The cars : Ford Zephyr/Zodiac Mk4 development story

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Ford of Great Britain found itself in the enviable position of being able to do no wrong during the post-War years with its large cars. From the Pilot V8, to the Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac, big car buyers flocked to their local blue oval dealership.

But in 1966, it seemed that the company stalled with the Zephyr/Zodiac Mk4 – a car that missed its targets by some considerable distance. Or did it?


The big blunder

ford_zodiac_executive_saloon_1

In the years after world war two, Ford of Great Britain’s flagship cars have hardly been motors for what you might call shrinking violets. Since the Mk1 Zephyr and Zodiac of 1951, with their MacPherson Strut front suspensions and Aston Martin-style grilles, this particular breed has been favoured by the pushy middle manager in a hurry.

And ever keen to meet the wishes of its customers, Ford regularly updated the Z-cars, allowing them to grow easily with their buyers’ wealth. The fins got bigger; and styling more trans-Atlantic; and their power units ever more powerful.

The development of the Zephyr/Zodiac Mk4

But despite this upward curve, the arrival of the Zephyr and Zodiac Mk4 in 1966 was still an exercise in shock and awe. It also proved that Uncle Henry in the UK was more than capable of dropping the ball, and launching an executive car that would prove to be completely outclassed by the brilliant Rover and Triumph 2000s. But let’s face it, Ford wasn’t alone in that.

The 1966 Zephyr and Zodiac should have been good, though. They topped a range that offered something for everyone – Anglia, Cortina, Corsair pretty much covered all bases in the mass market. And although the mid-sized Corsair wasn’t exactly racing out of the showroom, it was selling well enough not to be too embarrassed by the raging success of the Anglia 105E and Cortina Mk1. In that climate of success, 1962’s Project Panda, which began to take shape as the next generation Zephyr and Zodiac, was bound to do well.

The all-new car (it shared very little with its predecessor) was designed around Ford’s new V-series four- and six-cylinder Essex engines, and was to be longer and wider than before. The styling would be bold, too – and like the Corsair, it would reflect American thinking, not just in terms of dimensions, but also detail.

A very successful stylist

Roy Haynes – who would go on to oversee the Cortina Mk2, and then the Morris Marina for British Leyland – was involved in the design process. But the generous proportions, Mustang-apeing looks, and exceedingly long bonnet were the brainchild of ex-Detroit man, chief engineer Harley Copp. According to Ford’s figures at the time, the drag co-efficient was 0.47, an industry average performance, but a 10 per cent improvement over the Mk3.

To ensure that the vast expanse of space under the bonnet was filled, Copp suggested the spare wheel was moved forward. His suggestion that it could be mounted between the engine and the radiator certainly improved boot space, but also helped give the car strange weight distribution. Even before the launch, there was disquiet within the Ford engineering team that the Zephyr 3008E had some ‘interesting’ handling traits.

The late fitment of anti-roll bars in the run up to the launch went some way to improving the ride/handling balance of Ford of Great Britain’s first car with independent semi-trailing arm rear suspension, but it would prove to be far from enough.

A troubled launch

The Zephyr (3008E) and Zodiac (3012E) Mk4 range was unveiled in the Spring of 1966. As before, the top Zodiac models were treated to six-cylinder power, while the junior (in price) Zephyr came with a choice of 1996cc V4 power, and a 2495cc V6. The 2994cc Essex engine fitted to the later Granada and Capri was used exclusively in the Zodiac and Executive in the UK, although certain export Zephyrs also received the larger power unit.

Standard equipment across the range included an adjustable steering column, that spare wheel in the engine compartment, a heater and Aeroflow ventilation. On the plusher Zodiac, you also got electric window washers, two-speed wipers, a cigar lighter, rev counter, clock, ammeter, and reversing lights as standard. It was generously equipped – just hat the market wanted.

Weeks after the initial unveiling, journalists were treated to an exotic launch in North Africa. Perhaps the location helped the motoring writers see past the dynamic uncertainties, because initial reports were far from unfavourable – with some surprise being expressed at the styling and proportions.

All was not well with Ford

It wasn’t until the first full UK road tests were published that it became clear that all was not well in the Ford camp. For a start, the new engines weren’t as smooth as those they replaced. Although the V6’s gravelly, slightly coarse note was acceptable in 2.5-litre form, that V4 used in the entry level Zephyrs, was really quite an unhappy beast.

Motor magazine in its 1966 road test of the 3.0-litre Zodiac pulled its punches a little saying, ‘since this is the first UK Ford to have all independent suspension, we approached it with particular interest. Let us say right away that in comparison with the previous Zodiac, the extra cost of this arrangement is justified. But by comparison with the best all-independent saloons from other manufacturers, we found it a little disappointing.’

It went on: ‘It is possible even on a dry corner to lift the inner wheel right off the ground… which brings the tail round rather sharply. Even on bends of the 80mph variety, we encountered this condition when a bump or wave in the road surface raised the tail and increased the camber angle of the rear wheels. On wet roads the throttle must be treated delicately to avoid wheelspin. Some of this may be blamed on the weight distribution, which puts only 41.5 per cent of the unladen load on the driven wheels, but most it we thought on a roll centre too high at the back, giving excessive weight transfer.’

It wasn’t all bad…

On the positive side, Motor praised the Zodiac’s performance (0-60mph in 11 seconds and a maximum speed of 105mph) and interior space. ‘The rear seat will easily take three people,’ it stated. ‘And the legroom is generous.’ As for performance. ‘acceleration is certainly a outstanding feature of this new Zodiac’.

Ford reacted swiftly to extensive press criticism about the ride and handling. In September 1967, it fitted radial-ply tyres on the V6 cars to improve grip, and this went some way to improving the more nose-heavy car. In addition, power steering found its way into the Zodiac and Executive models, while the unassisted cars had to make do with exceptionally labourious gearing. In the launch cars, that was set at 5.5 turns from lock-to-lock, but in order to improve steering weight (and no doubt discourage spirited driving), this was raised to an eye-opening 6.4 turns!

Further tweaks were carried out in October 1969, but sales were dropping – and rapidly. The end of the road for the British designed and built large Ford was nigh…

From Z-cars to Granada

ford_zodiac_abbott_estate_1

You couldn’t accuse Ford of not developing the Zephyr and Zodiac, then. And it was the same with the model range, as well as the engineering that underpinned them. Just months after the launch of the saloons, Ford unveiled the five-door estate version at the 1966 London Motor Show. As before, the shooting brake was actually converted by coachbuilders ED Abbott, and created by adding bespoke panels to partially finished cars supplied by Ford at its facility in Farnham.

At the top of the range, the Executive was added as a trim level above the Zodiac – as was the case with the Cortina (1600E) and Corsair (2000E). Like the standard Zodiac, the Executive featured stylish quad headlights, but in addition to this, it also boasted optional automatic transmission (or overdrive manual), power steering, sunroof, reclining front seats, walnut fascia, full instrumentation, carpeting throughout, reversing lights, fog lamps, and a boost in power to 136bhp – and all at a Jaguar XJ6-rivalling price of around £1600.

In conclusion

During its six-year production run, around 150,000 Zephyr and Zodiac Mk4s were built. The long-held view that the Z-cars were a commercial flop would seem to be untrue – after all, the Austin 3 Litre managed a mere 9992 cars during its four-year life, while the golden 2000s from Rover and took nigh-on 15 years to notch up their 300,000-plus sales.

However, they were an engineering failure, and their troubled life directly led to Ford continuing down the pan-European route for its executive cars, with a single car – the Granada – being created to replace the Z-cars and their German counterparts, the P7 series.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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97 Comments

  1. They’d have been better off having a smaller bonnet & leaving the spare in the boot.

    I’ve always thought these were dreadfully proportioned. Maybe the Mark 2 Cortina style doesn’t translate well in a car of this size too.

  2. Apart from the tower block styling, the cars where just too damn big for their market. Ford are making a similar mistake today with the Mondeo.

  3. I remember seeing an Executive Estate parked up in my home town back in the late sixties as a kid (it was parked outside the dentist!) and thinking WoW! what a great looking car – it was huge! Dad had a Mk1 Triumph 2000 at the time, which was pretty good compared to the mk 1 Cortina (that never started on a damp morning) it replaced. But the Zodiac Estate was a behemoth that caught my attention at 10!

  4. A bizarre bit of logic, design a car with a massive bonnet, then think of something to fill the space! Especially odd, when you consider that all the engines were in the V formation, i.e. more compact than a straight 6.

    Ford generally learn their lessons though, and a stinker is normally followed by a success.

  5. Very interesting how they would end up with Europe’s longest bonnet when designing a car around a new range of V engines… Surely a triumph of marketing and design over engineering! The proportions still look stupid today.

    The first Granadas got not too positive reviews here in Germany due to their ride and handling: It was generally felt that the outgoing P7 was better sorted overall and the adoption of the costly independent rear suspension was no success – some even stating that Ford (Germany) should have kept the well understood live axles instead of adopting the rear suspension from the UK design team.

    Ford reacted and here in Germany criticism changed to praise for ride comfort (with acceptable handling) with the first facelift. By then the very swelte design was a major criticism….

    • These were sold – I think – in Switzerland and Netherlands, possibly other markets. But it obviously sold in very small numbers if at all. Cars from the UK needed to be very competitive to offset the high prices. This worked in the case of the ADO16 and Jaguar, but in most cases it did not. Looking at your text, the Executive was priced a step above the Austin 3litre – well into Jaguar money. So try to sell this against similar priced Mercedes 230 on a continental market…

      Ford did take less time to join all their European forces compared to GM. Imagine Ford developing completly different cars in the UK and in Germany today…

  6. I remember reading that the reason for the enormous engine bay and the suspension design was to accomodate possible V8 and Ferguson 4wd versions that never materialised.
    Like many large british saloons time has been particularly cruel to the styling of the MkIV-it’s look being well out of dete even before production stopped.

  7. A shame that awkward looks were what killed off the Granada-Scorpio line.

    The Mondeo has grown to fill that gap, though probably a little large for what is effectively the Cortina lineage.

    The Osborne effect with the ‘new’ Mondeo seemingly perpetually postponed doesn’t help sales of the current model either.

  8. There were some prototype Ferguson FF 4WD models made, also fitted with an early form of ABS, I think they were trialled by the police, nothing much came of them though.

    The Granada and Consul must have seemed light years ahead when they replaced these cars, a bit like when the Focus took over the mantle from the Escort.

  9. I remember these in the early ’80s when they were banger money and were still reasonably common. On my walk to school there was a Zephyr owned by a Ford nut, he also had a mint Granada Coupe which looked the business and I remember being shocked that both were old Fords as they were both made when Ford UK took the strange view that their iconic logo was not a good selling and almost hid it away.

  10. As it says in the feature, ‘The all-new car (it shared very little with its predecessor) was designed around Ford’s new V-series four- and six-cylinder Essex engines, and was to be longer and wider than before. The styling would be bold, too – and like the Corsair, it would reflect American thinking, not just in terms of dimensions, but also detail.’

  11. Regarding the strange proportions, when I was a kid (and the car came out) I remember the Mk 4 Zephyr being give the nick-name of “AIRCRAFT CARRIER!”

  12. It’s bizarre how separate Ford UK and Ford Germany were, to the extent that even the Granada initially used different engines in British and German versions. It seems bizarre that Ford UK and Germany would in the 60s each develop their own completely different V4 and V6 engines!

  13. As a kid, I liked these, but not as much as the Mk3 (although the P6, then the SD1 were my boyhood big car favourites). But then I read more about them & went cold. I have an Autocar (i think) road test from the period & was amazed at the myriad problems encountered. Things like the exposed fuse box letting in water & halting proceedings.

    Not really an XJ6 competitor, even in E form!

  14. @Marinast

    Although the Zephyr was before my time, I still recall mk2 Escorts, some of which used the word ‘FORD’ on the grile, and others used the Ford logo.

    Always preferred the latter, as if it gave some lineage to the contemporary Ford lineup and the wording looked old fashioned.

    Seems strange to our eyes why Ford had seperate operations in GB and Germany, but then in those days the focus was on domestic operations. Vauxhall and Opel were also independent.
    I suppose in the future we will look back at the current situation, and wonder why it took so long for Ford/GM to merge their EU and US operations…

  15. Firstly, can I say thanks for another great article and images. As an 11 year old, I remember looking through the windows of our local Ford dealer on launch day at Zephyrs & a Zodiac and the visitors peering at that spare wheel under the bonnet! I did actually like these cars probably because of their size and imposing appearence, though I do remember adverse reports on the 2 litre V4.

    I still have a launch brochure for the Zodiac with that slogan “Mark of Distinction” (Ford commissioned a silver ornament to coincide with the launch.)

  16. Having once had a MkIII Zodiac (a £125 banger) I thought that was rather like driving behind an aircraft carrier, with its big flat bonnet top. But the MkIV, which I experienced once as a taxi, was simply weird – like having a football field in front of you, and it really seemed to fill the whole road. The funniest view of all was under the Zephyr V4 bonnet – there was standing room in front of the engine, which cowered virtually under the bulkhead.
    Had plunge-type CV joints been readily (and cheaply) available when Ford were engineering the MkIV, it might have emerged with sanitary handling, but Ford’s ‘ingenious’ solution to accommodating track variation on the semi-trailing arms was to fit a little toggle-link to the inner pivot of each arm. This caused all sorts of nasty geometry effects as alluded to in the road tests.

  17. I remember one of these being smashed up in the Richard Burton gangster film, Villain. Being true to form in the early 70s, their choice of getaway car was a Jaguar S Type, a much better handling and faster car. However, this isn’t to knock the big Ford as its American styling made it stand out, the V6 could motor, and the Executive versions looked the part, it’s just it was a bit too big and brash for British tastes and the V4 versions were a joke.

  18. It’s a pity that Ford didn’t import a few of their 289ci V8s from Canada to make this into a Jag slayer.

  19. I was guessing it was an almost all-new design.

    A few years ago I went with a friend to a car show, we had a look at one of these & my friend remarked that the dash had so many dials & switches it looked like the instrument panel of an aeroplane.

    IIRC the Essex blocks were designed with a diesel version in mind, but were never developed.

    I’ve seen Mk4s used as minicabs in 1 or 2 1970s programmes, so a diesel version would have been useful.

  20. Not the greatest looking motor – although the pic of the early white Zephyr saloon has shades of the later Marina about it…..I always liked the full-width ‘trailblazer’ (right Keith?) rear lights on the Zodiac though – one of my nan’s neighbours owned a white one. Not the greatest of cars, but then again, neither was the Vauxhall Cresta/Viscount equivalent……I think I would have gone for a Triumph 2000 myself….

  21. I wonder if Ford had been rattled by the arrival of the even more American styled and size wise Vauxhall Cresta PC and wanted to join the club. Actually the Cresta PC, a real leviathan with only one engine option, a 3.3 litre American based engine, and a luxury version with such rare fittings as electric windows in 1966 is equally worthy of an article as so few exist now. Yes I know the establishment types continued to buy their Rover P5s and Jaguars as these were considered a class above the Ford and General Motors alternatives, but apparently sales were reasonable for both the Cresta and the Zephyr/Zodiac.

  22. Here in Aus, a mate had one- a Zodiac if memory serves. The]
    4 headlight front end looked vastly better than the 2 light version.

    Plenty of room in the back seat at the drive in theatres on some double dates too………..

    He spent a fortune getting the V6 rebuilt. It stranded us on the coast once when the radiator drain plug fell out.
    Then the engine caught fire. From memory the fuel pipe came
    out of the carby- Cortinas had the same problem here, too.

    As for putting the 289 in- sheesh the the weight was already 60% on the front wheels. Lets make it 65%. And the extra power on top of the extra weight. Scarey stuff.

  23. Looking at the proportions, it is reminiscent of many modern front engined supercars, which have a long bonnet with the engine place a long way behind the axle to get perfect weight distribution. Except that the engine was in the wrong place!

  24. I always thought these worked worked best as a Limousine http://www.flickr.com/photos/8165854@N08/4902562692/ where the stretched passenger compartment balanced the otherwise excessive nose. I cut and shut a pair of Matchbox models into one of these some years back!
    The contemporary PC Cresta has somewhat similar styling in terms of waist line and panel creases but is more conventionally proportioned, giving it a much better weight distribution – not that it sold in great numbers either.

  25. My old man’s mate had a Zodiac and they got a whole football team in one – 11 people, it was a private road but the car was that big it was easy.

  26. A very good mate (later a partner in our garage business) and I used to cruse around Swindon in the early 70’s in our big saloons – his being a Mk 3 Zody and mine being a PC Cresta. We were really cool, blasting out Elton John stuff all the time and relishing the fact that it was the fuel crisis – and no one else was driving big stuff about. (We weren’t wealthy – we just had a wired set of priorities!
    The relevance to this article though is that even then – just a few years of the Mk 4’s introduction it was a joke! Compared with the absolutely right proportions of the Mk 3 and the Cresta – it really was an ugly duckling – we wouldn’t have been seen dead in one. We did have a ‘contact’ with one – but he was a crook!

  27. We didn’t get these in Australia, as we had a variant of the American Falcon instead. But I remember when the Matchbox version came out, thinking “They must’ve got the body wrong – the front’s too long and the back’s too short”. Many toys were a bit off in those days. Imagine my surprise when I found out it really DID look like that!
    If a ten year old kid can see the styling’s wrong, what does that say for the designers?
    And I agree, too many modern cars are getting needlessly big.

  28. “And I agree, too many modern cars are getting needlessly big.”
    The current Mondeo is a few inches longer than the Zephyr 4!

  29. Current Mondeo

    Length 4,844 mm (190.7 in) (saloon)
    4,778 mm (188.1 in) (hatchback)
    4,830 mm (190.2 in) (estate)

    Zodiac mk4

    Length 185 in (4,699 mm)

    Ford Scorpio

    Length 4,825 mm (190.0 in)
    4,826 mm (190.0 in) (estate)

  30. @ Will M – yes I agree, every car these days seems to get bigger with every generation. The Fiesta being another example. My earlier MG ZS / R45 were about the same dimensions as my Dad’s 1960’s VX4/90, even though that was considered a mid size car in its day and I thought the ZS as a smaller Hatch.

    My favourite photos above are of Zodiac OWC426D and Zephyr OWC429D. Hard to believe it’s 47 years since their debut.

  31. There is a great youtube video on these called Marque of Distinction – well worth a look at advertising 1966 style! I remember these cars as a kid and a friends father had a V4 Zephyr G registration white with red vynal seats – a front bench seat no less and column charge. I loved the Zodiac Estate Executive in Silver mink with black vynal roof – my dream car in 1969. I apprecite now that the engineering was flawed and they were too big for the British market – especially one in mild recession in the late 60’s when Chancellor Roy Jenkins tried to balance the books – he succeeded though. Sounds familiar except we are much worse off now!! Bring back Ford Great Britain and make cars again.

  32. @39 Hear-Hear.. it would be good if Ford opened up a UK Assembly plant again. Can’t see it happening though. In the late 60’s my Brother was on a train heading to Tilbury to join his ship and he told me he passed Dagenham and saw rows and rows of new Zephyr’s & Zodiac’s lined up ready for delivery. Perhaps they were the good old days!

  33. As a child and lover of cars, these things freaked me out. I couldn’t even look at them. They were kind of creepy. Then there was that one in Auf Wiedersehen Pet …

  34. Freaky looking thing thes Z-cars. However, has anyone else noticed the slight similarity around the C-pillar and boot area to the Marina?

    Also, the statements regarding growth of cars is valid. Why do they keep getting bigger? The roads aren’t getting bigger, garages aren’t getting bigger and neither are parking spaces. The Mk VII Golf is even wider than my already ridiculously wide Mk VI. Where will it end?

  35. I know there were some of these Z’s built with Fergerson Formula 4 wheel drive for her Maj’s Plod, mated to the 3.0 lump. One has been restored and was in Classic Ford years back.

  36. I wish someone had tried to save the clapped out Zephyr Six from Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Yes the car blew its engine on the autobahn, but the old tank managed to get nearly all the way from Newcastle to Dusseldorf, even if they had to push it out of the service station in Holland. I’m sure had the producer realised the series was to become a classic, this brown and blue and rust coloured Ford could have become as big an icon as Del Boy’s three wheeler.

  37. I have very happy memories of my Dad’s V6 saloon, reg CVB 197D, so one of the early ones, from 1966 to 1970. Plenty of space for parents and 4 children. Column change automatic, bench seats front and rear.
    Traction was chronic in the snow, until Dad put something heavy (I forget what)in the boot.
    In the seventies, I remember a very elegant Zodiac based pick up, in the style of an Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero.
    More recently I saw on the web that someone had put a Ford small-block V8 in a Zodiac, which would have made a cracking car, in the manner of the still-born Vauxhall Ventora V8.

  38. Yep remember them. My dad had a Zephyr V4 – RBR 415J in a metallic blue colour. I remember driving it once as a learner, but I found my Mam’s Mini 1000 a bit easier. It was an absolute hulk and he paid about £1200 for it new, but was then promoted at work and was eligble for a company car, so at about 1 year old, it was sold for £600 as the best offer he could find. The replacement was a Ford Consul 2.5L – the head gaskets blew on that quite quickly, not sure what the cause was. Oh yes – me driving it with about seven passengers around some small roads in Scotland – Happy days, but I’ve never owned a Ford. Last Fordish thing I drove was a factorybuilt TVR 3000M in a hill climb at Fintray, I shared it with its owner, but never got my last run at the hill, because the head gaskets blew. The common factor was either Essex V6 or me, I’m not quite sure which – are you?
    My brother had a V4 transit – the head gaskets blew! I think it must be Essex, ‘cos I never drove that one. And people complain about the K-series HGF.

  39. My Dad had a Zodiac MK4 in 1972, and here in Portugal there were very few indeed, today I don’t think that there are any left at all. In the export markets like ours, a car like the Zodiac was suffering from a shortage of spares as well, perhaps it is why there are none now as classic Fords.

  40. Known affectionatly in the trade in the late 70s as “Sheds” not to be confused with the derogetry meaning now used for a worn out p/x bit of rubbish.

  41. My Mum’s cousin worked for a Ford dealer in Liverpool in the late 60’s and one day had to take a MK4 for a test drive. The handling was so bad, that a slight bend in the road caused the car to lose grip, sending it spinning round about 3 times! A bloke waiting at a bus stop could not believe his eyes – he & my Mum’s cousin just looked at each other in disbelief!

    One of the other mechanics fitted new front brakes to the same car and forgot to pump the pedal and ended up crashing into a wall!

  42. In the gallery of photos, is that Stratford Johns, who played (I think) DCI Barlow in Softly Softly (later to become Softly Softly – Task Force) chatting on the phone? God forbid if PC Plod did try to catch someone in his V6 powered Zephyr – wayward handling, and no power steering.
    At least the later Consul GT went round corners, even if in police spec it didn’t have pas either.

  43. 22 MK IV’s were made for British Police forces, also fitted with a anti-lock braking system. They were a brilliant success, there views were exceptionally good, and the Police loved them. Unfortunately for Fords the cost of the Ferguson conversion almost doubled the cost of the car, and at the same time the Range Rover came out with standard 4WD at a far lower price, and nearly every Police Force in Britain went for this cheaper version.There are still several of these unique cars in existence

  44. A friend bought a V4 Zephyr as a banger runabout in the late seventies I noticed straight away when I drove it that it was almost impossible to see where the end of the bonnet was . It felt like a cumbersome oversized battleship looking for a berth to dock . And that engine !

  45. I had two of these, a V4 Zephyr with that horrible column change and an insatiable appetite for head gaskets, which i eventually cured by putting a 3ft scaffold pole over the torque wrench and pulling as hard as i could, head asket never went again, but that car was a heap end of.

    Then i was offered a one owner low mileage roughly 5 year old Executive for the princely sum of £80.
    Which then served me very well for a couple of years till sold for £100..one the of very few cars i ever made money on.

    The 3 litre auto Exec was a really lovely car to own, (previously owned a mk 3 Exec), and rode smoothly with quite a turn of speed for a car made in 1967, those huge reclining front seats were great for a young fellow courting..;) too.

    I read of handling issues but i never found the car bad on good radials, indeed banger racing was my thing then towing at 70mph without a sign of swaying and we’d never even heard of stabilisers then, yes i was a bit of a mad sod back then, saint now of course.

    Had dozens of breakdowns with the Zephyr but all self fixed at the roadside even CHG failure, yes i actually carried a gasket set plus odds and sods and a full tool kit with that car, but only one breakdown with the Exec, the rad drain plug dropped off where the fitting was soldered to the rad.

    Anyway i took the rad off at the roadside, i’d managed to limp it to an early 70’s car accessory shop so had access to some bits, and then removed rad and discovered its fitting and pipework were mirrored upside down, obviously a remote header tank used.
    So bought a small pack of P40 Isopon, the chopped glass fibre resin stuff not filler, plugged the drain plug hole with this mix, refitted it upside down refilled with water and carried on a couple of hours later.

    Try fixing anything like that at the roadside now, though i always reckoned Fords were the easiest cars to work on right up to and including Sierra, just as well really cos you were always seemed to be fixing ’em.

    The car did have a weak point which featured regularly on the Zephyr but strangely not a bit of trouble on the Exec which to be fair had seen better previous care, and that was the swinging caliper self adjsuting rear disc brakes, a horrible design subject to severe salt dosing being beside the wheel…mostly trouble free i found when fitted inboard to P6 Rovers.

    Luckily you could buy all parts for those calipers and i rebuilt both on the Zephyr, but boy could they corrode once the poor outer seal perished.

    Thanks for letting me waffle about another couple of cars in my motoring history.

    Judd

  46. By the way, i think i banger raced the Zephyr in the end, and it didn’t last long doing that either.

    The Exec was replaced by a FD Ventora, manual with overdrive which remains to this day one of my favourite ever cars.

    Judd

  47. I don’t Oz made the final payment on his, as his long suffering wife told him about a man coming to the door asking for the rest of the money.

  48. Wonder how many accidents these things caused due to their excessively long bonnets? Around my city of Gloucester they would have been lethal- as a lot of minor roads have very poor visibility at junctions due to buildings, walls, or hedges affecting sight lines- which is even a problem when driving a short bonneted Iveco Daily van- you still have to lean forward and ‘creep’ a little to get a good look to see yourself out.

  49. Whenever Ford of Briatain or Europe allow the Yank parent to meddle it always goes horribly wrong. The Mk4 Zephyr, the Sierra (Brain child of Bob Lutz who went against all advice from product planners), the penny pinched 1990 Escort, the lack of investment in Diesel Engines in the late 90s (Because America doesnt like them) – all lead to a collapse in sales in the civilised World. The penny does seem to have dropped finally. The cars now associated with Fords Global “One Ford” policy – The Fiesta, Focus and Fusion/Mondeo are all European lead projects.

  50. I once had a V6 Zephyr deluxe, LOP 413F, an absolute gem of a car when running ok but an absolute piece of s*** when it wasn’t! That bloody bonnet! Hump back bridges with a bend after them! Such fun, Where’s the road gone?
    Was working on the M11 construction in ’79 when I bought it, replaced the 2.5 with a 3 litre Zodiac engine and was travelling from Cambridge to Port Talbot & back every 6 weeks, fuel consumption wasnt that bad on a run but it was guaranteed a breakdown every journey! And as for those rear brake calipers……………Aaaaaaaaarrrgh!!!!!!

  51. In 1971 bought a V6 deluxe ex police car from an auction in Chesterfield,Derbyshire.
    Had a 2995cc engine fitted as standard and was floor change.
    Also had a very large central speedo to check any naughty lads!

  52. i own a good one of these a great useable old car in new zealand in the 1980s a lot of these got american v8 engines they gave great service the v8 verisons were higley thought off still a lot of mk 1 2 3 and4 zephyrs on the road in new zealand cheers

  53. 1 own a very tidy mk 4 zephyr great useable old car today lot of mk 4s in the 1980s in new zealand got american v8 engines very popular conversion they went very well still a lot of mk 1 2 3 and 4 zephyrs on the road in nz cheers

  54. No . A V6 which is 60 degree configuration cannot easily be adapted to a V8 which require 90 degree configuration to work well

  55. As a matter of interest, for reasons of commonality Jaguar tried a 60 degree V8 based on 2/3 of the V12 when it was being developed, and spent a great deal of money and effort on it. However, the problem was that it sounded like two 4 cylinder engines coupled together, and had a number of vibration periods which could not have been eliminated without complex balancer shaft arrangements, so eventually it was abandoned

  56. Ford and Vauxhall were very keen on Americanised styling in the sixties, Vauxhall in particular. Whatever its faults, I still think the Vauxhall Victor FD is one of the best looking cars ever and looks like a Pontiac.

  57. love zephyrs Zodiacs had 2 mk2s did all the work on the cars myself, cops over here NZ bought the last of the Mk 4 zephyrs
    from local assembly plant total failure mainly overheating.
    They then switched to aussie GM holden V8s and some Ford Falcons.
    some mates of mine dropped v8s into the Mk 4 very popular car for the hotrodders.I like to buy Mk 4 Zodiac even with design faults.

  58. As a kid growing up in NZ the MK4 was a car with huge potential for cheap performace not to mention all that roomy interior.You could squeeze eight in and a couple of crates..no gentelmen not talking about sheep here .The over heating problem was quickly solved by larger radiators or adding additional cooling holes in the grill.The rear end got jagged or leaf sprang 9 inch ford or you got good at fixing universals and calipers.The most common practice was to rip that little 2.5 or 3.0 litre out and fill that engine bay with V8 a motor of your choice.I have seen bb sb chevs fords mopars rover Leyland v8s..straight 6 cylinder fords holdens and Chryslers not to mention even a jag v12 installed in that generous sized engine bay.The v8 conversion was just a common weekend back yard procedure back in the day.With the diff gearing and light weight rear made great entertainment for tyre fryers.not to mention the easy 125 mph from a little 4 barrel carbed 289 and 4 speed conversion.Maybe it didn’t handle that great but it really didn’t handle that bad either.Mind you all our roads in NZ where pretty crap so didn’t matter what car you had always seem to end up side ways some where.So many a nice MK4 Z car has met its death at the hands of young kiwi.My self sending 3 to the MK4 scrap yard in the sky.The MK4s are getting pretty collectable over here since we destroyed so many in days gone by and are now starting to demand some good coin.Thats if you can find a decent one.So you English men better hold on to your MK4S the kiwis will be coming to get them…I know I am coming for one..lol..

  59. I do remember a few ending up as taxis due to the huge interior space and there was a Coleman Milne wedding/funeral car conversion, one of which I spotted in Sheffield a few times in 1987.

  60. I drive a perfect example Zephyr V6 Delux every day its a car that was well in front of its time and if kept maintain correctly would do every thing it should, my car is 46 year old and I still believe it drives as good as any of my Jags but with out the fuel thirst.

  61. A good car in 3 litre form, but its rivals from Rover and Triumph did the job better. The basic Zephyrs were no match for the Rover and Triumph 2000s.

  62. Of course, the other problem with these is that they were very bad rotters. The entire underside was extremely rust prone, couple this with the low 20s fuel consumption at best, it meant that especially post-73 oil crisis second hand zodiacs were worthless.
    It was also Ford’s “bad” period for paint. They were starting to use metallic shades and they had real problems with it on the high end executive models that used it, the paint would just lift off in sheets.

  63. I remember my Uncle had a 1972 Zodiac 3.0 V6, metallic silver, manual with black leather and an 8 track stereo system, and I loved this car. Yes it was odd, but by the time when Ford was killing it off, they had pretty much ironed out most of the problems. It was the most comfortable car I have ever sat and travelled in, and in its day it was no slouch either, and it was whisper quiet. It wasn’t designed as a hot rod racer, more a long distance tourer, in which it excelled. Unfortunately this particular car eat its clutch every three months, which was a common problem with the manual cars, and after two years of Ford replacing the clutch every three months, they literally offered him a swap into the new Ford Granada GXL 3.0, with only a couple of hundred pounds to change hands.The replacement Granada was a superb car, but it never had the ambiance of the Zodiac.
    I am surprised to read about the top speed, because I remember travelling up the M6 in this car heading for Scotland, and the car was cruising at 110mph without effort. It also didn’t help this car when it gained the nickname of the “Dagenham Dustbin”, not a very good marketing strategy, especially since the name was christened by the workers who built it. Someone said it got this name because they used many other parts from other current Fords on this car, but I am not sure if this was the truth or not.

  64. I have know these cars since my father bought his Zephyr V6 Special in March 1972.It came in any colour you like as long as its Uranium Blue with a white cloth roof! This car was fast and spacious. The vast amount of torque made it easy to drive in traffic and was very good at tackling hills. On the motorway, it was happy to cruise at near the 100 mph mark, illegal, but more acceptable on the oped M5 and M4 in those days. It may not have been quite so long and wide as a new Mondeo, but there wasn’t much in it. It was certainly bigger on the inside. The Mondeo is quite a cramped car. As for fuel consumption, it averaged 28 mpg, not a lot more fuel than his 2ltr 16v Mondeo which only does about 32mpg.

    I have had a 1970 Executive with an automatic gearbox since 1996. In standard form, this car is still quick on the road today. Being a 1970 model, it has the revised suspension and radial tyres and is happy keeping up with modern traffic. The suspension is soft so not ideal for racing but then it wasn’t designed as a racing car. It is very smooth over our rubbish, pot hole roads, who wants low profile tyres today???

    With the bigger engine and automatic gearbox, it returned a fuel consumption of 24.5 mpg in standard form. It has now been upgraded with an automatic Overdrive unit which reduces the engine speed to less than 2000 rpm at 70mph and an Accuspark electronic ignition.

    Fuel consumtion is down to 38mpg over the last 7500 miles. It is an odd feeling being to accelerate from 25mph to 100mph in top gear. Not sure what the top speed is but it was still going strongly at 100!!!

    I have never driven a Zephyr V4 so cant comment but my 1662 V4 Corsair is smooth and powerful and has now completed 225,000 miles, 198,000 on the origin engine before being rebuilt. The V4 engine is smoother than the Pinto engine. After nearly half a million miles in 5 cars with Essex V engines, I have never had a problem with head gaskets!!! and found them generally reliable with good torque characteristics. They are heavy engines and not ideal for hard acceleration but aren’t phased with steep hills. They are ideal for road cars with long lives.

    Sorry to carry on so much, but thought you might like to hear from a happy owner. I find it quite odd when people compare these cars with Jags and Rover P6’s and Triumph 2000, These cars were aimed at a different buyer. The Rover and Trimph were upmarket Corsairs, not Zephyrs. The Jag was a sports saloon, not a Zodiac or Executive

  65. Hi There Zephyr and Zodiac owners, I have a question that is very important to me and a friend of mine here in Australia.. Can any one help please? There are two 1966 MK 4 Executives here in Australia with 2 head lights, yet most of the specifications I have found so far on these cars claim that they came out with 4 head lights.. The 2 head light Executives don’t get a mention.. Did the 1966 MK 4 Executive come out with two head light as apposed to the 4 headlights on the MK 4 Zodiac.. Thankyou Eric

    • As far as I know, all Executives had 4 head lights. The 2 head light versions where Zephyrs. The Executive was an upmarket Zodiac, which also had 4 head lights, and were badged as Executives, not Zephyrs or Zodiacs. The Zephyr came in 2 versions, the standard and the delux, both were fitted with either a 2 liter V4 or a 2.5 liter V6 engine. Some Zephyrs were fitted with the Zodiac 3 liter engine for export and police work. There was a 2.5 liter Zephyr V6 Special, which had many Executive options as standard. There were only 1000 of these Zephyrs made in 1971/2, all painted Uranium Blue with a white vinyl roof and didn’t carry Executive badges, but I understand all of these where sold in the UK only. Hope that helps

      Brian

  66. I learned to drive in my dad’s 2.5l V6 Zephyr – with 6.4 turns lock to lock it certainly made sure I learned how to turn a steering wheel. At 22mpg I also learned to fill a fuel tank. It took our family of 7 (3 in the front, 4 in the back) and towed a caravan (once longer rear springs had been fitted). However after about 65,000 miles it started blowing gaskets and the word was that the land between the cylinder bores was too small, so once that engine blew one gasket it would never stop blowing them. Dad had to get rid of it at 70,000 miles.

  67. Regarding the mk1-mk3 Ford Zephyr and mk1-mk2 Ford Consul models, interested to know whether the Consul/Zephyr 4-cylinder and Zephyr 6-cylinder engines were capable of being further bored out to a 2-litre inline-4 and 3-litre inline-6 respectively prior to being replaced by the V4 / V6 Essex engines?

    Know that the Zephyr 4/6-cylinder engines were actually quite tunable when used to power cars such as the Reliant Sabre / Scimitar GT and AC Ace / Greyhound.

    While understanding the upsides in terms of costs for developing the V4 / V6 Essex engines, it seems strange Ford UK chose the V4 Essex over a larger pre-Pinto Kent-derived inline-4 engine of around 1.7-2.0-litre to slot above the existing 1.0-1.6-litre Kent engine.

  68. Never knew what to make of these, the basic Zephyrs were horrible and started a trend at Ford of putting very small engines into big cars, but the Zodiac had a certain presence on the road, a bit like the Mark 2 Granada would have, with its four headlights like a Lincoln Continental and huge bonnet. Now just imagine if Ford managed to get a V8 version on the road with beefed up suspension and fitments like electric windows, a stereo and air conditioning. Could have been a very interesting car.

    • You are right that it would have been “interesting” ( in my flying days we used this word about an aeroplane that had just tried to kill you)! It would have been absolutely lethal . The 3 litre was bad enough with appalling controllability because the rear suspension was very badly designed and resulted in just about every handling vice known to man – it made the Herald/Spitfire/Vitesse setup and its maladies look positively benign

  69. My dad had a Mk4 Zodiac, it replaced a PA Cresta, he originally was going to buy the Executive I remember going with him for a test drive, it was automatic we got about a mile up the road when the salesman demonstrated kick down floored the throttle it took off like a scalded cat, the sale fell through and he got a manual Zodiac which was later replaced by a 3.4 Mk2 Jaguar.
    Happy days

  70. Oz’s Zephyr is being discussed on an Auf Wiedersehen Pet page on Facebook. For all these cars were quite rare by the early eighties, the old tank managed to get them into Germany from Newcastle and probably cost him peanuts to buy. Wonder what the German police would have thought about seeing a car like this abandoned on the autobahn as I don’t think Zephyrs were exported there and they might have kept it for a laugh.

  71. Oz’s Zephyr was quite a shed, even without the engine seizing, none of the doors locked IIRC.

    I’m surprised it managed to get a green card in it’s state.

    • How times change, these days you could buy a 13 year old car, that so long as it’s been serviced, would still perform reliably and would do a 1000 mile journey without complaint. In 1982, when the series was set, a 13 year old Ford would definitely be on its last legs and wouldn’t take kindly to a run to Dusseldorf.

  72. I was watching an episode of Open All Hours a few days ago where Arkwright & Nurse Gladys go to a wedding.

    The wedding car was a stretched Mk4 Zehpyr, in metallic blue.

    I think in another episode one is used as a taxi.

  73. Strange cars, but the 3000 V6 must have been its best point as this lasted until 1981 in the Capri, and in Mark 1 Granada form with an automatic gearbox was a very refined and powerful car for the time. Also speaking of wedding cars, a Zodiac makes an appearance in the final Polly James Liver Birds episode, where local scallies let down the tyres and she has to go to the wedding on a bus.

  74. Hi,
    My brother had a mk4 with a 302 in it, it wasn’t the quickest but did it have presence on the road!
    Good for monstering little old ladies in their anglias!

  75. The Mark 4 Zephyr was at least followed by the far more competent and European looking Consul Granada, that sold in far bigger numbers. However, the Mark 2 Granada seemed, like the Zephyr/ Zodiac Mark 4, to go for a more Americanised look and was a bigger car. Buyers didn’t mind, though, as this was the biggest selling version of the Granada and in 2.8 V6 form was a very desirable and powerful car. Also the Zephyr/ Zodiac started a trend at Ford that lasted 20 years, where smaller engined and stripped out cars started their range of larger cars( 1.3 Cortinas and Capris and 2.0 Granadas) and buyers whose budgets couldn’t run to the far more desirable bigger engined cars could at least say they had a new Capri.

  76. My father was a Morris Minor van pilot at work and he didn’t own a car. He would hire a car for our holiday each year. The cheapest garage that did car hire worked on a ‘Hobsons choice’ system. You got the first car available for the dates you requested. This meant that one year we were given a MK4 Zephyr4.
    Fantastic thought the three small boys in the back, much more room than the Mk1 Cortina we had last year.
    Buggeration thought my father, as every time he set off, the column gearchange went smoothly from 1st to 4th! He probably cursed the fuel consumption and steering wheel twirling to park the beast.
    We came down to earth the following year with a fair old bump, Hobson chose an Anglia!

  77. At least Vauxhall had an engine that was big enough to cope with the Cresta’s size, a 3.3 litre six, but Ford fitted a puny two litre into the similarly sized Zephyr. This meant basic Zephyrs had terrible performance and handling, and the two litre was no more economical than the 2.5 litre six. The main saving grace of the range was the 3000 V6 fitted to Zodiacs, which gave the car decent, refined performance.

  78. loved these cars, both Zephyr and Zodiac, still think they look great compared to other 60s competitors.
    Remember coming home from a Scouts camp in my friends fathers Zephyr Mk4 with bench seat and column change, we were looking down the long bonnet at the bonnet badge which looked like a gun sight, pretending we were fighter pilots, lol
    Happy days indeed…

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