This weekend the world’s most popular historic race meeting, the Goodwood Revival, will celebrate 50 years of the Ford Cortina with a display of some rare Mark I models outside the RAC Earls Court exhibition. The Cortina was Britain’s best-selling car for 10 of the 20 years it was on sale and laid the foundation for later generations of successful Ford family cars. A total of 2.8m Cortinas were sold in the UK, from launch in 1962.
A white and green 1965 Lotus Cortina will star on the Ford stand in the RAC Earls Court exhibition alongside a 1953 Ford Prefect. The Cortina line-up at Revival also includes a Crayford Convertible, Goodwood’s ‘Glamcabs’, and a unique Cortina design project – the Saxon coupe. In addition, two Ford GT40 course cars will be in action throughout the weekend. These two cars have always belonged to Ford: a 1969 road-going GT40 MK III and a 1964 GT40 MK I race car bodied in the style of the 1966 Le Mans race winner.
Cortina in Motor sport
First in rallying, then in saloon car racing, the Cortina immediately punched above its weight in motorsport. Formula 1 World Champion Jim Clark used a Lotus-Cortina to win the British Saloon Car Championship in 1964 and a team of factory-prepared Cortina GTs also dominated the world’s most demanding rally – the East African Safari – in the same year.
In motor racing the 1558cc, twin-cam engined, Lotus-Cortina showed that the use of a powerful engine, strong but lightweight construction and driver-friendly handling could be a winning combination. Lotus Cortinas won scores of races – not only in Britain, but in Europe and in North America – and on the rare occasions when they were beaten it was invariably by 4.7-litre or even 7.0-litre V8 engined cars which also carried a Ford badge.
Even before the Lotus-Cortina arrived on the track, the Cortina GT was a race-winning car, not only in Britain (where Jack Sears won the British Championship) but in the prestigious 12 Hour race at Marlboro in the USA. In its first full season, 1964, not only did Jim Clark’s Team Lotus win the British Championship, but Sir John Whitmore’s Alan Mann Racing example won five events in Europe.