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Ford Cortina

Published: 29th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Cortina
Ford Cortina
Ford Cortina
Ford Cortina

Model In Depth...

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Codenamed Archbishop, but the simple Ford Cortina never had its head in the clouds and provided just what a broad church wanted

Think MK1 and you remember those ‘ban the bomb’ light lenses!

Small cars make minimal money and so when Ford was deep into designing its important new family car for the 1960s, the company’s managers knew just what to do – keep it simple and cost effective. In contrast, arch Midlands rival BMC went the other way with its big brother to the Mini, splashing the cash. Both were launched within weeks of each other, in 1962, and went on to endure a sales war that lasted a decade. Who was the winner? It was Ford, of course, with its Cortina and, although it was the complete opposite in design to the Austin-Morris 1100, Cortina gave the paying public what they wanted most; value for money. After seeing BMC lose around a fi ver on every Mini it made, and yet resolutely refusing to up its prices, the Blue Oval wasn’t going to fall into that trap, even though it nearly did.When the Cortina was being designed, it was facing strong in-house competition from Ford of Germany, with its Taunus; a car featuring new fangled front-wheel drive. In the UK, fl eet owners demanded simplicity over sophistication and hated the thought of increased downtime and higher running costs that went with complexity, such as the BMC 1100’s front disc brakes, fl uid springing, independent suspension, transverse engine and front-wheel drive etc. Thankfully for Ford GB, the Cortina vindicated Dagenham’s orthodox design approach and also calmed a worried dealer base, with prices that were more than a week’s wages cheaper than the BMC product. Cortina went on to make the company millions, keeping everybody sweet. Not that the Cortina was that primitive, mind. While the running gear was largely Anglia-derived, the body was both attractive and advanced, relying on aviation principles to save weight where possible, and yet still add strength. It was said that some 150lb was saved from a conventional make up – or about the weight of one passenger. This also made the Cortina livelier and more frugal than its main rivals. Add a massive boot for a salesman’s wares, or a family holiday, and the Cortina had cracked it, and soon became a true family favourite. Soon after launch, the Cortina gained the1500cc engine that featured in the overlooked Classic and Capri; the 48bhp 1200 was overworked in the larger car and known for crankshaft problems. With an extra 300cc,it yielded 60bhp andgave the Cortina much bet ter per formance when laden, plus led to the advent of affordable sports saloons with the excellent 1500 GT. The bean counters at Ford had done their job well, but the marketing bods knew something had to be done to make the car more upmarket, since the original Consul- Cortina (why the Consul name stuck nobody really knows) was as bare as a bird’s arse. Enter the 1964 facelift, with a neater front look and a vastly improved interior, especially the dashboard, which also gained Ford’s innovative Aerofl ow ventilation system; the nearest thing to air conditioning! The MK1 only lasted fi ve years, before the angular MK2 took over in late ’66, by which time a million had been made.

Henry’s favourite – from Halfords?

With a range spanning from a 1200 Basic to a race winning Lotus, there was a Cortina for everybody, and this even included Henry Ford II. Folklore has it that, when Mr Ford was invited to test both the British and German designs, before their respective launches, our boys had a secret weapon – the GT. Ford had used a hotter 1500 engine for the racing and rallying, so it wasn’t diffi cult to make a useable road unit from it. Just before the meeting, a set of GT badges – purchased from Halfords so folklore has it – were stuck on. “What’s this?“ asked Henry Ford. The UK big wigs replied that it was just an idea. “Can I try it?” he asked. Well, you don’t say no to Henry Ford II, especially if you work for him! The son of Edsel shot off, revelling in the 78bhp power, taut GT suspension and assuring disc brakes. Upon returning, he demanded the car was made! Well, you can’t get higher offi cial approval than that and the GT accounted for 25 per cent of MK1 sales! It’s a little known fact, however, that the GT was far more than a tuned 1500 deluxe, being derived from a tougher shell, devised for the rougher Australian market. For us lesser mor tals, a 1500 Super did just the job, being good (with a tail wind!) for almost 90, with room and noise to spare – up to six if you found one of the very rare bench-seated column gear changed models. “Big car ride, big car pride” hailed one advert and certainly the Cortina, was the number one choice for many households, if for no other reason that it could be fi xed at home without any special tools. Not that the BMC car played second best all the time. In fact, in the sales race, the Cortina only once managed to snatch top spot from that Midland’s marvel when they ran together – and that was early in 1967 with the MK2. The difference was that the Cortina always made money and always did what it said on the tin. Of course, with an all-new car, the wrong name could have been curtains for showroom sales appeal. An exotic name, moving away from Anglia, Thames and Prefect was needed for the exciting 1960s. Initially, the name ‘Caprino’ was liked by management, before it was discovered that this was the Italian word for Goat Dung! So, fi nally the name Cortina was adopted, which is actually the Spanish word for ‘curtains’!

When The Car Was The Star

If Peter Rogers had not borrowed the entire Consul-Cortina PR fl eet from Dagenham one weekend in 1963, cinema history would have been so much the poorer - no ‘Glam Cabs’ and, worse of all, no ‘Carry On Cabby’, probably the fi nest entry in the entire series. Rogers also used a Mk1 ‘Aerofl ow’ saloon in the 1965 b/w crime comedy that was a ‘Carry On’ in all but name” ‘The Big Job’. ITC fans will recall a really low-rent villian using a 1966 De Luxe to make his getaway from ‘Man in a Suitcase’ but devotees of the obscure/cheap/rotten will prefer the ‘64 Consul Cortina De Luxe that meets its doom in the 1975 Z-fi lm ‘The Man From Hong Kong’.

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