The cars : Ford Cortina development story

The one to beat…

The Ford Cortina lineup

IN the brave new world of 1960s Britain, there was an admirable back-to-the-wall can-do mentality, it must have seemed that anything was possible. Ford certainly thought so, given that the Cortina project only really came together in 1960, following a three month consultation resulting in the definitive full-sized clay, before going into production a mere 21 months later. If that sounds like a panicked programme that was bound to fail, then you’d be right to think that, given the mixed abilities of similarly hastily-conceived projects, such as the Morris Marina (1968-1971), and Chrysler Sunbeam (1975-1977). However, what separated Ford’s groundbreaking effort, and those of British Leyland and Chrysler UK was that those cars were created in response to a crisis – whereas the Cortina was carefully conceived with a particular market in mind.

But then the story of the Cortina is very much a reflection of the man who would become the driving force behind its creation, Patrick Hennessey. The reason for the Cortina’s – Project Archbishop – conception was as much a politically- as product-led one. Despite its close managerial links with Detroit, Ford of Great Britain was very much an autonomous operation, with little in the way of links of its namesake based in Cologne – so when, on a trip to Detroit in 1960, Hennessey discovered that Detroit had handed over an aborted compact saloon car development programme for Ford of Germany to complete (by way of assisting the war-torn country), the he sat up and took notice. That car, codenamed ‘Cardinal’ looked extremely promising – it was powered by a compact V4-cylinder engine and featured a front-wheel drive transmission system, and would go on to become the Taunus 12M.

Hennessey thought such a car could have potential in the UK. Okay, not so much the car as it was, but certainly a conceptually similar saloon built on a simpler foundation. He convinced Ford in Detroit that Britain needed a car like the Cardinal, but one that was completely engineered on home turf. It looks like the mere notion that the two European divisions of the same company should co-operate on such a programme was not even entertained – or certainly there’s no documentary evidence to say so.

The German programme was scheduled to launch in September 1962, and Hennessey wanted to beat it to the marketplace – it was a matter of national pride. But Cologne had a considerable head-start.

And so, the Irishman returned to the UK to form a plan, which was to become The Red Book, to beat the Cardinal. He placed chief product planner Terry Beckett (later Sir Terence) and executive engineer of Light Cars, Fred Hart, in charge of the development of the all-new rival Archbishop (see the connection?). Beckett would be responsible for budgets and timing for what was initially known as Consul 225 – whereas Hart’s design team in South Ockendon was placed in charge of body design and engineering. But Hart had plenty of experience in the market where the Cortina would be pitched, after having joined Ford as a draughtsman in 1940, he was involved in the development of the original Consul and Zephyr, as well as the 100E Anglia.

However, it was with Hart’s involvement with the Anglia 105E that really put him on the map – and although it was strangely, rather faddishly, styled, is was also possibly Ford’s most groundbreaking Post-War product. To that point. For what it combined was all-British styling, lightweight construction, the high-revving and responsive ‘Kent’ engine, and a slick-shifting four-speed gearbox, to produce what many drivers of the time were hankering for in the budget sector of the market. For the Cortina, his brief was straightforward – after the 105E: to build a family-friendly saloon, and keep the weight below 1700lb (770kg). Aircraft engineering stress technology was used in the body design, a technique overseen by ex-Bristol Aeroplane Company body engineer, Dennis Roberts.

Ford Cortina Mk1
Simple, clean and elegant: the first Cortina was an object lesson in minimalism.
Ford Cortina Mk1 Interior
Cortina interior gave 1962’s driver all he needed.

As well as being light, the Cortina needed to be roomy – it was a pre-requisite that the car would have a large boot and class-leading interior room. Exactly what a jobbing sales rep would need. But those requirements weren’t at the cost of lightness, because it needed to be lively on the road for that added driver appeal. The Kent engine, which had proven so successful in the 105E Anglia was used as a base, and in short-block three-bearing form expanded to 1198cc was capable of delivering 49bhp for a 75mph top speed and 22.5-second 0-60mph time. Leisurely now, but more than quick enough for the time.

In terms of suspension design, it was was also a case of simple is best. Ford’s now globally-used MacPherson strut system was used up-front, and a simple live rear axle at the rear – all designed for maximum lightness, and maximum wheel movement. As it happened, the engineers missed the overall weight target by 20lb, but in the circumstances, this was still a very impressive achievement.

Beckett’s use of the The Red Book was also considered to be ahead of its time. Every aspect of the Cortina range was covered within its pages, and it was strictly adhered to by the design team. It was designed to be available in two- and four-door saloon form, as well as a five-door estate, all of which were to be launched within six months of the arrival of the first car on the market. It also specified that the 1.2-litre Kent engine would be joined by a sportier five-bearing 1498cc version, perfect for the top of the range – and less premeditated – ‘halo’ models.

The programme was an unprecedented success – it needed to be. There was no spare time for anything to go wrong, and luckily nothing did go wrong. Unusually for the time more than 20 prototypes were built (about double the number of 105Es), and an intensive testing programme, based at Boreham racked up many hundreds of thousands of miles across Europe Ford of Great Britain’s board’s confidence in Hennessey had been vindicated – all that was needed was for the car to go on sale, and woo awaiting customers.

But right on cue, the Cortina was ready for production during the summer months of 1962.

The Cortina arrives… and soon develops

Ford Cortina Mk1

Ford worked very hard to ensure that the Cortina would be available for all to see on launch day. So, with the car having been in production for months in the run-up to its launch on the eve of the 1962 London Motor Show at Earls Court, every dealer in the land was to have at least a couple of cars in their showrooms. It was a successful strategy, and when the wraps did finally come off Ford’s new mid-liner, it caused a sensation.

The new moniker was designed to evoke thoughts of glamorous European locations (having been named after the 1960 Winter Olympics resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo), and added to the car’s all-round appeal, but it could have so easily been much less appealing. Throughout its development programme, Project Archbishop was going to be called Consul-225, a clear link with the existing cars in the range, but right at the last moment (and during pre-launch press photography), the decision was made to go with the Italian name – thereby also allowing Ford to make the car more saleable in European markets.

The first thing that struck everyone in the market was that the Cortina was just what they needed, and although the original cars had a starkness about them that Ford would move away from in later years, there was masses of room inside, it was cheap to buy, and looked simple to service. The original 1200 was powered by a 1197cc three-bearing version of the 1-litre Kent engine found under the bonnet of the 105E Anglia. This revvy little number had already proved popular with Anglia owners, and was instrumental in its success, and it was bound to have the same effect on the Cortina market.

Adding to the range’s appeal, the Cortina Super was added to the range in January 1963. The big change was the arrival of the five-bearing 1499cc engine power unit, which developed 60bhp. Performance was significantly increased as a result, and aspirational buyers now had the option of spending more money at their Ford dealership. Following on from that came the Cortina GT – basically a Super with lowered suspension – and a 78bhp engine, arguably the first in a long line of hot Ford saloons that would keep the public entertained for years.

Keeping with Ford’s mantra of continual improvement, a facelifted version of the Cortina was introduced at the London Motor Show in October 1964, and featured a number of notable improvements. The main innovation was its Airflow ventilation system, which might now seem like an odd item to promote at a car launch, but with its ability to refresh the entire interior in under under a minute, it’s made an important contribution to overall driver safety. Beyond that, the car received a new dashboard, instruments and controls, which were engineered to give the car a less stark interior as well as improve ergonomics. Finally, front disc brakes were added – another big improvement. It was in this form that the Mk1 Cortina saw out its days, and in doing so, it threatened to take the top seller’s spot in the UK from the BMC 1100/1300.

Along comes the mark two

The new Cortina is more Cortina...
The new Cortina is more Cortina…

After getting off to such a flying start, it’s no surprise that Ford stuck to its winning formula with the second generation Cortina. Although the first car was immaculately engineered and costed, its high-fashion styling dated rather quickly. And as a result, that led it having a short shelf life – something that the company had planned for when putting together Project Archbishop. Once again, the new car’s styling took its cues from the USA, with its design chief Roy Haynes clearly being inspired by the neat minimalism that was sweeping through the Ford empire at the time. So, a mere four years after the Cortina Mk1 rolled out of Dagenham, the Mk2 version followed suit.

But it was a look that worked, and more importantly, this car proved Ford’s undoubted commitment to giving customers exactly what they wanted. And in an expanding market, what they wanted was more space, more performance and more equipment. So, with the advertising strapline, ‘New Cortina is more Cortina’, did exactly what the advertising copywriters asked of it. The new car was wider with a more capacious interior, and had a larger boot (even though engineers on the Mk1 felt that the original’s was already on the generous side of capacious). Driver comfort and ease of use were also factored in, with the increasingly luxurious interior complemented the softer ride and more ‘grown up’ feel of the new car.

It was the same story with the power units – the 1.2-litre engine may have been the entry level for the original car, but for the UK market, that was upped to 1.3-litres, moving the new car away from BMC’s all conquering ADO16. The smaller 1.2-litre engine was offered in export markets, but for the UK market, this was not offered, as the higher engine capacity equated to a higher price in a buoyant market, where confidence was riding at an all-time high. The larger entry level model didn’t initially lead to an increase in size of the range-topper (which stayed at 1.5-litres), but it was only a matter of time, as Ford engineers were beavering away at a 1.6-litre crossflow version of its Kent four-cylinder.

As before, the Cortina was offered in two- and four-door saloon form, as well as a capacious five-door estate, and it was the latter that proved to be a massive hit for the company, following the slow start of its wood-clad predecessor.

The new crossflow heads were introduced in 1967, and saw a corresponding expansion of the range. The most iconic of them all was the 1600E, which now topped an expanding range that comprised of base, Deluxe, Super, GT and 1600E. It was the Cortina 1600E that truly captured the public’s imagination, when it was unveiled at the 1967 Paris Motor Show. The exterior was treated to a number of well judged modifications, such as Rostyle wheels, a black rear panel and vinyl roof – but it went as well as it looked, thanks to being powered by the 1600GT’s uprated Kent engine and uprated suspension. Inside, the 1600E was rather special, too, featuring a burr walnut woodgrain-trimmed dashboard and door cappings, bucket seats, that all-important sports steering wheel, and full six-pack instrumentation.

Once again, the Cortina proved a massive success, and cemented its position as the prime player in the UK’s fleet market. It was here that BMC had been really struggling thanks to the ADO16’s complexity and less than exemplary reliability record, although private buyers remained loyal to the advanced front driver, allowing it to remain ahead of Dagenham’s best-seller throughout its life. In order to increase the Cortina’s appeal, Ford would need to think more radically – and so, in 1970, it moved the goalposts leaving the opposition little choice but to follow suit as hastily as possible…

Change in direction

A continuation of the US-inspired look for the Cortina Mk3 led to a distinctive style
A continuation of the US-inspired look for the Cortina Mk3 led to a distinctive style
The 'Coke bottle' waistline is very obvious from this angle.
The ‘Coke bottle’ waistline is very obvious from this angle.
The new and much larger Mk3 bodyshell lent itself to making a huge estate version.
The new and much larger Mk3 bodyshell lent itself to making a huge estate version.

As hard as it is to believe now, the Cortina Mk3 (or TC for Taunus Cortina) was a massive gamble for its maker. Both the Mk1 and Mk2 were compact cars with their upper models anchored to the one-and-a-half litre class, but what Ford decided to do for their replacement was to retain the 1.3-litre entry point, but take the top models up to 2.0-litres, swallowing up the old Corsair range in the process.

It was a cunning plan – because although it was a capable all-rounder, the Corsair had failed to set the sales charts alight, and the opportunity for Ford product planners here was to grab those sales in the two-litre market sector, hoping the Cortina magic would encourage new buyers into the fold. it worked, and it established itself as the UK’s best-selling car year in, year out.

The Teutonic order

Cortina Mk4 saw the convergence of German and British design.
Cortina Mk4 saw the convergence of German and British design.

The biggest step forward for the fourth-generation Cortina was a that it finally saw the convergence of the German Taunus and the British Cortina. No longer were these two separate ranges, but merely the same cars carrying different badges. The arrival of the Mk4 was also significant because it meant that UK Ford dealers would now be able to sell Cortinas built overseas – a consideration that would take on considerable significance as Dagenham became increasingly blighted by industrial unrest during the mid-’70s.

As for the car itself, although the Mk4 was a much more more conventional design than its predecessor, and in terms of technology amounted to little more than a rebody of the outgoing Mk3 – so that meant a retention of that car’s running gear and suspension layout, and a retention of the final model’s dashboard and revised seating position. So, for existing Cortina owners, driving a Mk4 would feel very familiar indeed, albeit with a much nicer view out, thanks to a 15 per cent greater glass area. On the outside, Uwe Bahnsen’s smart new clothes were very much of the moment, and rendered the Mk3 Coke bottle immediately redundant – a familiar phenomenon in short life span cars.

Interestingly, although the ’76 Taunus hit the marketplace in February of that year, it wasn’t until September before the Cortina Mk4 made it to the UK showrooms. The main innovation for this model was the arrival of the Cologne V6 in 2.3-litre form, further pushing the Cortina upmarket. Although it was incredibly smooth and refined the Cortina 2.3 wasn’t a huge success, as with 114bhp on tap is wasn’t significantly quicker than the 2.0-litre car in ‘S’ form – and it was far less economical. As before, the Cortina was offered in a wide variety of trim levels – base, L, GL, S and Ghia. The new top model was a nod to Ford’s outright purchase of the Italian design house, and within a couple of years, the wood ‘n’ velour model would be rolled out across the entire range.

Cortina 2.0S was aimed at aspirational reps...
Cortina 2.0S was aimed at aspirational reps…
Compare the interior of this Mk4 Ghia automatic with its 1962 namesake.
Compare the interior of this Mk4 Ghia automatic with its 1962 namesake.

In September 1979, the final Cortina incarnation was released – and although it’s hard to classify it as a facelift or a rebody (as it was a bit of both), the Cortina 80 represented a useful improvement over the car it replaced. The improvements were plentiful – revised head- and tail lamps, wraparound indicators and an aerofoil grille were the main points of interest on the outside. But the new roof with larger windows – although subtle to look at – really made the interior an airier place to spend time. Inside, trim and equipment levels were improved, as was the ride quality. Most importantly, though, for future Cortina fans, these were properly rustproofed…

These final cars could be described as the ultimate Cortina variations, and were a true proponent of Ford’s model policy of short production runs and regular updates. And even though the opposition had caught up and overtaken the Cortina – most notably the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 – it remained a fleet and family car favourite, and firmly ensconced in the hearts of British car buyers. The final Crusader special edition proved hugely popular, and with its two-tone paint and Ghia style trim, it was the one that buyers wanted in the run up to the introduction of the radical new Sierra.

In the end, and in the UK, the Cortina topped the charts in 1967, and then from 1972 to 1981, which is a remarkable achievement, and testament to the marketing skills of its maker. But that is not to downplay the Cortina’s role in the car market – although it was rarely a technical pioneer, it gave the public what it wanted and didn’t break the bank in the process. You only need to read the table below to see that.


Version Years in production Total production
MK1 1962-1966 1,013,391
MK2 1966-1970 1,024,869
MK3 1970-1976 1,126,559
MK4 and ’80 1976-1982 1,131,850
The Cortina 80 remained a best seller until the moment it went out of production.
The Cortina 80 remained a best seller until the moment it went out of production.
Keith Adams


    • Guys . . the early 3 bearing 1198cc unit ‘felt’ VERY lively compared to the slightly later 1498cc 5 bearing unit . . i drove BOTH as a young driver and LOVED the ‘rorty’ 1198 unit. The 1498 unit was certainly ‘smoother’ but had WAY LESS actual POWER under the foot, albeit the rear axle ratios were slightly different (4.125 for the 1198 and 3.90 for the ‘slow’ but smooth 1498)

  1. My dad had a Cortina Mk2 in 1966 and I had two Mk5s – Cortina 80 sounds too pretentious! They were brilliant cars.

    I nearly bought a Mk4 18 months ago, but it only had about 3 weeks MOT on and that set alarm bells ringing. A shame… Still, maybe one day soon…

  2. I have always considered the final Cortina (the TF here in Australia) to be a very beautiful design. Here they came with 2.0 fours or the big daddy 4.1 litre straight six (from the local Falcon)

  3. I was a partner back in the 70’s in a back street garage. One of the partners was a ‘mad Irishman’ and he was piloting a Lotus Cortina Mk 1 out near Cirencester one day – myself riding shotgun. I think it possibly had no tax because when a police car appeared in the mirror, my driver ‘flored it’ and we took a ninety degree turn off the main road into a lane at around 60 mph – yeah, yeah, yeah I hear you say. I kid you not – I thought I was going to die, there was no way this thing would go round that corner – but it did. Lotus Cortina ride on!
    In the 80’s I had Mk 3 Estate and towed a 10ft Sprite caravan quite a bit. Family holidays – chuffin’ great dogs, 3 kids, tiny caravan and a Mk3 that I had swapt a lounge wall unit for! I loved that car! I could cruise on the motorway at 70 with the van and it felt like it was just one unit. I loved wet roundabouts. I could get the van to drift out with the tail of the car and come out on opposite lock. I was quite ‘in’ to it and lead a team of three drivers to set up a world record for towing a caravan around the coast roads of Great Britain (for charity). We did use a 2.8 Granada for that though!
    Happy days – a bronze Mk 3 with a vinyl roof, spots and mud flaps must be just so cool – I wish I was a student today!
    Incidently, I have been an ‘advanced driver’ for the last 20 years and now run a risk management business – so I did grow up eventually!

  4. I remember a blue Mk.4 and a (I still don’t know what to call it) dark tan-ish Mk.5 that my dad has. I know there is a red Mk.5 running around locally that is probably in better condition than it came out of the factory. I wonder how many they sold of that horrible yellow in the brochure – even boy racers today would shy away from owning something sporting that shade; it looks almost radioactive.
    I didnt like the interior much – it seemed and seems really bland. Only thing worse in that respect was the Vauxhall ‘skyscraper’ design they had for years in the Cavalier etc – always looked to me as if they had plonked a 2-ft tall tree trunk of plastic on the transmission tunnel and then gone at it with an angle grinder accordingly.
    Dad took one look at the ‘jellymould’ and we got a Cavalier SRi and that was the end for Ford in the family. We ditched Vauxhall when the ‘caribbean buttock’ Carlton appeared, and that fatefully was when we got the first Renault, a met. blue 1987 25 GTX which was the first car I drove (and almost buried into the side of a pub wall).

    If you ever want really comfortable seats and you can find any the 25 cloth seats (as well as the 17’s, which resembled something you’d find in a jet fighter) are well worth getting hold of – although I dont know if there is a standard fitting. That was the most comfortable car we ever owned.

    • Jemma – The yellow you refer to was called Daytona Yellow. It was also available on the MK3 Cortina’s (my company had one 1975-79)

      • Daytona Yellow was also used on Transits. A mate of mine had one on a “P” registration. One of the first to use the 1600 Kent engine. Looked really smart with the black painted grille and headlight surrounds, even the back doors had a black section about 2 inches high.

  5. Back in 1984 whilst living in Johannesburg I had a Mk5 3.0 V6 Estate. Marvellous load-lugger and it pulled a caravan easily, but it was quite juicey!
    I traded this in for a new 3.0 V6 Sierra hatch, an even better puller!
    The South Africans were very good at re-engineering cars for bigger engines!

  6. I have a 1982 Cortina 2.0ltr Ghia. Sadly it’s looking a bit sorry for itself at the moment. It has also lost it’s original engine. It now has a 2.9 Cosworth V6 up front. I am torn between rebuilding it or chopping it in for a Triumph 2500.

  7. I recall the Crusader runout edition, for those who weren’t impressed by the Sierra.

    Hyundai started out building Cortinas and Granadas. They put their experience to use building an Italdesign bodied Cortina as the Stellar.

  8. I wonder. Did Ford make a mistake by not continuing the Cortina line (perhaps the XR4 was too radical to be classified a Cortina)? And would current Ford CEO Alan Mulally have allowed the Cortina name to die if he had been there at the time? (He’s big on keeping vehicle names around rather than swapping them out for something new in hopes the public doesn’t equate it with the old car.)

  9. Was it Alan Mulally that brought back the Taurus name in the states?

    If the Sierra Sapphire-style saloon had been available at launch, would it have been a Cortina?

    The Mondeo name seems to be one of their more long-lived names.

  10. At 36 years + Fiesta is Ford’s longest running European name, some of the American names might have been around longer.

  11. Never owned a Cortina, but I drove many of my company’s ones (mainly 1.6L MK3 & 4 Estates). Good load carriers and pretty fast on the open roads. Happy days! The best one I drove was a 2.0 Crusader run out model hire car.

    As has been said, Ford managed to capture a huge slice of fleet & private owners due to a massive choice of trim & engines/bodies. A Cortina to suit everyone – well almost. Whatever anyone says, their place in motoring history is secure.

  12. Where are the Cortinas now? There are apparently more Morris Minors left than all the Cortinas put together. I believe such information can be found at This website should give you some idea as to how many such cars are left in the UK. A Cortina may be a familiar sight in an episode of The Professionals or The Sweeney but just how many such cars are left now? For example, how many Mk4 Cortinas are left and still roadworthy?

    Understandably the Ford Cortina isn’t regarded as a classic in the same way as the Morris Minor. But I can understand that the the Cortina must have been very appealing whilst on the market at the time. I therefore wonder if the Cortina, as it were, will have a new lease of life sometime in the future. The idea is that it would have to comply with the safety regulations, which would include stronger bodywork. The Cortina certainly helped keep the Ford Motor Company in business at the time.

    Speaking of the Ford Motor Company, I don’t suppose the company was the only motor company back in 1903. I therefore think other manufacturers should produce cars and other vehicles that would use the same technology as the Maverick, referred to as the flying car that does. I am very much in favour of flying cars and would even like them and the flying saucers to displace the conventional aeroplanes and helicopters altogether, except perhaps for special occasions. I would therefore like a brand new Cortina to fly if there was one.

    Furthermore, on the 9th of August I dreamt that a lorry could transform itself into a passenger aircraft using the hidden wings it had. At the time I was convinced that the technology had finally arrived. I was therefore later disappointed to learn that it was just a dream. This has obviously made me want flying cars even more.

    I am featured on the BBC website and anxious to bring my weblinks to everyone’s attention. Simply visit Google and type in KELLER BBC or BBC KELLER to access the details, as you should see JEREMY KELLER BBC appear on the screen. You should also be able to look me up on Google by searching for:

    favour of flying cars

    lunar mountaineering

    lunar night earthlight

    wreck of Luna 2

    night half facing Saturn

    craters resembling dividing cells

    dent resistant bodywork

    motionized pictures

    motionized paintings

  13. Mk4 & 5 Cortinas were a common site until the mid 1990s.

    Banger racers, rust & the withdrawal of 4 star petrol seem to have thinned the numbers a lot.

    Production did continue in Turkey until 1990.

  14. Oh the fun I had with my 2 door Cortina Mk3 base model.

    During it’s time wit me it sprouted fablon plastic fake wood covered steel on top of the doors above the door cards (I believe Ford copied my idea for the Ghia) eventually it sprouted a 1500 Stage 2 engine under the hood that due to the lightness gave the 2000GT a run for it’s money, Someone told me that a 5 speed gear box and an Alfa twinky would fit under there. It did, but it wasn’t easy. The only thing that wouldn’t pass was an oil tanker…

    Oh the fun I had, my girlfriend giving a little whimper of fear when I first put my foot down with the Alfa lump in and tried to control the wheelspin on a slightly wet traffic lit junction…
    Sadly, the body rot got to it in the end, the rear wishbone chassis became swiss cheese and she had to go.

    But it was a lovely car, it was just what a young 18 year old Pit fitter needed for pulling the birds.

    Y’know, the rose tints are having a field day today.

  15. The Cortina became a massive piece of British culture for over 20 years. At some point I’ve owned every mark; 2 mark 1 1500GTs, 3 mark 2 1600Es, 1 mark 3 2000E, 1 mark 4 1600L estate and 2 mark 5 2.0GLs. My favourites were the mark 1 GTs. I still think they look fantastic. The first one I bought in 1977 for £200. It was in immaculate condition in Goodwood Green with lowered suspension, wide steel rims and a Moto-Lita wood rimmed steering wheel (cool, eh?). Unfortunately it succumbed to an underbonnet fire which led to it being scrapped. I wince when I see nice ones advertised for between 7 and 8 thousand pounds now….

  16. Interesting production numbers. For their time 1,000,000 ish in 4 to 6 years is considered a run-away success. But today the global production numbers for the Focus achieve this in a little over 6 months.

    • Interesting point, the reality is that from a European perspective the Mk3/4/Taunus didn’t sell well at all. By the early 80s Fords Belgium Genk plant that was on its knees and only kept going with topping up Dagenham Cortina output. Although the car sold in massive numbers in the UK that was all low margin fleet business. Cars like the Sierra and Mk3 Escort were a conscious effort by Bob Lutz to move FoE away from reliance on the UK fleet market and build products that could compete properly with the likes of Volkswagen and Fiat on the European stage. Worked too, although the Sierra was considered a comparative failure in its UK early years it massively outsold the Taunus on the continent. The Mk4 Cortina was actually only a mild facelift of the 1970 Taunus TC with new front and rear ends. By adopting the “old” Taunus central section for the Mk4 Cortina, Ford appeared to be offering a substantially new car in the UK. Buyers on the continent saw something more akin to a Morris Ital makeover.

      • The Cortina mostly sold to fleets and as a second hand car over here. Private buyers who could afford new cars and weren’t particularly well off mostly bought Escort sized cars or superminis if they were single. The Japanese really muscled in on the light medium sector in the late seventies by pricing their cars at the same level as a basic Escort, but offering luxuries like push button radios, cloth seats and tinted glass that the Escort lacked, and, of course, making cars that were completely reliable. Take out the fleet sales and Ford’s market share would have halved.

  17. I always loved the 2.3 V6 with the Granada engine. My uncle had a 2.3 Ghia S, which he had tuned so it could do 120 mph, and I marvelled at the smooth engine and the quality fittings inside like the wooden dashboard and the velour seats. It really was a decent alternative to a Rover 2300 for similar money but with more reliability due to its German engine.
    However, the smaller engined cars really were past it by the early eighties, using thirsty engines that dated back to 1970 and with a dated rwd system. I much preferred the BL O series as this was a newer engine and more economical with similar reliability.

  18. My father had at least 4 cortinas as company cars,as the firm had a Ford only car policy. Then out of the blue,in 1980,they asked him if he would prefer a cavalier instead. He said yes, but when the car arrived it was a Mk5 cortina. No wonder they sold so well, you couldn’t not have one.

  19. In Australia Ford assembled Mk3s and Mk4s (TC/TD/TE) with six cylinder (3.3 Litre and 4.1 Litre) as well as the 2.0 Litre 4 cylinder motors. No two doors but there were estates (station wagons) which were assembled here by Renault Australia and exhibited much greater build quality than the sedans assembled by Ford themselves.

  20. The story is nearly corect. Pat Hennessey was in a bit of stook when the Cortina was thought up. The Classic and Classic Capri was in the process of being developed for launch in 1961 and he had foreseen that it would fail miserably. The car had been developed was too heavy and he beleived the over the top styling would fail. Pat had not been responsible for the Classic but new he had to act fast and did so with the Cortina programme. What is also not mention here is the Saxon, a two seater two door version developed by Ford of britain which was aimed to be a sports model in the form of the Thunderbird, however it was dropped with only a couple of running prototypes made – they are still going and have been seen at the Battlesbridge Classic Car shows over the last few years

    • It’s quite impressive that Ford managed to get the Mk1 Cortina ready for production less than 2 years after the Classic came out, especially as they could have just reworked the Classic & sold it for a few more years as a holding operation.

  21. Interested to know whether Ford ever consider uprating the Kent / Crosslow engine from OHV to a mass production SOHC capable of being bored out to 1700-1760cc (thereby negating the need for the 1.6-1.8 Pinto engine), apart from the motorsport-focused Cosworth SCA and Lotus-Twin-Cam engines?

  22. I think the best looking model was the Mark 2, it seemed less chunky looking than the Mark 3 and was more reliable. In 1600 E form with sports wheels, spotlights, leather seats, wood dash and vinyl roof, this was a very nice car.

    • Yes Glenn… The MK2 Cortina 1600E was a classic. I still like seeing photos of them. I loved the MK3 2000E & MKIV Ghia too.

      • Ford’s E and Ghia models always made the owner feel special. I still think a Cortina Ghia interior is a very nice place to be with the wood, chrome and velour, and in V6 form had plenty of refined power. It’s interesting when Rover abandoned their traditional interiors in favour of plastics and cloth, Ford went the other way, and some buyers must have been tempted over.

        • I agree and also liked the wood & velour trim interiors (signified it as the top model). Our street neighbour’s blue MKIV Ghia looked good standing on his drive on a summers evening.

  23. I had a 1965 MK1 as my second car for a few months in 1978 and then a silver birch 1970 MK2 1600 Super SFS 422H (I think) for about a year after. Dad had a succession of MK3’s and 4’s before for some reason getting a Lancia Beta which rusted away as you looked at it. I would love a Lotus Cortina, preferably Bruce Reynolds’ old one!

  24. The Cortina MKIII, IV and V will always bring back great memories from my younger working life… happy times!

    • The Cortina was unstoppable from 1972 onwards, once early issues were sorted out with the Mark 3. Sales reps, taxi drivers and families appreciated the huge range of options, the low cost of maintaining a Cortina, decent driving experience, and the spacious interior. Also rust on later cars was less of a problem and reliability was OK by the standards of the time.

  25. The Mark V 2.3 Ghia automatic had to be the ultimate Cortina, a Rover rival with plenty of wood in the cabin and plenty of standard kit for the time,a smooth if not particularly quick 2.3 V6, and typical Ford running costs. Also by the time the Mark V came out, rust problems had been mostly beaten and the Cologne V6 proved to be a reliable engine.

  26. Would have interesting seeing how the related Ford Corsair would have fared with the 1.7-2-litre Essex V4s shelved at the beginning of development in favor of 1.6 and 1.8 (1753cc) Kent/Crossflow engines as well as featuring Ford Essex V6s including a possible 2-litre V6 variant.

  27. Loved Cortinas to bits. We owned FOUR over the years:
    1972-76: H reg Mark 2, white.
    1977-80: K reg mark 3, gold, 1.3L engine.
    1980-83: P reg Mark 3 – my absolute favourite. Blue, 1.6L, with black vinyl roof and blue velour seats. Just loved it.
    1984-88: V reg Mark 4, also blue, 2.0L, with black vinyl roof and blue velour seats. Luxurious and powerful!

    Happy days and great memories.

  28. Had a ’77 Taunus 2.0 Ghia for a holiday trip in the late 80s. Of course it was a V6 – the 4 cylinder 2.0 was very rare in Germany and only offered in a special ‘S’ two door model in bold colours. It was a restful car, quiet and comfy, but also with questionable handling. Compared to the 1800 S, it was actually only the low noise levels and better than expected fuel consumption that were in favour of the Ford. Oh – and build quality was excellent with very good rust proofing (for the time). The 1800 had more space, a better boot, better ride and handling.

    The TC was seen as a retrograde step for Ford here in Germany, as the previous generations of Taunus already featured front wheel drive and a modern, compact stance. While others were moving to FWD and modern layouts, Ford made a move backwards.

    In terms of sales it was always a 3rd behind VW Passat and Opel Ascona on the German market. It sold in much more reasonable numbers compared to the horrible Escort though…

  29. In 1977, while on a business trip to Germany, I drove a Taunus (same as MKIV Cortina) 1.6 hire car – in L trim. At least I think it was a 1.6… I didn’t think Ford did a 1.8 in those days?

  30. Ford only did well in countries where their cars were assembled, hence a big following in Britain, the Low Countries and Germany, the French and Italians largely ignored Ford in the seventies, considering their cars to be unsophisticated and backward. I suppose a German would consider a Ford as much their own country’s cars as Britain, even if cars made by German owned companies like Volkswagen Audi and BMW would sell better as they had a better image.

  31. I agree with Glenn, the MKV 2.3 Cortina Ghia auto would be as good as it got in those days. I liked the MKIV 2.0GL Auto hire car I once rode in (1977). Daytona yellow plus black roof… so vivid!

  32. The Crusader was an excellent way for the Cortina to end its very successful 20 year career, Based on the 1.6L, but with the Ghia interior, two tone paint and tinted glass and selling at a similar price, this was a very nice car in 1982. I would class this run out special edition as the nicest of the later Cortinas and by 1982, the cars were quite well rustproofed compared with earlier Cortinas and generally reliable.

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