Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Ford Zodiac

Signs of the Zodiac Published: 4th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Zodiac

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Zodiac
  • Worst model: Zephyr 4
  • Budget buy: Zephyr 4
  • OK for unleaded?: No; an additive is needed
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4572mm x 1753mm
  • Spares situation: Reasonable
  • DIY ease?: No problem
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Very good
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy if you fi nd a good one
Always a looker, the Mk3's style is as appealing as ever, especially the sleeker Zodiac although all rot like mad Always a looker, the Mk3's style is as appealing as ever, especially the sleeker Zodiac although all rot like mad
Chromework is plentiful and so costly to restore. Note twin exhaust pipes, signifying extra Zodiac power Chromework is plentiful and so costly to restore. Note twin exhaust pipes, signifying extra Zodiac power
Typical 60s cabin; bench seats and column shift common on both ranges. Dash tops can crack Typical 60s cabin; bench seats and column shift common on both ranges. Dash tops can crack
Massive boot – very earliest cars were even bigger but at the expense of rear leg room which isn’t great Massive boot – very earliest cars were even bigger but at the expense of rear leg room which isn’t great
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that this stylish sixties cruiser is set for stardom

Pros & Cons

Cheap to run and buy, spacious, smooth six-pot engines
Good cars are rare, four-pots are hard work

The Germans may have taken over the executive car market in the 21st century, but back in the early Sixties things were very different. High import taxes kept the Europeans out, leaving Ford, Rover and Vauxhall to dominate the affordable luxury car scene. While Rover offered its P4, P5 and P6, Vauxhall dealers were busy shifting Crestas – but none of these had the cachet of Ford’s Zephyr and Zodiac. Maybe it was the Zephyr’s domination of the cult Z-Cars TV show, or perhaps it was that fabulous trans-Atlantic boxy styling; whatever it was, the Zephyr and Zodiac MkIII defi nitely cut a dash in Sixties Britain. While the MkIII Fords are now often overlooked, they perhaps make more sense in 2007 than they ever did. Spacious, comfortable, good to drive and easy to maintain, it’s only the occasionally patchy parts supply that lets the MkIII owner down. But look around and you can get pretty much anything you need to keep one ticking over, although fi nding a decent one may prove tricky. In a production run lasting four years, 291,899 MkIIIs were built – most of which have since rotted away. Good ones are now heavily outnumbered by dogs – but there are some real gems out there if you look.


It was in April 1962 that the Zephyr 4, Zephyr 6 and Zodiac were all introduced, in saloon form only. However, January of the following year there was also an estate offered; the conversion was by Abbott of Farnham but it was offered through Ford dealers. In September 1963, minor interior trim revisions were announced, and within a month a fl oor-mounted gear change joined the options list. From October 1964, a heater and windscreen washers became standard equipment on the Zephyr 4, then in January 1965 the Zodiac Executive joined the range. From August 1965, overdrive was no longer available on the Zephyr 4 then in January 1966 the square cut Mk4 Zephyr and Zodiac replaced the Mk3 cars.


The soft suspension and relatively long wheelbase ensure a cosseting ride, but these come at the expense of decently sharp handling. However, the steering is more precise than you’d expect while the brakes are well up to the job, thanks to the servo-assisted discs that were standard on all editions. There’s a world of difference though between the four and six-cylinder cars; the former feels rough and arthritic compared with the larger unit. It’s no wonder that the survival rate is greatest for the six-pot cars, because you really need a six cylinders in the nose if you’re to enjoy driving your Zephyr or Zodiac.


It’s the Zodiac that everyone wants, as it looks the nicest and has the most power. Although these are the most common derivative of the three, they’re also the most valuable; for a given condition they’re worth around a third more than Zephyr 4s. Restorations start at around £300-£500 whichever the model, while a decent Zephyr 4 is worth £1400. An equivalent Zephyr 6 is £1600 while a Zodiac would be worth £1900. Values creep up to £3000, £4000 and £5000 respectively for nice cars – but the best examples have been known to change hands for signifi cantly more. Despite their rarity, estates aren’t sought after and are worth a bit less than an equivalent saloon.


T h a n k s t o i t s position in Ford’s pecking order, few improvements are needed. Fitting a Zodiac’s twin-pipe exhaust manifold to a Zephyr 6 is useful, and so is fi tting an overdrive gearbox if there isn’t one already. They’re not easy to find though; even unit of unknown condition will change hands at £400-500. Other than that it’s just a question of the usual upgrades such as halogen headlights, a Kenlowe fan and electronic ignition for greater usability and reliability.

What To Look For

  • The Zephyr and Zodiac are rot-prone, so scrutinise every square inch of the panelwork – whether visible or underneath.
  • One of the trickiest areas to restore is the lower rear corner of the back door shut, an area where several panels meet and as a result it can be awkward getting everything to line up properly.
  • Also diffi cult to repair is the heater box air intake, which rots and weakens the bulkhead; don’t underestimate the diffi culty in putting this right. Even trickier to fi x is the bonnet hinge mounting area; repair this badly and none of the front end panels will line up properly.
  • Sills, wheelarches plus the front and rear valances dissolve, as do the door bottoms when the drain holes block up, rotting from the inside out.
  • Corrosion is pretty much guaranteed in the trailing edge and lower rear corners of the front wings. After a while the wings separate from the rest of the car, and they start fl apping about if allowed to get really bad – but by the time things have got to this stage, it’ll be obvious and the rest of the car will be looking the worse for wear as well.
  • Lift the bonnet and look at the top of the front inner wings, where the MacPherson struts are attached. A well-known Ford weak spot, it’s also an MoT failure point. Repair panels are available and they’re not especially tricky to weld into place accurately – but it’s still an extra cost to consider. Also look further back on the inner wings, where the bonnet springs attach – this is an area that’s often badly corroded.
  • The metal around the headlamps is less rust-prone than most Fords of this era, but the underside needs careful inspection so get the car onto a ramp before you buy it.
  • The fl oorpans corrode because they’re attacked from both sides; the metal gets battered from underneath, but the screen seals also leak, allowing water into the cabin so the fl oorpans rust underneath the carpeting. It’s the same with the boot seals; they harden or perish and the boot fi lls up with water, rotting the fuel tank and fl oors.
  • Six-cylinder engines generally live longer than their four-pot counterparts, as they lead less stressful lives. However, you still have to do the usual checks because all these powerplants can suffer from worn piston rings, valve gear and bearings.
  • Engines tend to sound tappety, even when in rude health; unless things are alarmingly noisy, assume all is at least reasonably well. The biggest problem is a worn camshaft; the lobes wear when the seal for the oil feed pipe comes off. It’s easy to fi x if caught in time, but once the camshaft has worn it gets more involved (and hence more costly) as the engine has to come out.
  • A top end rebuild isn’t costly or diffi cult – it’s rebuilding the bottom end that’s expensive. If the lower half of the engine is particularly noisy, it’s likely that big bills are looming; listen out especially for rumbling because of worn bearings.
  • Finish off by looking for oil leaks from the rear of the engine. There’s a ropetype seal for the back of the crankshaft and it’s a pain getting it to seal properly which is why it frequently leaks.Auto and manual gearboxes are strong, but the tortuous linkages of the fl oor-change manual ‘box can make it a real chore to use, while the auto rarely lasts more than 100,000 miles before it needs a rebuild. Expect to pay £300 to have a manual gearbox rebuilt, and up to double this for an auto. If a manual ‘box is fi tted, it’s worth having overdrive, which was an optional extra. The standard fourth gear is too low for modern motorway conditions.
  • There’s a steering box, which is durable as long as it hasn’t been allowed to leak and run dry. The system isn’t as vague as some rival offerings, but while the box itself doesn’t wear too badly, the drag links and idlers can – which leads to sloppy steering. Finding replacement parts to sharpen things up can be a real pain, so make sure you’re not going to have to fi nd any bits in the near future. Also bear in mind that there are three types of drag links and idlers, while the six-cylinder cars were fi tted with a different box compared with the four-pot editions – and none of these parts are interchangeable.
  • The suspension systems are durable, with the MacPherson struts at the front being especially long-lived. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the leaf springs at the back, which sag after a while. That’s why you need to ensure the car’s belly isn’t dragging along the ground.
  • With discs at the front and drums at the rear, the MkIII’s anchors are up to the job rather than ultra-effi cient. It’s getting ever harder to fi nd parts, but the discs can be skimmed as they’re so thick. Rear wheel cylinders £50+ each when available, so be especially sure that the ones fi tted aren’t leaking.
  • There were two types of servo fi tted; remote and bulkhead-mounted. The latter items are durable but the remote ones can be unreliable as their seals disintegrate and allow the brake fl uid to drain into the vacuum reservoir; rebuilding them is best left to a professional, who will charge you £150 for the privilege
  • It’s the usual story where both interior and exterior trim are concerned; make sure it’s all present and undamaged because fi nding decent original replacements is pretty much impossible.
  • Remanufacturing the interior trim is tricky because the panels feature a metal insert bonded into the top and the material is heat shrunk into place.
  • The dash surround is also a problem; it cracks badly and can’t be repaired. However, repro items are available from New Zealand, for around £300 including the postage

Three Of A Kind

Vauxhall Velox/Cresta PB
Vauxhall Velox/Cresta PB
If trans-Atlantic styling is your thing, but you don’t want a Z car, the Vauxhall could be just the ticket. There are no four-cylinder engines, but you can choose from 2651cc or 3294cc straightsixes. All cars are reasonably well equipped, with overdrive and autos available too.
BMC Farina
BMC Farina
A direct rival to the Ford, you can choose from four or six-cylinder engines, the latter offering plenty of smoothness and lots of class if rather dull styling. The six-pot cars are well appointed too, and with values and specifi cations much the same as the Ford’s, these are well worth a look.
Rover P6
Rover P6
Much more stylish than the Ford, the P6 came with a choice of four or eight-cylinder powerplants, the former offering real bargain classic motoring as it’s the V8 that everyone homes in on. Well built, safe, well supported and good to drive, the P6 makes a huge amount of sense whatever your budget.


The Mk3 range is now largely forgotten, yet the car still has a lot to offer. The problem is that there are now so few good ones, the breed’s image has been tarnished because there are so many dogs. Finding a good one takes time, and it may be that you begin to wonder if it’s worth it; in the case of the Zephyr 4, it probably isn’t unless you want something particularly unusual. Much better to go for at least a Zephyr 6, if not a Zodiac; the latter is by far the most common of the lot, so you’ll track one down more easily. Intriguingly, despite its forgotten status, it’s still easy enough to track down parts to tune the engine; if you want a classic Q car, then the Mk3 could be just the ticket. And they look great!

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%