The Ford Cortina was the brainchild of Ford UK’s product planner Terry Beckett, and its success was to lead to chairmanship of Ford UK, a knighthood and chairmanship of the CBI. Beckett would say this of the Cortina: ‘The Cortina came in under cost and, most significantly, we did it in record time. I believe we took just 21 months from full-size clay style to Job 1, which was then an all time record for the industry…
‘We decided we needed a bigger body shell and we also needed more wheel movement. We decided that we would provide a proper boot – in a way we overdid that, but it was perfect for a rep who wanted to take samples, and it was perfect for the family motorist.’
The Cortina was aimed at the expanding fleet market, it was designed to be reliable and cheap to run and was sold at a low price, but still enough to make a profit. Ford had astutely researched the car market and produced a product fleet buyers wanted. Fleet buyers were not interested in advanced cars if they were going to be unreliable and spend most of their time in garages being repaired.
For the rest of the 1960s the Cortina battled it out with the BMC 1100/1300 for sales supremacy. In 1966 the re-styled MkII appeared and, in 1970, the larger MkIII. The MkIII correctly anticipated the demand for larger cars and was itself superseded by the MkIV in 1976. A revised version known as the Cortina ’80 or MkV appeared in 1980 before assembly ended in July 1982 after 4,279,079 Cortinas of all types had been made.