50 YEARS WITH A ZODIAC
If you own a car for long enough, it stops being a daily driver and becomes a collectible classic. That's what has happened to Colin and Rowena Drage with their Mk3 Ford Zodiac.
It is fair to say that Ford had a few problems in coming up with a new style when they set about designing a replacement for the Mk2 Zephyr and Zodiac. Previous versions had been unashamedly transatlantic in flavour, drawing inspiration as they did from the all-new Ford 1949 in the case of the Mk1, and then later from the Ford Mainline of 1952 onwards for the Mk2. The dilemma for Ford when it came to the Mk3 was that they didn't want it to be quite so transatlantic in styling, but nor were they ready to sever that link entirely.
What eventually emerged was something of a compromise, with elements from a styling proposal by Frua in Italy blended into features brought over from the USA by Dagenham's new Chief Stylist, Roy Brown. The result broke new ground for the big Fords in that four and six- cylinder cars both got the same length of bonnet, while the top of the line Zodiac was distinguished from the Zephyr by different sheet metal in the form of glazed rear quarter panels, which was itself one of the details that had been retained from Frua's proposal. Other distinguishing marks of the top model were four headlights instead of two and a different grille treatment.
The Mk3 sat on the same wheelbase and track as the Mk2, and was 3in lower but surprisingly no wider. However, the raked windscreen required the front seats to be moved backwards, so the Mk3 was always more cramped for rearseat passengers. It is all relative though, because the Mk3 was a big car all round, and few people lucky enough to jump out of an Austin A35 and into a Zodiac would have even thought about complaining. And in any case, in October 1962 Ford carved out two extra inches of rear legroom by widening the track, which allowed the rear seat to be positioned slightly further back. Estate versions converted by E.D. Abbott arrived at the same time, just in case the saloon's vast boot was not big enough for all your carrying needs.
Leather was no longer standard on the Mk3, even on the Zodiac, but the top model did get a much more luxurious grade of vinyl. As for names, it was decided late in the day to drop the Consul name for the entry level four- cylinder model, but to retain the three-tier offering starting with the Zephyr 4, then rising through the Zephyr 6 and on to the Zodiac at the top of the tree. From January 1965 there was an even plusher Executive Zodiac, which came with all the extras catalogued for the Zodiac fitted as standard. An interesting demonstration of the hierarchy was in the provision of arm rests – the top model
Zodiac had them front and back, the middle Zephyr 6 only in the front, while the entry level Zephyr 4 had none at all.
The Mk3 carried over the basic underpinnings of the earlier cars, but with some important changes. One was the fitment of a new four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox in place of the previous three-speeder, though still operated through a column change to maintain the three-abreast front seating. (A floor shift became optional in 1963.) There was still an overdrive option too, and this was now available on the fourcylinder cars as well as the sixes. Other upgrades included electric wipers at last, and a standard-fit heater on the Zodiac.
The Zodiac was a genuine 100mph car with decent acceleration, but it was always more of a cruiser than a hustler with the emphasis on comfort,