As Europe slowly lifted itself out of the doldrums, manufacturers looked forward to a new decade. Family cars from the ’50s remain affordable – provided you stay on our side of the Channel…
VAUXHALL WYVERN E (1951-1957)
Regard the E Series Wyvern (along with the contemporary Velox and Crestas) as Americana scaled down to fit British roads and you won’t go far wrong. Realising a 1949 Chevrolet Deluxe would be too large and thirsty for our tastes, designer David Jones adapted its bulbous glamour to fit, instantly dating its predecessor, the ‘sit-up-and-beg’ Wyvern L Series (otherwise known as 1948’s most forgotten new model). That the new car carried over its engine and nothing else tells you much about how seismic a shift Vauxhall intended the E Series to be.
One of the firm’s first monocoques, Wyvern Es were horribly rust prone. So few survived from a small production run, spares are now cruelly scarce. A lack of performance was its only real bugbear, despite a larger 1507cc engine arriving in 1952.
Despite its manifold qualities, asking prices for the Wyvern E remain low; figures recorded by price aggregator The Market range between £1750 and £6000 for the 81 sales tracked since September 2014, although £12,750 was asked for one car in September 2017.
HILLMAN MINX V TO VIII (1951-1956)
Having existed since 1931, the Minx nameplate prevailed well into the ’60s.
Like Vauxhall, Hillman’s immediate post-war Minxes were little more than hasty rehashes; it would take until 1948 for the model’s outward appearance to match contemporary expectations.
As the Minx MkIII went toe to toe with the Wyvern L Series, Rootes offered buyers more body styles than Luton towards the end of that year with saloon, estate and convertible options made available.
By 1951, the Minx V offered glitz equal to that of the Wyvern E; power, from a 1.3-litre bored out sidevalve engine, broadly matched that of the Vauxhall.
Mark VI Minxes had a new hardtop coupe – the Californian – to lure customers into showrooms, and by 1954, Minx MkVIIIs had a new overhead-valve engine which would go on to star in the bold new ‘Audax’ series of Minx models.
Asking prices for these four iterations of Minxes vary between £3995-4250. We suspect the rare and sought-after Californian models to be worth rather more. Data from The Market, after examining 142 cars since September 2014, suggests prices are in decline.
FORD ANGLIA 100E (1953-1959)
Ford’s best-selling Anglia arrived to the ’50s family car party later than Vauxhall or Hillman – but wasted little time in catching up. With two and four-door Anglia and Prefect models, along with Escort and Squire estates available in the range, there was little that was frivolous about the Anglia 100E, but it did the job in a ruthlessly efficient and affordable manner, thanks largely to its stalwart 1172cc sidevalve engine beloved of kit car and Special builders.
While Vauxhall and Rootes looked to the US for styling inspiration, it was to Germany that the 100E aspired; with the Taunus P1 in mind, the family resemblance to the similarly attired Consul was clear. A 1957 facelift brought a larger rear window and other aesthetic improvements; by 1959, however, the Elwood Engel influenced 105E – Harry Potter jibes aplenty – was ready.
Never underestimate the power of a large enthusiast following. The Market watched 254 100Es since September 2014, the highest number of available vehicles in our group, retail for between £4950 and £8995.
PANHARD DYNA Z (1954-1959)
The French wildcard in our group, the Panhard Dyna Z, did more with fewer resources. Pitched objectively at our British trio, the Dyna Z was far more expensive, seldom (if at all) available in right-hand drive – albeit way more sophisticated.
As Vauxhall, Hillman and Ford stuck with rear-wheel drive , the Dyna Z was pulled along by its front wheels; where the other cars managed with four cylinder sidevalves and water cooling, the Panhard used an 851cc air-cooled twin with no noticeable loss in performance to its rivals on the other side of the Channel. Weight saving was the key: considerable use of aluminium meant the Dyna Z stayed competitive when drivetrain development funds were tight.
Alas, steel crept into the Dyna Z from 1955 onwards thanks to a miscalculation in the price of sheet aluminium, and was reshaped into the PL17 by 1959.
Earlier aluminium Dyna Zs are regarded as the most collectible, and therefore fetch the highest prices. The Market watched 52 Dyna Zs go up for sale between February 2015 and October 2016; as projects, asking prices were set between £5250 and £5750. Running cars are rather more expensive: a not entirely original aluminium Dyna Z was on sale at McPheat Automotive until recently for £9200. A mint early Dyna Z could easily fetch £15,000 – according to the marque experts we spoke to.
ROAD TEST – AUSTIN SEVEN SPECIAL