My First Car: Worrying signs for Ford Zodiac cured with filler and purple paint

Graham Godbold’s wife, Annie, with the purple Ford Zodiac and ‘colour-coded’ coat about 43 years ago. Picture: Graham Godbold

Graham Godbold’s wife, Annie, with the purple Ford Zodiac and ‘colour-coded’ coat about 43 years ago. Picture: Graham Godbold

Graham Godbold

Graham Godbold had a few dramas in his hand-painted purple Ford Zodiac but the scariest was when his wife nearly fell out on a roundabout.

Graham Godbold, with hippy hair and flared trousers, brewing tea. Picture: Graham GodboldGraham Godbold, with hippy hair and flared trousers, brewing tea. Picture: Graham Godbold

After having several motorbikes from 1963 onwards, and fed up with the cold and wet, I purchased my first car. It was a Ford Zodiac Mark III, registration YAP 158, hence the nickname YAP.

I bought it from a mate in the Seventies for £65. The mileage was fairly high, the bodywork seemed okay and the straight six-cylinder petrol engine sounded superb although it was a bit juicy – 15mpg and three gallons of petrol cost £1.

Anyone owning a Zodiac or Zephyr at that time would be ribbed about the TV series Z Cars where police officers would patrol in them using police radios with phonetic codes – Alpha, Charlie, Foxtrot etc. The most common was “Zed Victor One to Bee-Dee” and the response “ Zed Victor One, come in”. If I was running late for work, my mates would ask where Zed Victor One had been!

After a few months, rust spots developed quite rapidly on the turquoise body and, on close inspection, a little rub with sandpaper and a few cans of spray paint were needed. Unfortunately, when pressing masking tape on the doors and wings, my fingers disappeared through the rust. I hadn’t realised most of YAP’s life had been by the seaside – a very nice place for buckets and spades and families but not for a 1960s Ford car with little, or no, rust protection.

The rot had spread like wildfire but after six tubs of body filler, and umpteen sheets of sandpaper, most of the gaping holes were filled.

A rummage in the shed and an old tin of purple paint, which had been used indoors for bedroom cupboards five years earlier, came to light. Two dripping, runny coats changed YAP dramatically. It blended in well with the days of flower power and brightly-coloured clothes. YAP passed its MOT – I don’t quite know how.

So it was off to Cornwall on holiday – Truro, Penzance, Newquay. YAP behaved very well, apart from the ratchet handbrake that pulled out of its socket, the column gear change linkage that fell apart and the driver’s window that fell out.

The most frightening time of the holiday was when my wife, Annie, nearly fell out. She would sit on the full-width bench seat in the front with a pillow up against the passenger door and her feet on my lap. We were on a large roundabout in Exeter when I caught sight of the passenger door opening and she nearly flew out on the road. With the door now fully open, and the pillow disappearing under the car behind us, I reached out just in time, grabbed her cardigan and hauled her back in – a very close shave.

YAP was sold to a mate on our return home and, after a bit of welding, lasted another year before going to the dreaded scrapyard.

Tell people about your first car – email your memories with a picture to or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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