28 November 2020

More than an old car #159: Ford Cortina


It never fails to amaze me at how some cars have managed to survive the test of time and remain, even when most of their siblings have been consigned into the depths of history. These Ford Cortina Mk 1s are a living testament to a bygone era of motoring!

The genesis of the Cortina began under the project name of 'Archbishop', where the management at Ford of Britain wanted to create a family-sized car that was economical, cheap to maintain and inexpensive to produce. Initially it was supposed to be called the Ford Consul 325, but was later inspired by the name of the Italian ski resort Cortina d'Ampezzo, site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Initially available in 2 and 4-door sedan form with a 1.2 litre engine (Standard, Deluxe), various trims appeared later on with larger 1.5 litre engines (Super, GT). A wagon version was introduced in 1963 as well.

The Cortina Lotus was also conceived back in 1961, when Colin Chapman desired to build his own engines for Lotus. He recruited Harry Mundy, a close friend and Keith Duckworth from the Cosworth company to develop a larger, high-performance engine. Walter Hayes, the public relations executive from Ford, requested for these engines to be fitted to 1000 Ford saloons for Group 2 homologation. Ford supplied the body shells while Lotus handled the mechanical and cosmetic changes. Main differences between the Lotus version and the regular ones were a drastically altered rear suspension that made the car stiffer to drive, use of lightweight alloy panels for the doors, bonnet and boot and Lotus badges on the rear wings of the car. All of the Lotus versions were painted white with a green stripe, although as it can be seen (on the regular sedan) it does not necessarily mean that a Cortina in this style is a Lotus one. In 1964, Cortinas underwent a facelift, most notably a full-width grille, disc fron brakes and Aeroflow ventilation indicated by air vents on the C-pillars.

This December 1963 Cortina Lotus was powered by a 1558 cc Lotus-Ford Twin-Cam i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 176 km/h with an acceleration of 9.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4275 mm long and weighed only 842 kg, with a fuel consumption of 12 litres/100 km. The regular 1962 Cortina sedan was powered by a 1198 cc Ford Kent i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of only 124 km/h with an acceleration of 22 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4270 mm long and weighed 814 kg, with a fuel consumption of 9.3 litres/100 km

Production of the Cortina Mk 1 ended in 1966 with a total of 933,143 made. Among them, there were 3,306 Mk 1 Lotus units, with around 2,600 in RHD. Both Cortinas are undergoing restoration and have not seen the road much, although both are owned by different owners. Cortinas of both kinds were sold back in 1963 by Ford of Malaya, where some were also assembled there. The regular 4-door Cortina Deluxe cost $5,995 while the Cortina Lotus was almost twice that at $10,920. One unit was also raced in a local hill climb event in 1963 too. Reviews praised its large seats and boot space with decent performance, although some had a gripe with the front right pillar that obstructed one's view momentarily when the car made a sharp turn. On the other hand, the Cortina Lotus was even lauded as 'one of the world's fastest family saloons'. 

Cortinas used to be the most common car in the UK and it was also prevalent in Singapore. It is therefore somewhat surprising that they are the only ones left here. However, having these survivors around is already a big deal and I hipe you can see them some day!

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