Years ago in the 1950’s folks were not very cool. Simple pleasures such as car spotting were enough to entertain a young poet such as me. In his “Prelude” Wordsworth talks about his young life with beauty and fear. As an urban Anorak child I would only be able to talk about the 1952 Standard Vanguard and also that day when I spotted an Austin Atlantic. In those days the motor car was still unattainable to most working class people. All the same they represented a dream of the future embodied in sculpture. The Vanguard and the Atlantic influenced my young malleable psyche but eventually fell away as the mass production of vehicles presented ever more objects of beauty.
Then, one day I came home from a day of car spotting to our artisan’s terraced home. In the road outside was a fawn coloured Mk.1 Ford Consul, registration number MCR 992. The year was 1955. My father had got a job that needed a car. I only had one thought which has remained unexpressed all these years. “Why Oh why could it not have been a Zephyr Zodiac?” OK – I knew we were plain folk who never expected to win – but a Consul was so close to a Zodiac that we could have crossed that divide. If we had had a Zodiac I would have had an Oboe Of The British Empire and been made Poet Lorry Park by now. That fawn Consul Mk1 set the limits of my aspirations.
For years this anguished disappointment has festered in the pocket of my anorak. Imagine then my mixed feelings when Emma Calin called me to say that she had book by Terry Ravenscroft called ” Zephyr Zodiac”. The book is in fact a skilful look at British social attitudes and history from 1962 to 2012. It plots the history of a 1962 Mk 3 Ford Zephyr Zodiac as it passes through a succession of owners. Changing attitudes to sex, race, celebrity and work are interwoven with a series of short plays dealing with everything from teenage pregnancy, the police, retirement and gangsters. The events are often hilariously surreal, yet at other times touched with a sincere pathos and empathy. As an ex cop I did find myself laughing aloud at Mr Ravenscroft’s evident disdain for certain aspects of police behaviour. I would have to concede that he is spot on in his critique.
For fellow younger anoraks who may not be aware of the Zodiac, this vehicle was the top of the range Ford in the UK from 1950. It had four separate manifestations, the best of which were the Mk 2 and the Mk3. The Mk 4 was an ugly brute and for me was not in the same spirit at all. I began work in a Ford dealership in 1964 – the year they introduced the Mk4. My bread and butter work were the Mk 1,2 and 3 cars. Sadly body corrosion was an issue and I have lost count of the number of welding jobs I have done of the sills and front suspension strut mountings. I would have to point out that beyond the Zodiac was the Executive – some options including gold hub caps and bumpers.
I have owned one Zephyr in my life – a 1962 Zephyr4 – a poor substitute by comparison. It did have a four speed column change gearbox, bench seats and fins. And fins is what the whole concept was about. Was it a coincidence that it was in 1965 that development of the F15 fighter plane began. Just as Ford scrapped the Zodiacs, McDonnell Douglas hit on the design to defeat Communism and the Russian Mig jets. Just check out the photos. It is obvious to me that the Ford Zodiac led directly to the triumph of the West by inspiring the twin fin back end.
And finally – guess what has been on my desk these last 25 plus years. The only 6 cylinder Zephyr I have ever owned. It used to belong to my son but he had no respect for it and I had to repossess it. Now that is sad is it not!
If you are any sort of petrol head or just have a memory of the last fifty years, check out Zephyr Zodiac by Terry Ravenscroft.
Being some kind of poet I cannot leave this subject without a short poem about cars with fins. It is called Independent front suspension strut.
Beatle songs and whitewall Nation
with column change sophistication,
We had arrived in Telstar space,
where there was no welded place
beyond the strut type front suspension..
Yes – the last finned cars were the end of history. Post modernism and sociology began with the Mk4 Zephyr. I do know that the above is a exceptionally naff poem, but when you are hoping to be the poet Lorry Park you just have to churn the stuff out.