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Ford Corsair

Ford Corsair Published: 30th Sep 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Ford’s Thunderbird-inspired Corsair was an upper crust Cortina for the better off. It never sold as well yet was arguably the much better car

Project Buccaneer was a clever move by Ford to squeeze yet more profit from the Cortina by moving it more upmarket. With its distinctive longer Thunderbird-inspired styling – Ford extending the Cortina Mk1’s floor by three inches – the ‘Consul Corsair’, as it was initially known, was given a sharply contemporary middle-class appeal.

It wasn’t just the look though. Clever deployment of sound-deadening material, and double-skinned steelwork made the new Ford far more refined than the Cortina – just close one of their respective doors and you can feel the difference. As one magazine put it, you either viewed the Corsair as a rich man’s Cortina or a poor man’s Zephyr Mk III which was also launched the same year. What’s more the Corsair inherited an 11.7cuft boot, which not only beat the Cortina but also most other British family cars.

None other than the great, late Jim Clark poured champagne over the first Corsair to leave the Halewood production line in the company of top model Jean Shrimpton, the latter decorating the bonnet, in an especially beguiling print advertisement. The message was clear; women would want you, men would admire you and Morris Oxford owners would envy you.

The initial line-up was standard, deluxe and GT with a choice of two or four-door bodies albeit the former was only available to special order. The standard model (only one of which is believed to survive in the UK) came with a four-speed column gearchange and virtually no equipment asides from a steering wheel for £653 1s 3d. A far grander deluxe complete with duo-tone interior finish, windscreen washers and even a second sun visor plus the welcome option of separate front seats and a floor change was the far more popular pick. There was also a GT, the heavier and less lithe alternative to the Cortina GT.

Given the vee sign

Two other major changes occurred in October 1965, the first being the fitting of the excellent Aeroflow ventilation system, the second was that the Corsair became the first private car built by Ford to be powered by the Transit van’s 60-degree 1.7-litre V4 engine. Despite Ford’s claims that the V4 Corsairs were “elegant, swift, exciting, comfortable”, it was the car’s undoing; drivers complaining that any gains in performance were marred by a marked decrease in refinement and that the new V4 unit made for a coarser Corsair.

The lifeless 1.7 was supplanted in late 1966 by a 2-litre unit equipped with a twin choke Weber carburettor but even thus powered, the Corsair was not the swiftest and nor the smoothest running of upmarket saloons.

Coachmaker Crayford offered an exceptionally handsome T-bird-like cabriolet conversion whilst Abbotts of Farnham, who had produced station wagon versions of the Zephyr/Zodiac for over a decade, offered the Corsair Estate, complete with a GRP tailgate in 1966 and the following year saw the launch of a Corsair to upstage the Cortina 1600E by some 10 months – the 2000E. Equipped with a walnut veneered dashboard, a MW/LW mono radio, cigarette lighter, cut-pile carpet and lights for the boot and engine bay it was plusher, posher than the similar badged Cortina and faster – yet for all that, and a new uprated 97bhp engine the 2000E was no 1600E.

Production was transferred to Dagenham in 1969 and in autumn of the following year the Corsair, together with the Mk2 Cortina, were both replaced by the Cortina Mk3 after 310,000 examples were built – a poor show by Ford’s standards.

Why we love them

Did Corsair offer one-upmanship over Cortina drivers? On the road, the former undoubtedly exuded more luxury and smoothness and was much less ‘Dagenham dustbin’ than the Cortina it was based upon. However, the larger Corsair is not so agile and wieldy to drive due to the early versions being “over-bodied and under-tyred” as one road test put it. The V4s were no advancement over the in line Kent engines although in 2000E form was quicker and more refined than a Cortina 1600E if not half as much fun for enthusiasts. A good car, all the Corsair always lacked, and deserved, was a character of its own and, as even Ford discovered, nurturing one was hardly plain sailing.



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