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History of My 1948 Prefect

Note: Each photo below, except the first, can be clicked for a larger view


Original View I regrettably have no leads to follow to find any information on the car before 1962. Nor have I been able to locate any early photographs. This one was taken about 1966 or so, after it was "painted", more on this later. Sometime during 1962, however, my friend Bob won the car in a $5 poker pot from our mutual friend John. He soon asked me to "go help him bring his prize home", which I, of course, agreed to do. Well, as luck would have it, John had lots of toys, including a sort of salvage yard, which, as you might guess, turned out to be the "home" of the Prefect. We spent the better part of a day with shovels, digging it out of sand. It had been buried, over the frame, for a few years. It was in good company though, being surrounded by five Auburn sedans, in similar straits. And, yes, I tried but John wanted too much money for them. He also had a fully restored Boattail Speedster locked in a garage nearby. I didn't even ask about that one but it was a beauty. We finally got it excavated and onto a trailer to take to Bob's parent's back yard for temporary storage -- Bob lived in a small apartment with no room for a project such as this.

A few months later, Bob called me one day to report that his dad had issued an ultimatum: "Get that old rust bucket out of my yard by this weekend or else." Bob, assuming he was serious and still having no place to put the car, said that it was mine if only I would go get it. I agreed! My next door neighbor, Ed, went with me to pull it home behind his car as we had no access to a trailer.

Front View Although the tires were worse than threadbare, having essentially no rubber on their rolling surfaces and not even much cord left, we confidently aired them up and began the 10 mile trip home over city streets. This took some time as the tires didn't hold air very well. We actually had to stop at every service station along the way to air them up again. Yes, "service stations" still existed in those days. Another minor annoyance was the brakes. These cars had mechanical brakes which were barely adequate when all was in perfect order. As you might suspect, a few years under sand causes their rods and levers to operate less than perfectly. Did I mention that Ed had a "lead foot"?

We finally did get it home without major problems and it sat in my driveway several weeks while I tried to formulate a plan. Bob had kept the engine to put in a boat or something like that. He finally relented and agreed to let me have the engine also as he "just didn't think he would use it after all".

I soon discovered why he gave it up. It would have made a better boat anchor than boat engine. The crankshaft was not too bad but the valves were rusted to their seats and the cylinders all had .030-.040 taper. But that was not the worst part. The rods were poured babbitts and were really used up. Bob couldn't find anyone to repair them so, in an attempt to tighten them a little, he filed the caps down to make the bearings sort of oval shaped. This did tighten them a bit but did precious little for the oil pressure, as you might suspect.

Over strong protests from my wife Judy, I took the little 4 banger into the den (we had no garage) and began a truly "shade tree" overhaul. I purchased and installed new rings, main bearings and gaskets then hand lapped the valves to the point that they might seal for a short time. A rebore and new pistons and rods was out of the question. Upon reassembly, Ed and I proudly took it outside and chained it to a tree to start it. The tree turned out to be an unnecessary precaution as the little engine probably didn't produce enough torque to knock itself over anyway, even if just left free-standing.

But it started right up and ran pretty well. It even sounded pretty good to us at the time. I guess the racket of the pistons slapping around in their cylinders was sort of drowned out by the exhaust coming straight out of the manifold. Actually later, with a proper exhaust system, the engine sounded something like the pistons probably swapped holes every couple of revs.

With the power plant up and running, I began the process of building a casual driver. My plan was to put it together and just drive it until it quit. At that time I would decide what, if anything, to do next. The wiring was so bad I couldn't even use it as a guide. I just had to start from scratch and rewire the whole thing. Luckily it is a pretty simple system. I guess I got a good deal on red and black wire because as I look at it now, those seem to be about the only colors I used. It looks like I will get to do that again. But that and a full exhaust system was about all it took to get it back on the road. The car had no title but that problem was easily solved with a little cooperation from the State of Oklahoma.

In no time at all, Judy and I were driving it around the neighborhood and eventually it came to be used as a regular second car. Although it made a lot of noise, the little engine just kept on running. The 5.00x16 tires were obsolete and nearly impossible to find until I discovered I could get used motorcycle tires with good tread left for little money (2 bucks if I remember right). They sure don't last long, though, on a car. The all leather interior was beyond salvaging but was intact enough to suggest patterns for cutting replacements. We made a cloth interior to match the original and painted the body brown with black wings using aerosal spray cans. That is how it was in the picture on the main page. At some time during the "hippie era" we added a few stick on daisies.

Left Side View Since I never could make the brakes work very well, I attempted to convert the existing system to hydraulic with cylinders, pedals and other bits from a salvaged Dodge. I adapted the cylinders to the mechanical actuators and cobbled the oversize pedals to the firewall. In the end, this didn't work any better than the original mechanical system. So next I bought the complete brakes and running gear from a salvaged 1958 Prefect and the bearings and other parts fit perfectly. Finally, I had good brakes. Changing to 13 inch wheels on a car which was barely capable 55 mph on 16 inch wheels was not, however, entirely satisfactory. A solution was soon at hand though; another friend had a TR3 to be scrapped and allowed me anything I wanted off it before it went to the crusher. I got a nice set of SU carbs and 5 good 15 inch wheels. The 5.60x15 tires were almost exactly the same diameter as the old 5.00x16 so the top speed was back up where it belonged and that size tire was readily available, used by Volkswagen and Volvo, among others.

At that point, my total investment in the car, not counting consumables, was still well under $100. We drove the car, in pretty much that condition, for several years as a second car. The clatter of pistons and rods was a little embarrassing at times, the oil pressure probably never got over 10 lbs. and with no water pump, it wouldn't operate a hot water heater, but I estimate that we put about 35,000 miles on it anyway.

Right Side View Eventually, it did get bad enough that I decided it was time to reformulate "the plan". I made a deal with my old junk yard buddy to trade $25 and my engine complete for the one from the same '58 Prefect that provided the brakes. This was a 100E engine and known to be a much stronger design than mine After all, "it had a water pump, oil filter and insert type rod bearings" or so I thought. Well it turned out that, although it was in much better shape than my old one, it still badly needed an overhaul. I turned the crank and had the rods converted to insert bearings (they were still babbitt but a kit was available), replaced the rings and did a proper valve job and reinstalled it. The cylinders and pistons were in almost acceptable shape as they were. This added about another $100 to my investment but made the car much more driveable. Long gone are prices like that for parts and machine work. Just as a reference, gasoline regularly sold for about $0.20 per gallon (yes that's 20 cents) at that time.

Interior Well, by that time we had two regular cars so the little one didn't get driven as much as it had before but was still used some, although more for fun than utility. I finally bit the bullet and bought a new set of tires. This added about another $100 to my investment. It wasn't long after that, however, before my new cloth interior rotted from sunlight. Like the wiring, I had made another mistake in saving a little money on the wrong materials. Although not in these photos, the seats, particularly the front, were even worse than the headliner and door panels. With blankets over the seats, we still used it some but not as much. Then one day, I decided to start a new business. This ate up any spare time I might have had to maintain or play with the car so it got parked in my garage for about the next 15 years. Along with the interior, the new tires and the fabric top insert rotted also as can be seen in the photos.

That brings us pretty much up to date (late 1997). The car will be 50 years old next year, 1998, and I am dedicated (Judy describes it as "on a mission") to get it at least partially restored and back on the road by next summer. Thus far, I have the engine running and am working on the transmission; it jumps out of 2nd gear - I understand that is a common problem with these cars. This is actually my second transmission with the same problem although the underlying cause turns out to be a little different. I now know what the potential problems are and how to correct them. If you need advice on this, email me. The car has no rust even from sitting buried in sand. Maybe this is why Ford of England built the car to leak so much oil, the well known "British Automatic Rust Prevention System." With a couple of exceptions, the body is straight and solid. It was black when I got it but in cleaning the chassis and other parts, I find good evidence that its original color may have been tan. It will eventually be repainted british racing green with black wings (that's fenders for blokes who don't know what wings are) and I am looking for an opening, fabric sunroof. I believe such was offered as an option but I will likely have to modify something else to fit.

Interior Firewall I am trying to find some more photos of its history. Meanwhile, these photos show its condition at the beginning of the current restoration project. The one on the left here is of the stripped interior as viewed through the open boot. I have finally started the restoration and will try to keep good photographic records of its progress. As these become available and interesting, I will post them here, along with a written description. Thus far, I have removed everything forward of the windscreen to clean, repair and paint. The engine is already complete and ready to reinstall. This photo shows the bulkhead (firewall) with over 40 mystery holes closed. Those remaining seem to have a valid reason. We'll see later if that is true.

Thanks for taking an interest and reading about my Prefect. I am sorry for the length of the article but don't know how it could be reduced much. Besides, it will surely get even longer as the project progresses. I will soon have photos of the completed engine, gearbox and engine bay, including firewall, so check back often.

Oh by the way, it seems that this car is quite unusual. Please scroll back up the page and note the two full side views of the car. You will see that the rear has the bumped out boot. I understand this became a standard feature of the Anglia in the late 30's. But I have never seen or heard of another Prefect with this feature. Nor have I ever seen any reference to it in the literature. Recently, I have discussed it with several knowledgeable people, none of whom have ever heard of such a thing. Investigating from inside, it is clear that this is an added on item, but it is also quite obvious that it is a factory original feature. It is flanged and spot welded just like the factory would have done and the seam is then expertly leaded on the outside so as to be undetectable. I previously asked on this page if anyone out there knows anything about this feature. It didn't take too long before I got a response back from Mark Taylor in Australia. He said that this was an option on both Anglias and Prefects built there. Now I believe the model number indicates Australian cars and mine is actually an E93A, which I have been assured makes it English made. But it may be that such an option was available for North American market cars; however, I have never seen or heard of one. If anyone else can give more information on this feature, please email me with whatever you have.

Bayless