The Ford Zephyr car was introduced at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1950 along with the Mark I Ford Consul. The car, manufactured by Ford of Britain, had a lot of variations, including the luxury one, Ford Zodiac. Ford Zodiac, along with Ford Executive, were considered as the largest passenger cars produced by Ford until 1972.
When the first Zephyr range was introduced, it was quite similar to four-cylinder 1,508 cc (92 cu in) Consul model, except the fact it was longer. The Zephyr 6 had at three-speed gearbox controlled by a column-mounted lever: actually, the same to the Ford Consul models. The car had a powerful engine and could reach over 80 mph (130 km/h).
The model was available both in two and four-door options. There was an estate model manufactured by Abbotts of Farnham and sold under the Farnham label. The two-door Zephyr 6 with a convertible body was made by Carbodies.
The Ford Zephyr 6 was successful in motor racing. In 1953 the car driven by Maurice Gatsonides won the Monte Carlo rally and in 1955, driven by Vic Preston and D P Marwaha it won the East African Safari Rally.
Zephyr Zodiac/Zodiac Mark I
In 1953, the upmarket version of the Ford Zephyr was introduced. The Zephyr Zodiac, also known as the Zodiac Mark I, was launched at the London Motor Show. It was available with four-door salon, as well as there were estate versions. The car had a two-tone paintwork with lots of variations available. The leather trim made it look and feel luxurious. There were a heater and windscreen washers, as well as whitewall tires, and spotlights. What is more, the engine was improved to make the car more powerful. For this purpose, it had a higher compression ratio: 7.5:1 instead of 6.8:1. According to The Motor magazine that tested the car in 1955, the top speed of a new car produced by Ford was 80 mph (130 km/h).
In 1956 new models of Ford Zephyr and Zodiac were introduced. Both of them were restyled, as well as the Ford Consul model. The six-cylinder engine was enlarged, the wheelbase increased and the cars became wider. The top speed increased to 88 mph (142 km/h).
Both Zodiac and Zephyr were available in two main body styles: the “Highline” and “Lowline”. There were two-door convertible versions with power-operated hood. Still, today it is nearly impossible to find one, as the structural weakness of convertibles did not let them survive. A convertible version tested by The Motor magazine in 1961 reached a top speed of 88.3 mph (142.1 km/h).
Zodiac Mark II
The Mark II Zodiac was an exclusive model that was designed to distinguish it from the other variants. It had an elaborate tail-end styling, as well as the different grille. The two paint styling remained, as well as whitewall tires, chrome wheel trim embellishes and gold plated badges. Still, the auxiliary lamps and wing mirrors were replaced. The top speed of the car tested by the British magazine The Motor was 87.9 mph (141.5 km/h).
Zephyr 4 Mark III
The Zephyr 4 Mark III replaced such models as Consul, Zephyr, and Zodiac. The new car manufactured by the Ford of Britain was completely restyled. The few features remained from previous models were mainly mechanical. Still, the new model saved the design of the Mark II.
The Zephyr 4 Mark III had a four-cylinder engine, the same to the Consul it replaced. The standard car had a four-speed gearbox with synchromesh and optional overdrive or automatic transmission.
Zephyr 6 Mark III
The Zephyr Mk III had a stronger body construction in comparison to the Mk II model. Still, it shared some of its mechanical components with its predecessor. What is more, the design was nearly the same. The car had a unique exterior designed by Roy Brown, the Canadian designer who worked for Ford of Britain previously to design the Edsel and the Cortina models. The main distinctive feature of the Mark III model was a full-width grille and the headlight surrounds.
Zodiac Mark III
The Zodiac Mark III was introduced by the Ford of Britain as an upmarket version of the Zephyr 6. Still, there were considerable differences, such as limousine-type rear doors, sharper roofline, and tail, unique grille with 4 headlights instead of 2, exclusive bumper bars, and plusher seating. Everything in the car was aimed to make its owner feel pampered. There was an ability to choose individual or bench front seat and leather or cloth trim. The front doors, as well as the bonnet panels, remained as they were in the Zephyr 6.
The six-cylinder engine was improved to increase the power of the car. According to British Motor magazine test held in 1962, the top speed of the car increased to 100.7 mph (162.1 km/h).
Zephyr Mark IV
In 1961, the Ford of Britain launched a “Project Panda”. The project was aimed to redesign the Zephyr model completely. As the result, a car similar to the North American Ford Fairlane appeared.
In early 1966, the Mk IV range was launched. The range had new V-format engines, the independent suspension was renewed with servo-assisted disc brakes on all wheels. The car had more space for luggage at the end; the size of the bonnet was complimented by a square-cut styling of the wings. Though the new Zephyr car was large enough, it was not luxurious. Still, there was an option of choosing individual front seats.
On October 1966, the estate version was announced at the London Motor Show. Still, the deliveries began only in January 1967. The estate Zephyr Mark IVmodel, as well as earlier estate models, were built by E.D. Abbott Ltd of Farnham. One of the most distinctive features of such cars was a black vinyl-covered roof.
Zodiac Mark IV/ Executive
The Zephyr/Zodiac Mark IV replaced the big Mark III models. Among the main distinctive features of the Zodiac Mark IV and “Executive” were four headlights and an uprated 2,994 cc (183 cu in) V6 engine. The new Zodiac model was equipped with an alternator, an adjustable steering column, a spare wheel, a heater and Aeroflow ventilation, electric window washers, as well as a cigar lighter and some other renovations.
It is worth to mention that the price gap between Zephyr and Zodiac models was determined to become wider and, as the result, the production of Mark IVs was being cut back due to low sales. Still, there was another reason: the unbelievable success of the Ford Cortina that replaced the Zodiac Mark IV model.
Still, there was an upmarket version offered in the 1960s – the Executive. The standard car had an automatic transmission, power steering, and a sunroof. Also, front seats were fully reclining, the car was equipped with full instrumentation, reversing lights, fog lamps, front inertia reel safety belts, and a radio. The most distinctive features of the car were exterior trim and name badges. The Executive, tested by Britain’s Autocar magazine in 1967, showed the 100 mph (160 km/h) speed. Mainly, such result was achieved by the decrease of the car’s width.