The Ford Cortina is a medium-sized family car that was built initially by Ford of Britain, and then Ford of Europe in various guises from 1962 to 1982, and was the United Kingdom's best-selling car of the 1970s.
The Cortina was produced in five generations (Mark I through to Mark V, although officially the last one was only the Cortina 80 facelift of the Mk IV) from 1962 until 1982. From 1970 onward, it was almost identical to the German-market Ford Taunus (being built on the same platform), which was originally a different car model. This was part of Ford's attempt to unify its European operations. By 1976, when the revised Taunus was launched, the Cortina was identical. The new Taunus/Cortina used the doors and some panels from the 1970 Taunus. It was replaced in 1982 by the Ford Sierra. In Asia and Australasia, it was replaced by the Mazda 626-based Ford Telstar, though Ford New Zealand did import British-made complete knock-down kits of the Sierra estate for local assembly from 1984. Cortinas were also assembled in South Africa until 1984, with the pick-up version remaining in production in that country until 1987.
The name was inspired by the name of the Italian ski resort Cortina d'Ampezzo, site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Several Cortinas were driven down the Cortina Olympic bobsled run at that resort, a publicity stunt which Ford called "Cortina Auto-Bobbing."
Mark I (1962–1966)
Using the project name of "Archbishop", management at Ford of Britain in Dagenham created a family-sized car that they could sell in large numbers. The chief designer was Roy Brown Jr., the designer of the Edsel, who had been banished to Dagenham following the failure of that car. The Cortina, aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford Farina and Vauxhall Victor, was launched on 20 September 1962. The car was designed to be economical to buy, cheap to run, and easy and inexpensive to produce in Britain. The front-wheel drive configuration used by Ford of Germany for the new Ford Taunus P4, a similar-sized model, was rejected in favour of traditional rear-wheel drive layout. Originally to be called Ford Consul 225, the car was launched as the Consul Cortina until a modest facelift in 1964, after which it was sold simply as the Cortina.
The Cortina was available with 1200 cc and (from early 1963) 1500 cc four-cylinder engines with all synchromesh gearbox, in two-door and four-door saloon, as well as in five-door estate (from March 1963) forms. Standard, Deluxe, Super, and GT trims were offered, but not across all body styles. Early Standard models featured a simple body-coloured front grille, earning it the nickname 'Ironbar', and large, round, 'Ban the Bomb' taillight clusters. Since this version cost almost the same as the better-equipped Deluxe, it sold poorly and is very rare today. Options included heater and bench seat with column gearchange (shifter). Super versions of the estates offered the option of simulated wood side and tailgate trim. In an early example of product placement, many examples of the new Cortina featured as "Glamcabs" in the comedy film Carry On Cabby.
Two main variations of the Mark 1 were produced. The Mark 1a possessed elliptical front side-lights, whereas the Mark 1b had a redesigned front grille incorporating the more rectangular side-light and indicator units. A notable variant was the Ford Cortina Lotus.
The Cortina was launched a few weeks before the London Motor Show of October 1962 with a 1198 cc, three-bearing engine, which was an enlarged version of the 997 cc engine then fitted in the Ford Anglia. A few months later, in January 1963, the Cortina Super was announced with a five-bearing, 1498 cc engine. Versions of the larger engine found their way into subsequent variations, including the Cortina GT, which appeared in spring 1963 with lowered suspension and engine tuned to give a claimed output of 78 bhp (58 kW; 79 PS) ahead of the 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS) claimed for the Cortina 1500 Super. The engines used across the Mark I range were of identical design, differing only in displacement and setup. The formula used was a four-cylinder pushrod (overhead valve) design that came to be known as the "pre-crossflow" version, as both inlet and exhaust ports were located on the same side of the head. The most powerful version of this engine (used in the GT Cortina) was 1498 cc (1500) and produced 78 bhp (58 kW). This engine contained a different camshaft profile, a different cylinder-head casting featuring larger ports, tubular exhaust headers, and a Weber 32 DFM twin-choke carburettor made under licence by Ford.
Advertising of the revised version, which appeared at the London Motor Show in October 1964, made much of the newly introduced "Aeroflow" through-flow ventilation, evidenced by the extractor vents on the rear pillars. A subsequent test on a warm day involving the four different Cortina models manufactured between 1964 and 1979 determined that the air delivery from the simple eyeball outlets on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was actually greater than that on the Mark II, Mark III, or Mark IV. The dashboard, instruments, and controls were revised, for the second time, having already been reworked in October 1963, when round instruments replaced the oblong speedometer with which the car had been launched; Twelve years later, however, the painted steel dashboard, its "knobs scattered all over the place and its heater controls stuck underneath as a very obvious afterthought" on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was felt to have aged much less well than the car's ventilation system. Also in 1964, front disc brakes became standard across the range.
Ford Cortina Lotus was offered only as a two-door saloon all in white with a contrasting green side flash down each flank. It had a unique 1558 cc twin-cam engine by Lotus, but based on the Cortina's Kent OHV engine. Aluminium was used for some body panels. For a certain time, it also had a unique A-frame rear suspension, but this proved fragile, so the model soon reverted to the standard Cortina semielliptical rear end.
Mark II (1966–1970)
The second incarnation of the Cortina, designed by Roy Haynes, was launched on 18 October 1966, four years after the original Cortina. It had some styling elements in common with the third-generation US Ford Falcon. Although the launch was accompanied by the slogan "New Cortina is more Cortina", the car, at 168 in (427 cm) long, was fractionally shorter than before. Its 2+1⁄2 inches (6.4 cm) of extra width and curved side panels provided more interior space. Its other improvements included a smaller turning circle, softer suspension, self-adjusting brakes and clutch, and the availability on the smaller-engined models, for the UK and some other markets, of a new five-bearing 1300 cc engine.
A stripped-out, 1200 cc version running the engine of the Ford Anglia Super was also available for certain markets, where the 1300 cc engine attracted a higher tax rate. The 1500 cc engines were at first carried over, but were discontinued in July 1967, as a new engine was on its way. A month later, in August, the 1300 received a new crossflow cylinder head design, making it more efficient, while a crossflow 1600 replaced the 1500. The new models carried additional "1300" or "1600" designations at the rear. An 1100 cc crossflow engine from the Escort was also offered for markets such as Greece, where higher capacities were taxed heavily. The Cortina Lotus continued with its own unique engine, although for this generation it was built in-house by Ford.
The Cortina was Britain's most popular new car in 1967, achieving the goal that Ford had been trying to achieve since it set out to create the original Cortina back in 1962. This interrupted the long run of BMC's 1100/1300 range as Britain's best-selling car.
Period reviews were favourable concerning both the styling and performance.
Again, two- and four-door saloons were offered with base, Deluxe, Super, GT, and later, 1600E trims available, but again, not across all body styles and engine options. A few months after the introduction of the saloon versions, a four-door estate was launched, released on the UK market on 15 February 1967: much was made at the time of its class-topping load capacity.
The four-door Cortina 1600E, a higher-trim version, was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in October 1967, a year after the arrival of the Cortina Mark II. It combined the lowered suspension of the Cortina Lotus with the high-tune GT 1600 Kent engine and luxury trim featuring a burr walnut woodgrain-trimmed dashboard and door cappings, bucket seating, leather-clad aluminium sports steering wheel, and full instrumentation inside, while a black grille, tail panel, front fog lights, and plated Rostyle wheels on radial tyres featured outside. According to author and Cortina expert Graham Robson, the 1600E would be the first Cortina recognized as a classic.
For 1969, the Mark II range was given subtle revisions, with separate "FORD" block letters mounted on the bonnet and boot lids, a blacked-out grille and chrome strips on top and below the taillights running the full width of the tail panel marking them out.
Ford New Zealand developed its own variant of this model called the GTE, since the GT and Lotus Cortinas were not assembled there. The four-door only GTE had a wooden dash, a vinyl roof, and special stripes and badging.
A 3.0 L Essex V6 engined variant was developed privately in South Africa by Basil Green Motors, and was sold through the Grosvenor Ford network of dealers as the Cortina Perana; a similar model appeared later in Britain and was known as the Cortina Savage, which was available with 1600E trim in all three body styles, while its South African stablemate was offered only as a four-door saloon initially with GT and later E trim.
The Cortina was Canada's second-most popular imported car during the 1960s, second only to the Volkswagen Beetle. Canada had two- and four-door sedans, the higher-performance GT sedan, and a DeLuxe wagon. The Lotus Cortina was also available, albeit in limited numbers.
Ford in the United States imported both the Mark I and Mark II Cortina models. The Mark II was sold in the United States from 1967, achieving 16,193 cars sold in its first year. Sales of the Mark II in 1968 were 22,983. Sales in 1969 reached 21,496. Sales slumped in 1970, to almost half their 1969 peak, at 10,216 units. Ford USA dropped the model in 1970 and was effectively replaced with the introduction of the US-produced 1971 Ford Pinto subcompact. Ford sold 352,402 Ford Pintos for model year 1971 and no more English Fords were sold in the United States thereafter.
TC Mark III (1970–1976)
In the late 1960s, Ford set about developing the third-generation Cortina, the Mark III, which would be produced in higher volumes than before following the merger of Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany into the modern-day Ford of Europe. The car marked the convergence of the German Taunus and British Cortina platforms with only minor differences between the two, hence the car's internal name TC1, standing for Taunus-Cortina. It was also the last European car engineered by Harley Copp as vice president of engineering and head of Brentwood, before he returned to Detroit.
Ford UK originally wanted to call it something other than Cortina, but the name stuck. Although the Mark III looked significantly larger than the boxier Mark II Cortina, it was actually the same overall length, but 4 inches (100 mm) wider. Within the overall length, a wheelbase lengthened by more than 3 inches (76 mm) also contributed to the slightly more spacious interior.
The Mark III Cortina was inspired by the contemporary "coke bottle" design language which had emanated from Detroit – the car sported similar fluted bonnet and beltline design elements to the North American Mercury Montego and Ford LTD of the same era. It replaced both the Mark II Cortina and the larger, more expensive Ford Corsair, offering more trim levels and the option of larger engines than the Mark II Cortina. The Mark III's continental European sister car – the Taunus TC – was subtly different in appearance, with longer front indicators, different door skins, and rear-wing pressings that toned down the drooping beltline, lessening the "coke-bottle" appearance of the Cortina.
The MacPherson strut front suspension was replaced with more conventional double A-arm suspension (also known as double wishbone suspension), which gave the Mark III a much softer ride on the road, but did give cars fitted with the larger, heavier engines distinct understeer.
Trim levels for the Mark III Cortina were Base, L (Luxury), XL (Xtra Luxury), XLE (Xtra Luxury Edition - Australia and South Africa only), GT (Grand Touring), and GXL (Grand Xtra Luxury).
The early Mark III Cortinas came with the same 1300 and 1600 cc engines as the Mark II Cortinas, except for the 1600 cc GXL. These engines are known as the Kent, crossflow engine or overhead valve (OHV) engine. Also, the 2000 cc engine, the single overhead cam engine, now known as the Pinto engine, was introduced. The OHV Kent' unit was fitted with a single-choke carburetor and was used for the early models up to GT trim, the SOHC twin-choke carburetor Pinto engine was used for the GT and GXL models. The GXL was also offered in 1600 in the later Cortina Mark IIIs.
In left-hand drive markets, the 1600 OHC was replaced by a twin-carb OHV (Kent) unit not offered in the home market, to distinguish it from the competing Taunus, which only came with the OHC Pinto engine. The 2.0-litre variants used a larger version of the 1600 cc Pinto unit and were available in all trim levels except base. Base, L, and XL versions were available as a five-door estate.
Although no longer than its predecessor, the Mark III was a heavier car, reflecting a trend towards improving secondary safety by making car bodies more substantial. Weight was also increased by the stout cross-member incorporated into the new simplified front suspension set-up, and by the inclusion of far more sound-deadening material, which insulated the cabin from engine and exhaust noise, making the car usefully quieter than its predecessor, though on many cars. the benefit was diminished by high levels of wind noise apparently resulting from poor door fit around the windows. Four-speed manual transmissions were by now almost universally offered in the UK for this class of car, and contemporary road tests commented on the rather large gap between second and third gear, and the resulting temptation to slip the clutch when accelerating through the gears in the smaller-engined cars: it was presumably in tacit acknowledgment of the car's marginal power-to-weight ratio that Ford no longer offered the automatic transmission option with the smallest 1298 cc-engined Cortina.
Four headlights and Rostyle wheels marked out the GT and GXL versions. The GXL also had bodyside rub strips, a vinyl roof, and a brushed aluminum and black boot lid panel on the GXLs, while the GT had a black-painted section of the boot with a chrome trim at either side of it. All prefacelift models featured a downward-sloping dashboard with deeply recessed dials, and coil suspension all round. In general styling and technical make up, the Mark III Cortina aped the Vauxhall Victor FD of 1967.
The Cortina went on sale on 23 October 1970, but sales got off to a particularly slow start because of production difficulties that culminated with a 10-week strike at Ford's plant between April and June 1971, which was at the time reported to have cost production of 100,000 vehicles, equivalent to almost a quarter of the output for a full year.
During 1971, the spring rates and damper settings were altered along with the front suspension bushings, which reduced the bounciness of the ride and low-speed ride harshness, which had generated press criticism at the time of the Mark III's launch.
Volumes recovered, and with the ageing Austin/Morris 1100/1300 now losing out to various newer models, the Cortina was Britain's top-selling car in 1972, closely followed by the Escort. It remained the UK's top-selling car until 1976, when overtaken by the Mk2 Escort.
In late 1973, the Cortina Mark III was given a facelift, and was redesignated TD. The main differences were the dashboard and instruments, which no longer sloped away from the driver's line of sight. These improvements introduced the flatter dash panel which would be carried over to the later Mark IV and Mark V Cortinas, as well as upgraded trim levels, revised front grilles and rear lights, rectangular headlights for the XL, GT, and the new 2000E (the "E" standing for executive), which replaced the GXL. The 1.3-litre Kent engine continued, but 1.6-litre models now used the more modern 1.6-litre Pinto SOHC engine. Whilst the TD Cortina still had double A-arm suspension with coils at the front and a four-link system at the rear, handling was improved. The 2000E reverted to the classy treatment offered by the MkII 1600E (and carried over to later Mark IV/V Ghia) models instead of the faux woodgrain trim of the GXL. The 2000E was also available as an estate version.
The Mark III was sold in Canada until 1973.
For South Africa, the Mark III was available as the 'Big Six' L and GL with the Essex V6 2.5-litre engine and Perana, GT, and XLE with the Essex V6 3.0-litre engine. A pick-up truck version also was available. In addition to the 1.6-litre inline-four, a version unique to South Africa was a locally built version of the 2.0-litre Essex V4. The Cortina 2000 V4 arrived during 1972, and also became available as a station wagon and pick-up later in the year. Maximum power was 76.6 kW (104 PS; 103 hp) SAE. The shorter engine required a radiator shroud to compensate. The Cortina GT, however, received an OHC inline-four in South Africa, as well.
Ford Australia built its own versions using both the UK four-cylinder engines (1.6 and 2.0) and locally made inline six-cylinder engines (3.3- and 4.1-litre) from its Falcon line. Along with the engines, Australian built 'Cortys' (a common slang word Australians use for the Cortina) featured many paint colours carried over from the falcon line, some even from the Falcon GT.
Ford New Zealand introduced the Mk3 as a four-door sedan and also reintroduced wagon versions not assembled during the Mk2's run. Initially, the 1.3 OHV engine came with base trim, the 1600 with L. and 2000 OHC as a sedan-only GT. Later base models were upgraded to the 1.6 OHV and a 2.0 L specification was added, set to become the default "rep's spec" until the Cortina's Kiwi demise in 1984. A 1973 update brought new paint colours and black, rather than colour-matched, dashboards and carpet. Facelifted Mk3s received the 1.6 OHC replacement for the base 1.6 engine and, during the run, a specially trimmed base 1.3 OHV “economy" version was reintroduced, but actually achieved worse fuel economy than larger engine models. A 2.0XL sedan version was also added around the same time. The Kiwi 2000E sedan initially lacked the cloth seats and never had the factory sunroof of the UK version, and a radio was never standard; wagons were only ever offered in base or L trim.
For Japan, the cars were narrowed by a few millimetres on arrival in the country to fit into a lower tax bracket determined by exterior dimensions, which impose a maximum width of 1,695 mm (66.7 in). The Cortina was joined by the Ford Capri in Japan and was imported by Kintetsu Motors, an exclusive retailer of Ford products.
Mark IV (1976–1979)
The fourth-generation Cortina was a more conventional design than its predecessor, and this was largely appreciated by fleet buyers. Generally, it was a rebody of the Mark III with little mechanical change as an integration of Ford's model range, and as a result, the Cortina and Taunus now differed only in badging. Although the updated Taunus was introduced to Continental Europe in January 1976, Ford were able to continue selling the Cortina Mark III in undiminished numbers in the UK until they were ready to launch its successor as the Dagenham-built Cortina Mark IV, which went on sale on 29 September 1976.
Many parts were carried over, most notably the running gear. The raised driving position and the new instrument panel had, along with some of the suspension upgrades, already been introduced to the Cortina Mark III in 1973, so that from the driving position, the new car looked much more familiar to owners of recent existing Cortinas than from the outside. Cinema audiences saw the new Cortina (or Taunus) chasing James Bond in his Lotus Esprit in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me.
The most obvious change was the new, squarer body in line with contemporary "folded paper" fashion of the time (which nevertheless retained a very subtle "Coke-bottle" belt line as a reference to the Mk III), which achieved the marketing department objective of larger windows giving a better view out and a brighter feel to the cabin, but at the expense of body weight, which was increased, albeit only marginally, by about 30 lb (14 kg). Ford claimed an overall increase in window area of some 15%, with "40% better visibility" through the wider, deeper back window. Regardless of how these figures were computed, substantial weight-saving gains must have been made through reduced steel usage in the design, given the unavoidable extra weight of glass.
This series spawned the first Ghia top-of-the-range model, which replaced the 2000E. The 2.3-litre Ford Cologne V6 engine was introduced in 1977 as an engine above the 2.0-litre Pinto engine, already a staple of the Capri and Granada ranges. However, 2.3-litre Cortinas never sold particularly well in the UK. The Cologne V6 was certainly a much smoother and more refined power unit than the Pinto, but the V6 models were more expensive to fuel and insure, and were only slightly faster, being about 0.5 seconds faster from 0–60 and having a top speed of about 109 mph compared to the 104 mph of the 2.0-litre models. The 2.0-litre Cologne V6 engine continued to be offered on Taunus-badged cars in parallel with the Pinto unit, and offers here an interesting comparison with the similarly sized in-line four-cylinder Pinto engine. The V6 with a lower compression ratio offered less power and less performance, needing over an extra second to reach 50 mph (80 km/h). It did, however, consume 12½% less fuel and was considered by motor journalists to be a far quieter and smoother unit. The 2.3-litre was available to the GL, S, and Ghia variants. A 1.6-litre Ghia option was also introduced at the same time as the 2.3-litre V6 models in response to private and fleet buyers who wanted Ghia refinements with the improved fuel economy of the smaller 1.6-litre Pinto engine. Few cars were sold with the 1.6-litre engine, though; the 2.0-litre Pinto was always by far the most common engine option for Ghia models.
Two-door and four-door saloons and a five-door estate were offered with all other engines being carried over. At launch, though, only 1.3-litre-engined cars could be ordered in the UK with the two-door body, and then only with "standard" or "L" equipment packages. In practice, relatively few two-door Mark IV Cortinas were sold. In some markets, the two-door saloon was marketed as a coupe, but this was not the case in Britain. Ford already competed in the coupe sector in Europe with the Capri, which was particularly successful on the British market.
A choice of base, L, GL, S (for Sport) and Ghia trims was available, again not universal to all engines and body styles. Rostyle wheels were fitted as standard to all Mark IV GL, S, and Ghia models, with alloy wheels available as an extra-cost option. The dashboard was carried over intact from the last of the Mark III Cortinas, while the estate used the rear body pressings of the previous 1970-release Taunus.
Despite its status as Britain's best-selling car throughout its production run, the Mark IV is now the rarest Cortina, with poor rustproofing and the model's popularity with banger racers cited as being the main reasons for its demise. Particularly scarce are the 2.0 and 2.3S models, which were discontinued when the Mark V was introduced in August 1979.
Ford Australia built its own version, known as the TE, with the 2.0-litre Inline-four engine Pinto unit and the Falcon's 3.3-litre and 4.1-litre straight-six engine. The six-cylinder versions were rather nose heavy and did not handle as well as the fours or the European V6 models. Interior door hardware and steering columns were shared with the Falcons, and the Australian versions also had their own instrument clusters, optional air conditioning, and much larger bumpers. They also had side indicators. The Cortina wagon was assembled by Renault Australia at its plant in Heidelberg in Victoria.
A considerable number were exported to New Zealand under a free-trade agreement where they were sold alongside locally assembled models similar to those available in the UK.
In South Africa, the Mark IV was built with the Kent 1.6-litre and the 3.0-litre Essex V6. Beginning in mid-1978, the Cologne-built 2.0-litre Pinto four also became available in place of the old Essex V4. They were sold as L (1600), GL (2000), and Ghia (V6) with four-door saloon or estate bodywork.
Mark V (1979–1982)
The Mark V was announced on 24 August 1979. Officially, the programme was code named Teresa, although externally it was marketed as "Cortina 80", but the Mark V tag was given to it immediately on release by the press, insiders, and the general public. Prices started at £3,475 for a basic 1.3-litre-engined model.
Largely an update of the Mark IV, it was really a step between a facelift and a rebody. The Mark V differed from the Mark IV by having revised headlights with larger turn indicators incorporated (which were now visible on the side, too), a wider, slatted grille said to be more aerodynamically efficient, a flattened roof, larger glass area, slimmer C-pillars with revised vent covers, larger slatted taillights (on saloon models), and upgraded trim. The styling upgrades were done primarily to bring the Cortina into line with Ford's current design language seen on the Fiesta MkI, Capri MkIII, and the forthcoming Escort MkIII.
Improvements were also made to the engine range, with slight improvements to both fuel economy and power output compared to the Mark IV. The 2.3-litre V6 engine was given electronic ignition and a slight boost in power output to 116 bhp (87 kW; 118 PS), compared to the 108 bhp (81 kW; 109 PS) of the Mark IV. Ford also claimed improved corrosion protection on Mark V models; as a result, more Mark Vs have survived, but corrosion was still quite a problem.
The estate models combined the Mark IV's bodyshell (which was initially from the 1970 Ford Taunus) with the Mark V front body pressings. A pick-up ("bakkie") version was also built in South Africa. In 1982, the Cortina Pickup received a longer bed and was from then on marketed as the Ford P100.
Variants included the Base, L, GL, and Ghia (all available in saloon and estate forms), together with Base and L specification two-door saloon versions (this body style was available up to Ghia V6 level on overseas markets). The replacement for the previous Mark IV S models was an S package of optional extras, which was available as an upgrade on most Mark V models from L trim level upwards. For the final model year of 1982, this consisted of front and rear bumper overriders, sports driving lamps, an S badge on the boot, tachometer, four-spoke steering wheel, revised suspension settings, front gas shock absorbers, Sports gear-lever knob, Sports road wheels, 185/70 SR x 13 tyres, and fishnet Recaro sports seats (optional). Various "special editions" were announced, including the Calypso and Carousel. The final production model was the Crusader special edition, which was available as a 1.3-litre, 1.6-litre, and 2.0-litre saloons or 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre estates. The Crusader was a final run-out model in 1982, along with the newly introduced Sierra. It was the best-specified Cortina produced to date, and 30,000 were sold, which also made it Ford's best-selling special edition model. Another special edition model was the estate Cortina Huntsman, of which 150 were produced. By this time, the Cortina was starting to feel the competition from a rejuvenated (and Opel-influenced) Vauxhall, which with the 1981 release Cavalier J-Car, was starting to make inroads on the Cortina's traditional fleet market, largely helped by the front-wheel drive benefits of weight. By the time of the model's demise in 1982 in favour of the Sierra, the Cortina was effectively a 12-year old design due to the outgoing Mk4/5 being largely a re-skin of the 1970 Mk3.
Up to and including 1981, the Cortina was the best-selling car in Britain. Even during its final production year, 1982, the Cortina was Britain's second-best selling car and most popular large family car. On the Continent, the Taunus version was competing with more modern and practical designs like the Talbot Alpine, Volkswagen Passat, and Opel Ascona.
The last Cortina – a silver Crusader – rolled off the Dagenham production line on 22 July 1982 on the launch of the Sierra, though a few were still leaving the forecourt as late as 1987, with one final unregistered Cortina GL leaving a Derbyshire dealership in 2005. The last Cortina built in England remains in the Ford Heritage Centre in Dagenham, Essex, not far from the factory where it was assembled.
In 1967, the Ford Cortina interrupted the Austin/Morris 1100/1300s reign as Britain's best-selling car. It was Britain's best-selling car for nine out of ten years between 1972 and 1981, narrowly being outsold by the Ford Escort in 1976.
The final incarnation of the Cortina was Britain's best-selling car in 1980 and 1981, also topping the sales charts for 1979 when the range was making the transition from the fourth-generation model to the fifth - in that year it achieved a British record of more than 193,000 sales. Even in 1983, when during its final year of production, it was second only to the Ford Escort.
The Cortina was also a very popular-selling car in New Zealand throughout its production and continued to be sold new until 1984.
Although the Sierra went on sale in October 1982, thousands of Cortinas were still unsold at this point. More than 11,000 were sold in 1983, with five examples being sold as late as 1987 when the Sierra Sapphire eventually launched.
Its demise left Ford without a traditional four-door saloon of this size, as the Sierra was initially available only as a hatchback or estate. Ford later addressed this by launching a saloon version of the Sierra (the Sierra Sapphire) at the time of a major facelift in early 1987. It also added an Escort-based four-door saloon, the Orion, to the range in 1983 - attracting many former Cortina buyers.
More than 2.8 million Cortinas were sold in Britain during its 20-year, five-generation production run, and in March 2009, the Cortina was still the third-most popular car ever sold there, despite having been out of production for nearly three decades. Such was its popularity that though it was only produced for three years of the 1980s, the Cortina was still Britain's seventh-best selling car of that decade with almost 500,000 sales. It remained a popular buy on the used market and a common sight on British roads until well into the 1990s.
As of December 2019, 3,826 Cortinas are still registered on the road, with a further 3,480 currently SORN. With the supply of good European built examples dwindling, enthusiasts have increasingly imported South African and New Zealand-built Cortinas into the UK. The warm, dry climate of these countries means that fewer cars have succumbed to corrosion and they have the added benefit of being right-hand drive.
The BBC Two documentary series Arena had a segment about the car and its enthusiasts, aired in January 1982, six months before the end of production, by which time Ford had confirmed that the Cortina name would be axed in favour of Sierra, which prompted a notable backlash from comedian Alexi Sayle.
Racing and rallying
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Ford Cortina Lotus was a successful rally and racing car in a wide variety of competitions across Europe and North America. The standard Cortina was rarely used in competition of any sort, but benefited from the publicity generated by the Lotus versions.
At the end of their lives, however, many Cortinas did see action on oval racing circuits in the UK, as their rigidity and ready availability during the 1980s and 1990s made them a popular choice for banger racing. Although Cortinas are now relatively rare, they remain coveted by the banger racing fraternity and all-Cortina meetings are still occasional fixtures on the racing calendar.
Other cars using Cortina engines
The Kent engines used in the Cortina (popularly known as the "Crossflow"), being lightweight, reliable, and inexpensive, were popular with several low-volume sports-car manufacturers, including Morgan, which used them in the 1962–81 4/4 (and continue to use Ford engines in most of their current models). The engines are also found in a number of British kit cars, and until recently, were the basis of Formula Ford racing, until replaced by "Zetec" engines.
The Pinto OHC engines used in the Mk.III onwards, as well as being fitted to contemporary Capris, Granadas, and Transits, were carried over to the Sierra for its first few years of production, before gradually being phased out by the newer CVH and DOHC units. Like the Kent Crossflow, they were also extensively used in kit cars; as a result, many Cortinas were scrapped solely for their engines, with the 2.0-litre Pintos being the most popular.
In recent years, the opposite phenomenon has become popular among enthusiasts, where classic Cortinas have been retrofitted with modern Ford engines – the most popular unit being the Zetec unit from the Mondeo and Focus. The Zetec, although originally intended only for front-wheel drive installation, can be adapted fairly easily owing to the engine's use as a replacement for Kent units in Formula Ford.
Sales and manufacture outside the United Kingdom
The Cortina was also sold in other right-hand drive markets, such as Ireland (where it was assembled locally), Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand (local production 1961-76 as a joint venture with Anglo-Thai Motor Company, Ford's import distributor), Malta, and South Africa. Mark III Cortina estates were adopted as police cars in Hong Kong. The Cortina was also assembled in left-hand drive in the Philippines, South Korea (by Hyundai as its first model), and Taiwan (by Ford Lio Ho) until the early 1980s.
The first two generations of the car were also sold through American Ford dealers in the 1960s. The Cortina competed fairly successfully there against most of the other small imports of its day, including GM's Opel Kadett, the Renault Dauphine, and the just-appearing Toyotas and Datsuns, although none of them approached the phenomenal success of the Volkswagen Beetle. The Cortina was withdrawn from the US market when Ford decided to produce a domestic small car in 1971, the Ford Pinto, though it continued in Canada (with the Cortina Mark III) until the end of the 1973 model year. Subsequent European Ford products after the Cortina for the USA market (with the exception of the Fiesta Mk I circa 1978-80) were sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships (most notably the Ford Capri (MkI and II) and Ford Sierra - the latter of which was marketed in the USA under the Merkur marque).
The Cortina was also sold in some Continental European markets, such as Scandinavia, alongside the Taunus, as well as Portugal, being assembled in Ford's factory in Amsterdam from the launch in 1962 until 1975. Production was for the Dutch market, but also for export to non-EC countries and even for export to the UK if the demand there was higher than the UK production capacity.
The Mark IV Cortina range, introduced into local assembly early in 1977, was very similar to that offered in the UK – a main specification difference, however, was the use of metric instrumentation, and that a two-door sedan was not offered. Engine sizes of 1.6 litres and 2.0 litres were available. The 2.0-litre was a very popular fleet vehicle and the transport of thousands of sales representatives in New Zealand over the years.
Additionally, limited imports were made of Australian Mark IV Cortinas, equipped with both 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines which featured more emissions control equipment than the UK-sourced cars, and the Falcon's 4.1-litre six-cylinder engines.
The Mark V range was introduced early in 1980, a range that featured 1.6 base, 2.0 L, 2.0 GL, 2.0 Ghia, 2.3 V6 Ghia, and wagon variants for the 1.6 base and 2.0 L. The 2.0, unencumbered by emissions regulations, has 74 kW (101 PS; 99 hp) at 5200 rpm. In 1982 the 2.0 GL model was discontinued and replaced with a 2.0 S (Sport) model, and unlike in the UK, it was a model in its own right. The "S" received a black, two-piece front spoiler and a rear spoiler. Two halogen extra lights were standard, as was a body-coloured grille. Most of the chrome trim was blacked out, while the steel wheels received a chrome band. A 2.0 commercial van was also introduced – essentially a Cortina estate without rear seats, aimed towards fleet buyers.
All 2.0-litre models had the option of automatic transmission, and with the 2.3-litre V6, it was the only transmission offered. The 2.3 also received power steering and additional sound-deadening material. A five-speed box was not available. A unique option, offered under guarantee by a dealership, South Auckland Ford, was a turbocharger.
The Ghia models were equipped similarly to UK models, but only the 2.3-litre V6 models featured imported Ford alloy wheels. Ford Rostyle steel rims were fitted to all 2.0 GL, Ghia, and S models, optionally on the other models. New Zealand Ghia models, however, did not feature a steel sliding sunroof (fitted as standard on UK Ghia models), although some models did feature an aftermarket sunroof.
The Cortina was a popular car in New Zealand, being the most sold car in seven years with over 100,000 assembled in total. It was missed by many when it ceased production in June 1983, notably after Ford New Zealand had scoured the globe for surplus assembly kits, a number of which came from Cork in Ireland. Station wagons (estate models) remained available until 1984. The Cortina range was finally replaced by the 1983 Ford Telstar range and the 1984 Ford Sierra station wagon. Sales had been dropping in the early 1980s, though, with the average age of buyers in 1981 being between 45 and 54. Quality and fitment were also issues of concern, with the local assembler welcoming the Cortina's Mazda-built replacement.
Compared with Britain and many other countries where the Cortina was originally exported, in New Zealand, it has a far superior survival rate due to the climate being far drier and more favourable to the preservation of rust-free classic cars. Seeing examples in everyday use, especially New Zealand's rural areas, is not uncommon, and obtaining spare parts to keep them on the roads has yet to become a significant problem. New Zealand has been a popular source of good-condition Cortinas to export back to the UK, where rust has condemned the majority.
In South Africa, the Cortina range included V6 Essex-engined variants, in both 2.5-litre and 3.0-litre forms.
From July 1971, a locally designed pick-up truck version (known in Afrikaans as a "bakkie") was also offered, and this remained in production even after the Cortina was replaced by the Sierra. The Mark V-based Cortina Pickup was exported to the UK, in a lengthened wheelbase form, as the Ford P100. This pick-up was launched in the UK in 1982, the year that the standard Cortina was being replaced by the Sierra. This version of the P100 was sold until 1988, when Ford divested from South Africa, and a Portuguese-built Sierra pick-up was introduced in its place, still using the P100 name.
The Mark V model range, introduced in 1980 for the South African market, included 1.3-litre L (1980–1982), 1.6-litre L, GL (1980–1983), 2.0-litre GL, Ghia, (1980–1984), 3.0-litre XR6 (1980–1983), 1.6-litre L Estate (1980–1983), 2.0-litre GL Estate (1980–1983), 3.0-litre GLS (1980–1984), 1.6-litre One-Tonner (1980–1985), and 3.0-litre One-Tonner (1980–1985).
The XR6 was a sports version that used the Essex V6 and featured body aerofoils and sport seats.
In 1981, a version called the XR6 Interceptor was released as a homologation special made to compete in production car racing. They featured triple Weber DCNF carburetors, aggressive camshaft, tubular exhaust manifold, suspension revisions, and wider Ronal 13-inch wheels. They produced 118 kW and were only available in red; 250 were produced.
Later on, a special-edition XR6 TF was released to celebrate 'Team Fords' racing success with the XR6. They were essentially XR6s in exterior and interior Team Ford colours, which were blue and white.
In 1983, a special version was created by Simpson Ford to appease the demand for an Interceptor-like Cortina and was sold through Ford dealerships countrywide. It was called the XR6 X-ocet and featured a Holley carbureter, aggressive camshaft and tuned exhaust. They came in red with a white lower quarter and did 0–100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 seconds with a top speed of 195 km/h (121 mph).
South African Mark V models differed slightly from UK models with different wheels, bumpers, and interior trim.
The last brand new Cortina was sold in South Africa by mid-1984. It was often the country's top-selling car, being far more popular than the Sierra, Telstar, and Mondeo models that followed it.
The newly established Hyundai Motor Company began assembling the Mk2 Cortina under licence at its Ulsan plant in 1967. The later Hyundai Pony and Stellar, although not directly based on the Cortina/Taunus still used common componentry - most notably the rear suspension and axle which were interchangeable with the Ford car.
In the early 1960s, Cortinas were assembled by Ali Automobiles in Karachi.
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