RAC Cars News


Performance models drove Cortina success

By raccars Published

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Before ‘Mondeo Man’ defined a certain sort of voter in the 1990s, drivers of the Ford Cortina reigned supreme. The car was an astonishing success for Ford, being produced for 20 years, from 1962 to 1982 and remaining Britain’s best-selling car for an amazing nine years, between 1972 and 1981. The car was originally launched on 20 September 1962, with the advertising slogan, "The medium-sized car at a small car price."

Although the Cortina was ostensibly aimed at drivers of similarly sized cars, such as the Vauxhall Victor and Morris Oxford, there is no doubt that the Ford also had an eye on poaching some customers from the popular Mini, a small car that sold for the same price of £550. The car was originally called the Ford Consul 325 but soon adopted the catchier name of the Italian ski resort. The Mk 1 model had a 1200cc engine, which was a pumped up version of the Ford Anglia’s 1,000cc unit but Ford always had an eye on introducing high-performance models to boost the image of the Cortina. The first of these was the Cortina Super, which made its debut in early 1963 and featured a 60hp 1500cc engine. This was followed a few months later with the 78hp 1500cc Cortina GT models.

These two models were forerunners of the famous Lotus Cortina. The car was a joint effort between Ford and Colin Chapman’s Lotus firm. Ford made the body shells and delivered them to Lotus who built the highly-powered models. The engine was a 1600cc twin-cam unit developing an impressive 105hp. The car also featured the gearbox from the Lotus Elan. Originally, 1,000 Lotus Cortinas were planned, to comply with the Group 2 motorsport regulations. The car was introduced early in 1963 and continued in production until 1966, with over 3,000 examples produced.

A Mk2 Cortina appeared in 1966 and the powerful 1600E version arrived in 1967, complete with lowered suspension from the Lotus, walnut trim and a nifty sports steering wheel. The car soon became an icon and is still highly prized today. The Mk 3 Cortina was a radical change from the usual square shape and the 'coke bottle' curves were instantly popular. In 1976, Ford returned to a more conventional square shape and in 1977 they introduced the powerful 2.3 litre V6 Cologne engine version. The Mk V came along in 1978 and proved to be the last Cortina, featuring a 116hp 2.3 litre V6 version, as the final `power' Cortina. Production ceased in 1982 after more than 2.6 million Cortinas has been built.

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