Often overlooked and not always over praised in their day, the MkIV Zephyr and Zodiac were the last truly British big Fords, and great buys today.
‘Not they were NOT in Z-Cars.’ Many a MkIV Ford Zephyr and Zodiac owner will have found themselves uttering that statement to bemused family and enthusiasts who remember the legendary BBC TV police drama. A MkII, in early episodes, and then a MkIII Zephyr filled the screen as it powered along darkened streets in the title sequence. The MkIV looked, and indeed was a totally different large boxy animal, which at least until you see one, is sadly rather overlooked.
Introduced in 1966, a time when Ford was having almost as many big hits as the Beatles. The Zephyr came with the choice of a 1996 V4 or 2495cc V6 engine. The famous Essex V6 was used in the plusher Zodiac and deeply luxurious Executive, which gave us the 2994cc Essex V6. Some Zodiacs also received this bigger unit.
The car’s looks were definitely different but these new Ford’s earned criticism for their handling, made front heavy not only by the vast engines but a bizarre decision to fit the spare wheel under the bonnet (they had to fill the space with something).
Ford fitted anti-roll bars, along with radial tyres to V6 cars, both of which helped.
Saloons were joined by an officially embraced by Ford estate variant, built by Abbott of Farnham. In 1971 1000 Zephyr Specials arrived all painted Uranium Blue with a white vinyl roof, fabric seats and other joys.
Around 150,000 Mk4s were built – nothing to be ashamed of - before the pan European Granada and briefly Consul variant came along in 1972
TOP SPEED 104mph
0-60 MPH 11sec
FUEL CONSUMPTION 20mpg
TRANSMISSION RWD 4-speed manual /3-speed auto
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
WHAT SHOULD I BUY?
Lower spec models of these cars, ie those with single headlamps are rare today. The V4 engine has a reputation of being a little rough but well, we don’t think it’s that bad, and you could live with that in a show car. The V6s are, of course, more refined. Unless you to use the car as a substitute for a biceps workout at the gym you’d be wise to go for a car with power steering. The Executive is a truly luxurious car but doesn’t seem to command too much of a price premium. You should be able to get a good Mk4 for £5000-£6000 at most. Affordable Classics (www.affordableclassics.co.uk have a MoT'd Zodiac needing paintwork in stock. Offers around £3000.
Plenty of nice metal to rot here. Look at the wings, door bottoms and outer and inner sills, particularly where they meet the rear crossmember. Also look at the area around the MacPherson struts and the chamber where the wiper motor sits. A good look at the boot floor would also be wise, and also make sure you check the front anti roll bar mountings. Suprisingly some body panels are available. Ex-pressed steel panels can even supply wings and jacking points.
Some cars have vinyl roof coverings. Check carefully for unsightly bulges!
ENGINE AND GEARBOX
All the engines in these cars aren’t renowned for lots of major faults, though do make the normal checks for excessive blue smoke etc. Cam followers are prone to wear.
Lancashire-based Car Clinic can supply most parts, even an exchange V6.
They will also supply a kit to tackle one potential major fault – failure of the fibre camshaft gearing – with a kit made from aluminium alloy. Also provided is new iron gearing for the crankshaft, as originally fitted.
Gearboxes are also reasonably rugged, and column changes more positive than most. Automatic gearboxes can be overhauled by firms such as Penn Autos the cost depending on what’s needed.
Mk4s introduced independent rear suspension to the Ford of Britain range, and the system has lasted well, though after nigh on 50 years of supporting a heavy car you could forgive things being a bit sloppy. Without sounding trite, it’s probably wise to remember that these cars had a soft ride in the first place,
MacPherson struts can seize, especially with a car that’s been standing, and suspension bushes. Past Parts can supply a repair kit or overhaul parts for your car.
Rear brake calipers are inclined to wear and seizure, as are the handbrake cable attached to them. Rover P6 calipers can be adapted to fit however.
Thankfully there’s an extremely active club for these cars which tries its utmost to help members find spares, new and unused. Various hard to get items such as rear brake discs have been remanufactured. Interior parts are on impossible to find though the club can often help. Cars with tatty interiors could cost a fortune to put right and you’re advised to check the interior thoroughly. There’s a lot of injection mouldings that can decay, and vast expanses of vinyl. The club get holds if any trim it can otherwise various trimmers will do their best. You can also keep looking on internet auction website or advertise for what you want in Classic Car Weekly.
What is not to love? Today the surviving models of these cars are wonderful period pieces, loaded with 1960s add-ons. The styling is surely unique. The centre bit resembled the doors of a Mk2 Cortina with a huge boxy front equally boxy rear. Actually it all works rather well.
Even the basic Zephyrs were well equipped but the Zodiac. Wow! Twin headlamps, a cigar lighter, twin-speed wipers, massive seats and reversing lights. But hail the Executive, with sunroof, power steering, reclining front seats, walnut fascia and more power. Plus carpets you could hide in. But then there was the brightwork extending across the rear of the car, into which the lights were incorporated. An Executive in gold? Resistance would seriously be futile, and don’t forget these big Fords were thoroughly British in design, with a massive character all their own.