Ford Cortina1962 - 1982
The Ford Cortina is a small family car built by Ford of Britain in various guises from 1962 to 1982.
The Cortina was Ford's mass-market compact car and sold extremely well, making it very common on British roads. It was also Britain's best-selling car of the 1970s. It was eventually replaced in 1982 by the Ford Sierra. In other markets, particularly 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 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. In fact, this new Taunus–Cortina used the doors and some panels from the 1970 Taunus.
All variants of the Cortina sold over one million, with each successive model proving more popular than its predecessor. Such was its fame in the UK that the BBC Two documentary series Arena once devoted an edition to the car and its enthusiasts.
The model's 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.
As the 1960s dawned, BMC were revelling in the success of their new Mini – the first successful true minicar to be built in Britain in the postwar era. Management at Ford of Britain in Dagenham felt that they could not develop a similar small car to the same scale as the production cost would be too high, so instead they set about creating a larger family car which they could sell in large numbers. The result was the Cortina, a distinctively styled car aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, that was launched on 20 September 1962. Despite its eye catching modern styling, the car was from the start designed to be easy and inexpensive to produce: in Britain the front-wheel drive configuration used by Ford of Germany for their new similarly sized model was rejected in favour of the tried and tested rear-wheel drive layout. The car was branded as the Consul Cortina until a modest facelift in 1964, after which it was sold simply as the Cortina. The car confirmed Ford's reputation for offering a lot of car for the money: the estate version, in particular, provided class-leading load capacity.
The Cortina was available with 1.2 L and 1.5 L four-cylinder engines in two-door and four-door saloon and four-door estate forms. Standard, Deluxe, Super and GT trims were offered but not across all body styles. Estates offered the option of fake wood side and tailgate trim, aping American-style estates, for a short time. There were two main variants of the Mark 1. The Mark 1a possessed elliptical front side-lights, whereas the Mark 1b had a re-designed front grill incorporating the squarer side-lights. A notable variant was the Lotus Cortina.
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.
The Cortina was launched a few weeks before the London Motor Show of October 1962 with a 1197 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 1499 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.
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 1558 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.
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 precisely 168 inches (427 cm) long, was fractionally shorter than before. Nevertheless, 2½ inches (6 cm) of extra width and curved side panels did give the car a measurable improvement in interior space. In addition to the wider body and track, headline 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, marketed to broaden the Cortina's appeal into a higher market segment, was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in October 1967, a year after the arrived 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, 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.
In the late 1960s, Ford set about developing a third-generation Cortina, which would be produced in higher volumes than before. It was the last European car engineered by Harley Copp as Vice President Engineering and head of Brentwood, before he returned to Detroit.
The Mark III Detroit-inspired "coke bottle"-shaped Cortina TC was a hit amongst fleet buyers. 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.
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.
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.
During 1971 the spring rates and damper settings were altered along with the front suspension bushes which reduced the bounciness of the ride and low speed ride harshness which had generated press criticism at the time of the Cortina III's launch.
Volumes recovered, and with the aging Austin/Morris 1100/1300 now losing out to various newer models, the Cortina was Britain's top selling car in 1972, closely followed by the Escort.
In late 1973 following a facelift, the Cortina was redesignated TD. Outside, there were revised grilles, rectangular headlights for the XL, GT and the new 2000E (the "E" standing for executive), which replaced the GXL. The 1.3 L Kent engine was carried over but now, 1.6 L models all used the more modern 1.6 L SOHC engine. Whilst the TD Cortina still had double A-arm suspension with coils at the front and a four-link system at the rear, handling was improved. Inside, the car received a neater dashboard that no longer sloped away from the driver's line of sight and upgraded trim. The 2000E reverted to the classy treatment offered by the 1600E and later Ghia models instead of the faux wood-grain trim offered by the GXL.
Like many other Cortinas, Mk.3s were prone to rust and as a result only about 1000 now survive. Because of their rarity and the fact that they are now seen as an iconic car of the mid-70s, prices for MK.3s are rising steadily, with the best examples fetching several thousand pounds.
The Mark III was never sold in the US, although it was available in Canada until 1973.
In addition to four-cylinder models, the Mark III was available in South Africa as the 'Big Six' L and GL with the Essex V6 2.5L engine and Perana (very rare), GT and XLE with the Essex V6 3.0L engine. There was also a pickup truck version available.
Ford Australia built its own versions using both the UK four-cylinder engines (1.6 and 2.0) and locally made inline six-cylinder engines from its Falcon line.
For Japan, the cars were literally narrowed by a few millimetres on arrival in the country in order that they fit into a lower tax bracket – this was done by bending the wheel arches inwards.
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.
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 enginecontinued 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 4-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.
Throughout its production life, the Mk.4 was the most popular new car in the United Kingdom. Despite this it is now the rarest of all Cortinas with only about 200-250 examples left according to DVLA records. Scant rustproofing (much improved on the later Cortina 80/Mk.5 models) and popularity with banger racers accelerated its demise. And as with other best-selling mass produced cars of the time such as the Morris Marina and Vauxhall Viva, the Mk.4 Cortina did not acquire classic status while there were large numbers of them still around and able to be preserved. Both Mk.4 Cortina S models are now particularly rare with less than a dozen 2.0S and just 2 of the 2.3S models thought to survive today. Any Mk4 2.3 model is a very rare car in the UK now, with only about 20 remaining according to the DVLA. The S models were discontinued when Mk.4 production ended in August 1979. In their place, optional 'S' equipment packs were available as an upgrade for most Mk.5 models. Again, Ford Australia built its own versions with the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Pinto unit and the Ford Falcon's 3.3 and 4.1L 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. 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.
The Mark V was announced on 24 August 1979. Officially it was known as "Cortina 80", although the Mark V tag was given to it immediately on release, by the press, insiders and the general public.
A large update on the Mark IV, it was really a step between a facelift and a rebody. The Mark V differentiated itself from the Mark IV by having revised headlights with larger turn indicators incorporated (which now showed to the side too), a wider slatted grille said to be more aerodynamically efficient, a flattened roof, more glass area, slimmer C-pillars with revised vent covers, larger, slatted tail lights (on saloon models) and upgraded trim.
Prices started at £3,475 for a basic 1.3-litre-engined model.
Improvements were also made to the engine range, with slight improvements to both fuel economy and power output compared to the Mk.IV. For example, the 2.3V6 engine was given electronic ignition and a slight boost in power output to 116 bhp (87 kW; 118 PS), compared to the 108 bhp (81 kW; 109 PS) of the Mk.IV. Ford also claimed improved corrosion protection on Mk.V models; as a result, more Mk.V's have survived; however, corrosion was still quite a problem. Cars that were rust-proofed from new with treatments such as Waxoyl or Ziebart have tended to fare a lot better than untreated cars with only factory rust-proofing.
By contrast, the estate models combined the Mk IV's bodyshell (which was initially from the 1970 Ford Taunus) with Mk V front body pressings.
Variants included the Base, L, GL and Ghia variants (all available in both saloon and estate forms), together with Base and L spec 2-door sedan versions (this bodystyle was available up to Ghia V6 level on overseas markets). An optional "S" pack was also available for most models, For the final model year of 1982 this consisted of front and rear bumper overriders, sports driving lamps, an 'S' badge on the boot, tachometer, 4 spoke steering wheel, revised suspension settings, front gas shock absorbers,'Sports' gear lever knob, sports road wheels, 185/70 SR x 13 tyres and Fishnet Recaro sports seats (optional). Various "special editions" were announced, including the Calypso and Carousel. The final production model was the Crusader special edition which was available as a 1.3, 1.6 and 2.0 saloons or 1.6 and 2.0 estates. The Crusader was a final run-out model which buyers clamoured for in 1982, instead of buying a newly introduced Sierra. It was the best-specified Cortina produced to date and 30,000 were sold, which also made it Ford's best-selling special edition model. Another much rarer special edition model was the Cortina Huntsman, of which 150 were produced. By this time, the Cortina was starting to feel the competition from a rejuvenated (and Opel influenced) Vauxhall, which with the 1981 release CavalierJ-Car, was starting to make inroads on the Cortina's traditional fleet market, largely helped by the front wheel drive benefits of weight and grip.
Up to and including 1981, the Cortina was the best selling car in Britain. Even during its final production year, 1982, the Cortina was Britain's second best selling car and most popular large family car. On the continent, the Taunus version was competing with more modern and practical designs like the Talbot Alpine, Volkswagen Passat and Opel Ascona, but the brand image of Ford's blue oval ensured the Cortina was a success in virtually every country where it was sold.
The very last Cortina – a silver Crusader – rolled off the Dagenham production line in 22 July 1982 on the launch of the ultramodern Sierra, though there were still a few leaving the forecourt as late as 1987, with one final unregistered Cortina GL leaving a Derbyshire dealership in 2005. The last Cortina built remains in existence to this day, and is now in the ownership of the Ford Heritage Centre in Dagenham, Essex, not far from the factory where it was assembled.
1982 was also the year in which the Cortina lost its title as Britain's best selling car, having held that position every year since 1972. It was still selling well though, and the number one position had been taken by another Ford product: the Escort.
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