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Ford Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2 buying guide

Ford Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2 buying guide Classic and Performance Car
Ford Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2 buying guide Ford Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2 buying guide Some cars don’t have to try hard; they’re just effortlessly cool. And some of the coolest, ever since they arrived in 1956, are the Ford Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac Mk2. It doesn’t matter whether you buy a saloon, a convertible, or one of the ultra-rare estates, these are classics that look perfect from every angle – a snapshot of Fifties Americana that made (and still makes) most of their contemporaries look just a little bit ordinary.

A car capable of providing comfortable family transport on long journeys, the Mk2 Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac, dubbed by Ford as the Three Graces, was equally at home in international rallying or circuit racing. Now it’s just as at home transporting the family on a classic drive out as it is being admired in a classic car show.

Bigger and consequently more spacious than the Mk1 models they replaced, the Mk2s were just 25lb heavier thanks to Ford’s monocoque contruction skills. With more power too, they were faster and more relaxing to drive – especially in six-cylinder form.

Which one to buy

If you’re looking for a slice of 1950s Heaven, Ford’s Mk2 range should fit the bill. There are some superb examples out there and these cars are extremely usable, but the Mk2’s desirability means prices are high because demand constantly outstrips supply. Tarted-up cars aren’t unusual, but there are lots of good cars around. They don’t come onto the market that often though, so be prepared to search and also to wait, to get the Mk2 of your dreams.

Six-cylinder cars are more sought after than the four-pot Consul while the convertible is by far the most valuable. The same three-speed manual gearbox is used on four and six-cylinder Mk2s, with overdrive available on six-cylinder cars; this extra is now hugely sought after. Six-pot cars were also available with a three-speed automatic gearbox; such cars are unusual though.

Later cars got discs at the front, with the same set-up used on four-cylinder cars as six-pot editions. Consuls don’t really need discs; any braking inadequacies of drum-equipped cars is usually down to seized front wheel cylinders.

Tech spec - Zephyr convertible Engine 2553cc, six-cylinder Power 85bhp @ 4000rpm Torque 133lb ft @ 2000rpm Top speed 84mph 0-60mph 17.9sec Consumption 25mpg Gearbox Three-speed manual (O/D or three-speed auto opt)

What to look for

• Inspect the car thoroughly for corrosion; all inner and outer panels rot badly, although the thick panels make repairs easier. Also check the seams; any signs of rust means there’s likely to be plenty of hidden corrosion.

• Six-cylinder engines generally live longest, but all Mk2 powerplants can suffer from worn piston rings, valvegear and bearings. Expect to get 80-100,000 miles between rebuilds. Mk2 engines tend to sound tappety even when in rude health.

• The biggest problem is a worn rocker shaft; the rocker tips wear when the seal for the oil feed pipe comes off. It’s easy to fix if caught in time, but once the camshaft has worn the engine has to come out for repairs. Six-cylinder rocker shafts are especially scarce.

• The manual transmission is weak, with jumping out of second gear common.

• Clutches are weak and hard to find, with pressure plates especially hard to find. New six-cylinder parts are extinct, with used bits scarce too. Used Consul bits are marginally more plentiful and will fit six-cylinder cars, but will fail almost immediately. Reconditioned clutches tend to fail quickly too.

• Differentials are strong, which is just as well because replacements are rare and so are parts for rebuilds.

• Stiff steering means the box has been overtightened to adjust out the play – which may have damaged it beyond repair.

• See if the rubber cap is in place on top of the front suspension strut. If it’s not there, water will have got in, and replacement bearings aren’t available.

• There are 14 suspension greasing points, which need attention every 1000 miles, so wear is common. Worn front struts can be a problem too, so bounce test each corner. If it keeps bouncing, a rebuild is needed – but the piston in each strut is no longer available, with used ones rare. Cars left standing for ages may have a rusty piston; that’s a major problem as they’re no longer available, whereas leaky dampers aren’t an issue, as replacement seals are cheap and available.

• New interior and exterior trim are extinct, with decent used stuff very scarce. Some brightwork (grilles, side trim) are chrome on brass, so they can be revived, bonnet mascots are mazac, which makes restoration tricky.

Model history

1956: Mk2 Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac launched, in saloon and convertible forms. Later on, an Abbott-converted estate arrives.

1957: The Consul de luxe arrives, with two-tone paint and trim plus plated window frames. There’s also an improved steering box plus the Zephyr gets a revised grille.

1959: There are now low-line versions of the Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac. The roofline is 1.5 inches lower (all above the glasshouse) plus there’s now a padded dash top, new rear lights, a twist-action handbrake and sun visors for the convertibles.

1960: Servo-assisted front discs brakes are now optional for all cars and available as a retro-fit kit for older Mk2s.

1961: Front disc brakes are now standard, along with sealed-beam headlights. Consul is now Consul 375 (to differentiate it from the Consul 315).

1962: The MkIII range hits showrooms.

Words: Richard Dredge
Ford Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2 buying guide Ford Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2 buying guide
Last updated: 6th May 2015
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