British Barn Find: 1948 Ford Prefect

Today we are going to do some sleuthing. Much of what is covered here on Barn Finds are cars and trucks of known manufacturer origin. There is a lot of recorded information that helps disseminate the necessary facts and figures for the vehicles that are reviewed. To kick things up a bit, let’s examine something a bit more obscure like this 1948 Ford Prefect, located in Algonquin, Illinois (NW of Chicago) and available here on craigslist for $4,400. Thanks to leiniedude for the tip!

The Ford Prefect, produced between 1938 and 1961, is a product of both England and Australia. Our subject car is a model E93A which was produced between 1938 and 1949. The British models were built in Dagenham Essex, UK while some four-door saloons (sedans) were built in Australia. Of the British built cars, like our example, the four-door models were built for local consumption but the two-doors were constructed for export. And therein lies the mystery, this example is a left-hand drive model which means it would have been destined for an export market. Well sleuthing a little more, we learn that “After World War II, the British government, desperate for foreign currency, told its motor industry to ‘Export or Die.’ Ford of Britain made good on their obligation and had exported a million cars and trucks by 1955. This was a quarter of all British vehicles exported during the first decade after the War.”* So, what happened during this time is that Ford of Britain created the North American Sales & Service division to export British made cars to Canada and the U.S. In 1948, Ford shipped 12,250 English Fords to the U.S. but only 3,223 were titled with another 2,025 finding their way to Canada. So, what happened to the remaining 7,000 vehicles? That’s not exactly known.

This Prefect is powered by the typical British Ford 1,172 CC in-line four-cylinder engine good for about 30 HP. Though there is a top speed of only about 60 MPH, this engine was known for its reliability. The seller claims it is a three-cylinder motor but I believe he is mistaken. The seller also allows that this example has not run in years. The only transmission offered was a three-speed manual.

The interior is, well, old. It sure has that old car look about it. The seats are leather-covered but showing lots of wear. There is very little description regarding the overall condition of this Ford so assumptions have to be made based on the images. It is evident that the door cards need some work but there is no information regarding floor condition. The dash appears to be complete and original.

The body on this Prefect looks good, straight and free of invasive corrosion, just some surface is visible. The finish is faded and there are scratches, flaking paint, etc. but the overall appearance is very complete. The unique trim, the bits that are so hard to find when missing and performing a restoration, all seem to be accounted for. And speaking of complete, the original jack assembly is in the boot.

So, what to do? The Prefect is not exactly rare but far from common. It looks complete but the engine is an unknown – no telling about that. One of the suggestions that the seller throws out is to, “build your street rod the way you want to.” I know that was a common fate for the related Ford Anglia but was a long time ago and things change and they’ve changed considerably as it relates to the old car hobby. This Prefect just seems too complete and original to cobble into something else. If it were up to you, what would you do?

*A Brief History of English Fords in North America by: Michael MacSems


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  1. YooperMike

    It’s got four doors. No body makes a hot rod out of any four door.

    • rjc

      There were many Prefects used for drag racing as Altereds and Gassers, although somewhat less than the two-door Anglias.

    • ken tillyUK Member

      Wrong there YooperMike. Because of the distances that are covered in South Africa between get togethers, shows etc. hot rodders are rodding 4 door sedans so that they can take the wife and kids with them around the country. I have seen several Plymouths, Dodges, Fords and even a Hudson Hornet rodded and they look great.

  2. Andrew

    The answer is 42.

    Like 9
  3. William Shields

    I have a picture of one of my aunt’s first cars in the early 50’s and it was a 48/49 four door Prefect just like this. So I can confirm the four doors were exported to Canada in some quantity.
    Incidentally, it was traded in on a new 57 pink and white Chevrolet 210 four door sedan.

    Like 4
  4. Bob S

    This is definitely an interesting car, but it has no appeal for me. Where I live now, there is an Anglia that gets driven all through the summer and has been kept in excellent running order. It is a tiny car, but I think it is more appealing than the Prefect.
    I lived in Central British Columbia in the 40s and 50s, and remember that both the Prefect and the Anglia were sold at the local Ford dealership. From my memories of those years, I formed the opinion that the Anglia was always a 2 door car, and the Prefect was a 4 door car. I never saw a 2 door Prefect, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t marketed.
    They were not as common as, or as popular as, the Austin A40 or the Hillman. The Austin brand was popular, but people started switching to the larger North American cars in 1953, and it was a rare experience to see an English car, other than the sports cars, after 1955.
    I drove a few Austins, and even a Nash Metropolitan, which had an Austin engine, but never drove an Anglia or Prefect so I couldn’t really form an opinion of them. The later Ford Consuls and Zephers did not sell well either.
    People wanted bigger cars,

    Like 4
  5. Charles

    I wonder if the Australian output were bodies, as cars imported to Australia had to have domestic bodies. That may account for at least some of the 7000 missing units – as chassis.

    Like 3
  6. ken tillyUK Member

    The Prefect was always a 4 door car and the Anglia always a 2 door car, and as for the engine it was a 4 cylinder. I’m pretty sure that Ford never made a 3 cylinder engine.

    Like 1
  7. Howard A Member

    As a kid, I always thought it was a Ford PERfect. This is the best thing that could happen to this car,,,

    Like 3
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I would likely settle for a V8-60. It would just about drop in. A lot more top end plus that flathead bark, albeit with a little bit of tenor…

      Like 1
      • Bill W

        Ford of Britain actually built a car with the V8-60 after the war – the Ford Pilot (1947-1951). It was a larger car (108½” wheelbase) that looked like a shrunken 1935 Ford. The front end was similar to the Prefect. The Pilot succeeded the pre-War 1936-1940 Ford 22, and was replaced by the Ford Zephyr in 1951.

        Ford Prefect – the only car that had a main character in a novel (THHGTTG) named after it.

        And Ford of Australia did build bodies for imported chassis. The Anglia was offered in a tourer version as well as sedan. As Ford of Australia was a subsidiary of Ford of Canada, a lot of tooling for North American Ford cars was shipped to Australia after the Canadian parent was done with them. The Australian 1957 Ford was a North American 1955 Ford with a Canadian 1955 Meteor grille.

        Like 1
  8. luke arnott Member

    Think these had transverse springs?My grandfather had one in the 50’s.

    Like 2
    • rjc

      Springs were transverse; front and rear suspensions were scaled-down copies of pre-49 domestic Fords.

      Like 2
    • Bill W

      Yes, transverse springs like pre-1949 North Anerican Fords, and mechanical brakes like the pre-1940 North American Fords. The engine was a 71.6 cid flathead four putting out a whopping 30.1 bhp. Never understood why European car makers took their bhp ratings out to a tenth of bhp.

      The Prefect, model E93AF, sold in Canada from 1947 to 1952 (same years as the Anglia model E03AF), was replaced by a new Prefect – basically a 4 door Anglia – for 1954. The new model had coil springs and ifs up front, hydraulic brakes, and 36 bhp out of that 71.6-cid flathead four.

      The 1948 Prefect replaced the front fenders with its headlamps above the fenders with new, larger fenders that had the headlamps in the fenders..

  9. Del

    Yup. To small for Nor Am families.

    Did not sell well and most were second cars, mostly for Moms.

    Car is quite high up and slightly unstable. My Dad rolled his.

    Like 3
    • Tony, Australia

      A friend of mine had one in the sixties, it had a trunk on the back so wasn’t flat like this one, one day with 4 of us lads in it we went around a right hand corner a bit too fast and the car literally fell over, we were hardly moving, the transverse rear spring, tall and narrow body, didn’t help with the stability of those things. We just pushed it back on it’s wheels and off we went, the doors on the left side didn’t open after that, ‘for some obscure reason’, the car was RHD.
      Tony, Oz

      Like 2
  10. geomechs geomechs Member

    Like Howard said, we always referred to these as PERfect. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the readers thought that too. I like this style; it’s like a scaled down ‘37 Slopeback. Like a ‘Dwarf Car’ (Excuse me all a dickens: ‘LEGEND’) racer. No doubt that Yamaha engine has a lot more power. I mentioned in another comment about dropping in a V8-60; maybe you could save a little money and drop in the ‘Rice Pudding.’

  11. TimM

    Really cool in my book!! I was surprised to see the steering wheel on the left side when the door was open being it was English made!! I’d cruise it around four doors or not!! It will still turn heads!!!

    Like 1
  12. Carey Hill

    quirky little cars sold here in New Zealand in great numbers- four cylinder- fairly gutless but simple and easy to work on with few moving parts.
    Narrow cars with a habit of falling over on their side… but have a loyal following. I bought one years ago for $20 and a replacement engine for $10 and got my money back eventually.
    Chassis and drivetrain is like a 3rd scale copy of an american flathead ford of the 1930’s which is where and when they were designed. Intended for poor folk with not much money. Have earned their place in history

    Like 1
  13. JohnS

    My father’s first car, bought brand new in Sydney Australia, sold it a year later to everybody’s relief.
    Lots of kids, bugger-all room in the back, the body roll used to make us car sick and it would barely up the big hill between our place and the grandparents, so it got traded for a Holden FC wagon (1959) which stayed in the family for several decades.

    If you are going to drive it, live somewhere flat and straight, and treat it as a 2 +2.

  14. Brakeservo

    I’ve never seen one in LHD form . . . perhaps it came down from Canada although I know there was a dealer in Vancouver Wa that started right after WWII with these weird little British Fords. He’s now one of the huge multi-make mega dealers that seem to take over in metropolitan areas. If it were closer and cheaper, I’d have an interest. I’ve owned a few of the 2-door versions, usually referred to as Anglias, but in most cases, properly Ford Pops, or Populars but only in RHD form. Mechanically very much like a Model A – flathead four banger, transverse buggy springs and mechanical brakes. Ol’ Henry would have loved them had he lived that long!. Must have been one of the absolute last cars built to utilizea thermosyphon cooling system – no water pump used or needed!

  15. Ian

    Tony, Australia Reply
    A 1949 Ford Prefect was my first car when I lived in N. Ireland in 1963. I paid 45 pounds for it. It was a 4-door sedan with the 4 cylinder engine. I kept it for 4 months and traded it for a ’53 Hillman Minx.
    I put it gently on its side in a grassy ditch, after some distracted driving, on a trip to Dublin. A couple of Irish guys came along and helped put it back on its 4 wheels. Had to have a garage blow the fuel back to the tank, because dirt was affecting the fuel supply. The body was strong enough not to be marked up, so my late Mum never ever knew about the off-roading.

  16. ken tillyUK Member

    @BillW. My father had a 1948 Ford Pilot in Rhodesia back in 1954, which I learned to drive in, and he bought a smallholding of 125 acres about 25 miles outside Salisbury. His idea was to grow potatoes so he bought 2 extra wheels and took them to his work where he had strips of angle iron welded across the rims. We would then go to the “farm” where he changed the road wheels to the angle iron wheels, hooked a one blade plow to the back and while he drove the car across the field my brother and I had to guide the plow and try and make fairly straight furrows over about one acre. Then all we had to do was to plant the seeds and wait for the potatoes to grow. Needless to say, when they were ready to lift and take to market, they had already been lifted by the local population!

  17. Ray Noel

    looking for a grill E39A ANY HELP WILL BE GREAT smokey4111

    Like 1

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