By 1954, with the Ford Consul/ Zephyr and Zodiac Mark 1 firmly established as the market leaders in its important sector, the medium to the large family range. Never ones to rest on their laurels, the development team at Ford were already working on replacement models that would eventually replace these models.
The basic concept was that developed with the existing range was to be continued with just one crucial difference: the second generation cars were to be appreciably more substantial than the originals.
Although enlarged and wholly restyled, the new bodyshells did repeat almost exactly the type of construction and the design features pioneered by the MkI cars
In late February 1956 Ford of Dagenham pulled the veils off the latest versions of what had become known as the ‘’3 Graces ‘’ - the Mark II versions of the Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac.
As it was fitted with a four cylinder 1703cc engine, the Consul was labelled the 204E, while the Zephyr and Zodiac were given the 206E suffix, as they were driven by a larger and more powerful 2553cc 6 cylinder engine under their bonnets.
The Girling braking system once again consisted of 9-inch diameter drums all round, but with an increase in front shoe width from 14 inches to 21 inches giving a new total lining area of 147 square inches.
As had been the case with the Mark I versions where demand had been very high, a few months after the release of their saloons in convertible form and once again they sold like hotcakes, with an estate version following towards the end of 1956.
Irrespective of which model configuration and body shape, the major common denominator running between as of these cars was the strong visual resemblance to their contemporary American Fords of the mid-Fifties.
Unlike the original models, the second generation big Fords boasted a slightly lower ratio in the steering box now gave unusually light control by big car standards.
Very similar to the previous model were its MacPherson struts at the front and longitudinally mounted semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear, with the only modifications being those necessary to accommodate the system in the larger and heavier cars.
With bodywork 7 inches longer and 5 inches wider than before, and on a wheelbase increased by 3 inches, the new cars were very generous six-seaters and, with a larger glass area than any previous British car, offered the occupants an uninterrupted all-round view.
Interior appointments now included vinyl roof lining in the Consul, although carpeting was still confined to the Zephyr and Zodiac only, with the 4-cylinder car continuing to feature a rubber floor covering.
The trim specification and general equipment level was almost identical to that of the previous cars with the Zodiac once again being the most comprehensively equipped.
As before, the engine compartment differed in length according to the engine installed, and three different grilles identified the cars as Consul, Zephyr, or Zodiac when viewed head-on. The very wide bonnet was now counterbalanced, and when opened revealed a truly capacious engine bay which offered unusually convenient accessibility for routine maintenance.
At the rear, visually balancing the roomy front end was a 20 cubic feet capacity luggage boot.
Under favourable conditions, the Ford Consul Mark II was now capable of reaching speeds that its predecessor never approached.
With a top speed in the 80mph class, the Ford Consul Mark II was capable of accelerating from a standing position to 60mph in a creditable 25 seconds.
The more powerful Zephyrs and Zodiacs could now reach 70mph from a standstill in 25 seconds and continue to accelerate strongly to more than 85mph before tailing off to a maximum of 90mph.
In 1958 Ford, always looking forward, announced that they would be making some changes to the basic shape and appearance of the ‘’3 Graces ‘’ cars, signalling the beginning of an era of the so-called ‘’ Low Line ‘’ Mk2 which ran till the three models were discontinued in
The most outstanding was the lowering of the roof line by 1½", giving the cars a sleeker and more appealing stance.
Mechanically a new and more efficient braking system was added.
Externally the rear of some of the models were given a styling upgrade with highly polished additions to the cars’ accessories such as headlamp bezels which had been fitted with painted items were now offered as chrome items.
The Mark II Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac’s interior were also given some refinements such as different seat materials and fabrics and dashboard features.
The later model Consul’s were also given a freshen up with the addition of the De Luxe and subsequently the 375.
Both cars were given embellishments so they would appeal to the car buyer who didn’t really want the extra speed and fuel consumption of the six-cylinder engine but appreciated the styling refinements of the Zodiac model at a lower cost.
To create more of a prestigious image, the Mark II Zodiac altered to distinguish it from the other variants, having more elaborate tail-end styling and a different front grille. The auxiliary lamps and wing mirrors were also on the Zodiac range, and it retained two-tone paint, whitewall tyres, chrome wheel-trim embellishers and gold plated badges.
The convertibles also benefited from optional extras depending on the model with the power hood being offered.
Ford went on to enjoy great success with the Mk2, selling more than 680,000 of the three models in their variety of permutations across the globe.