Friday, 29 June 2012

From Dagenham With Love

These Ford Prefect cars were on the roads when I was a schoolboy – they seemed even then to be about as modest and unassertive as it’s possible for a motor car to be. A boxy shape and lack of body trim were just right for an age where nothing was more offensive than ostentation. This model was in production from 1953 to 1959 and despite its very English air of self-deprecation an effort was made to market a left-hand-drive version to the great American public whose taste in vehicle styling generally ran in the opposite direction. This included the two full page colour ads shown here from the pages of Life magazine in 1957-58. The unassuming looks appear especially incongruous in the affluent setting of a ranch-style lakeside property or the sophistication of a barbecue on a prairie-sized patio. I can’t see Don and Betty Draper taking to the highway in one of these, despite the appeal of “fine British craftsmanship” and a “curved windshield”. Clearly this was Ford’s response to the unstoppable advance of the VW beetle but for all its simple virtues the Prefect was destined for obscurity while the VW would become the object of a cult that endures to this day. The cover of Practical Motorist shows a Prefect in its natural habitat and in its natural condition – under repair. 

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