In the aftermath of World War II, the entire UK motoring industry took several years to convert themselves to the reality of a forward-looking peacetime economy.
Even at Ford, the UK offshoot of the American car making giant, famous for their ruthless efficiency and drive for long-term growth, appeared to be caught up in the same doldrums with their early post-war cars nothing more than a collection of warmed-over Thirties designs and engineering platforms.
All this was to change, and dramatically, with the introduction in 1951 of the Mark1 series of medium-sized family saloons starting with the Ford Consul and Zephyr, with the top of the range Zodiac introduced two years later
The Mk 1 series were Fords first real post-war models, giving a clear sign that the company was finally ready to move into the Fifties, creating a car which was ahead of its time and remained a classic to this day.
Along with the closely-related six-cylinder engined Zephyr and Zodiacs, the Consul provided a whole series of "firsts" for the company, as being the first Ford-UK unit-construction car, using a short-stroke overhead-valve engine, fitted with MacPherson strut independent front suspension as well as hydraulic brakes.
Later, as the model range developed, they would be the first to offer a steel-bodied estate car derivative, the first to offer automatic transmission as an option, and the first Fords to go on sale with front-wheel-disc brakes.
Inside their cabins, the Consuls gave off an atmosphere of pure Detroit, complete with bench-type front seats, and with steering-column gear change controls.
The Zodiac, a jazzed-up and better equipped Zephyr, came on the scene in 1953/54 (and, incidentally, pre-dated the Vauxhall Cresta, which aped the concept). All the bells and whistles included two-tone paintwork, exterior rearview mirrors, whitewall tyres, extra driving lamps, leather upholstery, with a radio available as a factory-installed option.
There was no Zodiac convertible option — that would come on the Mk II.
In their drive to shrug off the atmosphere of post-war austerity which had pervaded too long in the UK, Ford pulled out all the stops to offer different versions of the highly popular Mark 1 series.
A two-door convertible of the Consul and Zodiac produced for Ford by Carbodies of Coventry, went on sale in 1953, with the car becoming a great favourite of the “ Teddy Boy” generation with money in their pocket to spend on a “ head turner”.
Another addition to the Consul range was an estate version, introduced in 1955, produced by for Ford UK by coachbuilders Abbots of Farnham
A very successful yet highly simple machine, the Mark I Consuls were not as fast as he or more fast, nor particularly economical, but it was hugely successful mostly because they added much-needed glamour to the UK motor industry of that time.
However the Mark I will always hold a special place in UK motoring history, while Ford will happily recall that no fewer than 225,000 Consuls / Zephyrs and Zodiacs rolled off the production line at Dagenham over the six-year period that they were in production.
The Mark I Ford Consuls / Zephyrs and Zodiacs proved to be a great commercial success, paving the way for the Mk II which followed in 1956 that would go on to do even better.