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

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Stan­dard Ten

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.

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