Gallery : Ford Cortina Mk3

In 1970, the Ford Cortina grew up – taking in the 2-litre class, and replacing the Corsair as well as the Cortina Mk2 in the same process. This growth was a gamble for its maker, but a prescient one, as it was this generation of Ford’s favourite repmobile that became the UK’s best-selling car.


Keith Adams


  1. And lo it came to pass that the Pinto Engine thrashed its way onto the British High Street. Despite that, it don’t half look sexy to this day and taught rivals a thing or too about marketing. If only it had Datsun oily bits….

  2. Best of the Cortinas. My old man had a white 2.0 Executive estate with twin carbs, and it went like stink – nothing wrong with the Pinto engine in his at it had gone round the clock three times and was still going when he got rid – it was the body that had failed! My Grandfathers both had 1.6’s, one had a white estate l model and the other a blue saloon xl model, and it was the body that failed on them to. The Executive and GXL models were the best interiors, espcially the funky GXL dashboard.

  3. I’ve heard that the Pinto engines needed frequent oil changes or the oil passages would clog up.

    I presume the cooking models had single round headlights, Mk3’s had a few different front end designs.

  4. Does anyone else get reminded of the Mk3 Cortina 2-door every time they see an Audi A5 coupe?

  5. I recall that the models with the square headlamps were the midlife update and had a new dashboard that was used later in the mark iv .

  6. @Richard16378

    The camshaft oil feed was prone to clogging up. The rattle/clack of a knackered cam was a familiar sound around these roads, especially on Mk4’s.

    A trick to partially overcome this was to slightly drill out the feed holes to improve the flow.

  7. I knew it was something like that, it’s interesting that it didn’t seem to affect fleet sales as it’s the sort of thing that would give fleet managers a few sleepness nights.

  8. Fleet cars would have been serviced regularly, I guess,which would go some way to ensuring the problem didn’t arise very often.

    I recall it was a fairly cheap and straightforward job to replace the cam, well within the capabilities of the DIY owner. The only tricky bit was the fact the cam was withdrawn from the rear as opposed to the front of the head. Some folk just lifted the head off and did the gasket at the same time such was the ease of repair.

    In those days before hydraulic tappets, at least you got an audible warning of when it was on its way out!

  9. As a young lad (8,9 10 ish) the Mk3 Cortina was one of my favourite cars – I thought they were cool!!!

  10. My older mates all had these cars,the 2000E was the nicest one of them all and they still do look good.

  11. The Pinto engine was OK if it was serviced regulary as stated in the manual, but it you did not it would start to get clackety and would eventually sieze. Big prob on them was the head gasket after they went through 60,000 miles and would normally go without warning. If you compare the PINTo against the relevant Vauxhall or BL engines of the time, the Vauxhall were more impressive getting more power, but the BL’s had less torque so always felt underpowered compared to the rivals. As for Chrysler – they were using the worst of them all the nasty SIMCA engines – urgh!

  12. Great archive photos of the MKIII Cortina’s. My old employer ran a fleet of 1.6L Estates which were pretty fast on the open road with a 75bhp engine. The later dashboard style used on the MKIII & IV won a “Design Council” Award.

    The 2000E was a good looker, with real wood door cappings if I recall. It became the “Ghia” version when the MKIV was launched. Cortina’s feature heavily in the Top Gear book, “My Dad had one of those”

  13. BSD

    Would you believe that the CORTINA can be used as a basis for a car that it almost a drag car?

    Some 2 years ago i read in one of the ISRAELI online car magazines about a mechanic (garage owner) from TEL-AVIV that took a 1981 CORTINA F/L Mk4 1600,took out the engine&transmission,and installed a CHEVI 5.7L V8 engine with it’s 3 speed auto transmission!

    He took care of the suspension,however,he was stupid enough to leave the original brakes,tires and wheel rims…
    (he wanted to keep the original look of the car…).

    Aniway,this CORTINA is a cear case of “must see in order to believe”…

    I wonder,are there any similar improved CORTINAS in the UK or in other countries?
    i will be glad to see replies of readers from the Uk and from other countries.

  14. I believe that in south africa and Australia the mk3/4/5 were all available with V8 engines, There was a model badged as an XR6,I think this was an australian version. Then of course there were the Savage conversions here in the UK.

  15. The Mark 3 Cortina is surely the car that defines the Seventies. Such style, so much choice and so well pitched at its market giving everyone the chance for a piece of Detroit glamour at a bargain price.

    I’m pretty sure the lucky South Africans also had the splendid XLE variant with the 3 litre V6 mated to an automatic tranmission?

    Lovely stuff.

  16. There was a 3 door bog standard model with a bench seat and non-remote gear change.

    If I recall, it wasn’t well recieved by the motoring press at the time, sloppy handling, poor quality and a dashboard which obscured instruments from the driver…it also dated very quickly. It would never be troubled by BL though, even though the Marina was a far, far better looking car 😉

    I’d take a Mk4 over it, in silver with front spots please.

  17. My favourite Tinas were the Mk1 followed by the Mk3. The final Mk5 wasn’t a bad car, although it could probably have been improved simply by using a 5 speed Capri gearbox (as many enthusiasts did).

    Odd thing with Ford, they seem to produce a stylish car, followed by a plain one, followed by a stylish one,etc, ad infinitum.

    I think the only Tina I’d want to spend money on, however, would be the Mk1, preferably in Lotus spec…

  18. My memories of the mark 3 at the age of 10 were the slide up the steering column choke control,strip face vents in the early dash plus the 4 auxillary gauges of the GT low down in the centre console looked cool.I also remember that when the rear silencer failed (often) the rear valance on the n/s would become blackened from exhaust fumes !.Aaaah the 70’s.

  19. @22 Collywobs – yes, I recall those early MK3 interiors with the slider choke and narrow air vents on the dashboard. The glovebox was like an envelope too. The later dashboard introduced in 1973/4 was much better, easier to read and it won a “Design Council” award.

  20. Re Post 17
    It was the SA version which was called thexr6. I believe that it was fitted with the essix V6. The aussie versons were the 2.0 pinto with auto or manual. Then there were the sixes fitted with twin headlights on the TC versions, square ones on the TD model. They came with the 3.3 straight 6 with 3 speed and 4 speed manuals the the BW35 Auto. The bigger engine was the 4.1 which came with the 4 speed and auto only. My father had the next version MK4 4.1 4 speed station wagon(estate) which went hard but used to chew through tyres and front bake pads quickly!

  21. My Dad,Mum,and I jointly bought a 1974 1600cc 4 door Automatic,(C3) “L Decor” model as a new car, (40 years ago) and she has done over 325,227 miles on the original OHC engine,I still own her she was 40 years old in January 2014, a stylish and wonderful car.

  22. Our first family car in 1974, copper metallic with a black vinyl roof, 1.6XL.
    As my dad was in the RAF this car carried us safely all over the UK and. Germany finally being exchanged for a Granada in around 1981-82 . Mechanically reliable with over 140,000 miles on the clock the car. It lasted a lot longer than most because it had been zeibarted, had holes drilled in it and injected with rust proofing.

    When it arrived in the October, water would pour into it when it rained, from above and below. Apparently built on Friday it had not been sealed and bungs were missing from the footwells.

    I have find memories of the black vinyl seats that used to burn my legs in the heat of the summer. The rectangular headlights looked so modern and it had wing mounted mirrors.

    Happy days and fond memories.

  23. I had a few of these, I loved them. Crossflow engines were reliable but not exactly nimble in the heavy mk3 and thirsty too. My main memories of cortinas in general are rust and void bushes!

  24. the brown with white vynil roof is actually a south African 3000 XLE.

    in brief the south African range consisted of 4dr/estate/bakkie(pickup), engs were 1.3/1.6 kent ohv,2.0 Essex V4 & 2.5/3.0 V6 manual 4 spd, 3 speed auto all floor change.(except 1.3)suspension as per Europe.
    trim levels where base,L,XL,GT,XLE, on the facelift models the GT was dropped & a new range topper the XLE LDO (luxury décor option ) was introduced.
    all models had the bonnet with higher front section but the 1.6 bakkie had the std bonnet.
    bakkies used the larger 2dr doors & had bench seat & leaf sprung rear axle.engs where the 1.6 ohv/2.0V4/2.5V6 manual/auto.3/4 tonne payload.

    the austarlian versions had the 1.6 ohv (dropped after approx. 12 months)& 2.ohc,3.3/4.1L pre-xflow straight six.3 speed auto, 3 speed manual on 3.3 (opt 4 speed) 4 speed std on others.all floor change.
    a front bench seat was avl across the range. but less popular as time went on.
    trim was base,L,XL,XLE,GS, facelift was as per south Africa.
    the cars had a recessed bulkhead to accommodate the longer engs.

    uk cars where avl as 1.3/1.6 ohv (later prefacelift only),1.6 ohc(std /gt),2.0 ohc (all GT & 2.0 had a twin choke weber carb).
    4 spped manual & 3 speed auto (BW type 35 replaced by fords C3 in 73) allways floor change
    2/4dr saloon, 4 dr estate bodys, trim was base,L,XL,GT,GXL, when facelifted in late 73 the GXL was replaced by the 2000E.
    a bench seat was offered on base/L 4dr saloon & est (phased out in 72) (these had a dash mounted hand brake).

    in the uk conversions where offered by Crayford 2 dr convertible (all eng/trim) & 3.0 V6 conversion across the range, race proved offered 2.5/3.0 V6 conversions across the range, superspeed offered a 3.0 V6 as well,several companys offered 2.0 upgraded engs as well.

    in south Africa the mk4 was similar to the uk main difference being the S & ghia where only avl with 3.0 , the 2.0V4& 2.5 V6 where dropped & replaced with the 2.0 ohc, the ohv 1.3/1.6 where retained.
    the bakkie now had 5 stud wheels & a 1tonne payload & used the shorter 4dr doors & the 1.6 & 3.0 V6 eng.

    in Australian mk4 again the main changes where that the frt brakes where now vented discs with single piston calipers.
    as per Africa the ghia trim replaced the XLE.

    in south Africa the mk5 range main changes where a 5 link rear suspension (with up right shockers on saloons)
    the ghia was only avl with 2.0 eng the range topper was now the 3.0 GLS.
    the S was replaced by the XR6 (3.0 V6) “motorsport” trim gave you RS 4 spoke alloy wheels & scheel bucket seats, two more versions where offered “interceptor” which added triple webers (250 made) & the “X-ocet” the added a 4 barrel holley 390 carb (50 made).
    all had colour coded bumpers with steel end caps ,all others had chrome bumpers/endcaps.
    the bakkie was now avl with a peugot 2.1 d eng & with a long aswell (sold in the uk as the p100 with 1.6 ohc eng) as short wheelbase still with 1 tonne payload.
    the cab roof was altered circa 85 when the 25mm taller saloon doors & windscreen where used requiring a slimmer roof & the fitting of full B pillar vents similar in style the the ones fitted to the saloon C pillers.

    Australian mk5s main differences where a new frt suspension with intregal frt cradle with unique wishbones , the straight 6 engs now got an alloy head, body changes inc full plastic bumpers & side impact bars in the doors.cortina production ended in 1983 in these two overseas markets

    2dr models where not sold in south Africa or austrailia nor was the 1.6 ohc or cologne V6, the 1.6 ohv & 3.0 V6 where used throught sierra/Granada production both engs ceased production in south Africa in the late 90’s.

  25. In new Zealand the MK3 4 and 5 where Icons the first mk 3s had a 1.3 and 1.6Ohv with the 1.6 being replaced by the OHC the GL mk 5 was discontinued about 81 and replaced with the NZ built S which was unique to NZ, however Ford NZ wanted to sell an executive model so the 2.3Ghia Auto only Mk 5 was sold as a fully built up model. NZ mk5s in Ghia spec had steel sports road wheels where the fully imported 2.3 had the Ghia alloys. the Mk 4 Ghia was the icon of success my parents bought a 79 model in 1980 it was a really flash and great car the Cortina was a huge success in NZ, unlike Australia where it was expediently engineered and badly put together, besides in Australia the 2.0litre had to suffer with a mild cam and 27ADR pollution gear

  26. I agree a MKIV Cortina Ghia would be an icon back in the day, before the surge of BMW / Audi / VW etc. My favourite Cortina would be a MKIII 2000E or MKIV Ghia 2.0. I also loved the 2.0GL MK IV with Autobox.

    I heard less favourable comments about the 2.3 engine with reports that the performance was not much better than the 2 litre

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