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1951-1956 Ford Consul and Zephyr

1951 Ford Consul and Zephyr Features

Production of the 1951 Ford Consul began in January 1951, and of the 1951 Ford Zephyr in February, with bodyshells provided by Briggs Motor Bodies, whose factory was close to the assembly plant at Dagenham, England.

Even though there was a great clamor for new cars, within a year the dashboard design had to be changed in response to criticism about the lack of storage space. Out went the flat style, and in came a new layout, with a shapely cowl sitting atop a full-width parcel shelf, the speedometer and auxiliary instruments now located in a separate housing. It was the only important visual change that needed to be made to a successful design.

1951 Ford Consul, rear view
The 1951 Ford Consul was built on a 100-inch
wheelbase and styled according to the basic
­theme laid down for the 1949 U.S. Ford.

­Fifty years ago, of course, buyers expected less from cars, and they certainly got less. The Zephyr only had a 68-bhp engine, and a top speed of 80 mph. This modern car tended to settle into a cruising speed of about 65 mph, and before 100 miles had been completed, the driver's back was aching after sitting on the primitive bench seat -- and, by the way, he had to hang on tightly to the wheel to keep from sliding in all directions on tight corners.

The Consul, which sold faster than the Zephyr, had a mere 47 bhp, and a top speed of little more than 70 mph.

In both cases, the cars used what were then considered to be tiny wheels: 13-inch diameter at a time when a conventional British car used 16-inch wheels. They had a very soft suspension, and were soon renowned for the ease with which they spun their driven rear wheels on greasy surfaces.

At the time, both cars had very front-heavy weight distribution, and because the composition of most 1950-style tires was once described as being a mixture of "compressed camel dung and used bus tickets," their grip on wet roads was poor.

Still, the new range was certainly successful, even though it was not yet seen very often in Britain. For British customers there were lengthy waiting lists and enormous frustrations because all car companies were still obliged to export the greatest part of their output.

By the end of 1951, however, there was a change of government, and a slight easing of the financial pressures, which meant that more cars were released for home-market delivery. The result was that more people could expect to pay £717 ($2008) for a Consul or £816 ($2285) for a Zephyr, and take delivery before their patience ran out.

For the time being, however, there was only one version on offer, the four-door sedan. Ford had expansion in mind, however. The first prototype convertible was shown in 1951, a prototype station wagon (to have been named "Horsham") was developed, and Ford-Australia even dabbled with the idea of building a "Ute" pickup version of both cars in its factory.

For sales information on these two British Fords -- and details on the 1953 models -- go to the next section of this article.

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