The Thorn in Mistley is well known locally, and probably regionally, for its gastronomic credibility. People flock from miles around to sample some of the best seafood in the North East Essex area, all washed down with wine of suitable provenance. As a result of this it’s almost routine that there be something of interest parked outside.
Often as I walk past there are too many patrons sitting at the pavement tables for me to start taking photos in front of them, and so far I’ve missed out on a Lamborghini Countach, a Morgan Aero 8 and a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing through either my own cowardice or through forgetting to have a camera with me. This time my quarry was nowhere near as exotic, but certainly didn’t lack appeal nonetheless.
Ford UK, during the ’50s and ’60s, always did their best to have a car for everybody. The proles were pleased with their Prefects and Anglias, the middle-managers were more than happy with their Zephyrs. Top of the range, though, if you had really made it yet didn’t want (or couldn’t quite stretch to) a Jaguar, you could choose a Zodiac.
Sitting on the same basic underpinnings as the Zephyr Six, the Zodiac III was more than just a vage tart-up. There was new sheetmetal outside, including limo-style rear doors which allowed passengers to step back into their comfortable settee just like they might in costlier cars. The Roofline was different, too, and sat rather well with the rear treatment which was carried over from the regular Zephyr.
Yes, a British car with fins! OK, they were diminutive compared to those of fifties Detroit, yet they leant a certain shark-like pizazz to the rear quarters of the Zodiac. The American flavour was no coincidence, the shape was penned by Roy Brown of Edsel fame, albeit there was considerable influence from Pietro Frua of Italy giving him a pleasant break from designing Maseratis.
Motive power took the form of a 156 c.i. straight six rated at 113hp, not a bad figure for a mid ’60s British car. Top speed was somewhere around a hundred, which made it markedly quicker than the average car on our roads, just in time for the exciting new motorway network which was just starting to develop… and which hadn’t yet had a speed limit imposed upon it.
This particular example, which is absolutely stunning, is clearly the owner’s pride and joy. It isn’t perfect by any means, but in my mind that just adds to the appeal. I particularly like the choice of vintage slot-mags (Wolfrace?) which lend the car a delectable meanness. I would love to see this car being driven in a spirited manner.
Of course, Ford UK no longer have a big car in their portfolio, in fact Ford globally are going decidedly lukewarm over the luxury market, which is a pity but probably economically wise. Long may machines like this serve as a reminder of when people aspired to something big and flashy, yet still bearing Uncle Henry’s name.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Redusernab 2015)