Unusual uses of a Ford Popular

The Ford Popular has had many unusual uses apart from the traditional ferrying of passengers from one location to another. Here are just a few of them ...


The Ford Popular 100E could reach a top speed of 112.5 km/hr. It could also reach 80km/hr in less than twenty seconds. These features made it a good racing car for the motor enthusiasts. The unmodified car took part in various racing competitions until as late as the 1960s. Despite its small size, it was reasonably stable on the road even at it's top speed. It was just as well they couldn't go faster, of course, since the brakes were rubbish.

In recent years bigger and more powerful engines have been squeezed under the bonnet and now it is a very popular base for drag racing enthusiasts.

The Flying Car

In 1970 a gentleman called Joe Weston-Webb, a showman who loved pulling off off-beat stunts, decided that activities such as human cannonballs and crocodile wrestling were too mundane, so he decided to produce the world's first flying car. He fitted a Ford Popular with makeshift wings and a tailplane, and persuaded a brave (gullible?) stuntman called David Brookland to hurtle it over the edge of a water filled quarry in exchange for a fee rumoured to be a miserly £55. There was, of course, no Health and Safety Executive in those days, or a compensation culture either! Not surprisingly the car dropped straight into the water and sank.

Fortunately Brookland had been equipped with an aqualung and there was a team of divers standing by just in case (!) things went wrong but it still took over half an hour to bring him back up to the surface, seemingly little the worse for wear.

Apart from James Bond movies it still seems that no-one has managed to create a true flying car. More's the pity.

Speaking of James Bond -

In 'Goldfinger' the sinister Oddjob, he of the lethal flying hat, had a Ford Popular as his main means of transport. Clearly a man of taste.

Aiding Historical Research

Did humans emigrate from Surbiton to Hounslow? This was the great conundrum pondered on by Mr and Mrs Norris in episode 28 of Monty Python's Flying Circus. The evidence seemed conclusive; their houses were similar and the inhabitants of both regions used lawn mowers which meant there was little doubt. So, after months of careful planning they set out in their Ford Popular to drive the full seven miles between the two towns. Sadly their expedition hit a major problem since the River Thames was in the way; as Mr Brooklands (above) discovered years earlier, the Pop can neither fly nor float.

Pulling Railway Wagons

An enterprising Lancashire quarry owner, who need to transport heavy stone flags down a hill, built a railway line up it and attempted to pull wagons up using the power of a Ford Popular Engine. Sadly his home-made 'Heath Robinson' pulley system broke down constantly and the engine (which by all accounts was pretty clapped out to start with) expired completely within a very short time. The whole exercise was a complete waste of time as it turned out; the Lancashire cotton industry was about to collapse and demand for stone flags collapsed with it. His quarry, and pretty much all the rest of them, went bankrupt.

Raising Money For charity

In 1968 a group of enterprising students from Aberdeen University decided on an unusual way of raising money for charity; they decided to hang a Ford Popular from Wellington Suspension Bridge over the River Dee.

Sadly the local railway police had little sense of humour and the miscreants were arrested. They were let off, however, and managed to raise about a thousand pounds for charity.

Would they have got away with it today, in these safety-first days? Some hopes.

Helping To Exterminate Daleks

Mr John Pertwee, better known as Doctor Who, the intrepid time traveller, drove a bright yellow vintage car named Bessie which was equipped with futuristic accessories, such as a force field and a device that enabled him to drive it remotely - something like today's self driving cars, on steroids. Fast it was not though, since the engine, gearbox, chassis and suspension came from: guess what: a 1954 Ford Popular. A kit was available from a company called Siva Engineering of Dorset until the mid 70s which meant that enthusiasts with a little technical knowledge could create their own 'Whomobiles'; sadly, though, the Dalek-resistant extras were not available, even as optional extras.

Boat Motors

The Ford Popular engine could deliver 30bph, which was enough power to propel boats across various rivers and other water bodies in the UK. The engine was light and required very little modification to work on a boat, and its basic mechanics encouraged many people to get really innovative in using it so it became quite fashionable. However salt water corroded the head gaskets after a month or two; these were pretty easy to replace but it could be embarrasing if one of them blew out in the middle of a lake. The craze was short lived.

Pet Houses and Chicken Coops

The body of the Ford Popular was useful long after the car had stopped operating. Some owners adapted the vehicle’s body for such purposes as building chicken coops and kennels for dogs. The seats were usually removed to create more room, sawdust was strewn on the floor and the livestock moved in! Given that there were few modifications required, it made the cost of accommodating pets and small livestock quite cheap.

Many of these have since been bought for renovation, despite rust, mud and chicken droppings; which just goes to show that hope springs eternal in the human breast.


The Ford Popular was an excellent car for leisure transport. However, it was a workhorse that was used for a variety of tasks where lots of physical strength was required. Many of them were adapted to transport and distribute goods across large distances. In an era when many people had to make do and mend, it's body and engine were also widely used, separately, when it was no longer roadworthy.

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