Perhaps ironically, from 1954-1956 the Ford Consul and Zephyr wound up competing with the very car they had been asked to emulate.
In 1948, a small number of dealers began selling the Anglia and Prefect in the United States. They added the Consul in 1951, the Zephyr a year later, and the Zodiac for the 1955 selling season. According to the American-published Standard Catalog of Imported Cars, from 1600 to 4200 British Fords were sold in the States per year between 1951 and 1956 -- though how many of them were Consuls and Zephyrs isn't known.
Production of the “Mark I” 4-cylinder Consul and
6-cylinder Zephyr peaked in 1955, the year
this 1955 Ford Zephyr Zodiac was made.
The Consul, Zephyr, and Zephyr Zodiac carried on successfully in their original forms until 1956 because they offered remarkable value for money, and were widely seen as cars that could go a lot faster if modified. Success by factory-backed cars in events like the East African Safari, which a Zephyr won in 1955, all helped to foster the image.
Their relatively limited performance and "tail-happy" handling were often tackled by tuning specialists. In 1950s Britain, an entire cottage industry grew up to provide free-flow exhaust systems, new multibody carburetor systems, different gearboxes, stiffened suspensions, and special interior packages.
If an owner was determined enough, he could double the price of the car -- but he could also achieve 100-mph motoring at a lot less than Jaguar prices.
Only months before these cars reached the end of their run, Ford added Borg-Warner overdrive as an optional extra. This unit, which bolted to the back of the existing three-speed transmission, not only offered an extra ratio on any forward gear, but incorporated a freewheel that worked at road speeds of less than 30 mph.
The highest production rates were achieved in 1955 when no fewer than 101,176 cars were produced at Dagenham, England, but early in 1956 they gave way to a new Mark II range.
Although they preserved the famous names, the new cars had longer wheelbases, were longer, wider, heavier, more powerful -- and even more successful.
For selected specifications for the 1951-1956 Ford Consul and Zephyr, including engine, construction, and performance details, consult the table on the next page.
For more information on cars, see: