Take a look at this fantastic photo of Celtic manager Jock Stein picking up his new Ford Zephyr from a garage on Glasgow’s Cumbernauld Road. This picture is from 1967, and was in fact taken just two days before Stein led his Celtic side to European Cup glory in Lisbon, where a 2-1 win over Inter Milan saw them crowned as champions of Europe, the first British club to do so.
Stein was no doubt elated with that victory, but how happy would he have been with his new set of wheels..? Possibly a little underwhelmed is the likely answer.
Since the Mk1 Zephyr and Zodiac of 1951, with their Aston Martin-style grilles and MacPherson Strut front suspensions, this was the favoured mode of transport of the image-conscious middle management type. Ford regularly updated the Z-cars, allowing them to grow in tandem with their buyers’ wealth. The fins got bigger; and styling more trans-Atlantic; and their power units that bit more powerful.
But despite this upward trend, the arrival of the Zephyr and Zodiac Mk4 in 1966 was still had an element of shock and awe about it.
This car shared very little with its predecessor. It was designed around Ford’s new V-series four- and six-cylinder Essex engines, and was to be longer and wider than before. The design was bold, reflecting American thinking, not just in terms of dimensions, but also detail.
At the top of the range, the Executive was added as a trim level above the Zodiac. Like the standard Zodiac, the Executive featured stylish quad headlights, but also boasted optional automatic transmission (or overdrive manual), power steering, sunroof, reclining front seats, walnut fascia, carpeting throughout, reversing lights, fog lamps, and an increase in power to 136bhp – and all at around £1,600.
To ensure that the vast amount of space under the bonnet was filled, the spare wheel was moved forward and mounted between the engine and the radiator. Whilst this certainly improved boot space it also gave the car strange weight distribution and some interesting handling traits.
During its six-year production run, around 150,000 Zephyr and Zodiac Mk4s were built. The general consensus that the Z-cars were a commercial flop would seem to be untrue – after all, the Austin 3 Litre managed a mere 9,992 cars during its four-year life, while the golden 2000s from Rover took 15 years to notch up their 300,000-plus sales.
However, they were an engineering failure, and their troubled life directly led to Ford continuing down the pan-European route for its executive cars, with a single car – the Granada – being created to replace the Z-cars and their German counterparts, the P7 series.
Statistics and info from AROnline.