little modification of your bonnet. However, not much modification of the body of your car should be necessary, especially if you keep to Ford’s family of engines.
You may have a few problems with the steering box. The design of the gearbox on the Ford Popular requires a front-bowl sump. You can deal with this problem by getting a sump and timing chain cover to modify the gearbox. An Escort suspension system would also work in this case but with a bit of engineering ingenuity.
The A2000E gearbox fits perfectly on the Popular's gearbox tunnel. You can go for a straight gearset from a Quaife or Tran-X. Unfortunately, both of these options take lots of power from your car. However, this new requirement is complemented by a limited slip differential. For a Type-9 or similar systems, the transmission system may need a little fabricating.
As was said earlier, the Pop was fitted with drum brakes. To get it to work well with disc brakes and improve the pedal feel, you may need to retrofit some form of front suspension. You can go for the Mk2 Cortina strut. However, it still requires a few conversion parts to make it work efficiently. On the other hand, if you went for the Escort suspension system on the steering box section, you can go with a braking system that is compatible with the suspension system.
The original interiors of the Ford Popular are still very basic. When doing your upgrade, two standard seats would fit comfortably along with other upgrades as discussed below.
The dashboard may need to accommodate some of the primary infotainment systems, gauges or even an air-conditioning system. You also need new wipers for the windscreen. There are custom generic gauges on the market. However, you can have the entire standard Escort or Mk 2 Cortina dashboard installed.
The dashboard works well for two reasons. First, it has a classic look, which is something that most Ford Popular owners may want to remain in their vehicles. Second, it has slots for all the systems you need installed onto your car, including the aircon. However, you may need to consider adding some lighting to improve the look of your dashboard and make the instrument panel more visible. There is a wide choice of dashboard lighting that works well with the Mk2 Cortina dashboard. If you'd rather have a more modern-looking dashboard for your car, the best choice is going for generic options. Most of the modern brands have highly customised dashboards that may not fit in the car.
As for the seats, the best approach may be to refabricate the existing ones. This way, you will not have to customise them to fit into the low and slim body of your Ford Popular. The original seats were somewhat upright and had minimal aesthetics. You may consider having their frame remodelled before cushioning. The classic wooden finish on the sides looks incredible for the classic car. However, you may also go for the standard black, grey or beige upholstery.
Most car owners would not need to upgrade the car’s suspension system as raising it affects performance and stability. The Mk1 suspensions would work just fine without raising the car. You can then work on renovating the lighting system. The traditional lamps would work just fine. However, you may consider giving the lamps a facelift by changing their surrounds. You can then customise the car with chrome trims, a spoiler, a new coat of metallic car paint and a sunroof!
Go for upgrade solutions that require fewer body modifications if you want to retain the look and feel of your classic Ford Popular. Work with an auto technician to purchase parts that are compatible with your car and that do not require extensive vehicle modifications. Otherwise, a Ford Popular provides an awesome ride. Give it a new look and enhance its performance. Then, you will enjoy it's classic feel on today’s roads.