Rare Rides: A Ford Consul From 1954 - Little Beige Bathtub
Today’s Rare Ride put me immediately in mind of the Austin Cambridge featured in this series last year. Both were intended primarily for British customers, and both have a similar upright sedan shape which seemingly made so many British cars of the Fifties look exactly the same.
Let’s take a look at some basic Euro Ford transportation that was grandfather to the Cortina.
Ford’s European arm, keen on breaking into the lucrative family car market after World War II, developed an all-new car to replace the fairly dated and limited production V8 Pilot model (the company’s mid-market sedan since 1947). Rounded bathtub styling was the order of the day, and downsizing was in fashion in Europe. Smaller in all dimensions than the Pilot, the Consul was the most basic version of the three-prong sedan attack Ford launched in Europe in 1951. All three implemented modern unibody construction, a first-ever for Ford in Europe.
The star of the show was the Zephyr, which featured more chrome and comfort, plus inline-six engines. Zephyr was quickly eclipsed by an upmarket sibling in 1953, the Zephyr Zodiac, after Ford made sure its new model was a sales success.
Consul remained at the bottom of the range for its entire existence, reflecting to passers-by that one really couldn’t afford the Zephyr. “CONSUL” was in block lettering above the grille. Consul was available in sedan, cabriolet (1953 onward), and wagon guises. Of the trio, the sedan was far and away the sales success. Restricted to an inline-four engine of 1.5 liters, the powerplant was an all-new, modern design. Overhead valves and a hydraulic clutch were among the notable improvements, paired to an old three-speed manual. And there was plenty of time to consider those upcoming gear shifts. Sixty miles per hour arrived in 28 seconds, and the Consul eventually reached a top speed of 72 mph.
The easy-does-it speeds were assisted by another modernization: MacPherson independent suspension at the front, which was a first for any British car.
Consul’s first generation ran through 1956, at which point it was replaced by the Mark II Consul — a car that was quite a bit larger, rode on a longer wheelbase, and brought in some American Ford design cues. In 1962 the Zephyr became a large car, while the Consul name transformed into a line of base model small cars: Consul Classic, Consul Capri, and the Consul Cortina. The name faded from view in the late Sixties, only to return one final time when it represented the base model Granada — a very important car in its own right.
Today’s Consul is a 1954 example. In largely original condition, the base model nature of the Consul line makes its preservation all the more unique. It’s for sale in Bristol presently, for $12,800.
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Great discussion. We tend to forget that in the 1950's the UK was the world's #1 exporter of autos. And Ford dominated sales in the UK in sedans and vans for many, many years. As a Commonwealth nation, Canada purchased far more UK imports than did the USA. Rootes Motors set-up an assembly facility on Scarboro's Golden Mile and that building still exists. My Old Man purchased one of the first Mini's in Canada (strange to see someone his size getting out of that vehicle). It was an unmitigated disaster and he soon swapped it for a VW Beetle, leading to us having at least one VW in our family for over 20 years. At one point among my social circle in the early/mid 70's we had a Cortina, an Envoy Epic, a Vauxhall Viva, and when they were re-introduced to Canada a Mini. There were also a significant number of Mercury/Ford Capris. In North American terms the Cortina, and the Epic were 'dogs' regarding performance. We once raced the two of them and we still joke that a kid on a bicycle would have passed them. I still get a chuckle when watching old British police TV series (The Sweeney) and see Cortinas in car chases.
We did have some good times with the Tiger. My brother got some driving lessons. Seems like not the easiest car to learn clutch and shifting on, but he did OK. We did some stunts. Since my brother was older he got the front seat. When it was cold he would button up his navy coat over his head and pull his right hand into the sleeve resting on the top of the door. Got many shocked looks from people on the sidewalks and other drivers. It looked like something out of those ancient British monster movies.