Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Mark I Ford Consul and Zephyr models were first displayed at the Earl's Court motor show in 1950
. Production began with the Consul on January 1, 1951
. The Mark I model ran until 1956
. The Consul boasted a raft of technology which included a unitary constructed chassis
which resulted in a lighter structure. The front suspension
was on McPherson struts (the Zephyr was the first to use in mass production the MacPherson Strut IFS) while the brakes
were fully hydraulic. Power was increased from 1508cc for the four cylinder motor, to a much more tractable 2262cc six cylinder version in the Zephyr model.
The convertible model had a power-operated top with the top-of-the-range Zodiac displaying white-wall tyres
and fog lamps. In order to add some "glamour" to the Ford range a convertible version of both the Consul and Zephyr became available in 1951
. All Consul and Zephyr convertible bodies were built by Carbodies in Coventry and finished by Ford. A special 3 position convertible hood was standard equipment and could be semi-power operated.
The first de ville hood position allowed only the front of the roof to be opened, the second lowered the hood completely in the normal way. Mechanically the Consul Convertible was identical to its saloon counterpart. The standard specification of the Consul Convertible included the four cylinder 1508cc engine and all the other ground breaking features fitted on the rest ofthe Consul range. These cars were popular but even so Ford decided to release the MKII Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac models with bigger styling and engines.
The Three Graces
From April 1956
the Mark II Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac went on sale and were known as the Three Graces. The Mark II range was a big seller and finished its run in 1962
when, from April that year, the Mark III Zephyr 4, Zephyr 6 and Zodiac went on sale; the Consul name was dropped, the car's place in the Ford UK line-up being filled by the first four-cylinder Ford Zephyr.
In Mark II guise the Zephyr/Zodiac could top 145 km/h with the Consul performing at 128 km/h. The Mark II featured a lower roof line, and had optional front disc brakes, overdrive
and automatic transmission
. Of the Three Graces, both the Zephyr and Zodiac shared the same body
- while the Consul had shorter front guards and bulkhead. A common problem to all, however, were gearbox problems, and the cars were developing a bit of a reputation for requiring costly repairs.
Power, Pace and Practicality
A minor, but significant performance upgrade occured in 1959
. The motoring press described the updated Zephyr as “a particularly pleasant blend of power, pace and practicality.” Although no official reason was given by Ford, the Zephyr's compression was raised from 6.9 to 7.8 to 1 - although everyone knew it was due to the Borg-Warner automatic transmission
requiring a few more horses. In standard form the Zephyr featured a straight six 2553cc engine driving the rear wheels through a three-speed (two synchromesh
) gearbox and a live axle. In every respect it followed the then established Australian mass seller formula. Power output, thanks to the compression rise, was 90 bhp gross at 4400 rpm. Gearing in the indirects was low. All-up weight was only 27 cwt. and 70 lb. In those three statistics, if you looked hard enough, you would have found the secret of the Zephyr's better performance.
Simple calculations based on a dry weight of 23 cwt. gave a bhp per ton figure of just over 78. Comparable Australian rivals produced 66.6 (Holden
) and 73.6 (Vauxhall Velox
). And that made it a family sedan capable of an honest 90 miles an hour, while the Mark 1 was hard pressed to better around 84mph. The Mark 2 Zephyr could also accelerate from a standstill to a true 60 mph - and then stop again - in the same time it took its biggest rival and then Australia's sales leader to reach 60 at all, never mind the stopping. That the Zephyr could achieve such performance and offer better than 35 miles to the gallon was outstanding.
We are big fans of Holden
here at Unique Cars and Parts
, so speaking against any of the General's models from this era hurts a little. But it was not just on paper that the Zephyr excelled, and bettered the Holden. Why the Zephyr is not as collectable today as their Holden counterpart remains a mystery, particularly when the Zephyr was better in terms of performance, comfort, smoothness, handling
, braking, finish, silence and fuel economy. Changes to the Mark 2 Zephyr were not confined to the better performance. Instead of the mark 1's tinny, matt-finished crackle enamel dashboard with its flimsy ashtray and profusion of screwheads, a smoothly upholstered, deeply-padded expanse of gracefully styled design work confronted the Zephyr's front passengers.
You Can Leave Your Hat On
The driver had a reasonably generous array of instruments (speedometer
, water temp
and fuel gauge), plus an assortment of warning lights (oil, generator, indicators, headlights) and a minimum of intelligently-spaced knobs and switches complete with sign language. The instruments themselves were cowled in a handsome protective shield of padded leather. The front seat was a thick bench with a perfectly proportioned folding central armrest. The seat itself offered excellent support and the armrest added a rare degree of location. The back seat was just as comfortable, but there was no armrest. Plastic matting covered the floor in front. The rear compartment was beautifully done out in pastel pile carpeting. Back passengers had to make do without panic straps and coat-hangers.
Headroom front and back was adequate in spite of a new, lower roofline. Important at the time, a driver did not need to remove their hat. Front seat legroom was generous and the transmission
hump was insignificant. Rear passengers had plenty of room for their feet, but for 6 footers or larger the rear could become a bit cramped on a long trip - particularly if the driver had their seat in the fully rearward position. The interior of the Mark 2 Zephyr was neatly finished in two colours. Upholstery was in hard-wearing, washable vinyl and the headlining was plastic. Painted metal showed only on the door pillars, one of which housed a natty interior light with a three-position switch that let you choose whether or not you wanted the doors to work the light automatically. Ther was also a clear lens that was supposed to focus on the ignition key - but this did not work all that well.
Inside the Zephyr Mark 2
Visibility was excellent all around. The pillars were thick in front, but they were placed such that they didn't obstruct the driver's sight. It was easy to see the wingtips. The rearview mirror, however, was much too small, but it was well placed. The windscreen wipers wiped plenty of screen, but they worked off the manifold - which meant they fluctuated busily in traffic. Regardless of how "Stock" you want to keep your Zephyr, upgrading to electric wipers would be one modification we would make in the interests of safety.
The glovebox was small and awkwardly placed. Its lid formed a fiat tray. There was a wide, recessed shelf behind the back seat. Interior hardware generally was robust and easy to keep clean. The procedure for locking the car was simple and it was impossible to lock the keys inside. The driver was well looked after. All the controls were grouped togther. The wheel was well placed and dished for safety. It had a half horn-ring instead of 1958
models full one.
As you would expect, the gear change was on the column. The change worked well, being spring loaded it was near impossible to snick reverse. But, again typical of the era, first gear could be hard to engage until the lubricating oil reached temperature. The Mark 2 Zephyr was almost perfect - but as with any man made device, there is always a shortcoming - and in this case the pedal placement was not good. The pedals were offset and it was far too easy to find your foot planted on the brake instead of the clutch. Both brake and clutch pedals had awkward arcs of movement and the clutch had an unfamiliar action that took some getting used to. The accelerator pedal was badly placed but the carburettor linkage itself was faultless.
The right-hand window winder was placed such that it jabbed the driver on the base of the kneecap whenever they tried to rest their thigh against the door. The ignition switch was equally stupid. It had four positions - on, off, on again and start, in that order. The result was that nine times out of ten, a driver new to the car would pull out the key with the switch in the usual full anti-clockwise position - and that meant the battery
would be drained while the Zephyr was parked. We assume the secondary on position was for accessories, but with the ignition engaged anyway we are not so sure.
Behind the Wheel of the Zephyr Mark 2
Driving the Zephyr in everyday give-and-take conditions was a breeze. The Zephyr was big enough to take six full-size adults with ease yet small enough to allow a competent operator to take advantage of its extremely brisk performance in thick traffic. Parking was also relatively easy - on an era long before power steering. The Zephyr's roadholding was up with that of most competitors. Steering
(31 turns) was light and precise enough - and reasonably shock-free. Most main road bends could be taken without having to take your hands of the wheel - not bad considering large steering wheels were the norm back then.
The Zephyr would corner flat at any reasonable speed and even beyond, with a tendency to lurch outwards as speed rose in a way that suggested fore-and-aft rather than lateral pitching - perhaps a result of the substantial end overhang. According to motoring journalists of the time, this only occured at abnormal speeds. The Zephyr showed acceptable initial understeer when pressed in twisty country. That quickly developed into pleasant and controllable oversteer. The tail would break, again control-lably, but only when the tap is really turned on.
was an excellent compromise. It gave a level, shock-free ride at urban speeds and yet has enough in hand to take care of extremely fast point-to-point work in complete safety. Really rough roads and tracks don't embarrass the Zephyr at all, but corrugations set up an annoying drumming in the body and also a jarring vibration in the steering column. That in turns sets the gearshift linkage off on a bongo tattoo, and by then I'm well on the road to distraction. Regular breaks in the road surface, such as expansion gaps in concrete paving, were enough to set up a reaction in the Zephyr's body structure - not really annoying - but it was there.
Mark 2 Zephyr Performance
Tyre squeal was moderate. Wind noise was conspicuous by its absence and so was engine noise. The engine was almost impossible to hear. The Zephyr also had excellent brakes. In exchange for moderate pedal pressures they offered smooth, squeal-free stopping that made it a pleasure to use all of the Zephyr's performance. Even when you were pushing the limits, it was difficult to provoke brake fade, although the linings could retain heat to the point that they would smoke profusely for minutes afterwards. First gear could produce mild initial wheelspin during fast acceleration. Revving the engine to the redline (subjective, as there was no tacho) and then dropping the clutch would, naturally enough, produce the best performance.
But where the Zephyr differed from some of its rivals was that it would hang togther - soak up the punishment. Even the clutch would handle prolonged abuse. Second was another very powerful gear. It would take the Zephyr from a standstill, if needed, to well over 50 mph in very short order. As you would expect, It was the only gear you could use for overtaking, but it was equally at home or city work, where it would act almost as an automatic transmission, provided there was no need to come to a complete halt. Heel-and-toe changes into second were possible with a little manoeuvring. Top gear could handle most situations from around 15 mph upwards. Hard acceleration from low speed would produce slight pinking on super grade fuel.
The Mark III Zephyr
The MKIII was introduced in 1962
which saw an end to the 50's style Consuls, Zephyrs and Zodiacs - which had been amongst the best-loved British family saloons of their time. It was said that no other UK-based car had undergone as much pre-production testing. Arguably the Mark III Zephyr's biggest claim to fame, however, was that it was the first car assembled in Australia to have curved glass side windows, an innovation aimed to provide passengers with more elbow and hip room.
The concave radiator grille which incorporated the headlamps, gave an individual touch to the front aspect of the car. At the rear end, the angling of the tail lights, matched by the opposed angling of the rear window, was very unusual. Although a completely new model, the Mark III did share many of the Mark IIs mechanicals. But things were improved, with the engine refied and producing an extra 20 bhp. Road testers in 1962
were immediately impressed by the road-holding qualities, manoeuvrability and acceleration.
The design may have been entirely new - but to our eyes it still retained a conservative flavor. But despite the conservativeness, the Zephy was at last a driver's car and would impress with its power, direct controls, light recirculatory ball steering
, front disc brakes
and the fact that it was responsive and roadworthy. Dimensionally the body
remained almost unchanged except that it was one and a half inches longer than the previous model and five inches lower, but not at the expense of ground clearance.
The Mark III proved to be the most popular and durable of the range - selling at a rate equal to or better than the Mark II both in the UK and in export markets, even though it was in production for a shorter time. During the last months of production, an up-market Executive version was added to the Mark III range, and examples of these are today highly sought after. The Mk III range was discontinued in January 1966
(many believe prematurely given the cars' success) and the completely new Zephyr / Zodiac Mark IV range was released in April 1966
. This car was somewhat ahead of its time with a design that anticipated the later Consul/Granada range with V-engines and independent rear suspension
, but the research and development of the model was very rushed and this unfortunately reflected in its durability.
, Ford began a complete redesign on the Zephyr, under the title of "Project Panda". As the car used new V-series engines, the then traditional long bonnet concept created a problem until design engineer Harley Copp required that the car was both larger and had more internal space, and came up with the idea of placing the spare wheel ahead of the radiator on an angle. The result was a vehicle of similar dimensions to the North American Ford Fairlane. Unfortunately, as the Mk IV carried over so little engineering from the Mk III, Copp's insistence on independent rear suspension
resulted in an alarming “tuck-under” of the outer rear wheel when cornering with the back seats empty.
Neat “bow-back” styling made the capacious boot look deceptively short, but the large expanse of bonnet was unkindly likened to the landing deck of an aircraft carrier by some journalists. The Mk IV range was launched, not at an October motorshow, but in the Spring of 1966 with new V format engines, the 4 having a 1996cc (122 cu. in.) V4 and the 6 a 2495cc (152 cu in) V6 unit. The independent suspension
was aided by servo-assisted disc brakes
on all wheels. In November 1966
the manufacturers announced a plan to introduce an "export special" version of the Zephyr Mk IV combining the 3-litre engine of the Zodiac with other specifications largely following those of the existing Zephyr. This 3-litre Zephyr was not offered by Ford on the domestic (UK) market.
Criticism of the handling of early examples led to the fitting as standard of radial-ply tyres
on the larger-engined version in place of the more conventional (in the UK at that time) cross-ply tyres
with which all versions were shod at the 1966 launch, and the retro-fitting of radial-ply tyres
to early examples addressed the tendency of the rear wheels to slide uncontrollably in wet weather, justifying in the process Ford's investment in a new and relatively sophisticated rear suspension
arrangement for the Mark IVs. Even after that a contemporary nevertheless opined that the ride involved a certain amount of 'float', and reported that the nose-heavy handling called for a 'strong driver', a problem which the more expensive Zodiac and Executive versions mitigated through the fitting as a standard feature of power assisted steering
Cost constraints precluded adding power assisted steering
for the Zephyr, but during its production run the steering
ratio was lowered which reduced the strength needed to change direction by increasing the number of turns between locks from 5.5 to an even higher 6.4. Another production modification for the 4-cylinder Zephyr involved redesigning the valve gear in order to eliminate the need on the early Mk IVs for frequent tappet adjustments. The size of the bonnet was emphasized by square cut styling of the wings. A practical use was found for some of the extra space in front of the driver: the spare wheel was stored, ahead of the engine, under the bonnet, freeing up space at the other end of the car for more luggage.
Although large, the car, at least in its Zephyr form, was not particularly luxurious. Individual front seats were available at extra cost, but the standard front bench-seat was described by one commentator who ran the car on a long-term test as being intended for people no taller than 5 ft 8 in (1.72 m) who have the right leg 3 inches (8 cm) shorter than the left. An estate version of the Zephyr Mark IV was announced just in time for the London Motor Show in October 1966
, though deliveries commenced only in January 1967
. As with the earlier Zephyrs, volumes did not justify tooling up for estate production at the Dagenham plant, and the cars were instead built by E.D. Abbott Ltd of Farnham, based on part finished saloons received from Ford.
The Mark IV Zephyr estates (like their more expensive Zodiac siblings) came with black vinyl covered roof, a fashionable distinguishing feature of upmarket vehicles at the time: retention unchanged of the saloon's rear light clusters attracted criticism, however, because of the way it narrowed the rear hatch opening at floor level when compared to the arrangements on the cheaper Ford Cortina estates. When production ended, some 102,417 Mark IVs had been made.
Although the Ford Zephyr never saw American production, a very limited amount were imported into the US and the name itself has appeared on other American Ford-related cars. The first use of the Zephyr moniker was in 1936 with the Lincoln-Zephyr a smaller companion to the full sized Lincoln sedan sold at the time, followed in the early 1980s with the Mercury Zephyr, an upscale version of the Ford Fairmont, and the Lincoln Zephyr was resurrected began its second production run in 2006 with the name changed to the Lincoln MKZ.
Sturt Griffith's Road Test
A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing circuit of typical Australian roads throughout New South Wales to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today. While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We are not experts on the Ford Zephyr Zodiac, and as such we thought it best to recite what Sturt Griffith's said, verbatim. We do refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Ford Zephyr review below remains as told in 1957
The Zephyr is essentially a lively car. It represents the happy combination of a full six-seater body
of moderate overall size, with an engine of ample power to give it a first-class road performance. This car is not large enough to be clumsy. When driving it I never get that "large-car" feeling, yet the Zephyr has in fact ample seating for six adults. Its performance is particularly good, at least on our roads which generally do not permit cruising at really high speeds. Top gives a genuine speed exceeding 85 m.p.h.. coupled with* a climbing ability which vanquished every hill on the test route. Such versatility in top flows from ample torque (pulling power) and a well-chosen top gear. Most owners would sooner have a ratio which allows the car to climb the Scenic Hill in top. than one which enables the car to travel at 100 m.p.h.
Since last tested, the steering
mechanism has been changed to the recirculating ball type. This lightens the steering
operation, but 1 deplore as unnecessary the further gearing-down of the steering
mechanism. With 3.5 turns of the steering
wheel from lock-to-lock, the gear now tends towards slowness, particularly in view of the lively potentialities of the car. 1 will say, however, that most drivers will not be inconvenienced by this aspect, and only the very keen will regret it. In this advanced stage of car design. I will not accept vacuum screen-wipers which almost stop as one opens the throttle. Does the designer not drive his car in wet weather?
Second gear was never necessary on the test, and was used only to ascertain its potentialities. Obviously the Zephyr can be regarded as a top gear car, and it does particularly well in view of its moderate horse-power. The gears and speeds on the regular test hills were:
(average grade 1 in 11): Top gear at 50-54-53 mph.
(1 in 12. maximum 1 in 8): Top gear in a steady climb at 40-37-49 mph.
(1 in 10, maximum 1 in 8): A highly commendable climb of this difficult hill in top gear at 50-29-34-29-32 mph.
(1 in 12, maximum 1 in 9): Top gear at 50-44-44 mph.
KURRAJONG. WESTERN SIDE
: (1 in 12): Top gear at 50-56 mph.
The power-to-weight ratio of the Zephyr is high at 57.7 brake horsepower per ton, with a test load of 3cwt. Overall gearing is moderate, to confer good hill climbing and acceleration. It yields a road speed of 18.4 m.p.h. at 1000 rpm. The Zephyr has a high cruising speed for a car of this horsepower. On safe country highways the car settles down to a steady 70 mph, at which speed control is easy and the short-stroke engine is running well within its capabilities. The car maintains its flexibility in top gear down to a speed of about 30 mph. The average speed over the test route was 45.3 m.p.h. Weather varied from fine to heavy rain with some strong winds.
The Zephyr develops its maximum urge (a torque of 128 lb-ft) at a road speed of 37 mph in top gear. For prompt overtaking one may use top at speeds over 30 mph, but for best results second gear should be invoked below this speed. Times for acceleration were: Second gear: 20 to 40 mph in 5.0 sec.; 30 to 50 mph in 6.2 sec. Top gear: 20 to 40 mph in 7.4 sec.; 30 to 50 mph in 5.5 sec.; 40 to 60 mph in 9.8 sec.
Roadholding, Steering and Braking
The rear wheels carry only 44 percent of the deadweight of the car, and is a consequence they break away, rather readily on wet or loose surfaces, particularly when without a rear seat load. Under these awkward conditions, therefore, one should drive the Zephyr with discretion and normal care. On dry surfaces, however, the car shows good adhesion, and under no circumstances is any uncontrollable behaviour manifest. Riding is better than average. The Macpherson front suspension
is extremely good and it deals with even the worst potholes without bottoming or bounce. Owners who drive habitually on bad roads will enjoy this feature.
The recirculating ball steering
box gives light operation and is virtually free from reaction over bad roads. It is not perhaps as quick in action is it might be, but is otherwise pleasant to use. The turning circle of the car is satisfactory at 36ft and manoeuvrability is fair. The Girling brakes
gave a good performance and were quite up to the car's maximum requirements. Pedal pressures were light, but it is necessary to record that one of the front brakes
tended to grab badly after traversing some muddy road. The brakes
were quite free from fade on the 3i mile descent from Kurrajong Heights in neutral. At an average speed of 45.3 m.p.h. over the test route, the Zephyr yielded 24.0 miles per gallon. Taking the loaded weight of the car into consideration, this gives 33.3 ton-miles per gallon. The fuel-speed factor (ton-m.p.g. X average speed), is 1.510. These figures are only moderate. At the foregoing rate of consumption, the fuel tank gives a somewhat limited fast cruising range of 265 miles.
Behind the Wheel of the Mark 3 Zephyr
Arrangements are quite convenient for the driver and his seating is as comfortable as may be expected with a bench seat. This has a high squab for good shoulder support, and a retractable central arm rest, which is suitably located. The wheel is quite nicely placed and allows ample arm space combined with good inclination. It may perhaps be set a trifle low for drivers with very generous figures. The pedals are fitted with big pads, well spaced, and although they are of the pendant type, they are not unreasonably high.
Driver's vision is excellent, and includes the road close ahead. He can see the tips of all four guards, which » is of assistance when manoeuvring in confined spaces. The instruments are before the driver and include a hooded speedometer
, an ammeter and a fuel gauge. The warning lights are quite noticeable in daylight and are provided for ignition, oil pressure
, high-beam and turn-indicators. The minor controls are easy to locate and the dip-switch is under the repose position of the left foot. The column gearshift is very positive in action and the synchromesh is satisfactory.
Engineering and Body
The engine compartment is not unduly crowded, and access is good to all components requiring regular attention. The large heater (an optional extra) is comfortably accommodated on the bulkhead. Engine bore and stroke are 82.6 by 79.5mm, and with a low compression of 6.9-to-1 power output is only moderate. Incidentally, in England the same engine operates on a compression of 7.8-to-1 and produces 10 additional horse-power. The unitarily constructed car is mounted at the front on long coil springs about an elongated shock strut, combined with bottom-locating wishbones and anti-roll bar
. The rear suspension
is conventional and is damped by piston shock absorbers. The transmission
gives overall gear ratios of : Top 3.9, and second gear 6.4-to-l.
The Zephyr is rather wide in relation to its length, and this confers the benefit of ample seat widths without clumsy external dimensions. The bench seats are 54 and 55 inches wide respectively, and the seat-to-roof measurements (with uncompressed seats) are 35 and 34 inches. The front seat has a limited adjustment of five inches, and when set in the mid-position the knee-room in the back seat is none too generous at nine inches. The car interior is well ventilated by ample ducts to both sides of the front floor and by ventilating panels in the front windows.
When the fresh-air type of heater is fitted (as on the test car) either cold or warm air is available from it under normal draught or fan pressure. The, flow of air is good, but the heating ability was rather meagre, indicating the need of a warmer thermostat. The interior is trimmed in synthetic material, a rubber mat is fitted to the front floor, and a carpet to the rear. The boot is very large, having an approximate clear luggage capacity of 20 cubic feet. The spare is carried to one side, and the deck-type lid is counterbalanced.
The Zephyr is an attractive and agreeable car. Without involving large external dimensions it provides ample accommodation for six adults and a very substantial quantity of luggage. This car is powered by a willing engine which gives it a maximum speed more than sufficient for normal purposes and endows it with an outstanding top-gear performance. The riding comfort of the Zephyr is definitely above average and its handling of rough country roads is commendable. The new steering
tends to be a trifle slow, but it is always light, and the Zephyr is reasonably convenient to manoeuvre. The car tested was made available by the Ford Motor Co. of Aust. Pty. Ltd.