In 1932, Henry Ford had a vision to build a unique line of Ford products for the European market. Within a decade, Ford's British manufacturers began production of the two-door Anglia - along with the four-door Prefect and the square-back Thames truck.
Sixteen years later, the U.S. and Canada began importing these American-inspired, British-made autos.
Though popular in Europe, Ford's British imports never reached target sales numbers. Newer and more modern domestic cars with expanded seating, chrome and V-8 power dominated the North American market, making the Anglia and its Ford cousins obsolete.
By 1954, the Anglia's limited seating, thermo siphon cooling system, wishbone suspension and wood floors made Ford's answer to European travel worth very little on the North American resale market.
Though the Anglia became a common sight at wrecking yards throughout the 1950s, the cars came back into popularity in the early '60s as hot rods or "gassers." Street racers coveted the Anglia for its size and light frame, and throughout the '60s and '70s, it grew in status as a street rod.
According to experts, fewer than 3,000 Anglias exist in North America. Collectors can find them, but most are in varying stages of dilapidation from racing.
"You just don't see them very often," says Bob Barnett, Springfield resident and proud owner of an inferno red 1948 Anglia.
"You have to make contacts and do research on the Internet to find them."
Barnett spent two years searching and six and a half years restoring and customizing his car. The object of a childhood dream now resides in his converted '50s-style diner garage, framed by a cache of trophies and awards won at car shows.
"This has always been my favorite car since I was a young boy putting models together," Barnett says.
"It's considered a custom-classic car," Barnett says as he opens the hood to show off the pristine 600-horsepower small-block engine, an upgrade from the original four-cylinder.
You definitely hear the Anglia coming, and when the engine revs, heads turn.
The engine isn't the only visible upgrade. Everything about this car screams luxury beyond its 1948 origins. Custom leather interior, air conditioning, electric windows, electric door poppers and a 10-CD changer hidden in back make this former hot rod a comfortable ride with vintage appeal.
The most unique feature about Barnett's Anglia is the classic look (stock door and rear deck handles, door hinges, three-hole grille) coupled with modern technology and convenience.
But this kind of customizing doesn't come cheap. Nearly $97,000 went into Barnett's Anglia, but given the opportunity, he wouldn't change a thing.
"The cost is staggering," he admits, "but as I look and as I see how far this car has come, I'm proud that my dream for this car is now a reality."
Restoration and customizing
A "gasser" a gasoline-powered (not nitrous or alcohol) drag-racing car, or "hot rod," raced between the 1950s and 1970s. The term applies to a car with a blower or fuel injector that has been stripped of excess weight.
Story published Friday, November 5, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 6 )