Road test: The Ford Consul 3000 GT

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A fast, spacious, comfortable, all-Independently-sprung,
3-litre V6 saloon, at a competitive price

When I wrote the road-test report on the Ford Granada GTX last October I praised the new range of big V6-engined cars from Dagenham for setting new standards of quiet running, safe handling, comfortable ride, and general convenience, in the up-to-£2,000 class.

If you ignore the fact that a Granada GXL now costs £2,204, these observations are still entirely valid. To confirm them, I have been carrying out a long-duration road-test of a Ford Consul 3000 GT, which is very much the same as the top-model Granada except for its manual steering, positively-driven cooling fan, and lack of a few of the Granada’s luxuries. It is about one hundred pounds lighter, has the stiffened-up suspension and 6-in.-wide wheel-rims, and as the engine does not have to run the hydraulic pump for the power-steering, it goes that much better. Which means this Consul is good for 114 m.p.h., will run to all but 90 m.p.h. in 3rd gear, and although it is a big, spacious and truly comfortable car, will go from 0-60 m.p.h. in the excellent time-lapse of nine seconds, or dispose of a 1/4-mile from a standing-start in 16.7 sec.

The car I am using has the very much appreciated Goldie sliding roof, the vinyl roof covering (to impress motoring Jones’s), Wingard reel-type seat-belts, a Triplex laminated windscreen, a very good Ford press-button radio and other items associated with the Granada GXL, which makes it a very good purchase at a price of £2,230, VAT included. The present price of the basic Consul 3000 GT, incidentally, is a competitive £1,780, VAT included.

I still find the deeply-buried instrument dials difficult to read, but this occasions little cause for panic, because the oil-gauge goes high up the non-calibrated dial and remains there, the sump oil seemingly never needing replenishment, and the water-heat needle sits habitually halfway between red and blue, there having been no return of the total coolant loss which afflicted the road-test Granada, although the water-pump outlet seal which caused it looks exactly the same, on the Consul. The petrol gauge is easier to read and the ammeter does not call for frequent consultation. The recessed “cubes” for putting on the lamps (inter-connected) and the Triplex Hot-Line rear window heater couldn’t be more convenient. Apart from the “tunnel” dials, the matt-black interior is quite conservative.

Although the modern Consuls ride very comfortably and corner like the best of the European sporting saloons, indeed better than many, they have a useful affinity with long-life, unstressed American automobiles, namely the uncomplicated (60° V6) engine, used also in Thames commercial vehicles, which delivers its considerable power output without over-exertion. As used in the Consul 3000 GT it is a 93.7 x 72.4 mm. (2,995 c.c.) push-rod o.h.v. power-unit fed by a Weber 38 DGAS twin-choke carburetter and which, on a 9-to-1 c.r., develops 138 (DIN) b.h.p. at an easy 5,000 r.p.m. This engine is being built in great numbers, which is a good insurance in respect of reliability and a satisfactory servicing and spare-parts background. In the Consul 3000 GT, it has a particularly easy time, for at 70 m.p.h. on our Motorways it is running at fractionally over 3,300 r.p.m., when many engines are doing 4,000 r.p.m. or thereabouts.

Another way in which the Consul 3000 GT differs from the road-test Granada GXL is in having a manual four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox. This is controlled by a well-placed substantial lever which, if it does not move quite as silkily as those on the smaller Fords, is nevertheless nice to use, as one expects of today’s Fords. The box has ratios of 1.0, 1.4, 1.96 and 3.10 to 1 and the axle ratio is a high one of 3.45 to 1. This is responsible for the notably restful high-speed cruising of the Consul, abetted by the smooth-running V6 engine, but it calls for care in starting with the fierce 9-1/2-in single-plate clutch, if the engine is not to stall.

As the Consul and Granada are so similar there is no point in going over the detail arrangements or the performance characteristics, which were detailed in Motor Sport of October 1972. Instead, I will deal with items which a further 6,000 miles’ experience of the big Ford have revealed.

The very high level of road-holding continues to impress me. Out of a well-known hairpin bend the Consul can be accelerated hard with none of the inside rear-wheel spin or axle tramp which afflicts, for instance, a BMW 2500. The brakes feel spongy but do a fine job, while being light, progressive and unheard. The taut rack-and-pinion manual steering is, however, absurdly heavy for parking although geared nearly 4-1/2 turns lock-to-lock, and the wide bonnet and flat tail call for some parking expertise, which I assume all Motor Sport readers possess.

As handed over, the front wheels set up a harmless but irritating shimmy at the thick-rimmed, leather-gloved steering wheel, the engine seemed rougher than the Granada’s, water entered the boot if the car was left out on a wet night, and the rough clutch action emphasised play in the back axle, causing a “clonk” on take-up. After going in for service the engine roughness was attributed to one duff plug, the roof was corrected to obviate wind-noise I hadn’t noticed, the latest Hella q.h. lamps were fitted to augment the Lucas headlamps on full-beam (so there is now a fine spread of light; and a difficult problem confronting those of our correspondents who have been debating the merits of circular versus rectangular lenses!), and the front brake pads were changed.

The clutch remains very rough but the steering shake now occurs only under braking. The Consul continues to give absolutely dependable service, except when the bonnet insisted on flying open every few miles one day, until it was bent into compliance with its catch. The sun-roof is completely waterproof and this-very-convenient-to-operate, two-position roof alone makes the Consul very much to my liking.

Once into its stride the V6 engine is very smooth and flexible, pulling away in top from about 1,200 r.p.m., or 26 m.p.h., also quiet running. It starts immediately every morning, after a single depression of the accelerator. I find it possible in the Consul to average almost exactly 60 m.p.h. from the outskirts of London to my place in Wales, although this entails more than an hour’s cross-country driving after leaving the M4 at Chepstow. With such driving, coupled with much local commuting and cold-starting, the Consul gives exactly 24 m.p.g. of four-star petrol, a tankful of which lasts 330 miles, the sort of fuel range every long-legged car should have; but Motorway work pulls this down to around 22 m.p.g. I regard these figures as very good, from such a fast and very spacious 3-litre car.

The seats are large, neither too soft nor too hard, and therefore comfortable, the controls, with the all-purpose r.h. stalk-lever, well contrived, although sounding the horn with the spoke of the steering wheel is not easy and I would prefer this control to be at the end of the stalk, which is where the wipers’ switch is placed. Stowages are useful, but the button for dropping the rather shallow, lockable and illuminated glove box is on a shelf where it is too often concealed by handbag and parcels, which also obscure the Kienzle clock. The handbrake is well-positioned and the foot wipers/washers control is very useful. The external press-up door handles remain too stiff but the interior pull-out handles and sill-buttons function easily. I still think the engine, perhaps because of its different fan, is more obtrusive at low speeds than the Granada’s. These Fords are, maybe, better with automatic transmission, although nicer in manual gearbox form than a Jaguar XJ6, for example, in this context.

The road-holding is helped by the Michelin XAS 185 HR14 tyres, which not only glue the car to the road in poor conditions but have a tread-pattern which can be seen to do so, and they hold correct pressure (24 lb./sq. in. all round) for very long periods. Only once has the understeer got slightly out of hand, on a very slippery wet road. Altogether, my original good impression of the new big Ford has been enhanced by further experience of this dependable and likeable 3-litre Consul.

It is interesting that Ford has recenly issued comparative-style advertising, in which they compare the £1,330 Consul 2500 with the £2,966 Mercedes-Benz 220 in respect of its all-independent double-wishbone and trailing-arm coil-spring suspension, with the £1,674 Rover 2000 in respect of the size of the front seats, with the £2,475 Jaguar XJ6 in the matter of overall size, and with the £3,583 Fiat 130 and £4,980 Citroën SM when it comes to sharing a high-performance V6 engine. This rightly sums up the impression I have formed of the bigger Fords—that they are a match for the best Europe (and for that matter, Japan) has to offer, at very modest prices. Servicing intervals occur every 6,000 miles and between them there is no need to so much as top-up the engine oil, while the level of the brake fluid is visible through the transparent reservoir which serves the dual-circuit Girling-ATE servo disc/drum brakes. Apart from failure of the o/s flashers, this Consul has been entirely service-shy and its Ford battery and screen-washers bottle call for very infrequent topping-up. Truly a car which can be left alone for long periods of hard service and fast driving. I am continuing to run this entirely satisfactory car and if there is anything further to report, will append additional comments.—W.B.

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