Ford Cortina

Ford Cortina

Ford Cortina Mark I

Model
Years
Engine
Transmission
Wheelbase
Curb Weight
Mark I1962–1966 (933143 made)1198 OHV "Kent" I4 / 1498 OHV "Kent" I43-speed manual / 4-speed manual synchro / Auto98 in (2489 mm)1736 lb (787 kg) /
2072 lb (940 kg)
Mark II1966–1970 (1159389 made)1.2L OHV / 1.3L OHV / 1.5L OHV / 1.6L OHV "Kent" I4 / 3.0L OHV "Essex" V63-speed manual / 4-speed manual98 in (2489 mm)1890 lb (857 kg) / 2032 lb (922 kg) (1600E)
TC Mark III1970–1976 (1126559 made)1.3L OHV / 1.6L OHV "Kent" I4 /
1.6L OHC / 2.0L OHC "Pinto" I4
4-speed manual / 3-speed auto /
3-speed manual
101 in (2565 mm)
Mark IV1976–1979 (1131850 made)1.3L OHV "Kent" I4 / 1.6L OHC / 2.0L OHC "Pinto" I4 / 2.0L OHV / 2.3L OHV "Cologne" V64-speed manual / 3-speed auto / 3-speed manual

The Ford Cortina is a car built by Ford of Britain in various guises from 1962 to 1982, and was the United Kingdom’s best-selling car of the 1970s.

The Cortina was produced in five generations (Mark I through to Mark V, although officially the last one was called the Cortina 80) from 1962 until 1982. From 1970 onward, it was almost identical to the German-market Ford Taunus (being built on the same platform) which was originally a different car model. This was part of a Ford attempt to unify its European operations. By 1976, when the revised Taunus was launched, the Cortina was identical. The new Taunus/Cortina used the doors and some panels from the 1970 Taunus. It was replaced in 1982 by the Ford Sierra. In Asia and Australasia, it was replaced by the Mazda 626-based Ford Telstar, though Ford New Zealand did import British-made CKD kits of the Ford Sierra estate for local assembly from 1984.

The name was inspired by the name of the Italian ski resort Cortina d’Ampezzo, site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. As a publicity stunt, several Cortinas were driven down the bobsled run at the resort which was called Cortina Auto-Bobbing.

Mark I (1962–1966)
Using the project name of “Archbishop”, management at Ford of Britain in Dagenham created a family-sized car which they could sell in large numbers. The chief designer was Roy Brown Jr., the designer of the Edsel, who had been banished to Dagenham following the failure of that car. The Cortina, aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, was launched on 20 September 1962. The car was designed to be economical, cheap to run and easy and inexpensive to produce in Britain. The front-wheel drive configuration used by Ford of Germany for the new Ford Taunus P4, a similarly sized model, was rejected in favour of traditional rear-wheel drive layout. Originally to be called Ford Consul 225, the car was launched as the Consul Cortina until a modest facelift in 1964, after which it was sold simply as the Cortina.

The Cortina was available with 1200 and 1500 four-cylinder engines with all synchromesh gearbox, in two-door and four-door saloon, as well as a four-door estate forms. Standard, Deluxe, Super, and GT trims were offered but not across all body styles. Early Standard models featured a simple body coloured front grille, earning it the nickname ‘Ironbar’. Since this version cost almost the same as the better equipped Deluxe it sold poorly and is very rare today. Options included heater and bench seat with column gearchange. Super versions of the estates offered the option of simulated wood side and tailgate trim. In an early example of product placement many examples of the brand new Cortina featured as “Glamcabs” in the comedy film Carry On Cabby.

There were two main variations of the Mark 1. The Mark 1a possessed elliptical front side-lights, whereas the Mark 1b had a re-designed front grille incorporating the more rectangular side-light and indicator units. A notable variant was the Lotus Cortina.

The Cortina was launched a few weeks before the London Motor Show of October 1962 with a 1198 cc 3-bearing engine, which was an enlarged version of the 997 cc engine then fitted in the Ford Anglia. A few months later, in January 1963, the Cortina Super was announced with a 5-bearing 1498 cc engine. Versions of the larger engine found their way into subsequent variations, including the Cortina GT which appeared in Spring 1963 with lowered suspension and engine tuned to give a claimed output of 78 bhp (58 kW; 79 PS) ahead of the 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS) claimed for the Cortina 1500 Super. The engines used across the Mark I range were of identical design, differing only in capacity and setup. The formula used was a four-cylinder pushrod (Over Head Valve) design that came to be known as the “pre-crossflow” version as both inlet and exhaust ports were located on the same side of the head. The most powerful version of this engine (used in the GT Cortina) was 1498 cc (1500) and produced 78 bhp (58 kW). This engine contained a different camshaft profile, a different cast of head featuring larger ports, tubular exhaust headers and a Weber double barrel carburettor.

Advertising of the revised version, which appeared at the London Motor Show in October 1964, made much of the newly introduced “Aeroflow” through-flow ventilation, evidenced by the extractor vents on the rear pillars. A subsequent test on a warm day involving the four different Cortina models manufactured between 1964 and 1979 determined that the air delivery from the simple eye-ball outlets on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was actually greater than that on the Mark II, the Mark III or the Mark IV. The dashboard, instruments and controls were revised, for a the second time, having already been reworked in October 1963 when round instruments replaced the strip speedometer with which the car had been launched: twelve years later, however, the painted steel dashboard, its “knobs scattered all over the place and its heater controls stuck underneath as a very obvious afterthought” on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was felt to have aged much less well than the car’s ventilation system. It was also in 1964 that front disc brakes became standard across the range.

Lotus Cortina models were solely offered as two-door saloons all in white with a contrasting green side flash down each flank. Lotus Cortinas had a unique 1557 cc twin-cam engine by Lotus, but based on the Cortina’s Kent OHV engine. Aluminium was used for some body panels. For a certain time, it also had a unique A-frame rear suspension, but this proved fragile and the model soon reverted to the standard Cortina semi-elliptic rear end.

Mark II (1966–1970)
The second incarnation of the Cortina was designed by Roy Haynes, and launched on 18 October 1966, four years after the original Cortina. Although the launch was accompanied by the slogan “New Cortina is more Cortina”, the car, at 168 inches (430 cm) long, was fractionally shorter than before. Its 2 1⁄2 inches (6.4 cm) of extra width and curved side panels provided more interior space. Other improvements included a smaller turning circle, softer suspension, self-adjusting brakes and clutch together with the availability on the smaller-engined models, for the UK and some other markets, of a new five bearing 1300 cc engine.

A stripped-out 1200 cc version running the engine of the Ford Anglia Super was also available for certain markets where the 1300 cc engine attracted a higher rate of tax. The 1500 cc engines were at first carried over, but for 1967, they received a new crossflow cylinder head design, making them more efficient. At this time, they became 1600 cc in size, with the Lotus Cortina continuing with its own unique engine.

Again, a Lotus version was produced (this time done in-house at Ford) but the most admired was the 1600E that came out in late 1967.

The Cortina was Britain’s most popular new car in 1967, achieving the goal that Ford had been trying to achieve since it set out to create the original Cortina back in 1960.

Again, two-door and four-door saloons were offered with base, Deluxe, Super, GT and, later, 1600E trims available, but again, not across all body styles and engine options. A few months after the introduction of the saloon versions, a four-door estate was launched, released on the UK market on 15 February 1967: much was made at the time of its class topping load capacity.

The Cortina 1600E, a higher trim version, was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in October 1967, a year after the arrival of the Cortina Mark II. It combined the lowered Lotus Cortina’s suspension with the high-tune GT 1600 Kent engine and luxury trim featuring a burr walnut woodgrain-trimmed dashboard and door cappings, bucket seating, sports steering wheel, and full instrumentation inside, while a black grille, tail panel, front fog lights and plated Rostyle wheels featured outside.

Ford New Zealand developed its own variant of this model called the GTE.

For 1969, the Mark II range was given subtle revisions, with separate “FORD” block letters mounted on the bonnet and boot lids, a blacked out grille and chrome strips on top and below the taillights running the full width of the tail panel marking them out.

A 3.0-litre Essex V6-engined variant was developed privately in South Africa by Basil Green Motors, and was sold through the Grosvenor Ford network of dealers as the Cortina Perana; a similar model appeared later in Britain and was known as the Cortina Savage. Savage was available with 1600E trim in all three body styles, while her South African stablemate was offered only as 4-door saloon initially with GT trim and later E trim.

TC Mark III (1970–1976)
In the late 1960s, Ford set about developing a third-generation Cortina, which would be produced in higher volumes than before, and following the recent merger of Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany into the modern-day Ford of Europe, the car marked the convergence of the German Taunus and British Cortina platforms with only minor differences between the two, hence the car’s internal name TC1, standing for Taunus-Cortina. It was also the last European car engineered by Harley Copp as Vice President Engineering and head of Brentwood, before he returned to Detroit.

The Mark III was heavily inspired by the contemporary “coke bottle” design language which had emanated from Detroit – the car sported the same fluted bonnet design and beltline from the North American Ford LTD of the same era. It replaced both the Cortina Mark II and the larger, more expensive Ford Corsair by offering more trim levels and the option of larger engines than the Mark II. Its sister car – the Taunus TC – sold in continental Europe was subtly different in appearance, having different door skins and rear wing pressings that toned down the drooping beltline in order to lose the “coke-bottle” appearance of the Cortina.

The MacPherson strut front suspension was replaced with more conventional double A-arm suspension to give the car a soft ‘freeway’ ride which gave the larger engines distinct understeer.

Ford UK originally wanted to call it something other than Cortina, but the name stuck. Although the Mark III looked significantly larger than the boxier Mark II, it was actually the same overall length, but 4 inches (100 mm) wider. Within the overall length, a wheelbase lengthened by more than 3 inches (76 mm) also contributed to the slightly more spacious interior.

Trim levels were now Base, L (for Luxury), XL (Xtra Luxury), GT (Grand Touring) and GXL (Grand Xtra Luxury). 1.3 L, 1.6 L and 2.0 L engines were offered, the 1.6 L having two distinct types – the Kent unit for models up to GT trim and a SOHC Pinto unit for the GT and GXL, the latter of which was also offered in 1600 form for a short while. 2.0 L variants used a larger version of the 1600 Pinto unit and were available in all trim levels except base. Base, L and XL versions were available as a 5 door estate.

Although no longer than its predecessor, the Mark III was a heavier car, reflecting a trend towards improving secondary safety by making car bodies more substantial. Weight was also increased by the stout cross-member incorporated into the new simplified front suspension set-up, and by the inclusion of far more sound deadening material which insulated the cabin from engine and exhaust noise, making the car usefully quieter than its predecessor, though on many cars the benefit was diminished by high levels of wind noise apparently resulting from poor door fit around the windows. Four-speed manual transmissions were by now almost universally offered in the UK for this class of car, and contemporary road tests commented on the rather large gap between second and third gear, and the resulting temptation to slip the clutch when accelerating through the gears in the smaller-engined cars: it was presumably in tacit acknowledgment of the car’s marginal power-to-weight ratio that Ford no longer offered the automatic transmission option with the smallest 1298 cc-engined Cortina.

Four headlights and Rostyle wheels marked out the GT and GXL versions, while the GXL also had bodyside rubstrips, a vinyl roof and a brushed metal and black tail panel on the GXL and plain black one on the GT. All models featured a downward sloping dashboard with deeply recessed dials and all coil suspension all round. In general styling and technical make up, many observed that the Mark III aped the Vauxhall Victor FD of 1967.

The Cortina went on sale on 23 October 1970, but sales got off to a particularly slow start because of production difficulties that culminated with a ten-week strike at Ford’s plant between April and June 1971, which was at the time reported to have cost production of 100,000 vehicles, equivalent to almost a quarter of the output for a full year.

Mark IV (1976–1979)
The fourth-generation Cortina was a more conventional design than its predecessor, but this was largely appreciated by fleet buyers. Generally a rebody of the Mark III, as an integration of Ford’s model range, this car was really a rebadged Ford Taunus. However, although the updated Taunus was introduced to Continental Europe in January 1976, Ford were able to continue selling the Cortina Mark III in undiminished numbers in the UK until they were ready to launch its successor as the Dagenham built Cortina Mark IV, which went on sale on 29 September 1976.

Many parts were carried over, most notably the running gear. The raised driving position and the new instrument panel had, along with some of the suspension upgrades, already been introduced to the Cortina Mark III in 1975, so that from the driving position the new car looked much more familiar to owners of recent existing Cortinas than from the outside. Cinema audiences received an early glimpse of the new Cortina (or Taunus) through its appearance in the James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me 1977 film.

The most obvious change was the new body, which achieved the marketing department objective of larger windows giving a better view out and a brighter feel to the cabin, but at the expense of body weight which was increased, albeit only marginally, by approximately 30 lb (14 kg). Ford claimed an overall increase in window area of some 15%, with “40% better visibility” through the wider deeper back window. Regardless of how these figures were computed, there must have been substantial weight-saving gains through reduced steel usage in the design, given the unavoidable extra weight of glass.

This series spawned the first Ghia top-of-the-range model, which replaced the 2000E. The 2.3-litre Ford Cologne V6 engine was introduced in 1977 as an engine above the 2.0l Pinto engine, already a staple of the Capri and Granada ranges. However, 2.3-litre Cortinas never sold particularly well in the UK. The Cologne V6 was certainly a much smoother and more refined power unit than the Pinto, but the V6 models were more expensive to fuel and insure and were only slightly faster, being about 0.5 seconds faster from 0–60 and having a top speed of about 109 mph compared to the 104 mph of the 2.0-litre models. The 2.0 Ford Cologne V6 engine continued to be offered on Taunus badged cars in parallel with the Pinto unit, and offers here an interesting comparison with the similarly sized in-line four-cylinder Pinto engine. The V6 with a lower compression ratio offered less power and less performance, needing over an extra second to reach 50 mph (80 km/h). It did, however, consume 12½% less fuel and was considered by motor journalists to be a far quieter and smoother unit. The 2.3 L was available to the GL, S and Ghia variants. A 1.6 Ghia option was also introduced at the same time as the 2.3V6 models in response to private and fleet buyers who wanted Ghia refinements with the improved fuel economy of the smaller 1.6 Pinto engine. Few cars were sold with the 1.6 engine though, the 2.0 Pinto was always by far the most common engine option for Ghia models.

Two-door and four-door saloons and a five-door estate were offered with all other engines being carried over. However, at launch only 1.3-engined cars could be ordered in the UK with the two-door body, and then only with “standard” or “L” equipment packages. In practice, relatively few two-door Mark IV Cortinas were sold. There was a choice of base, L, GL, S (for Sport) and Ghia trims, again not universal to all engines and body styles. Rostyle wheels were fitted as standard to all Mk.4 GL, S and Ghia models, with alloy wheels available as an extra cost option. The dashboard was carried over intact from the last of the Mark III Cortinas while the estate used the rear body pressings of the previous 1970 release Taunus.

Despite its status as Britain’s bestselling car throughout its production run the Mk.4 is now the rarest Cortina, with poor rustproofing and the model’s popularity with banger racers cited as being the main reasons for its demise. Particularly scarce are the 2.0 and 2.3S models which were discontinued when the Mk.5 was introduced in August 1979.

Ford Australia built its own versions with the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Pinto unit and the Ford Falcon’s 3.3 and 4.1 L 6-cylinder unit. Interior door hardware and steering columns were shared with the Falcons and the Aussie versions also had their own instrument clusters, optional air conditioning, and much larger bumpers. It also had side indicators. A considerable number were exported to New Zealand under a free trade agreement where they were sold alongside locally assembled models similar to those available in the UK. In South Africa, the Mark IV was built with the Kent 1.6 and the three-litre “Essex” V6.

Sales Success
In 1967, the Ford Cortina interrupted the Austin/Morris 1100/1300s reign as Britain’s best selling car. From 1972 to 1981, the Cortina enjoyed an unbroken run as Britain best selling car. At the end of its life it was facing competition from the more advanced and practical second generation Vauxhall Cavalier.

The final incarnation of the Cortina was Britain’s best selling car for the 1980 and 1981 calendar years, also topping the sales charts for 1979 when the range was making the transition from the fourth generation model to the fifth. Even in 1982, when during its final year of production it was pushed off the top of the charts by the Ford Escort.

The Cortina was also a very popular selling car in New Zealand throughout its production and continued to be sold new until 1984.

Although the last Cortina rolled off the production line in the summer of 1982, thousands of them remained unsold. More than 11,000 were sold in 1983, and the final six examples didn’t find homes until 1987. Its demise left Ford without a traditional four-door saloon, as the Sierra was initially available as a hatchback or estate. Ford later addressed this by launching a saloon version of the Sierra (the Sierra Sapphire) at the time of a major facelift in early 1987. It also added an Escort-based four-door saloon, the Orion, to the range in 1983.

A total of nearly 2,600,000 Cortinas were sold in Britain, and in March 2009 it was revealed that the Cortina was still the third most popular car ever sold there, despite having been out of production for nearly three decades.

The BBC Two documentary series Arena had a segment about the car and its enthusiasts.

Racing and Rallying
The Cortina also raced in rallies and Lotus did some sportier editions of the Cortina Mark I and Mark II referred to as the Lotus Cortina.

Powered by a Lotus engine, the Ford Cortina was a notable competitor in the Trans Am Series.

This car is, today, used for racing, because of its powerful cast iron engine. The car can have imported cylinder heads, with hydraulic valves, which give an enormous power boost.

The Cortina was also a popular car in UK Banger racing in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s proving to be a competitive car and also lasting it out in Demolition Derbys.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Ford Cortina, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.