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1951-1956 Ford Consul and Zephyr

1953 Ford Consul and Zephyr

By 1953, the Ford Consul and Zephyr models needed little advertising to keep the orders rolling in -- but outright victory in that year's Monte Carlo Rally by Maurice Gatsonides' "works" Zephyr added a great deal of spice to the reputation.

This, at least, did much to counter the Zephyr's growing reputation for being difficult to handle on wet roads. Writing in Autosport magazine, ex-racing driver John Bolster commented that "the resulting tail slides are always easily controllable," which may have been too kind, while The Motor's Laurence Pomeroy wrote that it was possible to "promote ready wheelspin and a quick breakaway at the back. But due to the direct and positive steering such slides can be quickly ended, or accurately controlled, according to choice. . . . [I]t is a safe and pleasing car for the experienced man."

The Consul and Zephyr models transformed Ford-UK's image in the early 1950s, and sales boomed as never before. Production for 1952 came to 60,600 cars. In 1953, the rate jumped to no fewer than 92,300. Not only that, but the convertible was now available, and a new and more plush car, the Zephyr Zodiac, was on the way.

1953 Ford Consul convertible
New for 1953, the 1953 Ford Consul convertible
had a three-stage top.

The convertible took ages to develop, for chopping off the roof meant that much underbody stiffening was needed to restore rigidity. In the end, the contract for this shell went to Carbodies of Coventry, and the open models were much more expensive than the sedans -- in the case of the Zephyr £960 ($2688) as against £754 ($2111).

The Consul's soft top was manually operated, but on the Zephyr power actuation was standard.

The Zephyr Zodiac was launched in October 1953. Based very closely on the Zephyr, it had a slightly more powerful engine, and had more complete equipment, including two-tone color schemes, extra driving lamps, leather upholstery, and many other "comfort" features as standard. For this glitzier four-door sedan, UK customers were asked to pay £851 ($2383).

By this time, Ford-UK had started the expansion that was to give it British market leadership in the 1970s, as a new small car had also been introduced.

Except that they still used side-valve engines, the new Anglia and Prefect models were really Consuls in miniature, for they also had unit-body shells, MacPherson strut front suspension, and three-speed transmissions.

In the next section, find out how the Consul and Zephyr fared in 1954, 1955, and 1956.

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