FORGOTTEN HERO: THE FORD ANGLIA TORINO

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Ford unveiled its striking new Ford Anglia 105E in 1959, billing it as ‘The world’s most exciting light car’. And rightly so – gone were the three-speed transmissions, asthmatic side-valve engines and conservative styling of previous small Fords, and in came the punchy new Kent engine, a beautifully slick four-speed gearbox, and that highly individualistic styling that was so futuristically cutting edge for 1959. But just as quickly, ‘fins ‘n’ chrome’ fell out of favour. Step in the Torino…

   Who else remembers the Ford Anglia Torino?

Who else remembers the Ford Anglia Torino?

By 1960 designers acted though they’d gone too far and things started to get a little more simple and sensible again. This sudden shift away from fussy flamboyance left the Anglia, with its miniature 1950s Ford Thunderbird lines and reverse-rake rear window, looking scarily dated after just a few years. That wasn’t so much a problem in Britain, which loved the Anglia no matter what. However, in fashion-conscious Italy, it was much more of an issue. During 1960 and 1961, the Anglia was the country’s biggest-selling imported car. But then, in the wake of newer cars with more minimalistic, clean-cut looks, it started to flounder. 

Fortunately, in charge of Ford Italiana at the time was a colourful and forceful American wonderfully christened Filmer Melbourne Paradise. With a name like that, he should have been something big in Hollywood, but instead, he’d been largely responsible for rejuvenating Ford’s Italian operations since 1953, which made him big in Blue Oval circles instead. So when he warned about the Anglia’s continuing saleability, it was enough to make his bosses sit up and take notice.  

His chief concerns were the reverse-rake back window along with the protruding front and rear lamps; all features that had fallen from favour by the mid-1960s. Amazingly, Ford granted permission for the Anglia to be redesigned for Italy, no doubt further convinced by assurances that more straightforward European looks would also make it a success elsewhere on the continent too.

The task of tweaking fell to Giovanni Michelotti, a man well-versed in working his design magic on British cars. In between Triumph sketches, he managed to come up with something that completely transformed the Anglia’s appearance, despite being hamstrung by having to use the inner structure, chassis, doors, windscreen, mechanics and running gear of the existing car. 

Gone were the curves and pointy extremities and in their place was a trim, boxy saloon with a flat nose and tail and, most significantly of all, a back screen that sloped conventionally outwards.Intriguingly, the car seemed to be a mish-mash of Michelotti ideas. The dog-leg C-pillar was almost exactly the same as that of the later Triumph 1300, 1500, Toledo and Dolomite, while the Triumph 2000 MkI influenced the rear end and definite hints of the new Anglia’s front end would eventually pop up on the Triumph 2000 MkII and Stag. 

Responsibility for building the car was given to Officina Stampaggi Industriala (OSI), a division of Ghia based in Turin. This city handily supplied the revamped Ford’s official title of Anglia Torino, and was also where it was launched in 1964. The new panelwork was manufactured in Italy and other parts were locally sourced, including the circular rear lights which came courtesy of the Bizzarrini Strada and a Ferrari. Two variants were available; the standard 997cc model and the more performance-orientated Torino S with a twin-choke Weber carburettor. So delighted were Italian dealers that they presented Filmer M Paradise with a silver-painted example in gratitude. Sadly, that gratitude was probably short-lived. 

In toning down the Anglia’s exuberant lines, Michelotti perhaps made the Torino a little too bland and anonymous, and on top of that, poor quality control at OSI didn’t help matters. Sales were disappointing, with just over 10,000 units sold in Italy. Although production ended in 1967, the car was still being sold there in 1969, a year after the Escort had replaced the original Anglia. The rest of Europe also failed to take to it, although it did go on sale in Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium. The latter country was given the honour of assembling the model as well.

Only between 20 and 30 survive, mainly scattered across Italy and the Low Countries. One solitary example is in the UK, awaiting restoration by an owner who no doubt hopes he never has to replace those hugely expensive Bizzarrini tail lamps.

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