Executive for a week

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This does not mean that I have bought the paper or even that I have taken over temporarily from the Managing Director. Merely that I have been driving about for a week in a sumptuous Ford Zodiac, the model-name of which is Executive.

Some people see this car as Ford-of-Britain’s entry into the luxury field, a competitor to the 3-litre Rover, Humber Super-Snipe, Jaguar Mk. 2, or 4-litre Vanden Plas Princess. I do not see it in quite this guise, although it is priced competitively with these beautifully-appointed, very comfortable but more sturdy luxury cars. Jaguar, for instance, charge £9 more, omitting those irritating shillings and pence that Purchase Tax imposes on us, for a car with a slightly-larger engine but with plastic seats and lacking i.r.s. Rover ask £366 more for the stodgy but very nicely fitted-out Mk Ill saloon, the old-fashioned Humber is £20 more expensive, while the Rolls-Royce engined Princess R will set you back £463 against a Ford Executive, taking equivalent automatic-transmission versions in each case.

The way to regard the new Executive Ford, as I see it, is not as a rather out-dated Clubland luxury-car but as a scaled-down American automobile with braking and interior appointments in line with British standards. There are many people who see much sense in America’s way of making cars and who have contemplated owning one, but who were put off by the acreage of even the so-called “compacts,” which have become so inflated dimensionally in recent years, by the often-garish interior decor and external embellishments, by soggy suspension and fade-prone brakes, and perhaps by engines which, even in their most modest forms, are larger and therefore thirstier than is necessary in this country. It is surely for this market that Ford has introduced the 3-litre V6 Executive version of the modern Zodiac IV.

It fills the bill completely. The appearance is restrained, even if in full side view the unnecessarily-long space-wasting bonnet becomes all too obvious. Inside it is more than a parody of true luxury cars, with crushed-hide upholstery (or Aquasheen cloth if you specify it), a burr-walnut facia, carpeted floors even in the boot, reclining separate front seats, Cirrus 200 vinyl trim, metallic paintwork, inertial-reel safety belts, coat-hooks, and a very acceptable and all too rare wind-open sun roof.

In some ways the Executive does not quite match up to the best expensive-car standards. For example, the hand brake that you pull out from the facia with your left hand is rather horrid and on the test car its warning light didn’t want to go out. Then the seat fore-and-aft adjustment and the action of the reclining back-rests was very stiff, nor did the anti-dazzle mirror work, because it was flexible on its mountings. Then you have to get out to extend the radio aerial, and the right-hand edge of the facia, which may be of walnut, but seems to be covered with glass it is so highly glazed, could be flexed by casual operation of the interior lighting control-knob. On the other hand, you get this big fully-equipped car for £1,567 inclusive, complete with boot-light, exterior rear-view mirrors, parking lights, adjustable steering column, steering lock, twin-tone horns, anti-burst door locks, stainless-steel screen and windows trim, twin radio speakers, two-speed wipers, childproof locks for the back doors, etc. The i.r.s. gives a ride that the motoring dog, a great assessor of car suspension, accepted without permanently extended claws, although the ride is more flexible than some fast drivers will like. The servo disc brakes are adequate without being outstanding and the power steering effortless but suffering from the “over-centre” feel on lock which better systems avoid. The Cruise-o-Matic 3-speed automatic transmission does not work as smoothly as similar systems on the better American cars, the 144 b.h.p. engine, however, runs far more smoothly and idles much better than the 2-1/2 -litre Zephyr version and, on journeys involving frequent spells of 70 m.p.h. cruising, returned a petrol consumption of 21.7 m.p.g., nor had it consumed any oil after 450 miles.

There is an impressive array of instruments, including tachometer, clock, ammeter, oil gauge, water thermometer and a terribly pessimistic petrol gauge. Aeroflow ventilation is naturally provided, with swivelling vents at each end of the facia; I prefer that of the Cortina/Corsair with its separate controls, but the Executive’s system de-misted the big area of glass quite effectively. Face-level fresh air is selected by means of the main heater controls and a tiny switch adjustment controls the two-speed fan. The minor controls consist of a row of diminutive, labelled switches in line on a panel of their own, which look after parking lights, wipers, washers, any pass and fog lamps fitted, and head and sidelights selection. Because this panel is to the right below the facia the switches are not so ” fumbly ” as they might appear and at night they are illuminated along with the instruments, heater quadrants and gear-selector positions.

The horn pushes are on the two spokes of the steering wheel, which I do not care for, although this is better than on the Cortina, when one all too often sounds the horn when merely wishing to signal a change of direction with the r.h. stalk control. On the Executive this control has the lamps-flasher on its extremity. It works over too small an arc and feels frail. The washers were inoperative on the test car but apparently turning the spindle of their electric motor would have made them work; as they were never required this executive kept his cuffs clean. There was a remarkable item which caused me to think the ignition circuit had failed when all was well; I will not expound on this because it constitutes a useful means of preventing children and car-park attendants front starting the Executive’s engine, although it would probably not foil a professional car-thief.

Except at extreme speeds the Ford Executive runs very quietly. The automatic transmission gives DI and D2 as well as the usual selection. The seats are extremely comfortable, in a family-car context, and the space within body and boot more than ample for most purposes, the spare wheel hobnobbing with the engine up in the front, so that it does not menace the luggage. It is a sad reflection on on such a safety-conscious Ford Company that the sharply raked-back screen pillars constitute a bad blind spot. The fuel-filler is beneath a spring-loaded flap and it is angled far more sensibly than on the Cortina. The fuel tank holds 15 gallons, so that the range is truly commendable. The Goodyear G800 radial-ply tyres gives satisfying grip although wheelspin could be promoted if kick-down was used on road-wetted corners.

I think that the Ford Executive, which can be had with a manual gearbox if this is preferred, will captivate a lot of customers, particularly if it is regarded as a medium-sized Anglo-American-type vehicle possessing the comfort and amenities of the better-class British cars and with brakes, steering and suspension to suit our roads, at all events in the eyes of the sort of persons who are likely to buy it. It should be a sensational success, saleswise, and no doubt will be very popular with fleet-buyers. — W.B.

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