Standard Vanguard

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Standard Vanguard

1947 - 1958
United Kingdom
4 and 6 cyl.
3 spd. man
Top Speed:
79 mph
Number Built:
303,067 (all models)
2 star
Standard Vanguard
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


There is little known today about the Standard Vanguard - a car that seems to have been forgotten by just about everyone. Nonetheless many Australians owned one - it just seems not many can remember much about them! Standard was quickly to gain success, and went on to take over Triumph in 1945 - with many of the later Triumph models being fitted with Vanguard engines and transmissions.

But it was in 1947 that the Standard Motor Company launched its most famous and successful post-war model - the Vanguard. The Vanguard was a completely new design, its exterior styling being reminiscent of many contemporary US saloons. The bold four door body featured a distinctive, sloping rear boot lid and an attractive "wrap-around" grille.

Although the Vanguard still had a separate chassis the mechanical specification thoroughly modern and included all-synchromesh gears, front coil suspension and hydraulic brakes. Beneath the Vanguards bonnet sat an all new four cylinder engine of 2088cc complete with overhead valves. The Vanguard was an instant success and sold well at home and abroad in the all important export markets. Production of the initial Phase I Vanguard ceased in 1952 after 184,799 units had been sold.

Standard launched a revised Vanguard "Phase II" in 1952 to replace its original design. The new model had revised styling which looked more congenital thanks to a "notchback" boot lid and cut-away rear wheel spats. Apart from having a revised gearchange and hydraulic clutch little else had changed on the Phase II and so the model continued to sell well both in the UK and Australia.

Vanguard Phase II body-styles included two door and four door estate options in addition to the regular Four door saloon style. In saloon format the model gained extra interior space and a larger luggage area, making the car an even more practical choice for post-war motorists. 81074 Vanguard Phase II were manufactured.

The new Phase III Vanguard of 1955 (pictured left) finally broke away from the old "separate" chassis engineering layout of the two previous Vanguard models. The new chassis arrangement also allowed the engine to sit further forward in the body, thus allowing improved interior space.

The Vanguard III also featured revised, modern styling which benefited from a much lower roofline than the older car. The lower roof and unitary construction all helped save weight and improve the cars performance and fuel consumption. The 2088cc Vanguard engine carried over from the earlier model along with the gearbox (although with higher ratios) but was now offered with an optional overdrive unit. 37194 phase III Vanguards were manufactured. As for the name Standard, well the name was eventually dropped some 60 years after the company was founded.

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 course 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. And, given the bad press the Vanguard had when it reached elderly status, 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 Vanguard review below remains as told in 1957.

The Standard Spacemaster is a car which makes the best possible use of an overdrive. It has a three speed gearbox, and with the overdrive available on top and second gears, it offers five well spaced ratios. As a consequence, the driver has a gear to suit any hill or road circumstance. With the Lay-cock overdrive as fitted to this car, overdrive is brought in and out merely by the flick of a finger switch without removing the hand from the wheel. Another virtue of this type of overdrive is that it remains in or out of operation irrespective of throttle position. As a consequence, one can use the throttle through its full range (as in traffic or on a winding hill) without causing unwanted gear changes.

The Standard Vanguard, especially in its 1957 form, is a car for which I have a great respect. It is characterised by an excellent "balance" and good roadholding. especially noticeable under difficult- circumstances such as greasy roads. It is powered by an engine which has over many years, established a high reputation for reliability and petrol economy. And finally, the Vanguard is designed for hard work, and its construction suits it well to country conditions, where a little extra weight (in the right places) makes a profound difference. The brakes are particularly large for the weight of the car, and they give an excellent performance and a feeling of complete control. The car is well equipped, with a good hearing and ventilating system, self-parking screen wipers, and a screen-washing system. The features of the car which do not appeal to me are the insignificant warning lights for the turn signals, and the rather wide screen pillars which somewhat obstruct the driver's view into corners.

Hill Climbing

In normal top gear the Vanguard climbs well, as evidenced by the River Lett ascent. In overdrive top it will account for quite difficult hills, such as Kurrajong West, although you have to drop down below top gear, overdrive second is a really excellent gear in which one can climb almost any hill, and climb it fast. The gears used, and the speeds attained on the regular test hills were:

BODINGTON (average grade 1 in 11): Normal top gear at 50-52-46 mph.
RIVER LETT (1 in 12. maximum 1 in 8): A tenacious climb in normal top sear, at 40-30-40 mph.
SCENIC HILL (1 in 10. maximum 1 in 8): Overdrive second gear, at 50-30-35 mph.
MOUNT TOMAH (1 in 12. maximum 1 in 9): Top gear at 50-32-39 mph.
KURRAJONG WEST (1 in 12): Overdrive top. at 50-40-30 mph.

The power to weight ratio of the Vanguard, with a load of 3cwt, is 48.6 brake horsepower per ton. Overall gearing yields a road speed of 23.1 m.p.h. in overdrive, and 18 in normal top gear, at an engine speed of 1,000 rpm. The advantages of the overdrive are very manifest on the open highway. When overdrive is engaged, engine speed drops down, and cruising speed goes up. Petrol consumption is moderate for the speeds achieved. One finds that the Vanguard will cruise happily around 70 mph at which speed the car handles very nicely, and is safe on average highways. At the other end of the scale, the car can be driven down to 30 mph in overdrive without snatch or uneven running. In normal top gear, good response is available down to 28 mph. The average speed over the test route was 45 mph, Weather was good.

Acceleration and Handling

There are five ratios from which to select, so that with competent driving, the car is always lively. Prompt overtaking can be commenced from 12 mph in normal second gear, from 20 mph in overdrive second, and from 25 mph in normal top gear. Times for acceleration from 20 to 40 mph in the various gears were: Normal second gear 5.9 seconds.; overdrive second gear. 7.2 seconds; normal top gear, 9.1 seconds. Acceleration from 30 to 50 mph required: Overdrive second gear, 8.6 seconds.; normal top gear, 10.1 seconds.; overdrive top gear, 13.6 seconds.

The maximum tugging power, a torque of 114 lb-ft, is developed at the useful speeds of 36 mph in top, 28 mph in overdrive second, and 22 mph in normal second gear. The Vanguard is above average in roadholding and cornering and it is a car which can be driven fast with confidence. On the usual run of Australian roads the riding comfort afforded by the car is good. When one encounters really-rough country roads, the Vanguard shows out nicely as it handles such conditions with equanimity and without bottoming. The car corners well and although slight roll is present on some corners , taken fast, adhesion is good and directional stability is very evident.

Steering and Brakes

There is some variation noticeable in the Vanguard cars in the matter of the lightness of steering. On the test car the mechanism was a shade heavier than on previous examples of this make, but the effort required was not serious. Three and a half turns of the steering wheel are necessary from lock-to-lock, and as a consequence the steering is not quite as direct as the high cruising speed of the car would warrant. However, the mechanism is precise and without any lost motion. There is virtually no reaction felt in the hands over bad roads. The turning circle is convenient at 35 feet and manoeuvrability of the car is good.

The Lockheed hydraulic brakes have a total lining area of 175 sq. ins. and they gave particularly good results with light pedal pressures. On the 3+ mile descent from Kurrajong Heights there was but a slight trace of fade from heating. The handbrake is not up to this standard as it would only just stop the car, with a lusty pull, from 30 miles per hour on a descent of 1 in 8. ' At an average speed of 45.1 over the test route, the Vanguard gave a satisfactory 29.8 miles per gallon. This is equivalent to 41.7 ton-miles per gallon, and it yields a fuel-speed factor of 1880. Both of these figures are well above average. At the foregoing rate of consumption, the fuel tank gives a useful fast cruising range, of 373 miles.

Behind the Wheel

The well-known Vanguard engine is particularly smooth in operation and is fundamentally reliable. Bore and stroke are 85 by 92 mm, and compression ratio is 7.5 to 1. The engine compartment is large enough to ensure good access to all engine ancillaries, and the cross-flow radiator permits a low bonnet line. An oil-bath air filter is fitted and the oil is by-passed through an external filter. The gear ratios are: Overdrive, 3.3. top 4.3, overdrive second 5.6, and normal second 7.1 to 1. The unitary body-chassis is mounted at the front end on wishbones and coils, and at rear on semi-elliptic springs with leaf separators. Telescopic dampers are fitted to all wheels. The front wheels are mounted to their wishbones on ball-jointed arms and the wheels are factory-balanced. The careful consideration and experience with which the layout for the driver has been designed is a pleasing feature of this car.

The seating is good, the steering column is heavily raked, and the wheel is comfortably placed. Vision is good over the short bonnet, whilst the large rear window and visible fins on the rear mudguards, facilitate reversing. Only 2.5 turns of the crank are required to move the driver's window through its full range. The handbrake requires the driver to lean forward for its application. The pedals are of the pendent type and they have large and well placed pads. It would be more convenient if they were set a little closer to the floor. The gearshift is positive, and the synchromesh is good, but should not be rushed. The Laycock overdrive switch is within easy reach of the fingers whilst the hand is on the wheel. The provision of synchromesh on first gear is a great help to the engagement of this ratio when on the move.

Controls and Interior

The switches for the various control mechanisms are spread on the fascia within easy reach of the driver, and they can all be identified "at night. The instruments comprise a large, accurate speedometer with hood an ammeter, and gauges for oil pressure, head temperature, and fuel contents. Instrument lighting is adjustable under the control of a rheostat. Thoughtful points are an automatic light for the ignition switch and the driver's floor, screen washers, and self-parking screen wipers. The. turn indicators are of the winker type. The finish of the interior of the car is in good taste, and access is easy owing to large doors and a reasonably high roof line. The body is spacious and there is ample leg and head room in both compartments. The seat widths are 50 and 5 1 inches respectively, giving adequate space for six adults in comfort.

There are arm rests fitted to all doors. Good ventilation is ensured by a system which provides ample quantities of either hot or cold air. Additionally, each of the four side windows is fitted with a ventilating panel-: Better-than-average precautions have been taken to exclude dust, such as the closure of all apertures in the door pillars and other structural parts. The fascia is attractively finished with a covered crash pad, and it carries a lockable glovebox. There is a large open pocket in the depth of each front door. The boot has a flat floor and a clear luggage capacity of approximately 15 cubic feet. The boot lid is counterbalanced and the spare is carried beneath the boot space.

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