Friday July 13, 2018
As the decent weather continues (fingers crossed), my thoughts have been turning to that vital topic – what it the greatest convertible of all time? And after much deliberation and thought – plus some very subjective and biased decision-making- my convertible of choice had to be the Ford Zodiac Mk. II.
As to my reasons, one has to be that the Zodiac Mk. II’s production run spans one of my favourite eras in music – from 1956, when Tommy Steele and the Steelmen were recording Rock With The Caveman to early 1962, just after Decca turned down the Beatles on the grounds that ‘guitar groups are on the way out’.
Indeed, in 1963 George Harrison could be seen behind the wheel of a Zodiac Convertible; his first car was a second-hand Anglia. The term ‘zeitgeist’ is widely misused but in the case of the ‘Three Graces; it is the entirely accurate ,even if this promotional film sounds like a Harry Enfield/Paul Whitehouse spoof.
Secondly, this was the only Zodiac Convertible to be officially offered by Ford. The Mk .I drophead was available only in Consul and Zephyr-Six forms and there was no soft-top option for the Mk. III or the Mk. IV but the Mk. II was sold in all three trim levels.
The flagship version came with two-tome paint, whitewall tyres (naturally), leather upholstery, a cigar lighter, a clock and, as with its Zephyr stablemate, power operation for the hood to the Coup de Ville position. In 1959 Dagenham suggested ‘one man and a boat and a bracing river breeze – that’s the way to feel carefree, confident, king of the universe…that’s the exhilaration you’ll get from your new Zodiac Convertible’.
Thirdly, the Zodiac had no direct rival in the UK. There was never an official convertible version of the Austin A105 Westminster or the Vauxhall Cresta PA, while the Singer Gazelle and Sunbeam Rapier dropheads provided a rather different form of open-air motoring.
The Ford was not cheap at over £1,200 but nor was it outrageously expensive for a six-cylinder five-seater while the conversion (by Carbodies by Coventry) was downright elegant. If you specified the optional overdrive – no Convertible was appartently equipped with automatic gears – you had a cruiser that was fit for the new speed limit free motorways.
Best of all, a Ford Zodiac Mk. II Convertible had almost all the style of a Thunderbird with the additional merit of being far more suitable for British roads. With the hood lowered, Teenager in Love by Marty Wilde & The Wildcats blaring from the wireless and the steering column gear-lever in overdrive top, you were truly living the late 1950s dream.
Perhaps that is why I am so fond of the ultimate Dagenham car of six decades ago – it was the perfect aspirational product for the age. Even if what would happen if you decided to call upon your next-door neighbour with the greeting ‘Hello old chap, I have just taken delivery of a top-of-the range Ford and am therefore now the ruler of the universe’ remains unclear’.