Classic Cars

My 1951 Mk1 Ford Consul.

Restoration Therapy
1951 Mk1 Ford Consul Flatdash


Influenced by my dear old Dad, I have always had an amazing penchant for cars and motorbikes. As I have grown older, so have the vehicles and some have even entered Classic Car status during my lifetime! None more so than my beloved Consul.

Life is full of amazing twists and turns and things happen when you least expect them. Such an event happened to me in July 2013. When I was magazine editor of the Mk1 Owners Club (which covers the Mk1 Consul, Mk1 Zephyr and Mk1 Zodiac) – I occasionally used to run a little feature called “Where are they now?”. In one article, I asked if anyone knew what had happened to my old 1951 Flatdash Consul. Shortly after that issue of the magazine came out I had a phone call from a fellow club member. He not only told me that he knew of the whereabouts of the car, but that it was for sale. I nearly fell over.

1951 Mk1 Consul Flatdash

For those of you who don’t know, the Flatdash cars were the original versions of the marque. The cars were only produced from early 1951 to late 1952. Even in 1951, the original Flatdash was deemed old fashioned. So Ford changed the dash for the curvy jukebox style that adorned the later models. The original Flatdash cars are therefore, much, much rarer than the later models. Mine hails from early 1951 and is believed to be in the top 5 oldest Flatdash Consuls worldwide. A rare beast indeed.

The pictures in the gallery below are from when I first owned the car from 1981 to 1982. You can just make out the Flatdash in the last picture. It took me well over a year just to get it repaired and coated in the red oxide primer. With a new MOT, that was the Consul’s first road appearance in decades. But that’s another story.

So… on a gloriously crisp July morning in 2013, paterfamilias and I set off into the countryside for the tearful reunion. Upon arrival the Consul was outside and pretty much as you see it in the first two pictures below. The other pictures were when it was delivered to an eager household. There were indeed some tears shed. But these came later…

I hardly recognised it and I had a terrible sinking feeling when I first saw the “car”. Any road up, I restored it once I thought – I can do it again. Only, much, much better this time round. I would like to say that Daddy shared my view, but he was emitting phrases that rhymed with “clucking bell”. So I left him to stew in his car while I went inside and did the deal.

Return of the King

When the Consul arrived at home a few days later, it looked marginally better, with a bonnet, doors, boot and seats. Upon closer inspection though, the extent of the intended restoration became clear, and I think I understood why Dad was so vociferous in his protestations. The reality was that there was practically nothing original left on the car; (I think it had been stripped as a donor car). There were loads of rust holes, mainly to the front inner wings. Not only that, but the A posts, floor, boot floor, rear cross member, and rear valance.

There were no jacking points (I know, I personally ground them off in 1981), no engine, gearbox, correct seats or panels, no screens, no interior to speak of, no ancillaries etc. I was lucky enough to get a few bits with it, rear lights, speedo (they are different from later models), nice pair of bumpers (they too differ from the later models), front mudguards and some other odds and ends (albeit from later models). It had also acquired a sun visor which had been welded on (which was taken off later).

So what to do?

Restoration Therapy
1951 Mk1 Ford Consul Flatdash

The Donor

Mk1 Consul Donor Car

Well, by a curious quirk of fate, I managed to locate another Flatdash to act as the donor car for Flattie. The result was then I had two dead cars on our drive, and as the needs of the few outweigh the many, I had the unenviable task of having to break a Flatdash – sacrilege I hear you say! Maybe, but I see it that I am rescuing one good one for posterity and as a piece of motoring history.

However, to be fair, I did cut the dash out and hopefully one day will make it into a book cabinet to house all my Five Star magazines. We had to use a lot of the metalwork and mechanical parts anyway, so it wouldn’t have really been a viable project for anybody else to tackle. I agonised for ages about this decision, but it is done and I stand by it, thanks to my donor for the ultimate sacrifice (See picture above). So after the sacrifice my car now had the correct 1951 panels (that needed a lot of work), correct seats and door cards, correct drive train and I had practically all the right parts to finish it. Plus it was painted in red oxide primer – and that boys and girls is where I came in all those years ago.

Those Elusive Spares

I have managed now to source the ever elusive dash switches and cables etc, namely Starter, Dash, Wiper, Side/Headlight and Blower switches, with assistance from all my chums in the Mk1 Owners Club and eBay, both in the UK and all over the world, including New Zealand and Australia. The switches differ from later models as they have a transparent top, the dash instruments also differ as you can see below.

I really didn’t expect to see my Consul again ever, and had to sell my beloved Mk1 Zephyr to part fund the restoration work of this car. But this really was an exception, so I had to go for it. In 2014, the car went off to a well respected restorer and well known Mk1 stalwart, Emlyn Bowder in Stourbridge, West Midlands. Below is a gallery of just some of the enormous amount of fabricating and welding he carried out for me.

Back to Sunny Devonshire

The Consul came back to me in 2017, and there is still a lot of work to be done. The entire bodywork has to be stripped and then painted with primer. This will be in readiness for a complete inside and out respray. But I need to save my pennies for a while as it won’t be cheap. So far, I have stripped the dash, etch primed it and added a coat of red oxide primer. Also, I have stripped the interior floor and roof, red oxide primed and coated them with stone chip for protection. The boot, bonnet, doors and all four wings, which all bolt off, will be sand blasted and etch primed. I also managed to locate an original 1951 gearbox. They differ from the later models, and that is now painted in the correct Ford Green.

So, lots of work ahead for Summer 2018. Most weekends will be spent doing this, so all I can say is… Watch this space!

Facebook Group

If you want to know more about these cars, please check out the Mk1 Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac Owners Club group and request to join.

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