So much has been written in so many places about Dagenham’s latest family car, which was released dramatically, at midnight or thereabouts on June 16th, that I will endeavour to be brief.
Having missed both a pre-view drive at Ford’s Boreharn test track and the release of the new model to the press at Brands Hatch – when, I hear, friends of a daily paper overturned the model to the photographic advantage of the Daily Mirror – I naturally looked forward to a full road-test of the Classic, in which I contrived to motor over 700 miles.
Having overcome initial disappointment that this was not an entirely now British car with excitingly revolutionary features (it seems that amongst the Big Five we must look for such to B.M.C. and Leyland/Standard) nor even a faster version of the well-known Anglia, I regarded the Consul Classic impartially.
Here was a spacious family saloon, with a luggage boot able to contain the baggage of two families, new in appearance and very much “in the news.” I am inclined to regard the five stars along its prow and those funny upswept rear doors as vulgar, but in this I feel the world’s motorists may not be with me.
I was disappointed with back springs locating a rigid back axle so casually that the latter hopped up and down over mildly unsmooth roads and the tail of the car sideways on rough corners, but relieved to discover that roll is notably well damped so that rapid negotiation of roundabouts and the less sharp curves increases admiration for this £800 Ford.
I was unhappy, however, when rain trickled down the insides of the front doors when the quarter-lights were open, because the gutters don’t do their job, although pleased that car-thieves will be temporarily resisted by locks on the quarter-light catches.
The supple suspension would not be so bad if it did not accentuate quite loud rattles from the body of what was virtually a new car. The axle may be more subdued with a full load to damp it, but how often is a car fully laden?
Dagenham has clearly looked at a Taunus and cribbed such desirable features as a daylight lamps-flasher and coat-hooks in the back compartment. But as the former means depressing the right-hand direction-flashers stalk instead of flicking it and as the latter are badly placed and lethal, the conclusion must be that Cologne does these things much better than Dagenham. Incidentally, presumably because the tip of the aforesaid stalk depresses it also rotates, causing the fingers to roll off it all too easily while trying to operate the flashers.
The facia is fussy and the horizontal scale of the 100-m.p.h. speedometer blanked by a small horn-ring that calls for an uncomfortably wide thumb stretch. Moreover, the flanking fuel gauge and temperature indicator are square instruments in a different plane, which is faintly tedious to the eyes.
There is a mileometer with tenths but no trip recorder, and the fuel gauge, although of the slow-to-move electric kind, wasn’t quite as steady as the better makes of this type, nor quite as accurate.
The two-tone upholstery you may or may not like but no keen driver will fall in love with the plated motif along the steering-wheel spokes that reflects the sun – it was loose on the test car.
The Classic I drove had the floor gear-lever, extremely well placed and nice, if a trifle “sticky,” to use, but apt to “zizz” if a hand was laid on it. The handbrake is set out of the way within the under-facia shelf, which isn’t at all a bad location when you remember where to feel for it.
The steering is a bit vague but it is light and transmits only very mild vibration. It is also decently high-geared at 2-5/8 turns lockto-lock plus 1/8-turn of free movement. Added to faint vibration the wheel also transmits slight tremors rather than kick-back; there is good castor-return action which, however, does not return the wheels completely straight-ahead.
The clutch action is somewhat dead. The separate front seats, mounted off the floor, have an expensive feel about them enhanced by good adjustment levers, but the cushions are on the hard side. All doors have arm-rests, with the unusual feature of the internal door handles concealed beneath them, a safety measure which may cause panic amongst girl-friends who find themselves unable to find an exit! I have heard also of passengers grabbing the arm-rest and opening the door inadvertently, so maybe safety factor should be in quotes! The driver’s right elbow is a bit too close to the door, tending to slovenly driving, arm on the sill.
The plated facia has a lockable cubby-hole which is deep but will only with difficulty take a Rolleiflex camera. The doors have sill-locks, which I like, over-strong, harsh-acting “keeps,” and the front window handles are geared under 3 turns; the back ones 3-3/4 turns, and they have rotating finger grips. There are openable quarter-lights in the oddly-shaped rear doors, so that ventilation, aided by a good heater/ventilator with Continental colour-markings for its horizontal quadrant controls, is efficient. The heater is an extra, however, even on the de luxe models, which should be remembered when comparing the cost of the Classic with rival makes.
The performance of the car is nothing to rave about, for although the 1,340-c.c. engine equals the power of many 1-1/2-litre power units it has to be allowed to turn over fast if the best use is to be made of it, and although around 70 in third gear and 80 m.p.h. in top are then possible, the other ratios are on the low side, while the car weighs over 18 cwt. Petrol consumption varied between 30.2 and 33.5 m.p.g., to average 31.96 mpg., and the average range, fill to dry tank, was 278 miles, which is very useful. The distributor bore a yellow label, so we used premium fuels. In a total distance of over 900 miles perhaps a quarter of a pint of oil was consumed. The fuel filler is beneath the rear number-plate but this is not lockable on the English Fords.
The disc front brakes are extremely worth while and will soon be regarded as essential, on all but the lightest cars, as front drum brakes were considered to be from 1924 onwards. The dual Lucas headlamps are another very worthwhile feature of the new Ford Consul Classic. The high-beam warning light failed during the test. The other special feature, shared with the Anglia, is the inclined back window, which does have the merit of keeping fluids, frozen or otherwise, off the glass, but at the considerable sacrifice of no parcels’ shelf – and where, otherwise, do you put the kid’s Lesney and Corgi toys and the wife’s umbrella?
The radio had somewhat crude push-buttons, a very tall aerial – if this was fully extended, and suffered from external interference.
Ford has at last installed electric wipers – they are two-speed, but only just, although depressing the control button, which can be confused with the lamps button, operates a good washer and the wiper blades themselves are notably efficient. Padded anti-dazzle vizors contrast with the dangerous coat hooks, but the rearview mirror, rather restricted by a low roof, is stayed to the screen.
The Ford Consul Classic, then, is a good family car, not revolutionary, but well planned, imposing for the neighbours to regard, and pleasant to drive, and it is good that it is made not only in normal and de luxe versions but with 2- and 4-door body styles. – W. B.
The Ford Consul Classic 315 4-door Deluxe Saloon
Engine: Four cylinders, 80.1 x 65 mm. (1,340 c.c.). Push-rod operated overhead valves. 8.5 to 1 compression ratio. 54 (net) b.h.p. at 4,900 r.p.m.
Gear ratios: 1st, 16.99 to 1; 2nd, 9.88 to 1; 3rd, 5.83 to 1; top, 4.12 to 1.
Tyres: 5.60 x 13 Firestone gum-dipped on bolton steel disc wheels.
Weight: 18 cwt.1 qtr.(without occupants but ready for the road, with approximately a gallon of petrol.
Steering ratio: 2-5/8 turns, lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity: 9 gallons, (Range approximately 278 miles).
Wheelbase: 8 ft. 3 in.
Track: 4 ft. 1-1/2 in.
Dimensions: 14 ft. 2-4/5 in. x 5 ft. 2-1/10 in. x 4 ft. 8-2/5 in. (high).
Price: £565 (£801 10s. 10d. inclusive of purchase tax). With extras, as tested, £846 3s. 2d.
Makers: The Ford Motor Company Ltd., Dagenham, Essex, England.