Ford Prefect 100E and 107E buying guide (1953-1962)
Any car churned out at the rate of nearly 100,000 a year in the 1950s must have been reasonably decent, yet the sidevalve Ford 100E (and much rarer overhead-valve 107E) are now largely forgotten. They’ve been overshadowed by more modern offerings such as the Anglia 105E, Cortina and Escort, yet they offer basketloads of character and fun. Even when the 100E was succeeded by the Anglia 105E, it soldiered on alongside the new model – that’s how in demand the model was.
While the 100E may seem antiquated now, when it arrived in 1953 it was a revelation compared with its predecessor. That was the ‘sit-up-and-beg’ Anglia and Prefect, complete with beam axles, mechanical brakes and chassis construction. The new car dispensed with all that, although it did carry over the sidevalve engine which is perhaps the one thing that makes the car rather less usable in the 21st century – this is not a car for long or fast journeys.
It’s also not the best car for anyone who covers a lot of miles each year – there are several areas that need regular TLC because wear rates for some of the components are high. But as a car for occasional use it’s great fun, with plenty of charm.
Which one to buy
The 107E is undoubtedly more usable than the 100E simply because of its overhead-valve engine – but its also much rarer. Also, the 100E got a three-speed manual gearbox while the 107E had an extra ratio. However, if you prefer two-pedal motoring, the 100E was offered with a Newtondrive clutchless manual transmission for just a year (October 1957 to October 1958). As a result, you’re unlikely to find one for sale.
Whatever you buy, try to find a car with overdrive – there were three aftermarket units available. Laycock offered an electrically operated unit while a mechanical one was sold by Murray. The third type was the vacuum-operated Handa unit. Not many cars have them fitted, as most have been snapped up by specials owners – but look around and they can be tracked down. If you find a 107E, you don’t have to stick with a 997cc engine as an Anglia 1200cc powerplant is externally the same. As a result it slots straight in and increases the performance usefully – but the brakes must also be upgraded to cope with the increase in power.
Tech spec - Ford Prefect 107E
Engine 997cc, four-cylinder Power 39bhp @ 5000rpm Torque 53lb ft @ 2700 Top speed 74mph 0-60mph 27.2sec Consumption 38mpg Gearbox Four-speed manual
What to look for
• The panels are thick and despite poor rustproofing, these cars generally last well. Focus on the top of each MacPherson strut mounting, the inner wings, the bottom edges of each front outer wing and the seam where the wings meet the front valance. The rear spring hangers rot, as do the jacking points and door bottoms.
• A 100E engine lasts just 40,000 miles between rebuilds if looked after. Changing the oil every 3000 miles makes all the difference.
• The big ends are white-metalled, which increases rebuild costs. It’s possible to convert to shell-type bearings; a rebuild will still be required every 40,000 miles because of bore wear, but those rebuilds are easier and cheaper.
• Check for engine wear by removing the oil filler cap while the engine is idling, and looking for thick fumes being emitted.
• The 107E’s overhead-valve engine rarely gives much more than 70,000 miles between rebuilds; rumbling from the main bearings is the most obvious sign of wear. Once a 107E engine rebuild is due, the usual course of action is to slot in a used 105E unit, which is identical.
• All 100E and 107E gearboxes whine. Once it starts a rebuild won’t be needed for thousands of miles. Gearboxes last 40,000 miles, with second gear synchromesh the first thing to go. If the car jumps out of second gear, a rebuild is on the cards.
• Once a 100E diff starts whining it’ll keep going for ages. When it does need reviving, rebuilding it isn’t a DIY prospect because of the special tools required. A 107E unit is interchangeable and can be rebuilt at home.
• Clutch judder suggests the engine or gearbox mountings have gone soft, but they’re easily replaced.
• If they’re not to wear, the propshaft universal joints need to be lubricated (with lithium-based grease) every 1000 miles – often they’re not.
• There are nine grease points in the steering mechanism, including the track rod ends, and they must be lubricated every 1000 miles – which is why vague steering is common.
• The steering box wears, so feel for stiff spots as the steering wheel is turned, betraying overtightening to compensate for wear. This will have been accelerated by allowing the box to run dry – it should have been topped up every 500 miles because leaks are normal.
• If the steering is very stiff generally, the ball race in the top mountings of the MacPherson struts have seized. They can be greased, but few owners do this.
• Beware rumbling wheel bearings; they run directly within the casing of the axle, so the casing wears away and has to be sleeved. Any detectable vertical movement means it’s time to resleeve the casing.
• If there’s lots of brake pedal travel, the system needs adjusting. There are six places where play can be taken up, and they must be adjusted regularly.
1953: The 100E debuts in four-door (Prefect) and two-door (Anglia) forms. 1954: A van appears, called the 300E, or Thames. 1955: The gearing is revised, with lower ratios for first, second and reverse. A 100E De Luxe is launched, with extra trim and full-width dash. The 7cwt Thames van debuts, alongside Escort and Squire de luxe estates. 1957: The 100E is facelifted, with new tail lights, a larger rear window, simpler trim, a new dashboard and the option of a Newtondrive clutchless manual transmission. The Escort and Squire get downgraded trim, the latter no longer having wood sides. 1958: Newtondrive option is dropped. 1959: The Anglia, Squire and Prefect are dropped while the Escort gets Squire trim level. The 100E Popular and 107E are introduced, the latter with the 997cc overhead-valve engine from the Anglia 105E and available in Prefect trim only. 1961: The last 107Es are built. 1962: The final Popular 100E is made.