THE REGULAR Shannons Club TV episodes hosted by Mark Oastler and Unique Cars’ own ‘Wrighty’ are good value. A recent one featured a blast from my car past, the Ford Anglia 105E.
In the moment when I heard its distinctive exhaust note I started paying attention – I’ve often wondered whether Ford’s non-conforming 1-2-4-3 firing order helped produce the characteristic sound.
It’s ironic that a car sold here in the 1960s now has wider recognition than it ever did due to its flying-car role in the 2002 film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Apart from attracting a few die-hard fans the little Ford’s original release didn’t whip up much enthusiasm here, mainly because the radical new Mini was hogging the limelight.
My mate Geoff introduced me to his own flying Anglia when I was about 16. It did fly a bit, but a lot of the time we had two wheels on terra firma. We shared many amazing night time dashes through forests, strapped into the little Ford – Geoff weaving his driving magic behind the wheel, as I juggled maps and stopwatch, while keeping an eye open for wildlife.
You also had to keep an eye open for powder blue 105Es – in the early 60s smaller Victorian cop shops were replacing their aging sidecar outfits with new Anglias.
For a 997cc rear-wheel drive car making only 40hp standard they were surprisingly quick point-to-point once you wound ’em up. That was thanks to a dry-weight under 750kg, an ultra-short-stroke motor that seemingly revved to infinity, a short wheelbase and competent suspension. They could change direction in a heartbeat, and seemingly terminal loses could be saved if you were skillful enough on the tiller. Motorsport identities like Lou Molina and Peter Coffey showed how well the little jiggers handled on the track.
Geoff decided to use tough love on his Anglia during the running-in period to loosen it up and to get it used to running hard. While he avoided revving it to the limit in the early miles, he used full-throttle as often as he could. It seemed to work. While chasing a personal best time between Melbourne and Albury one Saturday night the stopwatch showed we were consistently averaging 87mph (140km/h) over posted five-mile stretches. That was before Geoff shouted it a pair of SUs. The speedo was useless at top whack because the needle was always banging away at the 80mph stop (later Anglias came with 90mph speedos).
No surprise then that I went on to own Anglias. My last, a Twin-Cam Escort chaser, benefitted from a bunch of upgrades including a modified 1600 GT Capri motor, a close ratio box and disc-brake front end.
My Anglia ‘hottie’ was pretty quick for the time, and a fun-drive, but somehow I have fonder memories of what could be extracted from a really well-driven standard 105E. A US car-site contributor recently nailed it saying he gets more satisfaction these days from ‘driving a slow car quickly than driving a quick car slowly’. It rang true to me – particularly given the realities of today’s ultra-restrictive environment.
Think about the deeply satisfying feedback from an engine with throttles held wide open, sudden torsional loads testing engine mounts, a heady acoustic mix of induction and exhaust noise filling the cabin and that indefinable vibe/throbenergy pulsing through the car’s structure – now, is the opportunity for this sensual feast ever available to you in a modern 400kW-plus roadburner? For a couple of seconds tops. Maybe. But there’s half a chance you can enjoy extended serves of it in a warmed-over Pootlewagen making 70kW or so, without risking the sky falling in. Well, here and there…
Yep, soaking up the rhythms of the road while driving a slow car quickly is increasingly appealing.