When the 1951 Ford Consul and Zephyr were unveiled at the London Motor Show in October 1950, just a few weeks before production was due to begin, they caused a sensation at what was, in any case, a show full of innovation.
Other new cars had unit-body structures, others had new engines, but no others were so obviously the result of a complete rethinking of automotive layout.
Britain's The Motor magazine actually wrote that: "One of the rarest and most important of motoring events, the announcement of a new Ford range is an event which alone would ensure the success of the 1950 Motor Show."
The distinguished technical editor of that magazine, Laurence Pomeroy, Jr., was so impressed that he bought himself a Zephyr and spent the next several years progressively modifying it in search of a 100-mph top speed.
Then, as later, potential customers were not so much taken by the engineering of a new car as by what it looked like, so Ford salesman had plenty to talk about with the new models, especially as two similar-looking cars hid different engines in different wheelbases.
Working in a way which would become more familiar in other firms in future years, Ford chose the same basic unit body and exactly the same four-door cabin, but then used different wheelbases and different engines. The Consul rode on a 100-inch wheelbase, whereas the Zephyr, with its longer six, required a 104-inch wheelbase.
shared a three-speed transmission and
steering-column shaft control.
In technical terms, all the differences were ahead of the windshield and firewall, for the three-speed transmission and its steering-column shaft control were shared between the two types.
The lines of the new cars were simple and uncluttered, featuring what stylists call a "straight-through" fender-crown line. In the then-current American Ford idiom, they were notchback sedans with slab sides.
Apart from its longer nose, the Zephyr could be recognized by its use of a full-width grille with a horizontal motif and bumper overriders, while the Consul was shorter, had no overriders, and used a more compact grille with vertical chrome bars.
Compared with most North American cars, their instrument-panel styles were extremely simple. A flat pressed-steel panel housed a semicircular speedometer ahead of the driver's eyes, with a similar glovebox lid cutout on the other side (which made a changeover from right-hand to left-hand steering very simple to carry out).
Minor controls and space for a radio installation were grouped in the center; a heater was available as an optional extra, but in those days many buyers made do and wore overcoats instead. Other interior fittings included a bench seat and a large Bakelite-rimmed steering wheel. The emergency brake was applied using what the British called an "umbrella handle," which was tucked up under the instrument panel.
Continue to the next section for more information on the features of the 1951 Ford Consul and Ford Zephyr.
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