The Ford Zephyr and Zodiac, which were produced from 1950 to 1972, were iconic models that marked a significant shift in the automotive industry, particularly in terms of safety features. During those times, safety considerations were not as advanced as they are today, but the Zephyr and Zodiac showcased some notable safety features that set them apart from their contemporaries.
1. Rigid Integral Safety Chassis: The Ford Zephyr and Zodiac were built on a uniquely designed rigid integral safety chassis. This chassis provided superior structural strength and rigidity, offering enhanced protection to the occupants in the event of a collision. It significantly reduced the risk of deformation and collapse during an impact, contributing to greater passenger safety.
2. Collapsible Steering Column and Padded Dashboard: The Zephyr and Zodiac were among the first cars to introduce a collapsible steering column. In the event of a severe frontal impact, the steering column would collapse, reducing the risk of the steering wheel being forced into the driver’s chest. Moreover, both models were equipped with a padded dashboard to provide added protection to occupants in case of sudden stops or impacts.
3. Seat Belts: While not standard at the time, the Ford Zephyr and Zodiac offered optional lap belts for both the front and rear seats. Seat belts were an innovative safety feature that aimed to restrain occupants during an accident, reducing the likelihood of severe injuries. Though not widely adopted during that era, the option to install seat belts in these models was a notable early step towards encouraging seat belt usage in vehicles.
4. Dual Hydraulic Brake System: The Zephyr and Zodiac were equipped with a dual hydraulic brake system, allowing for more efficient braking. This system consisted of two independent hydraulic circuits, ensuring that in the event of a leakage or failure in one circuit, the other circuit would still function. This redundancy significantly reduced the chances of complete brake failure, providing enhanced safety for the driver and passengers.
5. Improved Lighting and Visibility: The Ford Zephyr and Zodiac featured enhanced lighting systems and improved exterior visibility. The models were equipped with brighter headlights, increasing visibility during night driving. Additionally, the windshield area was generously designed, offering a wider field of vision for the driver. These features contributed to better road awareness and reduced the risk of accidents due to poor visibility.
6. Wraparound Windscreen: The wraparound windscreen design in the Zephyr and Zodiac not only provided a sleek appearance but also offered improved visibility for the driver. The curved glass extended to the sides of the car, expanding the field of vision and reducing blind spots. This feature enhanced overall safety by ensuring drivers could have a clearer view of the road and surroundings, reducing the chances of collisions.
While the safety features in the Ford Zephyr and Zodiac may seem relatively basic compared to modern vehicles, they were significant advancements for their time. The incorporation of a rigid integral safety chassis, collapsible steering column, seat belts, dual hydraulic brake systems, improved lighting, and a wraparound windscreen demonstrated Ford’s commitment to occupant safety. These features set a foundation for subsequent generations of vehicles to build upon and helped pave the way for the comprehensive safety standards we have today.