CC Capsule: 1949 Ford Pilot V8 And 1961 Ford Consul – A Little Bit Of Dearborn, From Dagenham

1949 ford pilot v8-1

Even curbside classics have to fill up.

When I was filling the MX-5 a few weeks ago, I was joined by a 1949 Ford Pilot V8 and a 1961 Ford Consul, starting their Sunday with a tank full of petrol.

1949 ford pilot v8-2

The Ford Pilot was Ford of Britain’s first large car after the war, introduced in 1947. It is actually the only UK Ford to have used a V8 – in this case an engine very closely related to that of the 1937 US Fords. The first cars were fitted with a 2.2 litre side valve small Ford flathead V8 (“V8 60”). Quickly, Ford replaced this with the more traditional Ford flathead V8, the 3.6 litre (221 CID) engine, as fitted to this 1951 car.

The car, although a V8, gave only 85bhp and, matched with a three speed gearbox, relied on the flexibility and torque of the engine rather than a big selection of ratios.

1949 ford pilot v8-3

The car was competing in a market new to Ford, against brands like Rover, Humber and even Jaguar. Of course, in the late 1940s, supply was nowhere near as large as demand, and having available engines to fit into a car helped decide what to build.

Maybe surprisingly, the Pilot had a notable motorsport career, winning the Tulip and Lisbon rallies, and also provided an engine for various smaller British manufacturers such as Jensen and Allard.

1949 ford pilot v8-4

The styling bore a relationship with the much smaller Ford Prefect, and the car may have suffered because of this, contributing to its failure to sell equally against the likes of the Rover 75 or Humber Hawk in a brand sensitive market such as the UK. It could also have been that the “new style plastic instrument panel of striking design in walnut grain” didn’t help though. However, the offer of a V8 power (and sound), an otherwise nicely trimmed and equipped interior and traditional value for money (at a price twenty percent less than the Rover’s) showed Ford that there was a market for a larger car, even if the Pilot was not exactly it.

1961 Ford Consul Conv-1

The Zephyr and Zodiac range that followed was much closer to the concept of the large Ford we became familiar with over the next 40 years – a relatively large car, offering space and comfort, if not the full premium experience. A car to compete with the largest Vauxhall and Austins, rather a Rover or a Humber, the Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac clearly set the style for the largest British and European Fords for 40 years, until the last Ford Scorpio of 1998–large, spacious, and fashion conscious.

1961 Ford Consul Conv-2

This is the second generation of Ford Consul, dating from 1956. Ford launched it together with the six-cylinder Zephyr and mechanically similar, luxury trimmed Zodiac and marketed them as “The 3 Graces”; whether this was a reference to the artwork of Botticelli, Raphael and Rubens or the three large and image projecting Edwardian buildings (the Port of Liverpool, the Cunard Building and the Liver Building) that together make one of Britain’s greatest sea ports water frontage a UNESCO heritage site, I will let you judge.

The styling is clearly inspired by Dearborn–indeed, David Saunders’ recent survey of Canadian market Fords shows many examples of the theme behind this style. Of course, the British car was much smaller, being built on a wheelbase of 104 inches (three inches shorter than a current Ford Fusion). The Consul was effectively a four cylinder version of Zephyr, which had a 2.5 litre six-cylinder engine compared with the Consul’s overhead valve 1.7 litre four, which manfully pulled the car to 80 mph.

1961 Ford Consul Conv-3

Suspension was traditional leaf springs at the rear, with a Macpherson strut front suspension. Brakes were drums all round until 1961 and it was the last large Ford with vacuum operated windscreen wipers. Yes, the harder you pressed the throttle, the slower the wipers wiped…

1961 Ford Consul Conv-4

The convertible was built by Carbodies of Coventry for Ford, and sold in relatively small quantities. Carbodies built convertible versions of many popular British cars in the after war period, including Austin, Hillman and Daimler, who ultimately bought the company, and also estate car conversions. In recent years, it has been the company behind the familiar London taxi and is known as London Taxi International, though is owned by the Geely Corporation.

Zephyr advert

The Consul name died when this car was replaced by the the Zephyr and Zodiac Mk3 in 1962, but was used as a prefix to the Cortina, Capri, Classic and Corsair names. Effectively, the range was replaced by two cars – the Mk3 Zephyr 4 and the smaller Ford Consul Classic.

This launch film makes interesting viewing–when did you last see someone arriving for a Ford launch in a chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce?