History of the Ford Sidevalve

The launch of the Model Y in 1932
The launch of the Model Y in 1932

Prewar Origins

The story of the Ford Popular goes back to 1932. Sales of Ford's large-engined range, successfully exported all over the world, had been hit hard in Britain ever since higher tax penalties related to engine size were introduced in 1920. Primarily at the request of Ford of England, the USA parent, which had no experience in this market, eventually agreed to develop a small car for Europe and 15 examples of small European car were shipped to Ford's Dearborn headquarters for examination.

The Model Y

The resulting Model Y Ford '8' went from the Dearborn's drawing board into production, at the new Dagenham plant, in just 10 months; on August 10 1932 the first Model Y left the production line. The little car was felt to combine modern looks with superior performance, and Ford's British market share began to rapidly increase.

Among the quickest to fight back was Morris, development of whose own '8' of 1934 was aided by the same method as that used by Ford; the company simply dismantled - and closely copied - a Model Y. Ford countered with a series of price cuts until, in October 1935, the 'Popular' (as the basic 2-door Model Y would henceforth be called) became the only fully-equipped car to ever sell at just 100 sterling.

The commonalty across the small Ford range of such features as mechanical brakes and transverse springs which remainded in use in one form or another until 1959, makes it easy to view the small side-valve Fords as one family. When the Model Y was discontinued in 1937, its replacement - the 8 hp 7Y - had new styling and chassis, but essentially identical running gear. A 10 hp version of the engine had been launched in 1934, powering the Dearborn-designed Model C, and this was retained for the long-wheelbase 7W which made its appearance shortly before the 7Y. These two, incidentally, were the first cars ever developed by Ford in Britain.

The Postwar Era

Relatively minor cosmetic changes transformed the 7W into the E93A Prefect in 1938 (the first British Ford to be badged with a name), and the E493A Prefect in 1948. Similarly, the 7Y spawned the E04A Anglia in 1939 and the E494A Anglia in 1948. From 1953 the E494A was detrimmed, fitted with the larger engine, and sold as the 103E Popular.

100E - last home of the Ford side-valve engine

The ultimate development of the sidevalve engine is found in the 100E range of Anglias (2-door) and Prefects (4-door) introduced in 1953. MacPherson struts made their first appearance on a small car, giving ride and handling qualities far removed from the old 'upright' range of cars.

On to the 107E

'Escort' and 'Squire' estate car versions followed, but in 1959 the introduction of the all-new 105E Anglia, with its OHV engine and 4-speed gearbox, marked the last phase of the 100E's development. The Prefect became the 107E; fitted with the new Anglia's running gear it remained the cheapest 4-door car on sale in Britain until it was dropped in 1961. With the 103E Popular gone, the 100E Anglia became the 100E Popular until it, too, was discontinued in June 1962.

Other homes for the Ford side-valve engine

There are also commercial variants on the cars, and the E83W purpose-built commercial sidevalve models, to say nothing of the 'specials' built by kit car devotees in the fifties and sixties using running gear and/or chassis stripped from ageing 'uprights'. Combined with all the minor variations in production saloons, it is impossible for the Ford Sidevalve Owners' Club to specify how many different vehicles it covers; 'over 20' is the best anyone will agree on.