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Lotus Cortina MK1/MK2

Lotus Cortina MK1/MK2 Published: 1st Feb 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Cortina MK1/MK2
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Officially known as, but rarely called the Cortina-Lotus, this Elan-powered Cortina remains one of the fastest appreciating sports saloons around, loved for its heritage, elegant simplicity and Q Car appearance. The later Mk2 model isn’t quite as well regarded yet it’s the better, more rounded road car.


The very first “fast Ford” remains a whole lot of fun to drive even if this Lotus is about as brisk as today’s typical 1.8 repmobile. However, bare figures can’t convey the raw thrill of this Cortina in full flow and best of all, this tuned family saloon feels fast so that you don’t have to break the legal limits to wring the best out of one. Handling is entertaining to say the least but just don’t try to lift a front wheel up like Jim Clark did on the road too often!


Mk1s are the most coveted particularly early Consul-badged examples, especially if they have the very rare detail trim fitted, along with the original suspension and lightweight alloy body panels. The Mk2 is far simpler, more civilised and usable (and cheaper) yet somehow doesn’t have the raw character of the original. Replicas are good value but fakes are another matter.


A special one owner 3000 miles from new Mk1 sold for £100,000 – but ex-Train Robber Roy James’ car wasn’t daylight robbery as the best have been nudging six figures barrier for years. Happily, £50K appears the going rate for a good headturning normal car. Projects start from around £12,000 but have to be genuine; converted GTs (and there are plenty around) are worth nothing like an original, although are entirely good and usable without being so precious. On the other hand, special, ultra original or has a famous competition past will be worth mega money. Mk2s, on average, are worth 50 per cent less although the days of them being bargain buys are long gone.


Is it a real Mk1 Lotus Cortina? Officially 3301 were made but fakes were always rife so check with an owners’ club; chassis number should start with BA74. Chief tell-tale signs are a special panel to the boot floor, extra axle radius arms, reinforced front strut top mounts, added bulkhead flitch panels, bootmounted battery, relocated horn (behind the grille) and instruments unique to the Lotus. What colour is the engine? Normal units wore Kingfisher Blue camshaft covers while greenpainted ones signified the higher tune SE (standard to Mk2s, optional on Mk1s). The A-frame/coil spring set up was tainted by frailty where the axle tugged away and broke it (check for a succession of welding bodge ups). Rust will always be a worry although to be fair most Mk1s will have been well looked after or restored by now. Expect engine oil leaks around the cam covers.

Oil usage can be alarming but normal. Cylinder heads are fairly durable but a new one costs almost £2000 and a full engine rebuild double this. Lotus Cortinas used special shorter springs as well as larger nine inch Classic-sourced drum brakes; have normal GT or even basic Cortina 1500 Super gear been substituted – or is the car actually a fake? This is particularly relevant to the steering box, which on the Lotus enjoyed a higher ratio item along with lengthened track control arms, together with a larger 0.94inch front anti-roll bar.

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