MkI Ford Zephyr: The wind in his hair
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Perhaps there’s something in the water, for where you find one classic-car owner, you’ll often find more.
And so it was that I met Clive Hinton while photographing a Trekka, for he’d stopped on the way home to poke fun at its owner and no doubt to extol the virtues of his own garage of classics.
By all accounts he has a stable of Holden utes under restoration, but this MkI Ford Zephyr convertible is what you might call his “everyday” classic, driven twice a week and kept largely because it’s not too fancy, in terms of its condition, if not its cream-and-red colour scheme.
He’s had the car for two years and just sold another the same. “Mint, but this one’s good because it’s an everyday driver. The other one’s gone to a good home, the guy’s got 18 — he’s a bit of a Zephyr nutter.”
Clive’s a bit of a Flathead V8 Coupe nutter, he says. “I’d hate to think how many I’ve had, I tried to count and got to 15 and gave up.”
His first car was a 1936 V8 coupe he bought at age 15.
“I worked in the butcher shop every morning to pay for it. They were £30, you could have bought a section for that.”
Now he’s a Holden ute nutter, and owns four.
“All early stuff, and one — the FE — I’ve had for 42 years. It’s a work in progress. The old girl says, ‘You won’t ever finish all these’.” He might.
He certainly has the right background. He did an apprenticeship at Northern Automobiles — “the Standard, Triumph, Studebaker agent, in Albert St”.
And then he was a mechanic for the Harbour Board for 47 years, all of which helped him gain the skills needed to restore cars and work on them.
“They’re simple, a carb and a distributor, not like cars today. If you’ve got the timing right, you’re all good”.
Now he looks after eight trucks on the road, mainly carrying tiles. He’s not retired, then?
“I’ll retire when I go in the old pine box.”
What drew him to this Ford was that, although it was a bit rough, everything’s there — “including the original sun visors, fog lights and mirrors”.
He remembers one he had when he was a youngster.
“It was a beautiful car. I was 17, 18, you’d have the half gallon of Brylcreem in the glovebox and you wouldn’t have a hair out of place.
That was a 56, the last of the MkIs, and boy you could pull some women. Not for my looks — it was the car!”
This one wasn’t running properly when he got it.
“It just needed plugs, points and TLC.”
It had the radio and the three gauges when he bought it. Apart from those, it’s original, he says as he tallies the controls.
“Wipers, choke, lights, pretty basic.”
Does the radio work?
“Dunno, never used it,” he says.
This isn’t a destination car. He just drives it round home.
“The Zephyr club wanted me to take it to Christchurch, but that’s too far,” he says. “These things were notorious for the front wheels going out of balance, so it’s a wonder it’s got the original wheels on it.”
Admittedly we went for only a short drive, but it’s comfy enough. You can see why he uses it so regularly. That or “an old fridge truck”, which he likes.
“We had an F150 but sold it, we never used it. You can’t park it as car park spaces are too small.”
So he bought the wife a smaller car, and when he doesn’t drive the fridge truck, it’s this.
He says the original 2.3-litre straight-six engine is “all ridgey-didgey apart from the extractors on the motor to let it breathe”.
Clive thinks it is more than adequate to keep up with modern traffic. It cruises comfortably at 100km/h in the top gear of its “three on the tree”.
And he has no complaints about the brakes — drums all round.
The front suspension is MacPherson strut with leaf springs on the rear.
The result is “perfect, the set-up is pretty simple. Ford did the old MacPherson strut well.”
Given the threatening clouds, I was happy to note the car does have a soft-top roof but Clive says he never uses it.
“I had a breathable cover made for it.”
He says he’d never sell this car. “The kids will, or would, but young Jack, one of the 16 grandkids, wants it.”
Jack shouldn’t hold his breath; Clive is not in a hurry to pass it on.