The last surviving coachbuilt Ford Zephyr police car returns to the M1 motorway 60 years after its first patrol.
Using today’s highways and motorways is often a stressful situation narrated by traffic, less than attentive drivers, and endless road maintenance. Turn the clock back and these faster roads were a new and exciting means of getting to your destination in less time. Today the UK celebrates the 60th anniversary of its first motorway, the M1.
On the 5 June 1959, the first section of British motorway opened, running though Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. It gave commuters faster and easier access to London, circumventing the many congested towns and villages. However, local police now found themselves needing to cover greater distances at higher speeds.
Law enforcement needed a vehicle for the new motorway era, and they ultimately selected the Ford Zephyr. An added requirement was the need to carry often large equipment, and so the Zephyrs were converted into wagons by coach builder Abbot of Farnham.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the M1 motorway, the only known surviving Zephyr to patrol the road in period was reunited with its old patch. The 1959 model is actually part of Ford UK’s own heritage collection. It was joined by its modern-day counterpart, a Ford Mondeo Hybrid, to highlight how much progress has been made in 60 years, and how modern police forces are coping with environmental demands.
Safety on British roads has come a very long way in six decades, with the original M1 lacking speed limits, crash barriers, central reservation, or even lighting. British car manufacturers frequently took advantage of the lack of limited on this smooth surface to test high-performance models. Today’s safety standards have increased to the point where British roads are amongst the safest in the world.
Chris Smith, Highways England’s assistant safety coordinator for the East of England, said: ‘Cars have changed beyond recognition in the last 60 years, and the motorways they drive on have too. Our first motorways had no speed limit, no safety barriers and many cars, which were
not designed for motorway speeds, ended up on the hard shoulder.’
It’s great to see a living piece of British automotive history in action once again.