Two Days with the Latest Ford Zephyr and Club Notes

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The Editor completes a Brisk Tour of Northern England in search of Objects of Motoring Interest.

The great Ford Motor Company Ltd. of Dagenham contributes materially to the output record of the British Motor Industry, and I naturally do not like a year to go by without driving a decent mileage in a Ford product, even though no entirely new models have emerged recently from British Ford. During 1958 I sampled the newest Consul and spent an exhilarating day with an Alpine Rally Zephyr. This year the summer was fairly advanced before a Ford came along for road-test, but come along it did, and I was able to undertake a two-day visit to Northern England in a New-Look Mark II Zephyr Overdrive saloon.

This 1959 Zephyr, basically the same old Zephyr which Ford introduced in 1950, had some worthwhile refinements incorporated early this year. It is a spacious six-seater, so that it seemed rather ironical that the journey was to be made by only two people, one to drive, the other to navigate. Early impressions of this Mark II version were that it has some items I have come to regard as essential in personal transportation, such as good driver visibility, rain-gutters and anti-tamper catches on the quarter-lights, and sensible instrumentation, but lacks others, such as a steady-reading fuel gauge, lamps-flasher, floor gear lever, clock and coat-hooks.

It is essentially a spacious accelerative car, capable of not far short of 90 m.p.h. and, withal, simple to drive, the Borg-Warner overdrive, with kick-down control, offsetting the provision of but three speeds in the gearbox. This overdrive functions on all ratios, raising top gear from 3.9 to 2.73 to 1, and normal drive is obtainable by fully depressing the accelerator, which some drivers prefer to a flick-switch control. Personally, I go for the latter, or at least prefer a holding control with kick-down, because it is irritating to have the overdrive come in because it has been necessary to lift-off on the throttle, for example, before a corner when cornering would be better done in a direct gear. Also, it is impossible to obviate jerk when using the kick-down control, whereas intelligent use of a flick-switch gives a smooth return to the lower set of ratios. However, there is no denying that overdrive has converted the Ford into a six-speed car with almost the effect of automatic transmission, for the modest price of under £1,000. This is especially so because overdrive is disengaged automatically at speeds above about 31 m.p.h., when a free-wheel comes into use which enables easy selection of the lower gears, even though synchromesh isn’t provided on the lowest ratio. Otherwise, a crunch can accompany selection of bottom gear. Of course, the necessity to kick-down the accelerator to disengage overdrive at speeds over 31 m.p.h. is somewhat uneconomical compared to using a hand-switch, especially as the carburetter incorporates an accelerator pump, while the free-wheel places some extra load on the brakes, The overdrive can be permanently locked out by means of a toggle lever under the facia and was so locked out when the Zephyr was delivered. However, on the comparatively flat terrain through which any two-day journey took me I decided that what was fitted (and would normally have cost an extra £60) might as well be used — so the overdrive was never locked out and undoubtedly contributed to the low petrol thirst and effortless running of the Ford, without having a noticeably detrimental effect on the Girling brakes.

Incidentally, as the accelerator is kicked down to eliminate overdrive the engine is switched off momentarily to release the load on the drive, but, being brought up to believe that flicking on and off the ignition can strain the crankshaft and burst the silencer, I find this hard to stomach, although it works satisfactorily, emphasis obviously being on momentarily cutting the power.

The evening before setting out I spent some time filling the Zephyr’s petrol tank to the brim. Its shape encourages air locks and it requires patience to get the tank genuinely full; later the engine would cut out on sharp swerves with a gallon or more of fuel still in the tank, suggesting a lack of baffles within.

Setting, off early the next day we made for Birmingham via Henley, Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon, over roads never unduly congested. The new double-lines, however, seem to be rather overdone on the stretch between Shipston-on-Stour and Stratford, all the Zephyr’s excellent acceleration often being required to pass a slow-moving lorry between corners without infringing the solid lines. We refer Editorially in this issue to the importance of proper observation of these traffic safeguards, but if they are not placed scientifically or are unduly prolonged they will be abused, either wilfully or inadvertently.

By the time we had made Birmingham I had become used to the width of the latest Ford Zephyr and was able to proclaim the new recirculatory ball steering an improvement, for it is light and almost free from kick-back, although effective castor return makes it heavier on tight corners and more so when parking. Being geared at just under 3½ turns, lock-to-lock, it keeps the driver quite busy on corners. The steering-column gear-change is precise but unrefined, the horn-ring on the lower half of the wheel is apt to be inaccessible when needed, the brake pedal is set too high and remote from the treadle accelerator, and on this hot July morning the sun’s rays reflected irritatingly from the plated adornments on the steering-wheel spokes — and emphasised the lack of coat-hooks on which to hang our jackets.

However, the car covered the ground well, a real surge of powerful acceleration available when the drive was kicked down into normal top gear, although it is a tribute to the late lamented Ford V8 30 that the modern Zephyr does not equal that famous car in terms of absolute acceleration, even after a quarter of a century of engine development!

The facia of this Mark II Zephyr incorporates a cubby-hole with underhung lockable lid (not large enough, however, to accommodate a Rolleiflex camera) and a useful under-facia shelf. The hooded 100-m.p.h. speedometer has a total mileometer with decimal reading but no trip, there are three minor control knobs, identified by symbols, for choke, wipers and lamps, the last-named incorporating rheostat instrument-illumination control. The hand-brake protrudes conveniently from the facia, to the left of the steering column, and on the “lower deck” of the facia are the heater controls, cigar-lighter and radio. A splendidly located right-hand stalk controls the direction-flashers but headlamp dipping has to be done by foot. The usual warning lights are provided, supplemented by a decidedly pessimistic fuel gauge and a water thermometer. There are twin vizors and a just-adequate rear-view mirror. Adjustable side armrests and a folding centre arm-rest on the front seat were fitted to the test car. The starter switch is operated by turning the ignition key, which has a radio-only setting, the engine starting easily without use of the choke.

After a brief business call in Birmingham we headed further North over a “back route” which, however, did not obviate crossing tram-infested Sheffield, while trams were also encountered in Leeds, our next objective. It was on the approach to Sheffield that the tank ran dry, and we had to wait an appreciable time before getting service from a Mobilgas garage on the outskirts of the town. The range proved to be 221 miles. Remembering that the tank was brim-full at the start, whereas most owners would consider it full with a gallon less than we managed to insert, and that the pessimistic gauge would normally prompt a refuelling stop considerably sooner, the effective range is reduced to about 170 miles, which is not at all satisfactory to long-distance motorists. The tank appears to hold somewhat less than the maker’s claim of 10½ gallons.

Having run the tank dry we now filled it with measured quantities of fuel in order to conduct a prolonged consumption test, taking on an extra gallon each time in an Eversure easy-pour can, to enable further refuelling to be done on the road through the Ford’s filler cap, which is neatly hidden behind the fold-down rear number-plate.

What is a Bramham?

The reason for going to Leeds was to investigate the report that a vintage Bramham existed at a garage there. It was duly located and a courteous motor dealer allowed me to examine and photograph this quite remarkable animal. It is a three-wheeled cyclecar of about 1920 vintage, obviously conceived by someone who had a passion for front-wheel-drive (which will soon be very much in the news again when the new B.M.C. “sputniks” are released). In the case of the Bramham, or Stanhope as it was called originally, the single front wheel both drives and steers. The prototype saw the light of day in the summer of 1920 and had dual Whittle-belt drive. Chain-drive was introduced soon afterwards and the makers claimed that most of their earlier models were converted to this form of drive.

This surviving example is of this latter type, a big sprocket flanking the front wheel on the near side, an ugly item of the Bramham’s specification which couldn’t be easily concealed. The engine, set longitudinally in the tubular frame, is a s.v. aircooled J.A.P. with a large gearbox on its left and a clutch between. The single front wheel pivots from an axle sprung on ¼ -elliptic springs and the back springs are of the same sort. The wire wheels carry 3.50 by 19 tyres. The body is a 2-seater with a suspicion of pointed tail and there is a lift-up bonnet over the front wheel. The dash contains merely an oil drip-feed sight and an ammeter-cum-switch panel. The engine, started by a kick-starter on the near-side, has magneto ignition and a Smith’s carburetter and the control levers are both on the right. It seems that a belt-driven cooling fan may have been fitted at one time. There is some work to be done on this unusual cyclecar, after which it will be for sale. Apparently it has had only one owner, who used to think nothing of driving it from Leeds to London and who was using it regularly until he died some three years ago, since when his nephew has kept in touch with the rebuilding operations.

That this Bramham is in Leeds is not so remarkable as the fact that it has survived, because it was here that these vehicles (if indeed, more than the prototype was made) were constructed, the name being changed from Stanhope when the firm was bought by Mr. Bramham, afterwards to become a Leeds pork butcher. Incidentally, early light cars seem to be almost a feature of the Leeds backlogs, because during the last war I found a G.N. in a basement there, another G.N. was likewise a Leeds discovery and I hear that a friction-drive Richardson cyclecar is still harboured somewhere in this vicinity.

After this glimpse into the past I emerged into the sunshine and thankfully sank into the sumptuous seat of the Zephyr, reflecting, as I drove away, that, if its steering disliked the Leeds tramlines, that of the Bramham must have been indescribably unpleasant in the same circumstances! Our thoughts now turned to de Dion back axles, not in connection with veterans or modern racing cars, but ambulances, which is an altogether different story and concludes the first day’s journey.

Thoughts about the Mark II Zephyr

Over dinner discussion ranged freely over the Ford which had brought us to Leeds and the curious cyclecar we had encountered there. It was considered that the latest Zephyr provides easy, quite rapid travel and, moreover, that it is decidedly economical. We refuelled with Esso at the Half Way Garage between Wakefield and Leeds, where, in contrast with our experience in Sheffield, service was both prompt and courteous. Enabled to check the fuel consumption over more than 750 miles I found subsequently that, driven moderately hard, the Ford had averaged 24.8 m.p.g. overall and on the less hilly portions of the route this diminished to 26.7 m.p.g., very creditable from a 2½-litre six-cylinder engine. Although overdrive was used throughout the Girling brakes proved adequate, given firm pedal pressure for retardation from high speeds, but tended to squeak slightly. The Goodyear tyres did not protest when corners were taken fast. The Zephyr corners well but with pronounced understeer. The suspension is too supple and although roll is not severe when cornering, better damping would be an improvement, the up-and-down action of the suspension, almost a wallow, proving tiring, especially to the passenger, while over bad surfaces the “tail wags the dog,” evidence of a rigid back-axle, and if power is turned on out of a sharp corner wheelspin of the inner rear wheel is all too easy to promote. The Ford Zephyr has won convincing honours in the recent Alpine Rally, which proves that the suspension can be adequately stiffened up, just as disc front brakes can be fitted, and it is difficult to understand why these modifications have not been made available by Dagenham for the production Zephyrs. The bench seats are of generous proportions, seating three abreast comfortably, and the p.v.c. upholstery, if less pleasant than leather (which is available as an extra), does have the merit of restraining the driver from sliding about. The seat is, however, rather too soft and less fatigue might be experienced if it were stiffer.

This modern Zephyr gets easily up to 70 m.p.h. but to see 80 on the speedometer needs some patience on England’s rolling roads. In the gears an indicated 35 m.p.h. is available on bottom, second provides 60 m.p.h., overdrive second an indicated 70 m.p.h., without distressing the power unit, which shows no symptoms of pinking or running on. Indeed, it is an outstandingly smooth engine which accelerates the car with a purposeful exhaust note somewhat reminiscent of the dear old Ford V8. Some road noise is conveyed to the occupants but, with the quarter-lights shut, wind noise is low. I would prefer higher geared steering; the action is also rather dead, and there was at times a trace of stiffness in the box.

Enfo Triplex A52 toughened glass is used for the side windows, and sill door locks, a boot lid which props open automatically, and the spare wheel mounted almost vertically and somewhat obstructively in the enormous luggage boot are other features of this Ford. The wires from the rear-bumper-mounted number-plate lamps are in view, which is untidy. Those horrid suction screen-wipers still figure in the equipment.

Pressing On

That night we found accommodation just north of Scarborough and the following morning, as the holiday-makers streamed towards the beach with bathing costumes and towels under their arms, we penetrated to the back streets to inquire after a 1925 Calthorpe light car which might have been in danger of being reduced to scrap. Reassured to learn that it isn’t the Ford was turned inland and good progress made through Yorkshire to Lincolnshire, where a halt was called to look over an ancient monument and where a derelict twin-cam Salmson was encountered at a main-road garage. Near Driffield a novel attraction was seen, in the form of a free picnic park, with water laid on, for the use of customers at an enterprising filling station.

The day was by now well advanced and so the driver set about driving as fast as he dared without rally dampers and disc brakes and the navigator really had to justify his existence. We came from Lincoln to Hampshire by an ingenious route, virtually traffic-free except for the few miles of A1 we drove over, and some crawling lorries in Buckinghamshire. There is no point in giving the route in detail but I remember we took in Ancaster, where a vintage Meadows-engined Hampton behind the village post-office called for a brief investigation, and went through Newport Pagnell, where the N.P. car was made long before Aston Martin moved in.

When the Zephyr finally came home it had covered 666 miles during which no oil or water had been required. In a total milage of 1,100 less than half-a-pint brought the oil back to the correct level. In its present form this six-cylinder Ford is a car which, although lacking in character, is the ideal of many family motorists, effortless running, a roomy interior and economy of purchase price and fuel consumption being its major attractions. — W. B.

The New Look Mark II Ford Zephyr Overdrive Saloon

Engine: Six cylinders, 82.5 x 79.5 mm. (2,553 c.c.). Push-rod-operated overhead valves. 7.8 to 1 compression-ratio. 85 b.h.p. at 4,400 r.p.m.

Gear ratios: First, 11.08 to 1; overdrive first, 7.76 to 1; second, 6.40 to 1; overdrive second, 4.49 to 1; top, 3.90 to 1; overdrive top, 2.73 to 1.

Tyres: 6.40 by 13 Goodyear All-Weather-Rib Super Cushion on bolt-on steel disc wheels.

Weight: Not weighed. Maker’s figure: 1 ton 4 cwt. 0 qr. 3 lb. (kerb weight).

Steering-ratio: 3½-turns, lock-to-lock.

Fuel capacity: 10½-gallons (Range approx. 221 miles) — but see text.

Wheelbase: 8 ft. 11 in.

Track: Front, 4 ft. 5 in.; rear, 4 ft. 4 in.

Dimensions: 14 ft. 10½ in. x 5 ft. 9 in. x 5 ft. 2 in. (high.) Price; £610 (£865 5s. 10d. inclusive of p.t.). With extras as tested: £961 8s. 8d.

Makers: Ford Motor Company, Ltd., Dagenham, Essex, England.

 

Club Notes

A number of clubs are now managing to obtain new venues for holding races, hill climbs and sprints and we have seen races at Edzell, Rufforth, Full Sutton and so on but two names new to us are being used in the near future.

On Saturday August 8th the Border M.R.C. are co-promoting a race meeting with the Newcastle & D.M.C. at Ouston Airfield, Heddon-on-the-Wall near Newcastle. It is a restricted event but most of the Northern Clubs have been invited so a good turn out should be seen. Racing commences at 2 p.m. and eight races will be held on the recently resurfaced perimeter track, 1½ miles in length.

*

The other new circuit is at Thornaby Airfield near Middlesbrough where the Middlesbrough and D.M.C. are holding a closed event on Sunday August 9th racing commencing at 2.30 p.m. The circuit is approximately 1.9 miles in length. There will be only three races: for sports cars up to 1,500 c.c. and saloon cars up to 1,900-c.c. ; for sports cars over 1,500 c.c. and saloon cars over 1,900 c.c.; and for racing cars up to 500 c.c. and racing and sports cars over 500 c.c.

*

A hill-climb venue which has only recently come into use mainly through the efforts of the West Hants and Dorset C.C. is Wiscombe Park near Sidmouth in Devon. It will be used on Sunday August 9th by the West of England M.C., Plymouth M.C., and Taunton M.C. for a closed hill-climb. Racing commences at 1.30 p.m.

*

On Sunday August 23rd the Thames Estuary A.C. will hold a Restricted-Hill-Climb at Stapleford Airfield, Chigwell, Essex. A large number of Clubs have been invited and there are classes for all sports, saloon and racing-car classes. Stapleford is situated ½-mile N.E. of Abridge on A13 and the runs commence at 1.30 p.m.

*

The London Rally organised by the London M.C. takes place on September 18th and 19th this year. Being a National rally entries are restricted to 240. The rally will cover about 700 miles and the organisers promise something tough for competitors. Regulations and entry forms from Mrs. J. Actman, 18 Marlborough Road, Richmond, Surrey. Entries close August 29th.

*

A popular hill climb in the west is the Trengwainton climb organised by the West Cornwall M.C. This event takes place on Monday August 3rd starting at 2 p.m. Trengwainton is at Madron near Penzance.