Classic Car: Sign of the Zodiac
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It's hard to part with a classic when it feels like part of the family
When Peter Lloyd bought his 1965 MkIII Ford Zodiac it was only three years old. Back then he was a motor mechanic for Ford, "I did my apprenticeship with John Andrew, in Auckland, then the biggest dealer in Australasia.
"I worked on them and wanted a Zodiac. They weren't that easy to find. There were a lot of Zephyrs but Zodiacs were dearer, and you needed overseas funds to buy a new car so Ford couldn't bring many in."
He says, "I wasn't a farmer or a banker, so I had no business overseas and had no overseas funds. If you did, you'd get a car easier. You'd go on a waiting list and one day you'd reach the top."
Otherwise, you bought used, which is what Peter did.
And then he kept the car, because soon after he got married, and along came kids and buying a house. Of course by then buying a car wasn't an option.
"By the time it was an option, the Zodiac was part of the family, you can't get rid of family, not that easily."
It helped that the car so suited the Kiwi family of the time. You could tow a caravan, throw the kids in the back, and it was reliable.
"I have had everything out at some stage, but it's still all original equipment. That spare wheel is original, that tyre has never been off the rim, Ford put it on and it's been there since. It's been on the car only half a dozen times to get me home, and being in the boot it's never in the sun, never perished or cracked."
The car has been repainted, "It's not the original paint, it was Inca Yellow, which was creamier, we painted it about 30 years ago and it's a bit greener than it should be, the guy who mixed the colour got it a bit wrong, but I like it."
The interior is largely original, though Dashboard Restorations redid the dash, many years ago.
"It used to sit around outside in the sun. And it's had new carpets just recently, they wore out, after 50 years. They did pretty well!"
Peter has made a few modifications -- it has a double sway bar on the front suspension. "We did it when they were fairly new to stop the front digging in; it'd lift the back up."
It also has mag wheels -- he still owns the standard ones it rolled out of the factory on -- plus retractable seatbelts in place of the original fixed lap-diagonals.
He has added a radio. "And a tape player went in 40-odd years ago," he said. "But I don't think I have tapes now. I should pull it out, it's not serving a purpose any more."
The clock still goes, "On and off. Everything works, having been a Ford mechanic makes it easier, and it's now getting easier to get repro parts. The Model T and the Mercury, I can get any parts, and the English cars are getting easier."
The Zodiac looks incredibly tidy, though it's now done 230,000 miles (370,150km) - it had already clocked up 55,000 when he bought it.
Those first three years it belonged to Skellerup Industries. "Rubberwear, gumboots, raincoats, it was the GM's car and was chauffeur-driven, up and down to Wellington every fortnight," he said.
Nowadays he rocks up to the sheep sales in it, towing a trailer with sheep aboard.
"I don't have a modern car, I use all my old cars as transport, I use them for everything, up and down to Te Kuiti to visit relatives, anywhere."
And to rallies, the last one in Masterton.
It cruises the open road happily enough, as I briefly discovered.
The 2.6-litre in-line six with its four-speed column change transmission delivers 81kW, and stops via disc brakes front, drum rear, brake-boosted though there's no power-assist for the steering, which meant I did have to haul on it for that driveway turn.
When they were new, these cars were road tested at 165km/h (103mph), with this model variant the first of the breed to top the magic 100mph mark. Peter says fuel consumption is about 12.3l/100km, "depending on whether you're going north or south". After all this time, he should know.
He's got a shed packed with old cars, with all but a Trekka restoration running, though you get the impression this Zodiac may be his favourite, and the one most likely to be spotted out and about this Christmas.
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