Buying a Ford Sidevalve
Where to look and what to look out for
If you're considering buying a sidevalve, here are a few pointers. We've split this guide into sections for 100E and non-100E based vehicles, since those are the two main types of vehicles. Obviously when buying a commercial vehicle most of these points apply although such vehicles have probably led a harder life than their saloon counterparts. As for specials and so on, you can only check the relevant parts - the Club can help here if there's any doubt.
"Upright" models including Ford Model Y, Ford Popular 103E, Ford Prefect E93A
On pre-100E 'upright' models the chassis itself requires checking for rust, particularly where it is raised above the back axle. On body panels the worst damage is likely to be all around the bottom edge: check the wings and doors, the inner edges of the wings where they meet the bodywork, the section below the spare wheel carrier or boot lid and the boot lid itself if a booted model. The cars are simple bolt-together affairs and are relatively easy to work on.
Many first-time buyers nowadays are unlikely to be familiar with pre-war mechanics and from a safety aspect, particular care should be taken when examining the condition of brake rods. In good condition and properly set up the mechanical braking system will be quite adequate. Whilst underneath, examine all the grease points for signs of regular lubrication.
The spiral bevel differentials can sometimes be troublesome, so check for noise on the move. Noises from the gearbox are less serious and are more likely to be a nuisance than a hindrance, but make sure that the car does not jump out of gear.
Many sidevalve engines were not fitted with water pumps and oil filters (indeed, on all of this type of 8 and 10 hp engine such features were available only as a bolt-on extra, although certain export models had them factory-fitted)
The 8 and 10 hp engine also has a rather unusual valve arrangement whereby adjusting the valve clearances involves either lapping the valve further into the seat in the block, or grinding the valve's stem until the gap is correct.
At tick over the Ford sidevalve engine - in all departments - should be almost silent; potentially expensive repairs are indicated if there is a low rumbling with signs of heavy oil consumption, as the big ends are white-metalled; however, a generally oily smell within the car (particularly when accelerating uphill) is more likely to be down to engine breathing difficulties.
100E Models - Ford Anglia, Prefect, Popular, Escort, Squire and 300E
Similar running gear trouble spots described above for the Uprights also apply to 100E models, although the engine itself does have a built-in water pump, oil filter and adjustable valve clearances, and the foot brake operates a conventional hydraulic arrangement, rather than the mechanical one of the earlier models.
The 100E was over engineered to an amazing extent by later standards and this, combined with a decent grade of steel, gave it a better survival rate than later Fords, such as the 105E Anglia. The massive bulkhead/suspension turret structure demonstrates this, but if rust should attack here, repairs could prove prohibitively expensive. Underneath, the box sections - particularly around the rear spring shackles - are the critical areas, but most other rust traps are largely cosmetic.
The 100E but with more go - the Ford Prefect 107E
If you're attracted by the 100E but concerned about performance, you might opt for the 107E Prefect. Its OHV engine and four-speed gearbox give it an edge in acceleration, the hypoid rear axle is reliable, and it will cruise all day at a steady 65 mph.
What about unleaded fuel?
A lot of our members report that there are no problems running unleaded fuel in sidevalve engines. Having said that, there can be no harm done - except to your wallet - in using one of the additives; it also makes sense to refrain from using high engine revolutions over extended periods and to keep an eye on those valve clearances. Naturally, when the time does come for valve-related engine work, a thorough check of the valve seats (replacing them as necessary) plus a set of the Club's new valves, also wouldn't be a bad idea.
But if I buy a Sidevalve, where can I buy spares?
With the possible exception of some of the consumables, you certainly can't expect just to pop down to your local motor factor and pick up parts for a Sidevalve Ford. Fortunately however, this is where the Ford Sidevalve Owners' Club steps in because we can supply just about all of the parts you'll need to restore your project back to its former glory and all the parts to keep your car on the road for many more years.
Our Club spares scheme - discussed here - is probably one of the best of any of the smaller clubs and having access to it is a an absolute must for any owner - or potential owner - of a Ford side-valve powered vehicle but you must be a club member, and you can Join Us here!