Fin de Siècle

We compare a pair of late ’50s fintails.

Nobody quite realised at the time, but 1959 would mark peak-tailfin – this styling device falling out of fashion almost as abruptly as it emerged. But while the tailfin’s retreat would be particularly rapid in its country of origin, the European industry, having been slower to adapt in the first instance, was equally tardy in abandoning it.

Of course, it’s worth reminding ourselves of motor industry lead-times – the period between styling sign-off and job-one. Certainly, when Ford’s UK arm conceived the 105E-series Anglia, nobody could possibly have foreseen the style going out of fashion so rapidly.

The 105E was the fourth generation model to bear the Anglia name. Based on the unitary architecture of the preceding 100E model, it also shared the older car’s Macpherson strut front and semi-elliptic rear suspension design. Unlike the 100E’s sidevalve unit however, the Anglia’s engine was of a modern OHV design. The oversquare 997cc ‘Kent’ engine would go on to power millions of compact Ford models for decades to come and would form the core of the 105E’s appeal.

(c) bestcarmag

Styling was carried out at Ford UK’s Dunton style centre, lead by Briton, Colin Neale. Taking his inspiration from across the Atlantic, Neale, who helmed Ford’s British design centre and is credited with cars such as the Mark 2 Consul/ Zephyr, Consul-Classic, and Consul-Capri, drew from a variety of US-market sources – especially the so-called Breezaway rear window treatment of the 1958 Lincoln.

The result ought to have been an unhappy amalgam, yet despite the compact dimensions, the result was more distinctive than dire. Certainly at its 1959 debut, the 105E was decidedly on-zeitgeist. It was also costed to an inch of its life, with basic models (featuring a narrower grille treatment and less brightwork) undercutting BMC’s radical new Minicar on price, despite a larger engine and a notably bigger footprint. De Luxe models had the full width grille and more creature comforts, while a larger engined (1200cc) Anglia Super arrived later. Estate and van versions also became available.


Neale’s Transatlantic interests would see him headhunted by Elwood Engel to Dearborn where he assisted with both 1961 Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental designs, forging a successful career, first at Ford and later, following his mentor Engel to Chrysler.

The British Standard motor company had emerged from post-war austerity with something of an image problem. Associated with basic transportation, it was decided to pursue a more upmarket course utilising the more upmarket Triumph brand name which they had acquired in 1944.

Having reached something of an impasse over the in-house styling for a replacement to the dated Eight and Ten range (codenamed Zobo), Standard-Triumph’s engineering chief, Harry Webster turned to Italian carrozzerie, Giovanni Michelotti, whose design proved an instant hit with the Triumph board. With it’s sharp lines, cleanly defined surfaces and the merest hint of rear tailfins, Zobo was everything its frumpy predecessor was not.

triumph herald
(c) pinterest

Technically however, the Triumph differed in one highly significant manner. Owing to a crisis over body supply, it was decided that instead of tooling up for a unitary bodyshell, it would be both expedient and more cost-effective to design a separate chassis with the body built in bolt-on sections. This made for a less than rigid structure, but had the advantage of allowing for a wider range of bodystyles than would otherwise have been possible. Powertrains were carryover Standard units, while rear suspension employed swing axles and a transverse leaf spring – which lead to somewhat interesting handling characteristics in extremis.

Marketed as a more upmarket car than the Anglia it rivalled, the Herald hit its sales stride in later 1200cc form. Offered as a two-door saloon, coupé, convertible, estate and van, there was a Herald for all tastes, and its ease of use, coupled to its London taxi-cab turning circle, made it a hit with driving schools from Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Banbury. The Herald chassis also formed the basis for the two-seater Spitfire, its larger-engined GT6 sibling and the more upmarket Herald-based Vitesse models.

The Anglia too was an immediate success, particularly in the UK market, where it not only gained a following from the cost-conscious, but its highly tunable engine made it a favourite both with saloon car racers and the forces of law and order – the Anglia becoming a regular sight as a Panda-car.

However, in style conscious Italy, the 105E quickly lost its visual appeal. Ford’s Italian sales director, the flamboyant American, Filmer Paradise, approached Michelotti, to lend the Anglia a little Turin sparkle. Giovanni restyled the nose and tail, excising its 1950’s appearance, the reverse slope rear treatment and of course, its tailfins. The Anglia Torino was sold in Italian, Belgian and Luxemburg markets.

The 105E continued elsewhere largely unchanged until its demise in 1967 – its Escort replacement being a more modern design (still with some US influence) and would go on to be an even more successful car. The Herald meanwhile had probably outstayed its welcome by the time production ceased in 1971 – its direct replacement being the retrograde RWD Toledo of 1970, (which could be said to have resembled the Torino from the rear).

Although tastes had changed rather dramatically throughout both their lifetimes, both cars lasted well beyond the freshness of their styling – the Herald’s appearance (facelifted in 1967), being arguably the less dated of the pair. The Anglia however was not only the better-realised product, but the more successful, with over a million being built in the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Australia.

Heralds were essentially component cars, so its little surprise that they were assembled from CKD kits in places like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, and Malta. Not forgetting India, where the only four-door Herald was made. Production totalled slightly over half a million.

(c) car and classic

Both these cars transcended their styling – proving more durable as consumer products than design statements. The Anglia was classic Ford – eminently fit for its purpose, smartly designed, if no more so than strictly necessary. The Triumph by contrast was an anomaly. A throwback conceptually, yet its style probably did more to lend it a lasting appeal than any other factor. Fins after all have their purposes.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

25 thoughts on “Fin de Siècle”

  1. As the resident DTR body on frame enthusiast, in my view the biggest advantage for a smaller company like Triumph is that the BOF format allowed Triumph to create multiple different models at minimal incremental cost.

    Also, the weight increment for the Herald was less than 100 pounds. I’m not sure how much of that could be attributed to the older design engine.

  2. We had a 105E when I was little. It was mid-blue and my Mum drove it in the main. I spent many an hour sat in the back of it, parked up, whilst Mum worked door-to-door for Hays Catalogue (other catalogues, like Hays, are no longer available). I don’t remember much about it except for the sea of blue vinyl inside. She had a nasty accident in it (she was stationary at a junction and some middle aged bloke T-boned the car, with the impact right against the driver’s door – it was amazing her injuries were not worse) and so I never saw it after that.

  3. My uncle had two 105E Anglias and one consequence of the reverse rake rear window was that the heads of rear seat passengers were perilously close to the glass, which at its base was only a couple of inches behind the rear seat backrest:

    Despite the generous glass area, this made the rear of the car feel slightly cramped and claustrophobic, and the rear window would readily steam up on cold or wet days, even with the rear side windows popped open.

    The Anglia Torino rebodying was a very successful exercise, so much so that I wonder if Ford ever considered it as a wholesale replacement for the Anglia. It must have been pretty expensive so I’m surprised that Filmer Paradise* managed to persuade Ford’s bean counters to authorise it, particularly given how carefully the 105E was costed.

    The Herald’s tight turning circle, a consequence of its body-on-frame design, was heavily promoted in advertising for the car:

    * What a fantastic name! Didn’t he go on to work for BL?

    1. Hello Daniel – he did indeed – Director of Sales For Austin-Morris. You can see the great man in action, here, discussing the Morris Marina’s advertising.

    2. Thanks for that, Charles. Actually, I’m slightly disappointed that Mr Paradise, whom I hadn’t seen before, isn’t rather more, er, flamboyant. I was expecting a Stetson, grey polyester suit and a luridly bright kipper tie at the very least!

      What was it with BL’s TV advertising in the seventies? Every ad seemed to feature a large number of similar cars doing implausible things, as though a single car wasn’t sufficiently captivating for the viewer.

      The video finished with the Allegro, which gives me all the excuse I need to post the following image I stumbled across recently on Autoshite, a website I hadn’t seen before:

      I don’t know whether it’s real or photoshopped, but I rather like it!

      Time for my medication and a lie-down…

    3. The line at the bottom of the rear overhang looks rather ‘shopped – the shadow is missing. It’s actually a quite nice conversion and proportion-wise works better than many compact hatches with an added boot, such as Jettas or Orions. And I had to look at least twice to recognise the base car, now that it’s characteristic rear slope is gone.

    4. You’re right, Simon, I tracked it to its source and it is a Photoshop job, done by a gentleman who goes by the name of Captain Slow on a Marina owners’ forum. They were debating whether the Marina, rather than the Allegro, would have been a better base for a Vanden Plas model to replace the ADO17 based Princess. Captain Slow also produced this fine image:

      Incidentally, maybe its the Rostyle wheeld, but the booted Allegro reminds me very much of this:

      The Ascona B was a rather handsome car, I think.

    5. It’s true, that Allegro conversion bears some resemblance to the Ascona – which I think is the A model not the B. It’s actually a quite nice looking car, very compact for its class, as apparently it was originally intended as a Kadett replacement. The estate was nice as well, although it lacked two doors. There was a version with fake wood on the flanks, something not very common for an European car.

    6. You’re right again, Simon. This is the Ascona B, another handsome car, which was the basis for the original Vauxhall Cavalier:

      I never quite took to the Cavalier Mk1. I thought that the elongated “droop snoot” upset the proportions and spoilt the pert stance of the original:

    7. It was relatively easy to fit Manta B front panels to an Ascona B because their substructure was identical. A couple of tuning firms sold such conversions called ‘Mancona’.
      The Ascona A estate (called Voyage, not CarAVan like other Opel estates) of the range version came with fake wood on its flanks

      I remember the wood to be of a much lighter colour than shown in the picture but I’m probably wrong.

  4. On the subject of advertising for the Herald, here’s one I remember seeing in the “Reader’s Digest” as a child:

    Ignoring the somewhat crass sexism* for a moment, the copy makes very interesting reading. It turns the car’s already long production run into a positive, emphasizing that its teething troubles were well behind it and its development costs already amortized, resulting in better reliability and value for the customer. Albeit born out of necessity, the advertisement is almost charmingly honest.

    * Not that anybody would remotely have recognised it as such back in the 1960’s.

  5. I’ve had 2 Heralds and 2 Vitesses. Great cars to work on with easy access to all the engine components and you can change the gearbox from inside the car. They were like big boys mechano kits. My first full car restoration was a 13/60 convertible.

  6. My father, who will own any car provided it’s a Ford, tells me that the arrival of the Anglia (he went on to have two) in showrooms was made the most of. Before being officially unveiled the first cars were put on display with the rear covered up as there was a secret back there which was not going to be exposed until its time had come. He doesn’t recall what the reaction was when the backwards sloping window was revealed.
    His second Anglia was new and he told us that it was going to have a dramatic new feature, previously unknown to him.
    Windscreen washers.

    1. These were times when really everyone was a bit more modest than today. I remember from reading car catalogues in my childhood (this was a bit after the Anglia’s time) when things like heated rear screens, clocks or cigarette lighters were advertised as big steps to differentiate from the base models.

    2. Before the Anglias, my uncle had a 100E prefect with (inlet manifold) vacuum operated windscreen wipers that got progressively slower as the car went faster!

  7. With the exception of the Peugeot 404 coupe and cabriolet (plus a few other examples that escape me), am not a fan of tailfins.

    Ford should have updated the Anglia to something resembling the Anglia Torino and at minimum at least given it a 1.3 Kent/Crossflow before it was replaced by the Escort (limited run versions with larger engines including a Lotus Anglia would have been fascinating).

    Another missed opportunity would have been Ford not producing the Pietro Frua designed 1962 Anglia Spyder, such a model in both convertible and coupe forms could have been a very decent challenger to the Midget and Spitfire slotting below the Twin-Cam powered Lotus Elan and featuring a 63-71+ hp 1.3 up to a 75-90 hp 1.6 Kent/ Crossflow range-topper (whilst allowing for an Escort-derived successor).

    Apart from the 13-60 (minus tailfins), the Herald looks too old fashioned and prefer the Raymond Loewy styled Zobo (aka “Triumph Torch”) prototype. An attempt should have been made to adopt a more Triumph 1300-like rear for the 13-60 or better yet produce a smaller Ajax-derived 2-door 1200 successor to the Herald (which in retrospect should have been RWD from the outset).

  8. The enigmatically named Filmer Paradise was indeed at British Leyland. It was his axe that swung on Riley. ARO has a couple of Interesting pieces on him

    1. That Paradise axe did far more damage when he was instrumental in removing BLMC franchises from hundreds of smaller dealerships, a ill-considered rationalisation which served Datsun, Toyota, Renault, Peugeot, Opel et. al. very well in the mid-1970s.

      Before his precipitate exit from BLMC in September 1973, Paradise was the highest-paid sales chief in the British automobile industry. He was closely associated with George Turnbull (Standard-Triumph, BLMC, Hyundai, Iran Khodro, Peugeot/Talbot, Inchcape), and worked alongside him once again at Talbot UK from 1979-84.

  9. Ford missed a trick in not making an Anglia GT, as a junior counterpart to the February ’63 Consul Capri GT. The Mini Cooper had been around since 1961, and Rootes would take until 1966 to sell a twin-carb Imp. There were plenty unofficial Anglia GT conversions – the usual formula was the 1500cc Consul Classic engine, and the same car’s disc-braked front struts.

    Despite its name, the 1962 Triumph Vitesse wasn’t quite in the GT territory; the 1596cc six had only 70bhp, which was about as much as the Herald gearbox could take. The Herald 13/60 almost matched it for power to weight ratio. The Vitesse 1600 nevertheless captured the early ‘60s zeitgeist in Britain perfectly, with Michelotti styling masterfully differentiated from the Herald, and two-tone colour schemes. Two Purchase Tax cuts also helped.

    It’s worthy of note that the mechanically compromised 62-66 Vitesse 1600 substantially outsold the considerably improved but less flamboyant 66-71 litre Vitesses. Numbers are 31,291 and 19,951 respectively.

  10. Speaking of the Consul, Ford reprised the Anglia’s styling theme in the 1961 Consul Classic:

    Unlike the carefully costed smaller car, the Classic was supposedly complex and difficult to assemble and its style quickly dated. It survived a mere two years from 1961 to 1963 before being replaced by the Cortina based Corsair. That must make the Classic one of Ford Europe’s least successful cars ever.

    1. Read the Consul Classic was originally intended to appear much earlier (around 1959 or before?) and cease production much later compared to what actually happened, also fascinated by it being described as an upscaled Anglia.

      Cannot say am a fan of the styling as it makes one think whether it too could have also benefited from a Michelotti rebody like the Anglia Torino or even something in-house featuring cues from the mk1 Cortina and Consul Corsair, depending on how long Ford planned to keep it in production for.

    2. I remember examining the rusted out remains of a Classic that was abandoned in a bog in the west of Ireland back in the late 60’s. (That’s how farmers typically disposed of their old cars back then!) Even to my childish eyes, it was obvious how complex the front end of the bodyshell was, with a number of separate pressings for the wings, headlamp cowls, indicator housings, grille etc., all of which made perfect moisture traps to facilitate premature corrosion. The Consul Capri below, which shared the Classic’s front end design, shows this complexity clearly:

      (The separate indicator housings are missing, presumably either rusted away, or scavenged to repair a better example.)

      Ford very much learnt the necessary lesson and the Mk1 Cortina was a remarkably simple design by comparison. Likewise, the 1967 Mk1 Escort.

  11. Our family had a new Anglia in late 1959 after we moved to Canada. This wasn’t prime Lincoln land, so the reverse rear window was thought of as an Anglia foible, and it was sort of chic compared to a Dauphine or VW. Mercury adopted the reverse rear window for 1963 for its huge cars, yet managed to avoid the dog’s breakfast of the Consul Classic which looks ashamed to exist just sitting there, poor thing.

    Later Mum got a ’64 Anglia Super which was more economical and faster to boot along with synchro in bottom. Unfortunately for it, she drove my uni friend’s Volvo 544 and only 10 months into its career, the Super got part-exchanged for a real car, old styling or not, with an even nicer engine and real seat belts. No cart springs on it either. Such were the joys of having your own job.

    In Canada you bought Anglias at a main Ford dealer. Spares? No problem. The Triumph was a good looker but was sold from hole-in-the-wall dealerships, one step below even BMC, and the body tended to rust and the chassis itself as well. It also had an ancient long stroke wheezer of an engine compared to the Ford. The driving experience was really from an earlier age even if the steering was excellent. They finally brought out the Spitfire and sold the basic car here that way where a bit o’vintage didn’t matter. I’d say the Herald’s main claim to fame was its front wheel upright, used in all manner of double wishbone specials in the early through middle 1960s, including Formula Junior cars if my memory serves.

    Both cars had such tiny rear fins nobody noticed except British muttering rotters, ever on the lookout for nasty Transatlantic influence they could have a go at. Sometimes correct, sometimes not. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Anglia sold like gangbusters, and not just in the UK.

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