Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 12 noon
Easters Court, Leominster, Herefordshire, HR6 0DE
Ford Zephyr 6 MkIV 4WD ABS Ferguson Prototype
|Estimate||£22,000 - £25,000|
|Description||Ford Zephyr 6 MkIV 4WD ABS Ferguson Prototype|
|Engine size||2,994 cc|
|Documents||V5; MOT July 2016; vast history file|
This Ford Zephyr MkIV was number one in a batch of 22 cars ordered by the Home Office in 1968 at the request of various police forces to test and evaluate the advantages of a high performance car fitted with the new Ferguson Formula four-wheel drive and Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock braking systems (the number 1 being stamped on the sump unit as well as the transfer box).
The police required a fast 4WD car with good load carrying capacity which could be used on the growing number of motorways being built around the UK. Several manufacturers were approached with a view to having their cars converted, but Ford was the only company willing to adapt and still warranty their cars, so the Zephyr was chosen.
As well as having the ‘Ferguson conversion’ the cars were fitted with the high compression 3-litre V6 Essex engine (usually only fitted to the upmarket Zodiac range, the standard Zephyr 6 making do with a 2.5-litre engine) along with a high pressure oil pump system, again not normally fitted. Other upgrades included heavy duty suspension, reversing lights and a ‘police spec’ wiring loom to allow for ‘blues and twos’ plus the power supply for radios and other ancillary equipment. To cope with this, a larger capacity alternator was fitted, this being a positive earth type as police equipment in those days was still positive earth (all the special wiring remains as fitted by Ford and has not been removed or damaged). The instruments, central Smiths calibrated speedo, map reading light, modified centre armrest and zipped headlining are also unique to the police car spec.
The Zephyr left Ford for the Ferguson works in Coventry during November 1968 and was then comprehensively re-engineered over the next five months. To fit the 4WD system the complete front suspension assembly was removed and the inner wing structure modified to allow double wishbone and coil springs to be fitted, along with a modified trailing arm and anti-roll bar. The top wishbone, coil springs and shock absorbers are standard Ford Mustang units supplied through Ford of America.
A new engine support was fabricated to allow the engine to be raised and moved across to the left to allow the fitting of the front axle differential unit, housed within a modified aluminium sump. This allows the L/H drive shaft to pass through the sump, with the differential unit on the right.
The transmission tunnel was also enlarged to accommodate the 4WD transfer box, which is coupled to a standard Ford C4 automatic gearbox. The Dunlop Maxaret unit which senses and operates the ABS is attached the rear of the transfer box. The brakes were also uprated with a dual circuit system with larger front discs and a more powerful double-acting servo allowing the operation of the ABS (the brake master cylinder being the same as fitted to a Ferrari 250GTO), the whole package ensuring that the wheels would not spin or lose their grip in icy or slippery conditions.
Once the work had been completed to the satisfaction of the Ferguson engineers, WUL 365G was despatched to TRRL (Transport Road Research Laboratories) in Crowthorne, Berkshire, on 2nd April 1969 where it was subject to a proving process to evaluate the 4WD and ABS systems under various conditions on the test track and skid pan. Several modifications were incorporated by TRRL to improve the systems, including extra vacuum tanks to supplement the ABS and electronic counters to record the operation of the ABS. They also added specially developed four-way hazard flasher warning lights to the car, making WUL 365G the first car in the world to receive this now-mandatory safety feature.
On 29th April 1969, the fully sorted WUL 365G was put through its paces at TRRL to demonstrate what it was capable of in front of representatives from the various police forces who had been allocated the other cars for evaluation. After the display, the other 21 Ferguson-modified Zephyrs were ceremonially handed over to their respective operators by former racing driver and war hero, Tony Rolt MC, Managing Director of Ferguson Research, the whole event being captured on a fascinating 10-minute film and many photographs in the history file. The full Home Office report at the conclusion of the trial with the various police forces is also included along with much other technical documentation accrued during the two year development period, this forming part of the vast history file which comes with the car.
After the trials were completed, WUL 365G was used for a limited time on general police duties but the majority of the 18,560 miles with TRRL were done on the test track. Unfortunately for the Zephyr development team, while all their hard work was going on, rival engineers at Rover’s Solihull plant were beavering away on the revolutionary new Range Rover which made its debut in 1970. With its commanding driving position, huge load area and unparalleled blend of on-road civility and off-road ability, as far as the police were concerned it rendered the 4x4 Zephyr obsolete overnight.
In 1974 WUL 365G was put into storage where it was to remain until 1982 when, in the light of new developments, it was decided to dust it off for a second bout of trials. Unfortunately the ABS system had developed a fault during storage and could not be made to work (this subsequently turned out to be a broken wire) so the car was the unceremoniously abandoned to a car park.
WUL 365G next reappeared on 29th November 1991 at an ADT auction in Blackbushe to which it had been consigned by TRRL after the various museums they had offered it to had shown no interest. It was here that the vendor bought the car, by now in a fairly sorry state and stripped of many of its police features to conceal its identity, the truth of which only became clear to the vendor some time after he had got the car home.
Over the next few years he painstakingly researched and restored ‘Wully’ (as the car is now affectionately known), amassing a superb documentary archive about the car and preserving as much originality as possible, fitting period police signs, lights, bells and horns to replace those that had been removed before the auction. Used sparingly since, it has still only covered some 26,600 miles from new, every journey since the restoration being meticulously recorded.
Now something of a celebrity, Wully has appeared in countless magazine features, is a regular on the show circuit and has even been immortalised by Pathfinder Models in a limited edition run of 300 scale models. It has also been displayed twice at the Coventry Motor Museum, has been requested to appear at many police organised ‘999’ events around the country and was featured on ITV’s ‘Police Camera Action’ with Alistair Stewart. In 1998 Ford invited the car to Beaulieu to form part of the display celebrating 100 Years of the Quadricycle, and Wully was also requested to attend the Harry Ferguson Tribute at the Royal Norfolk Show which brought together virtually every type of machine that Ferguson had been involved with from all over the world.
Still highly original in most important respects, the engine has never been dismantled or modified from the day it left the factory. In excellent running order with an MOT until July 2016 and a recent oil service, the car has recently been fitted with a bespoke stainless steel exhaust system, a new distributor and a new Weber carburettor. A large quantity of spares are also available by separate negotiation if desired, although these will need to be collected from the Guildford area. They include a brand new gearbox, C/W transfer box and front sump differential unit, obtained direct from the Ferguson stock of spares for the original cars.
Having owned and enjoyed the car for 24 years, the vendor has now reluctantly decided that the time has come to pass Wully on to a new custodian with more time and energy to show the car as it deserves and to preserve it for future generations to enjoy. Believed to be one of only two surviving cars from the batch of 22 (the other is in a collection in New Zealand having been restored after it was written off by the Durham Constabulary), it is certainly the most original and the history file so painstakingly amassed by the vendor over the last two decades is priceless. Altogether a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is not to be missed.