Mythbuster – was the Standard Flying 12 really aero-inspired?
Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 IT’S AN AERODYNAMIC BRITISH CAR
Until 1936, when Standard’s range was transformed with ‘Flying’ versions of each model, cars from one of Coventry’s stalwart marques had been upright and old-fashioned. The Standard Flying Twelve and Sixteen, followed by the Nine, Ten, Fourteen and V8 in 1937, all featured apparently streamlined styling with a fastback rear end, curvaceous mudguards, integral boots and raked-back lines to grille and windscreen. In 1938, the whole range gained front grilles resembling flowing chrome waterfalls for an even greater wind-cheating impression. However, no proper aerodynamic theory or wind-tunnel testing was used. The redesign work simply copied American styling trends to mask increasingly old-fashioned chassis, all with sidevalve engines.
2 IT CASHED IN ON AIRCRAFT IMAGERY
No, actually. The ‘Flying’ part referred more to the prominent Union Jack bonnet emblem at the peak of the grille, which resembled a flying flag, or standard. The term was certainly meant to make these fundamentally ordinary cars seem more dynamic. Yet one styling feature, a rear window split in two as part of the graceful tail styling, actually made the car harder to drive because it hampered rear visibility. The £299 Flying Twelve was a 1.6-litre family model in saloon or convertible format. A Super Twelve offered foglamps and wind-tone horn as standard.
3 IT WAS BEHIND THE TIMES
Not entirely. The Standard Flying Eight of 1939 was the first mass-produced British car to use independent front suspension, and the Twelve followed suit. Neither was very responsive, and both had all-mechanical Bendix systems that were outmoded by the end of the 1930s. However, the Flying Twelve and its stablemates propelled Standard’s annual sales to over 50,000 cars. The Twelve was also one of the first British cars back into production in 1945, and 10,000 were sold until the advent of the Standard Vanguard in 1948.