Dad’s Ford Anglia 1200 Super wasn’t just a car, it was our family’s entry into the space age long before the Weasley’s got theirs to fly in the Harry Potter films. After several, in my eight year old opinion, abortive attempts to join the ranks of the modern motorist, via the dreaded Triumph Mayflower and the evil-smelling Austin A30, we had finally arrived in something that was two toned, had chrome plating, and more importantly possessed fins. Ok they were English fins and nothing like the elegant excess of those on a Corgi model of the Chevrolet Impala but then we did live in a council house at a time when ‘coffee’ was considered a reckless shade of ‘beige’ so anything too extreme would have provoked comment, caused curtains to twitch and rumours to start that one if not both of my parents were heading down the slippery slope of debauchery.
What was there not to love about this car? Inside you had colour-coded upholstery and rear side widows that could be opened with a reassuring click to allow 2 inches of fresh air into the cabin plus an actual stalk that flicked up and down to control the indicators. No more trafficators for us! The nifty angle of the rear window meant acres of headroom so even with a full load of four claustrophobia was going to be the least of your worries. Set in a brushed steel panel was a state of the art speedometer that didn’t look like granny’s mantle clock and all four forward gears had the luxury of synchromesh which made a huge difference to my Dad’s inability to accurately judge the impact of inclines on our journey. If things got too much in second gear you could change down into first without all the bother of a hill start and, with Dad’s variable skills in clutch control, all the heart stopping panic that entailed. There was even an ashtray that wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of those new-fangled Apollo things the Americans were regularly sending up to orbit the moon.
And it wasn’t just me that loved it either. Between 1959 and 67 1,004,737 of the 105E rolled off the production lines and on to the nation’s driveways to be joined on the roads by another 79,223 of the 1200E variant. I think everybody also loved the fact that this was the first Anglia with an electric motor driving the windscreen wipers, previous models having relied on a vacuum arrangement that meant frantic sweepings at low speed and next to little movement beyond 40 mph, which is a bit disconcerting in a sudden English down pour.
Back then this Ford Anglia looked American enough to a boy raised on ‘I Love Lucy’, ‘Bewitched’ and the ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’ to be living the dream where food shot out of holes in the wall and everybody had a refrigerator the size of a British wardrobe. In fact if you closed your eyes that could be Mary Tyler Moore sat in the front passenger seat couldn’t it?
Well maybe not. No amount of chrome detailing and colour-coded PVC upholstery could alter the fact that the minute we headed beyond the town boundary my dad would invariably get lost and that even with a mouth full of barley sugar sweets my mother was still able to make enough loud very un-MTM sounding noises to signal her disapproval.
However in the micro-world of an eight year old child, two-toned paint work, chrome stripes and knowing that your indicators were set in an elegant upright arrangement rather than being orange blobs bolted on as an afterthought were all enough to make you wonder if Las Vegas wasn’t just lurking on the other side of the Thames Valley. So perhaps getting lost wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.