I recently got a book about Maurice Gatsonides, “Gatso, The Never Ending Race”, who is generally regarded as the first professional rally driver. I won’t go into all of his accomplishments, but one major accomplishment was his win the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally. The car that he drove to that victory was a Ford Zephyr.
Gatsonides’ Victory At the Monte Carlo Rally In A Ford Zephyr Was A Point Of Pride In Britain
The Ford Zephyr was introduced in 1951 along with a sister car, the Ford Consul. I was somewhat aware of the Ford Consul as there was a gentleman in my home town in Ontario who had a black Ford Consul. In my part of Canada, I never noticed too many Ford Consuls or Zephyrs, but I would see one every once in while. These cars were somewhat similar, but the Ford Consul was a smaller car with a 1.5 liter 4-cylinder engine, while the larger Ford Zephyr had a 2.3 liter 6-cylinder engine.
The Ford Consul And The Ford Zephyr Were New English Fords In 1951
When introduced the Ford Zephyr was greeted with a favorable comments from the British motoring press. I have copies of road tests and reviews concerning the Ford Zephyr in “Motor” and “Motor Sport” that gave high praise to the Zephyr in the early 1950s. The car was considered comfortable and, for the times, it had good power. Below is a road test from the October 3, 1951 issue of “Motor”.
Ford Zephyr Road Test From “Motor” on October 3, 1951
The 2.3 liter engine produced only 68 horsepower, but at the same time in North America, the larger and heavier domestic 1951 Ford sedans were powered by a 226 cubic inch flathead 6-cylinder 95 horsepower engine or by a 239 cubic inch 100 horsepower flathead V8 engine. The standard North American Ford sedans weren’t exactly speedy either. The performance shown in the “Motor” road test is hardly impressive for a standard Ford Zephyr, but apparently the engine was fairly responsive to tuning and its “over-square” engine design (cylinder bore greater than the piston stroke) made the engine quite “revy”.
Ford’s Works Rally Prepared Zephyr Being Wrestled Around A Corner
Throughout the 1950s the Ford Zephyrs were campaigned in the major rallies in Europe with some success, but they never equaled the lofty result that Gatsonides achieved in the 1953 Monte Carlo rally.
Gatsonides/Worledge’s Triumphant Return To England After Their 1953 Monte Carlo Rally Victory
In the photo above note the hood device at the front of Gatsonides’ Ford Zephyr. Apparently this was a device that Gatsonides had developed to reduce glare. I assume the “glare” refers to the reflective light that often makes nightime visibility during a snow storm better when using the low beam lights compared to using the high beams. If so, then I suppose that the design used by Gatsonides would work, but it does seem like an ungainly, heavy-handed design solution to that problem.
The Ford Zephyr’s 2.3 Liter In-Line 6-Cylinder Engine
The dash of the Ford Zephyr was not particularly inspiring. It has a symmetrical design to it that is designed to allow the rather straightforward conversion in the factory from right-hand drive to left-hand drive for export to Europe and North America.
Symmetric Dash Design Easily Permits Steering Wheel Relocation
The actual 1953 Monte Carlo winning Ford Zephyr no longer exists. In May 1954 Gatsonides was competing in the Wiesbaden Rally and was in a comfortable leading position. In fact Gatsonides was letting the navigator drive while he relaxed in the passenger seat when suddenly a drunk truck driver ran into them. Neither Gatsonides nor the co-driver were injured, but the car was severely damaged and it was never repaired. A sad end for such a significant car.
Monte Carlo Winning Zephyr’s Unfortunate Ending
I found the Ford Zephyr to be a surprising victor in the Monte Carlo rally, but it shows what can be done with a modest, but well-prepared car in the hands of a great driver.
Note: Images from “Gatso, The Never Ending Race” and “Ford Consul, Zephyr, Zodiac Mk I & II, 1950 – 1962”