The 1951-1956 Ford Consul and Zephyr might have been made in Britain, but in their shape they were pure Dearborn. Not only that, but their engineering was inspired by a project that General Motors had killed off in 1947.

By any standards these were important new cars for Ford-UK, and for the British motor industry. In a country that had been torn apart by war, and whose economy had been ruined in the fight against Nazism, enormous debts to friendly nations had been incurred. The best way to pay off these debts, the government decided, was to design new cars and export them all over the world.

To be frank, at that time, Ford-UK's existing products were too old-fashioned to sell well abroad, so a new, modern range would have to be prepared. Therefore, Ford-UK developed two new cars from a rationalized design --calling the four-cylinder car a "Consul" and the six-cylinder version a "Zephyr" -- making them as modern and as technically advanced as it knew how.

Classic Cars Image Gallery

1952 Ford Consul
Production of the Ford Consul began in January
1951, and the 1952 Ford Consul seen here was
virtually unchanged from the first-year car. See more classic car pictures.

The new cars were completely new: a new style, new engines, new transmissions, new suspensions, and a new type of structure, which gave Ford-UK a flying start in the export business. Once the public got to know about them, they sold rapidly all around the world, and in a little more than five years a total of 406,792 of the cars were produced.

Such enterprise was long overdue. Ford Motor Company, Ltd. had been set up in 1911 to manufacture Model Ts from kits; it wasn't until 1932, when the tiny Dearborn-designed Model Y sedan was launched at a new factory at Dagenham, east of London, that Britons were offered a car developed especially for them.

Until the late 1940s, Ford-UK had to accept what Dearborn provided, for the early postwar cars were old-type hangover designs from 1939, both originally conceived in the USA. The latest tiny cars were the four-cylinder Anglia and Prefect, and the larger range was the V-8 Pilot. All had separate chassis frames, side-valve engines, and transverse-leaf spring suspension.

Like Ford-USA's 1949 models, of course, the Consul and Zephyr were the company's first new postwar designs. In a massive phaseout at Dagenham, Ford got rid of the old-style V-8s and offered these smart new models in their place.

The decision to give Ford-UK its head came in 1948, when a team of engineers visited Dearborn to discuss postwar expansion. It didn't take long for Henry Ford II, and his executive vice president, Ernie Breech, to decide on a course of action.

Ford-UK could go ahead with an all-new design, provided that its styling theme was the same as that which George Walker's team had just completed for the 1949 U.S. Ford, and that the ideas of an ex-GM engineer, Earle Steele MacPherson, were incorporated.

The British management team was delighted by this, for it ideally suited its existing skills. Although it had not previously tackled a major styling job, it was confident about building a new chassis.

The project went ahead rapidly; the first prototypes were built in 1949, the factory was reequipped that same year, and a pair of new cars -- Consul and Zephyr -- were unveiled in October 1950.

Get details on the development of these models in the next section.

For more information on cars, see: