Classic Sports Car



There had been coachbuild­ing on the site at Farnham since before the First World War, but ED Abbott began trading in 1928, refurbishi­ng commercial vehicles and rebodying luxury models while also fulfilling contracts for Rootes and BMW importer AFN. Postww2 the firm was controlled by former Aston Martin boss RG Sutherland, having built airframes between 1939 and ’45.

The contract to build the handsome drophead version of the Bristol 405 was prestigiou­s if short-lived, but the job of converting big Fords into estates brought stability and decent volume. The firm was converting 30 cars a week at the height of the MKII Consul/zephyr/zodiac boom, and annual Ford estate production at Abbott peaked at 1475 cars in 1960. Total MKI production is unknown, but unlikely to match the 5643 MKII Farnhams built between 1956 and ’62.

The 1962-’66 MKIII estates were based on the six-light Zodiac bodyshell, for more streamline­d production. With a clean side profile and a one-piece, top-hinged GRP tailgate, they were perhaps the bestlookin­g Farnhams. They were less popular than the MKIIS – but widely used by motorway police – with some 4322 built, mostly Zephyrs and Zodiacs plus 725 Zephyr 4s, the Consul badge having been dropped. The Abbott Fords by then faced competitio­n from the Hawk and Super Snipe estates by Carbodies, and Vauxhall Cresta conversion­s by Martin Walter.

In 1966, Abbott struggled to adapt the Farnham estate-car proportion­s to the new-shape MKIV. Ford claimed the MKIV Zephyr/zodiac had the largest load space of any British wagon, but the strut turrets for the much-derided independen­t rear suspension intruded into the luggage area: one magazine calculated that the MKII Cortina could carry more weight than the massive MKIV. Abbott – which also built 700 Corsair estates from 1966-’70 – attended its final Earls Court show, with the Zephyr/zodiac MKIV, in 1969. The last were built in 1972. The existence of a fivedoor Granada, fully engineered for mass production, signalled not only the end of the Ford-based Abbott conversion­s, but also the closure of ED Abbott itself after more than 40 years of coachbuild­ing.

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