Five Classic Trials
The Standard Ten is fun, practical and endearingly British, yet buyers still seem to largely overlook it. We get behind the wheel to see whether it deserves to emerge from the shadows
Driving a Standard Ten today is guaranteed to attract mixed reactions. The friendly face of one of the Standard Motor Company’s most economical saloons certainly generates plenty of enthusiasm from most onlookers, but few seem to remember it like they do the Austin A30 or Morris Minor.
This has left the Ten suffering from an identity crisis and lacking the attention it deserves. Yet, slipping behind the wheel identifies the modest Standard as a profound product of its time – gentle on the budget yet offering a comfortable, characterful drive.
Grasp the chromed door handle to open the door and you hunker down behind the controls, surrounded by cues from Fifties pop culture in the two-tone Vynide seats and doorcards. In contrast, Standard’s absurdly tight production budget resulted in an open dashboard with a single instrument that incorporates the speedometer, fuel gauge and oil/ignition warning lights.
Turn the key in the centrally located ignition barrel and the 948cc Standard rasps into life. The engine is far from smooth at tickover – some even go so far as to say that it feels agricultural, which isn’t actually that far off the mark because it shares its engine with a Massey Ferguson tractor. Pressing the throttle offers steady progress up to cruising speed. That said, 0-60mph takes a yawning 40 seconds, so pick your rivals wisely if you’re into drag racing…
But you soon forget this when you enter the bends because the Standard offers delightfully spirited handling. There is significant body roll, but the thin tyres deliver bags of grip and the steering wheel provides direct feedback, making every bend into a joy. The all-drum brakes are adequate rather than great, but there’s not much pedal travel and you soon learn to better anticipate what’s lying ahead by way of compensation.
The Ten’s four-speed manual gearbox feels a little vague compared to its period rivals, demanding grand sweeps of the lever to keep the car on the boil. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but inherently charming nonetheless and all part of the driving experience.
The Ten is much better suited to B-roads, where the savvy driver remains mechanically sympathetic, understanding and patient at all times, listening closely to the engine and timing gear selections to perfection to make the most of the available power.
Ultimately, though, the Ten’s simplicity matters little when you catch sight of yourself driving one. Spot this everyman saloon breezing by in shop window reflections and you’re sure to relish the time-travelling sensation that comes from driving what is now an increasingly rare car. It’s difficult not to fall for the basic mechanicals’ plucky enthusiasm – in many ways, it’s like driving straight through the middle of a Famous Five novel. Approach the Standard Ten with a fresh mindset, and you’ll soon understand its appeal.
If you’re looking for something that many classic car buffs would struggle to identify, an engine that’s easy to work on and modest running costs thrown into the bargain, there are few other classics out there that are as solid and spirited an all-rounder as a Standard Ten. Driving one may not set your pulse racing, but for simple charm and a full-on nostalgia hit, it’s hard to beat.
standard’s interior is pretty basic, but the big speedometer easily predated the Mini’s.