Ford Cortina is First Produced
The Ford Cortina is a mid-sized family car built by Ford of Britain in various guises from 1962 to 1982.
The Cortina was Ford's mass-market mid-sized car and sold in enormous numbers, making it common on British roads and was Britain's best-selling car of the 1970s. It was replaced in 1982 by the Ford Sierra. In other markets, particularly Asia and Australia, 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.
As the 1960s dawned, BMC were revelling in the success of their new Mini – the first successful postwar mini-car to be built in Britain. Overlords at Ford of Britain felt that they could not develop a similar small car as the production cost would be too high, so instead they set about creating a larger family car which would sell in huge volumes. The result was the Cortina, a distinctively-styled car aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, that was launched in September 1962. Until a modest facelift in 1964 it was branded as the Consul Cortina before simply being sold 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.
Notable models were the Lotus Cortina and Cortina GT. Available with 1.2 L and 1.5 L 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. 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. 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. 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 ahead of the 60 bhp 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 1.6 L 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.
Ford launched one of its most important models in 1962, the Cortina (Mk I). The Cortina was an instant sale success and went on to become a household name, particularly in the UK. The Mk I Cortina used a new bodyshell with modern and tasteful styling and came with a choice of either 1200 or 1500 four cylinder engines and in "standard" or "Super" trim.
From 1963 a more powerful Cortina GT was also available alongside the standard models. The GT used a tuned (83bhp) version of the 1498cc engine that was used in the Cortina Super. Front disc brakes were standard, automatic transmission optional and there was a choice of two or four door saloon bodies.
The Ford Cortina GT proved popular as a "quick" road car and faired well in saloon car racing and rallying events. Production of the Mk I GT finished in 1966 with the arrival of the new Mk II Cortina.
Manufacturer Ford of Britain
Predecessor Ford Consul Classic
Successor Ford Sierra