Mk 1 Zephyr Six
When I was about sixteen my Grandad passed away. After the funeral my Dad and I drove to Jaywick, just outside Clacton upon Sea, with a friend to pick up a car. We opened the garage and there she was, a Mk 1 1955 Zephyr Six. He had bought the car in showroom condition from an 85 year old man who had had it from new. The plastic seat covers were still on from delivery. He then proceeded to carry cement and bricks etc. in it for a year or two and then put it in the garage with only 25000 miles on the clock. It sat there unused for fourteen years. My God it was rotten, but all there. I had to put some air in the tyres while Dad and his friend messed around under the bonnet. Then we got to the stage of getting her out the garage, but all the brakes were stuck on. So Dad towed it out into the sunlight for the first time in fourteen years.
It still had the keys in it, half a tank of petrol, the oil was OK, but the battery was flat. My Dad charged the battery and his mate started checking things out. There was still a brake pedal, but the clutch fluid was congealed in the pipe to the slave cylinder so we cleaned the pipe out, but still had no clutch. Dad went down to the local car shop and said ‘ I need the impossible, a clutch slave cylinder repair kit for a 1955 Zephyr’. The man said hang on and took down a dusty box from the top shelf. He blew the dust off to reveal a brand new repair kit, priced at twelve shillings and sixpence. So we started to work, a couple of hours passed by and then she started. Couldn’t believe it! He then started to pull it out of the drive and off down the road. He disappeared from sight to return two minutes later with a big grin on his face and said ‘let’s go, I’m going to drive it home’.
Driving up the A12 towards London the bottom radiator hose burst so we hitched it up with a solid tow bar (scaffold tube and shackles) onto the anti roll bar and started to come home. About thirty miles into the journey the clutch went on the tow car so we had to abandon the Zephyr on the grass verge and nurse the Triumph home.
So another week went past and we went back to find the Zephyr had a Police notice on it, but otherwise it was OK. So this time, loading it onto a trailer with two cars now, my Dad’s Triumph and the Mk 4 Zodiac tow car, we set off again until just outside London the Zodiac broke down! So what now, the Zephyr is on the trailer, the tow car broken down and no breakdown cover! So my Dad tied a rope to the Zodiac and towed the whole lot home with his Triumph. By this time it was very late so we just unloaded it all.
The next day we started, what I call, plodding up all the panels (rear valance, rear wings, all four doors, front wings, bonnet), then it sat for about four years outside in the rain. My Dad announced one day that it had to go! No way I said, let me have it. On my 21st birthday he threw the keys at me and said ‘it’s yours on the condition you get it out the garden’. I was over the moon, so I asked around and my mate’s Dad had a garage I could rent.
So off we go again. I had the Zephyr towed round with a solid bar using a couple of D shackles (not too good). On driving round to the garage we had to brake hard and the scaffold tube smashed into the sump pushing it in by two inches and damaging the front panel, but we got it there and there it sat, let’s say for a long time whilst I helped people do their thing, e.g. drag racing on the agreement they would help me do my car. Put it this way, I’m still waiting!!
Then I lost interest so I helped a friend build a Group 4 Mk 2 Escort. We started rallying with me running the service crew for six years and then we went into Formula Ford single seater racing. We won the Super Classic Championship, then got a newer car and went on to win the Kent County Formula Ford Championship. Until two years ago then we took a break and I started to work on my Zephyr.
She was stripped down and I taught myself to weld. I put on new outer sills, rear jacking points, home made inner sills, new rear valance, repaired the inner wings, repaired the floor and A posts, stripped back down to metal underneath and resealed and then I had to teach myself to paint, sort of, so I painted the underside. Then I overhauled all the mechanicals to find that the engine had a crack between all three core plugs. On removal I noticed that the last cylinder was rusted solid so I cleaned it out. Then I had it welded up professionally and decided to just clean the engine up and try it on the road. (not sure if that is the right or wrong decision yet). I got a friend John Rickarby to paint the roof, door shuts and sills outside in the garage alley. Then I ordered two lower rear wings and two front wing repair panels, then cut and fitted the front wing panels (not an easy job, but I did my best) and painted them in two pack black in the back garden much to the delight of my lovely, forgiving wife Giny. I then fitted them to the car with the bonnet in place and fitted the front panel after painting, probably not the best way, I should have fitted the doors first, but too late. Then I painted and fitted the lower rear wings and found a local bloke who was breaking a Consul. I bought all four doors as they looked pretty good so I painted them and tried to fit them to find out that the door lock mechanism is in a different place on the early cars, so I had to modify them to suit and drill holes for the chrome trim strip clips.
Then all the lights were fitted and chromework redone (not cheap) and then the job of bleeding the brakes. Then I looked at the interior which was really rough with torn seats, rotten carpet and so on. I found an old treadle sewing machine in a charity shop for £30 and a roll of red vinyl from Kent Trimmers and started to dismantle the front seat. Three days later I had done the front seat and then did the rear, the door panels, kick panels etc.
It may not be the best one out there, but it’s done. Now the car has just gone through the MOT, hooray! I must give special thanks to my Dad, Mum, Giny, Steven, John R, Rob H, Colin C, Karl R and Jim L.
Mk1 1955 Zodiac V8 Custom
Let’s start with the body work, I dealt with the usual problems with the inner wings, which were rotten with five plates welded on. I cut the plates off and found all the rust still there, so I decided to remove the 4 plates from the other side and guess what? More rust!! Then the whole engine bay was stripped down to bare metal. By the time it was all stripped, it really was a mess! So I called a body work guy from across the yard and he said he could fix and smooth out the engine bay. Two months later it was completed with the addition of a new bulk head and some rose jointed braces, a really superb job – many thanks go to Robin. The whole shell was stripped down to bare metal, it wasn’t too bad, I had to replace the rear valance from Expressed Steel Panels. Some work was done on the sills, front wings, all 4 doors and the rear wings were replaced with ones obtained from Golden Days, and then with much more help from Robin we started the rest of the bodywork.
I replaced the bonnet, boot, and front panels from my stock, a lot of work to achieve by my deadline – which was the July auto show. Then when all the panel gaps were set up we mocked up the bumpers, the rear one was ok but I decided to smooth it out and weld up the bolt holes, then because the rear wheels are so big the rear wings needed to be removed – so more work was required. I decided to fix the wing on with Zsus fasteners from the inside, but that meant the rear bumper wrapped around too far. So I cut 2″ from each end as it was a bit rotten anyway, and that meant where the wing tucks under the rear light it would need trimming, but I have got the big rear lights.
Then I decided to fit the smaller rear lights, After some hunting around I found that Kevin at Zodiac Motors had some chrome trim, so the modifications went ahead. Then it came to the front and the front bumper was not in good shape. It was all bent and twisted and rotten, so the phone calls started but no joy. Time was getting on and to make the deadline I needed to send the chrome off because there seemed to be a few weeks wait for chroming. Looking at the bumper a friend said why not make quarter bumpers? We thought about it and I had an old rear damaged bumper, so why not?! I call them my marmite bumpers, you either like them or hate them, you decide! Off to the chromers they went, (thanks Howard at Classic Cars, Sipson for the rush job), and the work carried on with the body work.
All the body work has been done now with some custom bits. It has got a custom built V8, a Ford 302 using a 1977 Mustang block and all new components by Reel Steel, then set up on their bench dyno. The headers are Mustang which were then chopped up and tig welded back together, (thanks for your help Rob Chilton), they were then sent to Andy Robinson’s for ceramic coating. It’s got a C4 auto box from the same car, (which was custom built by Andy Frost at Penn Autos), super job as the gear change is spot on. Then the car went to Hauser Racing for a custom built 9in axle with disc conversion, and 31 spline true track diff, and chassis connectors were made and a gear box mount, plus a heavy duty propshaft. Paul Taylor made up some chassis adaptors and anti roll bar brackets to mount the modified Capri cross member on and anti roll bar, we also fitted capri power steering, Bilstein front legs with adjustable coil platforms. The brakes are Willwood 4 pots with crossdrilled and vented discs, powered by a Chevy master cylinder from American Auto Parts and a dual system servo from Stafford Vehicle Components Ltd. The steering column and switch gear are from a Capri, the wiper motor is a chopped Capri unit which works great. All the gauges are from Reel Steel, then fitted into the original pod and face with a lot of work, (well 3 days worth anyway). The rad was built by Pro Alloy, to my specification. The fuel tank was built by Alloy Fabrication, to my specification again, and the trans cooler is from American Auto Parts or Chevy Motors on EBay and not forgetting the 6 point cage fitted by my mate, superb job many thanks (you know who you are).
Then my dad was taken ill in Norfolk and I had to leave Robin to do more body work. After a week my dad stabilized and I started working on the car again the shell was painted, well done Robin. I decided to put a new wiring loom in from Langys Rod Shop, great kit for yank cars. I called my mate Karl Roberts and he said no problem. 2 weeks later we had finished the loom, (good luck to any one doing that job!). Then more bad news my dad had a turn for the worse so I had to leave for Norfolk and leave Robin once again to finish the panels. My dad passed away, and he had been suffering with cancer. I had to sort out things out up there with my three sisters, well done to them, I was rubbish.
I came back and with a lot of heartache helped Robin fitting all the panels up, very good job Robin thanks. I got the car up and running 4 days before the show then M.O.T’d it. Karl wanted to drive it to the Uxbridge Show so I drove my black zephyr. The car was set up and dyno’d at Power Engineering.
My wife for not divorcing me when I was living at the work shop!
Simon at Reel Steel
Andy Frost at Penn Autos
Rob Chilton at Andy Robinsons
Geoff and Ray at Hauser Racing
Keith Herbert at Hillingdon Speed and Spares
and the boys at Power Engineering
I hope I haven’t missed any one out.