A splendid load carrier

The V6 Ford Zodiac Abbott-bodied estate car

WE CANNOT all drive exotic super-fast glued-to-the-road motor cars. Indeed, in these high-priced days many people have to make one vehicle fulfil many roles and the estate-car or station wagon often makes exceedingly good sense. Quite one of the best big load-carriers of this kind that I have driven is the V6 Ford Zodiac de luxe with Abbott body.

The big Fords may not have been successful sellers by Dagenham’s mass-production standards. The long bonnet over a compact V6 engine did not endear them to some potential customers and other shortcomings were dealt with when we tested the 5-litre Ford in saloon form. Since then the V6 engine has done well in anything from Transit van to Capri GT. I always thought it was intended as a commercial-vehicle power-pack and that other load-carrier, the estate car version of the Zodiac, based on the unhappily-named “Executive” saloon, certainly constitutes a worthwhile investment.

A weekly contemporary tended to brush it off as a compromise, space restricted by the intrusion of the rear coil-spring suspension units and body reinforcements and the carpeting such that it is more suited to carrying antiques than cattle-fodder. Well, I carried antique furniture in this Ford, and I confess I took the dogs in it, and I thought it in all ways ideal. The counter-balanced tail-gate lifts easily for loading, and shuts nicely, the back seat folds easily, and the carpet in the enormous compartment thus formed (82 cubic ft. of it) can be readily unbuttoned and rolled up. Windows in the rear side quarters make for light and good visibility, the big seats, PVC or hide (button!) upholstered, with reclining squabs for the front ones, are comfortable (a bench seat is available), and the controls and instrumentation especially well contrived. The automatic transmission functions well (1, 2, D, N, R, from a I.h. column lever, kicks-down holding 2nd gear to an indicated 57 m.p.h.), although it was disconcerting to have to waggle the lever about the “N” position to get the ignition to connect and one has to remember that if the parking lights are on the engine will not start, and that dowsing the panel lighting extinguishes the n/s sidelamps—a stupid economy of switch-gear not rectified since the Executive saloon was introduced. But the line of small dials for oil pressure, fuel contents, temperature and alternator charge, the unexpected presence of a tachometer, a closely-calibrated 120 m.p.h. speedometer, and switches, also in a row, on the right, for lamps (foot dipping), two-speed wipers, powerful Autolite washers, and the aforesaid panel lighting/parking lights, are well located.

This is a load-carrier and the stowage for small items is generous, in keeping—a big-lidded well between the seats with a flat shelf ahead of it, a huge drop cubby which is lockable (rather irritatingly self-locking, in fact) and scuttle map-pockets. The remainder of the matt-black hooded facia is occupied with compact heater controls, the Aeroflow swivel fresh-air vents, a cigar-lighter, drawer-type ashtray, a knob for varying the brightness of the panel lighting and putting on the roof lamp, an accurate Kienzle clock and a radio. The steering wheel has leather-padded spokes, the ignition-key inserts easily into a lock on the right, the recessed pull-out interior door handles, the roof “pulls” and coat hooks, the arm-rests, reversing lamps, and ingenious day-night interior mirror (too flexibly mounted however), supplemented by wing mirrors, are all in the Ford’s favour and the T-handle pull-out hand-brake is acceptable.

I am not pretending that this lengthy estate car handles like a sports car; it clings well enough on 14 in. Goodyear G800 tyres. The 118 h.p. engine wafts the car along quietly at our legal limit (70 indicated 3,800 rpm.) and beyond (it is, in fact, just about a 100 m.p.h. car), idles inaudibly, and can be taken to 5,500 r.p.m. before going “into the red” in respect of revs. The handling is such that one tends to slow more than normally for some corners, although I was pleasantly surprised at how ambitiously this imposing quantity of Zodiac could be taken round the faster ones. The servo-assisted all-disc brakes are a fine complement to the handling, for they bring the speed down in the most progressive manner possible. The power steering, too, is very good (four turns, lock-to-lock).

With its Vinyl-covered roof and painted lining along the body sides this big Abbott-Zodia, is an “expensive” looking vehicle, and an excellent one at its job. It even has the “pedestrian sight” on the bonnet, which Mr. Wheeler used so effectively in that road-safety cartoon film of a few years ago.) The front passenger’s door was difficult to close, the n/s back door difficult to open, and I had to drive the heater a good deal, because its volume varies with car speed. The r.h. stalk controlling turn-indicators, flashers, and horn is a trifle long and one’s sleeve tends to foul it when reaching for the wipers’ or lamps’ switches.

Otherwise, no complaints. This Ford Zodiac is a splendid loadcarrier, which I would willingly include in my fleet if I could contemplate that number of cars. It ran 226 miles on a full tank before it seemed prudent to refuel, and there was over a gallon left. The overall consumption was 17.9 m.p.g. of 4-star and that of engine oil approx. 380 m.p.p. About the best of the big estate cars, this Ford sells for £2,045, delivered price.—W.B.