This Ford Zephyr has been a racer for almost 40 years
This Ford Zephyr was barely more than ten years old when its easy life as a road car ended and it was converted to competiton use. It was first used in anger by Morgan racers Bruce Stapleton and Bill Wykeham, but it found fame in the hands of its second owner, Peter Dron.
As editor of Classic Cars at the time, he covered its conversion to works rally specification in a series of magazine articles.
During its time as a rally car, an outright win the Historic Monte Carlo was the highlight of 19 outings, before it was bought by Nick Mason in 1997 expressly so he could use it in the inaugural Revival. A couple of years later, it was bought by 1958 Touring Car Champion Jeff Uren to recreate the Zephyr he took the title with.
Thereafter, it changed hands a few times and made further appearances at Revival before current owner Alistair Dyson spotted it at auction in 2005. “It’s not something I would have gone out to look for,” he says, “but I decided to put a silly bid on it. Because nobody wanted it I found it was ours the next day.”
Over the last 12 years, this unlikely racing car has been developed as much as possible, while keeping the engine and suspension broadly standard in order to comply with regulations. There’s not the shared tuning knowledge you would have with a more widely used racing saloon, such as a Jaguar Mk2, so there has been a lot of experimentation over the years. “Because people don’t race them, you have to try different things and play with it,” says Alistair.
One opportunity for development came a few years ago when the car barrel-rolled three times. The bodywork was repaired and some developments that had been in the pipeline were incorporated. In the HRDC Touring Greats series, it’s usually a top 10 contender in a field of around 40, which is much more competitive than it appears on paper. During qualifying in the St Mary’s Trophy, the use of buffed tyres proved a bad move and the car understeered a lot in the tricky wet conditions.
Alistair has several other historic racers, all of which are much more conventional: Jaguar E-Type and Mk3, and two Cortinas (one Lotus, one GT). But the Zephyr is part of his racing life and not something he ever wants to part with.
Photography by Tom Shaxson and Jochen Van Cauwenberge