Monday January 8, 2018
I have long had a soft-spot for the Corsair, the Ford that once bridged the gap between the Cortina and the Zephyr. It has an agreeably mid-Atlantic air, with an appearance faintly reminiscent of a 1961 Thunderbird but dimensions more suited to British roads. Here was a car that was so ‘with-it’ that Jean Shrimpton and Jim Clark appeared in the publicity photographs and when the Corsair replaced the Consul Classic saloon in late 1963, its debut was heralded by the short epic Dawn Rendezvous. This was a Saint-style adventure in which a mysterious young lady meets a raincoated figure with a jazz musician’s beard only to be handed the keys to the Ford with ‘Flair Everywhere. Naturally, such a svelte motor car is accompanied by a swinging cocktail jazz style score.
Meanwhile, there were sales materials targeting the motorist who liked to fit a badge bar to a reasonably priced family saloon in the hope that the neighbours would mistake him for an off-duty F1 driver as opposed to the head salesman for a shoe polish manufacturer in Stoke Poges. Many of you will have previously seen this 1963 PR film Jim Clark Drives Corsairbut I just had to include it. No one should miss the opportunity to view colour footage of one of the greatest figures in the history of motorsport driving an early “Consul Corsair De Luxe” even if he is notably lukewarm about the steering column gear lever ‘I think that I prefer the optional floor gearchange but that’s a personal thing’.
The Corsair lost its Consul prefix in late 1964 and gained 1.7-litre V4 power in the following year to produce ‘The Car That Is Seen But Not Heard’. The 1966 2.0 litre version was also described by Ford as ‘the strong silent one’, which made it sound rather like an automotive Clint Eastwood. These latest versions were also the cue for another excellent PR film as we follow a young couple; she resembles Mary Tyler-Moore and he sports Peter Sellers-style glasses and the finest of driving gloves. They are evidently living the high life in their B-registered pre-production model, enjoyingly the ‘smooth, silent V-power’. Note the suave manner in which the gentlemen use the cigarette lighter or operate the Aeroflow ventilation system. The message is clear – pay a visit to your local Ford dealer and you will soon be enjoying a jet-set lifestyle although the fact that the voiceover sounds remarkably like HM The Queen is slightly distracting.
Early 1967 saw the debut of the 2000E, the Corsair tasked with luring young executives away from their Rover P6s and Triumph 2000s. The advertisements boasted of ‘instant music!’ – a radio as standard equipment was very unusual in a car costing just £1,007 18d 4d 50 years ago – and there was also a vinyl roof, reclining front seats, pile carpets, reversing lamps, some very exciting hubcaps and even a ‘Dipping rear view mirror’. If that was not sufficiently alluring this Patrick Allen voiced cinema advertisement urged patrons to elope in style and to ‘slip into something elegant’.
Yes, when the Corsair ceased production in 1970, a certain degree of glamour left Britain’s motoring scene…