Ford Prefect 100E

I was at the SDC Studebaker-Packard Meet in Tallmadge last Saturday, and it was just about lunchtime –I know, time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so–but anyway, just as I was thinking I should go to the food truck and get something to eat, bam! there it was–if it had been a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, it would have bit me because I didn’t have my towel.

I’ve been a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ever since a friend of mine introduced me to it back when I was too young to drink Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, but never did I expect to actually meet one of the main characters without the aid of an Infinitie Improbability Drive.  Yet, there he was–Ford Prefect himself, in the flesh–er, metal.

Prefect - front

“We have achieved normality.  Anything you can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.”

As my brother writer Anthony Cagle related in Wednesday’s post, Douglas Adams chose to name one of HG2G’s two main characters after an unassuming little British sedan–a joke that was lost on American readers who didn’t know that a Ford Prefect was originally a small car built long before Mr. Adams hung its name on a hitchhiking alien free-lance writer from Betelgeuse 7.

To be precise, I had come upon a “100E” (third-generation) Ford Prefect, the iteration built from 1953 to 1959. Unlike the previous two versions of the Prefect, which were body-on-frame affairs with solid front axles, the 100E used unibody construction and had an independent front suspension.  The styling was clean and up-to-date, so much so that the car would not have looked out of place had it been introduced in 1963 rather than 1953.

Prefect - rear

“All the doors on this automobile have a cheerful and sunny disposition.  It is their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done.”

Space is big–you just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is–but this car is tiny. The wheelbase is a mere 87 inches; overall length is 152 inches, and it’s only 57 inches wide.  You can get four people in there, but only if none of them are too chubby or have multiple heads and they all get along very well.

The Prefect’s prime mover was proportionate to its small size and feather-light (1,788 lbs) curb weight: a diminutive four-cylinder flathead of 71.5 cubic inch displacement–that’s 1172 cc for those of you still using the metric system–cranking out 36 HP.  In combination with its 3-speed manual transmission, the four-banger propelled the Prefect to a top speed of 71 MPH and made the 0-60 dash in 32.2 seconds.  Not quick by any measure, but the fuel economy was a decent 33 MPG on the highways and the price in the home market was only £658–£220 of which went to Her Majesty in taxes!

Prefect - interior

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they have me driving a Ford Prefect.  Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cause I don’t.”

The particular Prefect on display was one of the small number (42 or so) of left-hand drive models sold in the U.S. and Canada in the late 1950s.

It may be small and pokey and mostly harmless, but the 100E Prefect was charming nevertheless.  In fact, one might go so far as to say that it was so cool that you could have kept a side of meat in it for a month.

Until next time, so long and thanks for all the fish.

–Mike (Cookie the Dog’s Owner)

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