While the Zephyr/zodiac sedans proved adequate for most families — with or without the obligatory caravan, boat, or trailer in tow — rare estate versions provided more than enough space for the growing family.
As those with longer memories will know, the MKII Zephyr and Zodiac sedans were assembled in New Zealand from complete-knock-down (CKD) kits, and, as stringent import licensing restricted supply, the estate versions of these popular Fords were imported fully built from the UK and were always a rare sight on Kiwi roads.
The MKII model Zephyr/zodiac debuted in 1956 alongside its smaller-engined cousin, the MKII Consul. Following the same tradition as the previous model, the Zodiac was Ford’s flagship vehicle and boasted luxury features such as leather upholstery, two-tone paint schemes and ‘gold’-plated badges. Under the bonnet, the engine as used in the MKI cars was increased in capacity from 2262cc to 2553cc for extra power.
Apart from the sedan, both the Zephyr and Zodiac MKIIS were also available as a convertible or as an estate — the latter actually saloons that had been converted by ED Abbott Ltd, more familiarly known as ‘Abbott of Farnham’.
This British coachbuilding company, based in Farnham, Surrey, converted many Consuls, Zephyrs, and Zodiacs to estate models. The end result proved popular among families and tradespeople alike, especially as the cars ended up with a cavernous boot capacity that exceeded an impressive 1.86 cubic metres with the rear seat in the folded-down position.
Abbott of Farnham’s long-standing reputation for building commercial vehicles began in 1929 with Edward Dixon Abbott, who had previously worked for Wolseley and as London sales manager for the coachbuilding concern of Page and Hunt. When
that company went under in 1929, he took over its premises at Farnham and established ED Abbott Ltd.
A reasonably full order book resulted in a steady production run of commercial vehicles that kept the business afloat during the worst days of the Depression. In addition, a significant portion of production was under subcontract to motor-vehicle manufacturers.
Abbott’s strategy of promoting his business each year at the London Motor Show from 1931 onwards paid dividends, and, just three years later, in 1934, he secured a major contract from Lagonda to build bodies for its new Rapier, as well as acquiring work from AFN Ltd for coachwork on the imported BMW chassis it assembled and badged as a Frazer NashBMW.
Following the end of World War II, Abbott resumed normal business, including bodywork for the Sunbeam-talbot 2.0-litre drophead coupé and the Healey Abbott. In addition, the company built special bodies for Jowett, Bentley, Jaguar, and Lanchester prior to receiving confirmed orders from Ford for estate versions of its Consul and Zephyr models. Ford kept Abbott busy during the late 1950s and early 1960s, but, as the days of the specialist coachbuilder became numbered, orders slowly declined, and Abbott finally closed its doors in 1972.
The owner of our featured 1960 Ford Zodiac MKII Farnham Estate, Paul Roberts, first became involved with Zephyrs in 1967 when he was just 16 years old — hardly surprising, as Zephyrs were, indeed, extremely popular in New Zealand during the swinging ’60s.
At the time, Paul’s brother had decided that he wanted to buy a Zephyr MKI convertible. Shortly after that decision had been made, Paul was visiting a friend when he spotted a person across the road washing his Zephyr convertible. When the Ford was sparkly clean, a ‘for sale’ sign was placed on the car’s windscreen. Paul instantly shot across the road and, on behalf of his brother, asked to use the Zephyr owner’s phone. Subsequently, Paul’s brother purchased the beautiful blue-and-white Zephyr convertible — the seller commenting that it’d been the fastest he had ever sold
a car, the ink being still wet on the for-sale notice.
Having brokered that sale for his brother, Paul didn’t actually get behind the wheel of his own rag-top Zephyr until about 1970, when an opportunity came purely by chance. As it transpired, a work colleague was returning to the UK with her husband and asked if anyone was looking to purchase their car. Paul asked what the car was, purely out of curiosity, only to be told it was MKI Zephyr convertible. Without hesitation, he was lucky enough to negotiate a good deal whereby they could use the car right up to their departure for the UK, and, in return, he would pay less than the asking price for it. A win-win for all.
Signs of the Zodiac
Paul has owned several Zephyrs and Zodiacs since that time — the list of cars he and his brother have owned between them is quite impressive and includes 14 Ford MKI Zephyr convertibles, five MKI sedans, two MKII convertibles, three MKII sedans, and one estate. Paul has also owned two MKII Zodiacs as well as having been an active member of the Auckland Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac Club (Inc.) for about 30 years. During that time, he has made a lot of good friends in the Zephyr world, both here and overseas, some of who have become close family friends.
Looking back over the years, Paul recalls that the best car he ever owned was a Zodiac MKI with only 21,000 miles (33,796km) on the clock. He purchased that car in 1986 and, after 21 years of ownership, eventually sold it with just 32,000 miles (51,499km) showing on the odometer.
Another one of Paul’s cars, a MKI convertible, was also an extremely original example — at least until a tow truck hit the back of it. According to Paul, the Ford was never the same after the accident.
His green Zodiac MKIII was also a lovely car, still basically original when he purchased it, and optioned-up with automatic transmission. However, as it was more expensive to run than the family Holden Premier V8, it was sold.
Of all the Zephyr/zodiac variants built, the only one to have ever eluded Paul’s ownership is the Zodiac MKIV — so it was hardly surprising when we learned that he is looking at one with a view to adding it to his stable. The car in question has been re-powered with a