On to Part Eight of the series that Beyonce Knowles “..won’t miss a single instalment of, ever.”
We continue globe-trotting and today it’s back to a miserable 1960s England. We’ve won the Soccer World Cup, (the only time, ever), and are huddled up indoors in our semi-detatched houses, coal fire burning, watching reports from ‘Nam unfold on our 405-line black and white television sets. Or so my Dad told me. Meanwhile, Rich Uncle Clive is looking at a new car. He’s head of his department now, which means no Cortina for him.
Oh no. He’s shopping for a Ford Zephyr.
The mid-to-late ’60s motor sea in the UK was a befuddled, confused market where forward-thinking was in short supply and conservatism was the order of the day. Sure; Rover had released its “By Golly, that’s clever” Rover P6 series, and there were various stirrings from overseas, but the Japanese hadn’t yet landed in a big way so The Domestics pretty much had things their own way. Ford had hit on an ultra-successful formula with their mid-size (er, for England) Cortina of ’62, but their bigger offerings weren’t getting anybody all that hot under the collar. So Dagenham cast its eyes across the Atlantic and looked to the ‘Murkans to lend a little Stateside Inspiration to their enormous (er, for England) new Big Car.
First thing they embraced in ’67 for marketing purposes, was good old ‘Sixties sexism.
“Choosing your new big car is a headache. Just as you think you’ve found something right, you find someting wrong. It’s not as comfortable as it should be. Or it’s not as safe as it should be. Or it’s not too easy for your wife to park.”
To be honest, I don’t see what business said ’60s Wife had driving Her Husbands Zephyr in the first place. Surely she should be scrubbing the front doorstep, or at least preparing dinner for Clive to return home to. But never mind, Ford were that convinced that Margot should have driving privileges that they mention it again in the next spread.
“A big car should be easy to handle, So that your wife can park it as easily as you can.”
Hold on there! Next thing they’ll be suggesting that Clive bake a cake!
The Zephyr came, in ’67, in two V-Format flavours. The lumpy, uncelebrated V4 two-litre model had a strange-looking grille-less front slightly reminiscent of the Corvair, while the two-point-five had a more conventional slatted grille (albeit a dummy one) and was mildly less hideous. In profile the new car was nothing like anything to appear on British roads before, all sharp lines, loooooong bonnet (with space enough for a spare wheel ahead of the engine) and snubby bootlid. That’s not to say it was universally liked by the public; it, er, wasn’t.
102,000 were built over its six year production run, comparing with well over a million Cortinas over four years. Admittedly the Cortina was smaller, cheaper, and more saleable. But there were issues with the Zephyr that were un-get-overable. It was a nose-heavy handler, it was weird-looking, and to obviate the need for power-assistance in the steering, the low geared helm required six-and-a-half turns from lock to lock. Margot’s Cake required less stirring.
Nevertheless, the Yankee spirit was strong with a Dashboard layout that any Detroit customer would have been immediately comfortable with, and a marked step forwards from previous domestic offerings. Of course, various facilities that those Midwesterners might have taken for granted were rather noted by their absence. Quoth the brochure:
“Of course we fit a lot of extras that don’t cost extra. Like an automatic choke. Four-Wheel independent suspension. Power disc brakes all round. “Aeroflow” ventilation. Adjustable rake steering column. Floor carpets. Two speed electric windscreen wipers and electric windscreen washers.”.
Of course, if I was desperate for one of these barges I’d be seeking out the upscale Zodiac; Zephyr’s better-bred more complete brother, with the larger 3.0 version of the Essex V6, four headlamps on its more attractive snout and a further dusting of luxury features. The Zodiac was the rather more celebrated of the two Z-Cars, and made rather more sense.
And if I never have either, then “At Least I Have The Brochure”.
<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, taken on my bathroom floor as the Audi has too much snow on it. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who have pulled out of the big car market in the UK altogether. At least they finished on a high with the beautiful Scorpio!>