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C&C Fleet – Project Z Car

Rust, lichen, strange musty smells. Our 1965 Ford Zephyr has it all. But for all its faults, it is a 40,000 mile one-owner car, so for that alone, we have to at least try to save it, right?

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By Chris Pollitt

If there was a Venn diagram, one circle with ‘Z Cars’, the other circle with ‘Me’, there would be no overlap or intersection. I don’t remember the TV show, Z Cars, because I’m too young. If I remembered it, it would suggest there was an overlap. There wasn’t. I’m 36. Z Cars ended five years before I came into existence. So why, then, have I bought a 1965 Ford Zephyr, the same model of car that starred in the show? Well, quite simply, I’ve bought it because I’m a sucker for a downtrodden old car, and this particular Zephyr is most definitely trodden all the way down.

I don’t need a tenuous TV show link to motivate me to buy a car. It actually requires far less effort to make me buy a car, which is somewhat frustrating for my partner and children! My tastes are eclectic to say the least. In the past I’ve owned old Mercedes, Vauxhalls, Volkswagens, Minis, Triumphs and more than my fair share of Fords. I don’t profess to be a ‘Ford guy’. I just like what they built back in the day. I’d like those cars of old if they had a Talbot badge. It doesn’t really matter to me. What does matter is the style. Not in a vain, showing off way, but in a design way. The chrome, the fins, the bench seats. I love all that stuff. And that’s what led me to buy this old wreck.

Ford, Ford Zephyr, Zephyr, restoration project, Zephyr front

 

About ten years ago I had a 1961 Mk2 Zodiac low-line. I adored that car. It wasn’t in mint condition, but it was presentable and I used it as often as I could. In the end though, the MOT lapsed and with storage becoming an issue, I had to part with it. I take no shame in saying I shed a tear as I watched it fade into the horizon as it bounced along on a Brian James trailer. At the same time, I vowed that when the time was right, I would have another and I would never let it go.

The time, it seems, is right.

Stars aligning, Mystic Meg or just luck, whatever it may be, none of it brought me to the Zephyr. Instead, it was very rusty and very dead Series III XJ Jag. I’m a sucker for a derelict old heap, as the Zephyr confirms, so when I saw the Jag languishing behind a local garage, I had to take a closer look. It was then, with my nose pressed against the locked gates, that I spotted the Zephyr. Covered in moss and filth, bodywork literally dipping off it in places, I knew I had to have it. It’s not a Mk2, granted, but it’s close enough.

Jaguar, Jaguar XJ, XJ6, Series III XJ6, abandoned car, scrap car

It was all this Jaguar’s fault. 

I went back when the garage was open and asked the question. This was last summer. I took delivery in the first week of April this year. It took so long due to the complications of the car’s ownership.

The last owner, a gent in his late 80s, can no longer drive. Those of a medical profession have put paid to that. Sadly though, due to the upsetting onset of dementia, he remains unaware. As far as he knows, the car is still around the back of the garage. What he doesn’t know is that in 2017 the car failed its MOT catastrophically, rendering it as nothing more than borderline scrap. 

Ford Zephyr, Ford, Zephyr, Zephyr fins, Zephyr rear

Before you start sharpening your pitchforks, I should explain that I bought it from his wife. It was her and the rest of the family who made the decision to pass the Zephyr on. I seemed to make noises that pleased them, so the deal was done with me. With banger racers and scrap merchants sniffing around it on a regular basis, I’m glad I found it when I did. I’ve been as transparent and open as possible, and I’ve made no assurances about the car’s future. But what I have said is that I’ll give the old car an honest, decent shot of one day seeing the road again. I have no desire to break it for parts. I have no plans to put a V8 in it. I just want to save it. 

Selling it was clearly an emotional thing for the family, but by their own admission, there was nothing they could do with it. As I say, I have promised to give the old Z the best chance possible to see the road again. Whether or not it will remains to be seen.

Ford Zephyr, Ford, Zephyr, vehicle recovery

It’s not in a good way. There’s considerable rot in the jacking points and other areas of the floor. The chassis rails aren’t too clever, the bonnet and boot are made entirely from oxidised metal and the boot itself is full of water. Though thinking about it, that might be a good sign – no holes? The doors have rotted considerably, the rear quarters are toast, the wings have seen better days, the scuttle is rough, the… you get the idea. It’s rough.

Mechanically, it seems pretty good. Though I say that with a degree of optimism, having only heard it run for two seconds. The fuel pump is goosed (I think the diaphragm is shot), so no fuel is getting to the carb. However, some fuel directly down it and it ran. So that’s good. And the 2.5 straight-six engines in these old things are pretty tough. Only malicious negligence can kill them. And I don’t think it’s had any of that. (Since writing the above paragraph, I’ve had the car the running and driving, but alas, the fuel pump has given out again.)

Ford Zephyr, Ford, Zephyr, Zephyr straight-six engine

Can it be saved? I honestly don’t know yet. I need to get my other car (a 1999 Rover 800 Vitesse Sport) out of the workshop and then I can get the Zephyr in. It’s going to be a long old slog, but hopefully the big old bus will one day see the road again. They don’t make them like this any more, so on that basis alone, it’s well worth saving. In the meantime, please send sheet steel, welding wire, filler and optimism to ‘Chris Pollitt, Car & Classic…’  

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