As a tiny boy in the 1970s, I once dug up a bright mango coloured Corgi toy Corvette in the back garden; I loved that car and still have it today. I occasionally still get to unearth the odd brightly coloured treat producing a wave of nostalgia and memories – the most recent a Timpo toy American Indian canoe. Yet none of this quite matches the car that John Brayshaw unearthed while doing a spot of coronavirus lockdown gardening…
John, of Heckmondwike in West Yorkshire, was making good use of the early spring fine weather while being confined to his home by getting a bit of gardening done. It’s not uncommon to find pieces of rusted iron in an old garden, as rusty nails and pieces of iron were sometimes buried around hydrangea plants to obtain blue flowers. It’s a mild annoyance that takes a little time removing, but what John had discovered, slap bang in the middle of his garden, would take a little more digging to remove – digging around it was not really an option, and a minor inconvenience turned out to be a whole classic car buried in the garden – a Ford Popular to be precise, with engine and original registration plate. Enough paint remained to ascertain that the car was once grey.
How the Ford Popular came to be buried in the back garden remains a mystery, and while John has asked the public if that can provide any further information, the only suggestion that anyone has come up with so far is that the low price of scrappage at the time would likely have required paying to have scrap metal taken away. This doesn’t seem too logical to me – far easier to move a car somewhere else than bury it, even it if does begrudgingly costs the owner some hard earned cash.
The Ford Popular (or ‘Pop’) was an English built car available from 1953 until 1962, and was famous for becoming Britain’s lowest price car – a people’s car if you will, borrowing from the ideal that the German VW Beetle had originally aspired to around the same time. It’s a familiar classic shape, and if you’re a fan of British movies from the fifties and sixties you might recognise the Popular in 1960’s The League of Gentlemen, or perhaps more recently 2013’s The Great Train Robbery, and look out for it in the Netflix series, The Crown. It would be hard to make a British period drama without using a Ford Popular, as it became a ubiquitous vehicle on our roads during the fifties and sixties. In later years, the unique look and shape has also made the lightweight Ford a favourite for hot rod customising and drag racing.
The 1.1-litre engine Popular 103E was actually based on the pre-Second World War Ford Anglia E494A. By any stretch, compared to the speed in the advancements of modern technology and car comforts, the Ford Popular was a very basic vehicle, even by the austere standards of the 1950s when Britain’s economy was still recovering from the war. With one central windscreen wiper, semaphore signalling and no demister or heater, the Popular was always going to be a real issue to drive in the sort of freezing winters that Britain was able to boast at the time. Maybe the owner just couldn’t face another winter of freezing breath on the inside of the windscreen.
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