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SNAPSHOT 339: 1937 Flying Standard V-Eight

The British-built Ford V8 seen in our recent Snapshot 335 will be familiar to many. This car, however, may not be so well known. It was designed as a direct competitor to the Ford – but Standard had few of the vast engine design resources available to the Ford Motor company. Its 2686cc engine was therefore two Standard Ten four-cylinder side-valve blocks on a common crankcase. It was powerful enough to give the car a top speed of 80mph.

The Standard Motor Company Limited was founded in Coventry in 1903 by Reginald Walter Maudslay. They produced solid and conventional cars before World War I and built over 1,000 aircraft for the war effort, whilst moving in 1916 to a much-improved factory at Canley. Standard restarted civilian car building with models based on pre-war designs and in the early 1920s started to use the advertising slogan “Count them on the road.” It was justified: by 1924 their market share was comparable to that of the Austin Motor Company, with more than 10,000 cars made in that year. But by the late 1920s profits had declined due to heavy investment, a failed export contract and poor sales of the larger cars that were supposedly in fashion at the time. Standard reacted: in 1927 they introduced the 9 hp Fulham with a fabric body in 1927 at a competitive £185 and concentrated mainly on this single basic chassis and engine.

In 1929, John Black, a joint managing director of Hillman, was hired by Standard as joint Managing Director. He encouraged the supply of chassis to external coachbuilders such as Avon and Swallow Coachbuilding and Jensen. Thus was born the SS range, later to be called Jaguar; Standard continued to supply Jaguar’s engines until the late 1940s.

Standard’s fortunes improved during the 1930s with a focus on the low to middle market with the Standard Nine and Standard Ten. In 1935 they announced a new range of Flying Standards – so called because of their more streamlined bodies, including a waterfall grille topped by the Union Jack badge, apparently streaming backwards. The Flying Nine, Flying Ten, Flying Twelve, and Flying Fourteen had four-cylinder engines, while the Flying Sixteen and Flying Twenty had six-cylinder engines.

In October 1936 came the top-of-the-range Standard Flying V-Eight. The racing driver Tommy Wisdom was quoted in Standard’s 1937 advertising: “… the new Standard V-Eight is certainly the most interesting of the new cars produced this year… I like this car tremendously. At its price of £349 it represents really excellent value.” Despite his endorsement, the V-Eight was to be a rare car: only 250 were made from 1936 to 1938, with the initial price lowered to £325 in the last year to clear inventory. Only a few survive.

Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.

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