Ford Prefect

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Ford Prefect

1938 - 1959
United Kingdom
4 cyl.
30 hp
Three-speed manual.
Top Speed:
Number Built:
1 star
Ford Prefect
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1

The Ford E93A

The Ford Prefect was first introduced in 1938 and at the time was the first Ford to be designated by a model name. Its model number was E93A. This was soon followed by the 8 hp Anglia, a less well equipped 2 door model based on the same chassis and designated model E04A.

The Anglia, in its basic configuration, was generally the lowest priced car in England at the time. Both these cars were regarded as quite reliable and very good performers for their class. These cars have come to be known as the "Upright Fords" due to their obvious looks, rather tall and narrow, or upright.

They had a beam front axle, transverse, semi-elliptic springs front and rear with Armstrong lever shocks, Girling mechanical brakes and no anti-roll bars. They were equipped with vacuum windscreen wipers, the Prefect having a substantial reservoir for "up hill going".

Both iterations were powered by a 4 cylinder inline sidevalve, or flathead, engine. The Prefect's displacing 1172cc, producing 30 hp, and the Anglia's was 933cc for 23 hp. Drive was through a 3 speed gearbox, synchromesh in 2nd and 3rd, a closed torque tube drive shaft and rather small differential. The final drive ratio of about 5.5:1 yielded a top speed of near 60 mph.

The engine had no water pump or oil filter and had poured babbitt main and rod bearings. In 1953, Dagenham introduced the next series of small Fords. This was to be the end of the "Upright Fords". The series 100E, as it was designated, was based on an all new, modern, monocoque body with an all new engine and drive train. The new engine did, however, share exact dimensions with the old so it could be tooled with much of the old equipment.

These cars received Girling hydraulic brakes but retained the 3 speed gearbox and vacuum windscreen wipers. Gone also were the transverse springs with their closed drive line and beam front axle, being replaced by a more modern open drive and independent strut front suspension. In order to amortize the engineering behind the new series, the Anglia could no longer be the lowest priced car available.

Ford countered by stripping most of the already few features from the old upright Anglia and redesignating it the Popular, at a price well below anything else on the market. Both the Prefect and Anglia were still exceptional performers in their class and managed to win many races and rallies. All three cars were produced until 1959.

Sturt Griffith's Road Test

A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing circuit of typical Australian roads throughout New South Wales to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today. While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We are not experts on the Ford Prefect and as such we thought it best to recite what Sturt Griffith's said, verbatim. We do refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Ford Prefect review below remains as told in 1957.

Since last tested, the changes in the Prefect include a substantially enlarged rear window, a new instrument panel with slide-type speedometer, a lidded glovebox, and two-tone interior trim. The Prefect remains a small car which offers a maximum of accommodation for four persons and their luggage. Interior space is really good in view of the modest size of the car, and the boot is of ample dimensions. On average Australian roads, the outstanding characteristic of the Prefect is its good riding. The front suspension is excellent on rough going, and the car gives a degree of comfort noticeably above the general average.

The Prefect also has a good clearance of seven inches which, in combination with a strong unitarily constructed body, adapts the car to country work in those areas where low horsepower is not a serious disadvantage. Mechanically the car has the virtues and disadvantages associated with a three-speed gearbox with a low (and slow) second gear. Whilst this characteristic makes for simplicity of driving, it does reduce road performance very markedly in hilly country. But the design of the Prefect does not aim at high performance, as the use of the side valve engine indicates. Rather have the makers endeavoured to provide a particularly reliable car for those owners who prefer to take their motoring in a leisurely fashion. The handling qualities of the car are good. It holds the rqad particularly well, it corners in commendable fashion, and its steering and braking are most satisfactory.

Ford Prefect

Ford Prefect

Hill Climbing

The Prefect climbs reasonably well in top gear. When the change down to second becomes necessary, speed drops off greatly, but the car will climb almost any mountain pass in-that gear. The gears and speeds on the test hills were:

BODINGTON: (average grade 1 in 11): Top gear at 50-44-29 mph.
RIVER LETT: (1 in 12 maximum. 1 in 8): Second gear in an easy but lei-surelv climb at 40-33-40 mph.
SCENIC HILL: (1 in 10, maximum 1 in 8): After a start in top. a climb r-..iinlv in second gear at 50-27-34 mph.
MOUNT TOMAH: (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 9): Top and second gears in eaua! proportions at 50-29-40 mph.
KURRAJONG WEST: (1 in 12.4): Top gear at 50-34-32 mph.

The power-weight ratio, with a load 3e%vt. is low at 38 bhp per ton. The gearing is average for this size of car, yielding a road speed of 15 mph at 1,000 rpm. The maximum punch (a torque of 52 lb-ft) is developed at 37 mph in top gear, and at 20 mph in second gear. Prompt overtaking can be commenced from 15 mph using second gear, and from 30 mph using top gear. Times for acceleration were; Second gear - 10 to 30 mph, 5.7 seconds. 20 to 40 mph, 6.8 seconds. Top gear: 20 to 40 mph. 12.1 seconds. 30 to 50 mph, 12.7 seconds. 40 to 60 mph, 15.9 seconds.

Handling and Roadholding

In this department the Prefect exhibits the excellence of its "chassis" design. The front end permits it to deal with really rough roads without discomfort to the passengers or the car. and bottoming is noticeably absent. Roadholding on corners is also very good, and on dry roads one can lake bends quite fast. On loose or wet roads a reasonable degree of care should be exercised. Body roll is not serious on fast corners, and tyre squeal is moderate. The Prefect will cruise comfortably around 55 m.p.h. on most highways. In hilly country its average speed is reduced somewhat by its low second gear.

When sightseeing, the car can be ambled along in top at 30 m.p.h. without loss of the necessary response to deal with road circumstances. The average speed over the test route was 42.1 mph. Weather was good. At an average speed of 42.1 mph over the test route, the Prefect yielded a reasonable 37.8 miles per gallon. Taking the loaded weight into consideration. this is equivalent to 36 ton-miles per gallon. The"fuel-speed factor (ton-m.p.g. x average speed) is 1,510. At the foregoing rate of consumption, the fuel tank gives a somewhat limited fast cruising range of approximately 265 miles.

Steering and Braking

The Burman worm-and-peg steering box gives first-class results. Steering action is particularly quick, with only two turns from lock to lock, yet it is always light, and is commend-ably free from unpleasant reaction over bad roads. The turning circle is slightly under 33ft, which makes the car quite manoeuvrable in confined spaces. The Girling brakes are pleasantly effective and give ample control with moderate pedal pressures. They are well up to the car's requirements under all conditions. On the 3.5-mile descent from Kurrajong Heights in neutral, the brakes showed a slight trace of fade. The handbrake is of the pull-up type at the driver's left hand, and it easily stopped the car from 30 m.p.h, down a gradient of 1 in 8.

Behind the Wheel

The seating is upright and comfortable and the steering wheel is quite suitably located. Clutch and brake pedals are of pendant type, are well placed, but are set rather high. They both operate through hydraulic rams. Vision in all directions is good and the driver's window requires 2i turns of its operating crank for full movement. The instruments are well placed before the driver and comprise speedometer, fuel gauge and head temperature gauge. Warning lights are provided for oil pressure and generator, high beam and turn indicators. The minor controls are set in a row, but are reasonably easy to distinguish. Pneumatic wipers with a vacuum reservoir are fitted, and screen washers are an optional extra. The rear vision mirror vibrates quite badly at various engine speeds.

Engineering and Body

The engine compartment is large and uncluttered. The bonnet hinges forward giving excellent access to all engine ancillaries requiring regular attention. A commendable feature is the orderly mounting of a number of components on the engine compartment bulk head, where they are easy to reach and inspect. The side-valve engine has a bore and stroke of 63.5 by 92.5mm (long stroke). It operates on a moderate compression ratio of 7 to 1 and has a low specific output of 30.7 bhp per litre. The engine operates quietly in all gears, but there is a noticeable rumble when on full throttle in second gear. The gearshift is by a central lever which has a rather long movement. Gear ratios are: top 4.4. second-gear 8.2 to 1.

The unitarily constructed body chassis are mounted on the front with the well-known McPherson suspension, which consists of a long shock strut enclosing a coil spring and hydraulically damped. An anti-roll bar completes the lower wishbone construction. Rear suspension is by conventional semi-elliptics, damped by forward-inclined shock absorbers. The front individual seats are comfortable and are of moderate size. The rear bench seat is 43 inches wide, but the wheel arches intrude into its rear corners. The seat covering is synthetic. There is good leg room in the front and rear seats and head room is sufficient in both compartments. The floor covering is rubber matting.

It is regrettable that no floor ventilation is provided, and the omission is noticeable in hot weather. Ventilating panels are provided in the front windows. A glovebox with closable lid is now formed in the facia. The interior finish in two-tone material is pleasant and easy to clean. The boot has a counter-balanced lid with a robust lid; The compartment is well shaped, bur its capacity is reduced to about 10 cub. ft by the spare wheel flat on the boot floor and a fuel tank in the left guard arch.


The Ford Prefect is a small car which is notable for the considerable accommodation it provides for four persons and a quantity of luggage. On the touring highway it is characterised by first-class handling qualities, riding comfort well above the average, and good roadholding. It is evident that the Prefect is designed for moderate driver. Its side-valve engine and its three-speed gearbox (with a low second gear) precludes any claim to high performance. It has, however, the characteristics of easy driving and reliability. The strong unitary construction of the car, its good clearance and its excellent front suspension suit the Prefect to rough going. The car was made available by The Ford Motor Co. of Aust. Pty. Ltd.
Ford Prefect

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Also see:

Ford Anglia Review
Ford Anglia Prefect Technical Specifications
Ford Anglia Prefect Brochure (1955)
Ford Europe Specifications
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Frank Whitby
Posted Recently
Yes. The 105E pre-crossflow and the 1600 crossflow with four or 5 speed box or auto. Have a look on Ford100E. I can help with 105E parts. Cheers, Frank.
Wade Whitehead
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Hey All, I currently have a 1953 100e ford prefect panel van in the shed, and was wondering if anyone knew of any motor and runnin gear that would fit with a few modifications to the engine bay? thanks for any replies !
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