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Popular Vintage Car Makes and Models

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 18 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Popular Make Model Vintage Car Singer

In Britain for a car to be classified as vintage it should have been manufactured between the years of 1919 to 1930. The Vintage era is commonly referred to as the golden age of motoring, and for good reason. Relatively comfortable yet convenient, whether they were luxury or utility cars, they still managed to retain a sense of class and style.


Morris, Austin and Singer were the largest car manufacturers in Britain during the vintage era, and produced some of the most popular makes and models of vintage car, many of which are still in evidence today.

A whole host of cars were being driven off the production line at this time - light cars, tourers, cyclecars, grand sports cars and luxury cars. Even electric cars were trialed. Pre-war ownership of a car had only begun as a common characteristic of the prosperous middle classes, but WWI military transport had introduced both men and women to motoring the first time and had seemed to whet their appetite. By 1920 there were 90 car manufacturers in Britain alone catering mostly for two different demographics. The entrepreneurial market, for whom large, luxurious, advanced and complicated models were made, such as Wolseley and Rolls Royce. However, the majority of cars were built for the masses who were enduring economic hardship in the post-war years. These were mostly cyclecars or family “utility” cars – cheap, light and strong and assembled from mostly proprietary components.


Singer, the third largest British car manufacturer, introduced a line of cars featuring a six cylinder head engine from 1922. Models included the Super Six, Light Six and Senior Six. In 1927 Singer introduced the Junior 850cc - the ultimate light class car. It featured an 850cc chain-driven overhead camshaft engine (OHC). As the company’s answer to the Austin Seven, it became the best selling of its class and the new engine spawned a line of successive new sports cars throughout the 1930s. The line that emanated from this original Junior 850cc model continued throughout a further two decades, until around 1958. Singer was also the first UK manufacturer to utilise independent front wheel suspension as well as the innovation of clutchless gear changing.


Other popular vintage cars are the earlier models of the Morris Oxford series. At the beginning of WWI the Oxford was fixed with a ‘Bullnose’ radiator, which it retained until 1926. This was eventually dropped in favour of the ‘Flatnose’ radiator style for the same series and later the six-cylinder version known as the Morris Oxford Six.

Morris also sought to produce sporting versions of their cars, under the guise of Morris Garages – today known as MG. The 1919 Oxford Bullnose, commonly cited as an improved version of the Cowley model, gave rise to the first sporting MG - the 14/28 Super Sports.


The UK manufacturing industry was inspired by the US mass-production methods, as spearheaded by Henry Ford and his Ford Model T. In the UK, during the war some firms already had experience of mass-munitions manufacture and so had obtained a familiarity with these methods. However, across the pond they had been in existence since 1908, when the first Ford Model T had rolled off the production line.

American motorcars tended to be designed simply and reliably to withstand some of the less-popularised country landscapes and highways. It was imperative that they were easily repaired and maintained and as such, the design of the Ford Model T remained mechanically largely the same throughout its lifespan into the mid 1920s. Despite its dated appearance, over two thirds of all American cars turned out in 1919 were Model Ts. It remained popular throughout rural areas, mostly down to its light weight, good ground clearance and a tight steering lock as well as a respectable top speed of 40mph. It underwent a few changes throughout its life and successive models included tourers, sedans and coupes. Even a truck body was made to fit the chassis, known as the Model TT.

The Ford Model T gave way to the new Ford Model A late in 1927. With a top speed of around 65mph and rather slow four-cylinder engine, it still managed a respectable acceleration rate due its low weight. The Model A conformed somewhat to its contemporaries by including a three-speed transmission with central control and a standard coil ignition system.

The vintage era was also a time for making statements about one’s wealth and prosperity and the Americans were obliging in their efforts to do so. One popular model of car that alluded to this was the Cadillac LaSalle series. It could be said that the introduction of the LaSalle was in effect the beginning of automotive styling. Beforehand the styling had largely been dictated by the evolving engineering requirements. However, the LaSalle became a trendsetter in its own right – fast yet elegant, colourful, small and sporty.

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