Ford Zephyr-Six Test Report

2-1/4-litre Saloon with “Over-Square” Engine Provides Effortless and Comfortable 70 m.p.h. Travel and is a Pleasure to Drive

Having taken a Ford Consul up to Charterhall and back for the excellent racing at Scotland’s first International Race Meeting last October, Motor Sport  recently had the pleasure of doing a rapid day-tour into Wales with a Ford Zephyr-Six. On the latter occasion we took no especial note of the average speeds accomplished, for such observations are of interest only in respect of extremely fast cars over uninterrupted journeys. But what the Ford accomplished was impressive in a different way, for here was an economical, comfortable saloon of compact dimensions and modest price, which packed in an enormous amount of travel without tiring itself or its occupants,

Leaving Lewknor, on the London side of Oxford, at 8 a.m., we were able to motor to Dinas Powis, search for and locate an early Lagonda, spend half-an-hour examining this hedgerow discovery, drive over snow-covered roads through the Rhondda Valley, lunch, carry our exploration on to Presteign, of V.S.C.C. rally memory, attempt some cross-country stuff where we stuck for something like an hour in a drift, take a very leisurely meal at the “Radnorshire Arms” and drive back to our starting point over slippery roads without hurrying, arriving by 10.15 p.m.

A car which can so usefully cover the ground is the sort of transport which 75 per cent. at least of the world’s car-buyers require. The three enthusiasts who made this day tour (which embraced that excellent free entertainment, the aerial voyage across the Usk on the Newport Transporter Bridge and some fine motoring along deserted mountain roads with the sun glinting on snow-capped peaks) were all warm in their appreciation of this Zephyr-Six.

Apart from its easy running and comfortable riding, this latest Ford is notably economical, giving 25 m.p.g. It is also a quite good cross-country proposition, its excellent ground-clearance and high-set exhaust system making light of the “back o’ beyond” as negotiation of a deep water-splash emphasised. In this connection the back wheels carry less load than is usual and consequently tend to break-away rather early on corners or to spin on slippery hills, but no doubt this could be countered by carrying ballast in the boot or fitting chains. Apart from this tendency to lose adhesion, the three-speed gearbox has well-chosen ratios and the engine sufficient power to render easy a restart in the 12.62 to 1 bottom gear on steep gradients. Full power in first gear, however, brought in very noticeable rear-wheel judder.

On long journeys this Zephyr-Six excels, for it cruises at 70-75 m.p.h. with an easy stride, accelerating powerfully and taking ordinary hills in the highest ratio with little diminution of speed. The driver has an excellent view ahead through the broad screen and can see both front mudguards. It takes him a little time to realise that the wheels are set quite appreciably inboard, so that kerbs can be clipped closer than at first appears prudent. The 17-in. steering wheel is set sensibly far from the facia and it controls really good steering, quick and smooth, working “against the castor” sufficiently to remain taut and tell you where the front wheels are, yet not functioning at all heavily. There is rather vigorous castor action, no return-motion and only very slight vibration is transmitted, and the gearing, at 2-1/2  turns lock-to-lock, is an excellent compromise which only the vintage-car addict might term a trifle low-ratio. The wheel carries direction-indicator switch control and a half-horn-ring, the latter, turning with the wheel, apt to be lost to the finger-tip at moments when it is most needed.

The cornering tendency is towards under-steer and the Zephyr-Six handles very well, instilling great confidence over wet, even icy, roads, and contributing greatly to the pleasure derived by a keen driver. The aforesaid early rear-end break-away can be adequately met under most circumstances by the light, sensitive steering, for which the Ford engineers deserve full marks. Moreover, the Zephyr rides on a reasonably level keel, and any rolling which does take place can be met by the responsive, smooth steering.

The Zephyr rides the rough stuff with its 13-in. wheels bouncing about furiously but its occupants isolated from road shock, which is exactly as it should be.  The suspension is, additionally, efficiently damped, so that hump-back bridges and road-opener’s gulleys have no effect on control. Full marks again!  In Monmouthshire we met a long stretch of road which would have made MIRA jealous but the Ford rode it comfortably and securely. There is some up and down motion but normally the car rides smoothly.

A centre arm-rest for the front seat would be useful; a leather-upholstered bench seat particularly calls for this aid to dignified passengering. The back seat is so provided and the doors have armrests.

At speeds above 60 m.p.h. a grumbling noise intrudes, which might be a source of appreciable irritation on Continental journeys, where such a speed would be held for hours on end. It was accompanied by some floor vibration and would seem to be the effect of certain road surfaces on small tyres magnified by the one-piece construction. There was also a good deal of wind-noise, but the Ekco radio, occupying some of the otherwise extremely generous area of the under-facia parcels shelf, competed successfully. Otherwise the car is extremely quiet and the six-cylinder, 68-b.h.p., o.h.v. engine very smooth. The latter starts promptly, does not run-on, and suffers only subdued “pinking” on Pool. It called for no water and little oil after 600 miles. Valve bounce comes in at 4,000 r.p.m., equal to 28 m.p.h. in first, 50 m.p.h. in second gear.

The bench seats are comfortable but leg-room is a thought restricted by the length of the big-bore six-cylinder engine and the good feature of a rear seat within the wheelbase. A medium-height human would not remark on this, however, but a taller occupant also finds some restriction of head-room in the back seat. The front seat adjusts easily, the rear windows please by winding fully down if required, most of the expected “mod. cons.” are present and the heater became effective after we had used the cover of the Ford catalogue to blank-off part of the radiator. In doing this we discovered that the bonnet-release handle needed a great deal of force to make it function, that dip-stick, battery, etc., are usefully accessible, but thereafter we felt the lack of a coolant thermometer or oil-pressure gauge. The pull-out knobs on the facia, one sufficing for the lamps control, are adequate, once you realise that “B” means heater-fan, “V”  ventilator and “Hood” is the bonnet-release. The protruding-cowl instrument cluster before the driver consists of speedometer-cum-odometer (sans trip and with no “tenths”), ammeter, fuel gauge, and warning lights for ignition, oil, indicators (tiny arrows) and headlamps beam. Ignition key and starter button are on opposite ends of the cluster. The fuel gauge is usefully pessimistic but its dial has no readings save four spots, those inidicating empty and quarter-full being very close spaced.

The hanging pedals work well, likewise the spoon-type accelerator, but the hydraulically-actuated clutch is rather heavy to hold down, and somewhat sensitive to engage with a long pedal travel. The 9-in Girling brakes, if calling for determined pedal pressure, can be dismissed with full marks, and the central pull-out-from-facia handbrake is good of its kind and holds the car like a rock, but is too close to the heater control quadrant. There are twin sun visors with a neat radio loudspeaker between them. The luggage locker is particularly spacious and although the spare wheel lives therein it has the decency to stand upright. The locker lid is easy to lift, and locks.

The steering-column gear-change functions adequately, with useful synchromesh, and the rigid lever is free from that troublesome habit of waving like a lily of the field. On the other hand the change is not as smooth as some and there is no reverse-catch. The lever is on the left side of the wheel. In engaging bottom gear from rest one is apt at times “to hit the cogs.”

The headlamps give good, if not particularly penetrating, converging beams, and can cope well with normal fog when dipped. The foot dipper is well placed. The rear-view mirror is adequate, the central roof lamp and the instrument lighting excellent. Suction wipers are fitted, but their wiping speed is adjustable and they functioned well; their control knob pulled off but could be replaced. The indicators had a slight tendency to stick and one rear lamp bulb failed.

The body is completely waterproof and draught-free and was free from all save one major rattle in the near-side front door. The fuel filler, placed horizontally, is a cause of slight anxiety to those who like to refuel from a can.

Easy cruising at speeds commendably high for a car of this kind and the high degree of pleasure afforded by the taut steering and good roadholding, explain the growing popularity of this car, and its sister, the 1-1/2-litre four-cylinder Consul, on British roads. Ford has every reason to feel proud, and sure of the continued success of a saloon so well suited to the needs of so many motorists, especially bearing in mind its competitive basic price of £532.  Indeed, remembering how well the Ford V8, Pilot, Anglia and Prefect served the people, backed by world-wide service, it can be said, of the Consul and Zephyr-Six, that  “Dagenham has done it again !”— W. B.


The Ford Zephyr-Six Saloon

Engine:  Six cylinders, 79.37 mm by 76.2 mm., 2.262 c.c., pushrod o.h.v.; 6.8 to 1 compression ratio; 68 b.b.p. at 4,000 r.p.m.

Gear ratios:  1st, 12.62 to 1;  2nd, 7.29 to 1;  top, 4.44 to 1.

Tyres:  6.40-13 Goodyear on bolt-on steel disc wheels.

Weight:   23 cwt., without occupants but ready for the road with one gallon of fuel

Steering ratio:  2-1/2 turns, lock-to-lock.

Fuel capacity:  Nine gallons. Range approx. 225 Miles.

Wheelbase:  8 ft. 8 in.

Track:  Front, 4 ft. 2 in;  Rear, 4 ft. 1 in.

Overall dimensions:  14 ft. 3-3/4 in. by  5 ft. 4 in. (wide) by 5ft 0-3/4 in. (high).

Price: £532 (£829 1s. 1d. with p.t.).


Speeds in gears (mph): 1st … 28 m.p.h;  2nd … 50 m.p.h;  Top … 80 m.p.h.

Acceleration through gears:  0-50 m.p.h. in 13 sec;  0-60 m.p.h. in 19 sec.

s.s. 1/4 mile:  22 sec.

Makers:  Ford Motor Co., Ltd., Dagenham, Essex.