The Ford Cortina is a mid sized family car sold by Ford of Britain in various guises from 1962 to 1982.
The Cortina was Ford's mass-market mid-sized car and sold in enormous numbers, making it common on British roads. It was replaced in 1982 by the Ford Sierra. In other markets, particularly Asia and Australasia, it was replaced by the Mazda 626-based Ford Telstar, though Ford New Zealand did import British-made CKD kits of the Ford Sierra estate for local assembly from 1984.
The Cortina was produced in five generations (Mark I through to Mark V, although officially the last one was called the Cortina 80) 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 a Ford attempt to unify its European operations. By 1976, when the revised Taunus was launched, the Cortina was identical. In fact, this new Taunus / Cortina used the doors and some panels from the 1970 Taunus.
All variants of the Cortina sold over one million, with each successive model proving more popular than its predecessor. Such was its fame in the UK that the BBC Two documentary series Arena (TV series) once devoted an edition to the car and its enthusiasts.
Ford Cortina Mark I (1962–1966)Edit
As the 1960s dawned, BMC were revelling the success of their new Mini - the first successful postwar mini-car to be built in Britain. Overheads at Ford felt that they could not develop a similar small car as the production cost would be too high, so instead they set about creating a larger family car which would sell in huge volumes. The result was the Cortina, a distinctively-styled car aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, that was launched in September 1962. It was briefly known as the Consul Cortina before simply being sold as the Cortina. 
Notable models were the Lotus Cortina and Cortina GT. Available with 1.2 L and 1.5 L engines in 2 and 4-door saloon and 4-door estate forms. Standard, Deluxe, Super and GT trims were offered but not across all body styles. Estates offered the option of fake wood side and tailgate trim, aping American-style estates, for a short time. There were two main variants of the Mark 1. The Mark 1a possessed elliptical front side-lights, whereas the Mark 1b had a re-designed front grill incorporating the squarer side-lights. Advertising of the revised version, which appeared in late 1964, made much of the newly introduced "Aeroflow" through-flow ventilation, evident by the extractor vents on the rear pillars. The dashboard, instruments and controls were also revised.
The engines used across the Mark I range were of identical design, differing only in capacity and setup. The formula used was a 4-cylinder pushrod (Over Head 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 . This engine contained a different Camshaft profile, a different cast of head featuring larger ports, tubular exhaust headers and a Weber double barrel Carburettor. Lotus Cortina models were solely offered as 2-door saloons all in white with a contrasting green side flash down each flank. Lotus Cortinas had a unique 1.6 L 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 and the model soon reverted to the standard Cortina semi-elliptic rear end.
Ford Cortina Mark II (1966–1970)Edit
The second incarnation of the Cortina was designed by Roy Haynes (designer), and released in 1966, four years after the original Cortina.
Again, a Lotus version was produced (this time done in-house at Ford) but the most admired was the 1600E that came out in late 1967.
The engines were at first carried over, but for 1967, they received a new Crossflow cylinder head design, making them more efficient. At this time, they became 1.3 L and 1.6 L in size, with the Lotus Cortina continuing with its own unique engine. A stripped out 1.2 L version running the engine of the Ford Anglia Super was also available for some tax conscious markets.
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 1960.
Again, 2- and 4-door saloons and a 4-door estate were offered with base, Deluxe, Super, GT and later 1600E trims available, but again, not across all body styles and engine options.
The 1600E combined the lowered Lotus Cortina's suspension with the high tune GT 1600 Kent engine and luxury trim featuring a Burr Walnut woodgrain-trimmed dashboard and door cappings, bucket seating, sports steering wheel and full instrumentation inside, while a black grille, tail panel, front fog lights and plated Rostyle wheels featured outside. 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.
V-6-engined variant, featuring Essex 3.0, appeared both in Great Britain (called Cortina Savage) and South Africa (Cortina Perana). Savage was available with 1600E trim in all three body styles, while her African stablemate was offered only as 4-door saloon with GT trim.
Ford Cortina Mark III (1970–1976)Edit
In the late 1960s, Ford set about developing a third generation Cortina, which would be produced in higher volumes than before.
The Mark III Detroit-inspired "coke bottle" shaped Cortina was a hit amongst fleet buyers. It replaced both the Cortina Mark II and the larger, more expensive Ford Corsair by offering more trim levels and the option of larger engines than the Mark II.
The MacPherson strut front suspension was replaced with more conventional double A-arm suspension to give the car a soft 'freeway' ride. The larger engines induced distinct understeer.
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, it was actually the same overall length, but 4 inches (100 mm) wider.
Trim levels were now Base, L (for Luxury), XL (Xtra Luxury), GT (Grand Touring) and GXL (Grand Xtra Luxury). 1.3 L, 1.6 L and 2.0 L engines were offered, the 1.6 L having two distinct types - the Kent unit for models up to GT trim and a SOHC Pinto unit for the GT and GXL, the latter of which was also offered in 1600 form for a short while. 2.0 L variants used a larger version of the 1600 Pinto unit and were available in all trim levels except base.
Four headlights and Rostyle wheels marked out the GT and GXL versions, while the GXL also had bodyside rubstrips, a vinyl roof and a brushed metal and black tail panel on the GXL and plain black one on the GT. All models featured a downward sloping dashboard with deeply recessed dials and all coil suspension all round. In general styling and technical make up, many observed that the Mark III aped the Vauxhall Victor FD of 1967.
In late 1973, the car received a facelift. Outside, there were revised grilles, rectangular headlights for the XL, GT and the new 2000E which replaced the GXL. The 1.3 L Kent engine was carried over but now, 1.6 L models all used the more modern 1.6 L Pinto.
Inside, the car received a neater dashboard that no longer sloped away from the driver's line of sight and upgraded trim. The 2000E reverted to the classy treatment offered by the 1600E instead of the faux wood-grain trim offered by the GXL. From 1972, the third generation Cortina was the most popular new car in Britain. The Mark III was never sold in the US, although it was available in Canada until 1973.
The Mark III was available in South Africa as the XLE with the Essex V6 3.0L engine. There was also a Pickup version available.
They were also sold in Australia, known as the TC, which were initially available with the 1300, 1600, 2000 SOHC four cylinders. Later, in 1973 Ford stopped the 1300 and 1600, and replaced them with the 200ci and 250ci in-line six cylinder engine, lifted straight out of the Australian Ford Falcon range. Early TD Cortinas, up until 1975 used these same engines. In 1975, these engines featured a revised crossflow cylinder head, keeping in line with the falcon.
For Japan, the cars were literally squashed by a few millimetres at each end on arrival in the country in order that they fit into a lower tax bracket.
Ford Cortina Mark IV (1976–1979)Edit
The fourth generation Cortina was a more conventional design than its predecessor, but this was largely appreciated by fleet buyers. Generally a re-body of the Mark III, as an integration of Ford's model range, this car was really a re-badged Ford Taunus. Many parts were carried over, most notably the running gear, and even the dashboard design.
This series spawned the first Ghia top-of-the-range model, which replaced the 2000E. The 2.3 L Ford Cologne V6 engine was introduced in 1977 as an engine above the 2.0 L Pinto engine, already a staple of the Capri and Granada ranges. The 2.3 L was available to the GL, S and Ghia variants.
2 and 4-door saloons and a 5-door estate were offered with all other engines being carried over. There was a choice of base, L, GL, S (for Sport) and Ghia trims, again not universal to all engines and body styles. 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.
Throughout its production life, the Mark IV was the most popular new car in the United Kingdom. Despite this, it is now the rarest of all Cortinas. Scant rustproofing (much improved on the later "Cortina 80" models) and popularity with banger racers accelerated its demise.
The Mark IV was also sold in Australia, badged as the TE Cortina. It had trim levels L, GL and Ghia, With a few other short run variants, such as th 'S' pack. The TE featured the 2000 CC motor, as used in earlier models, and also the 200ci (3.3 Litre) and 250ci (4.1 Litre) OHV sixes with the crossflow cylinder head.
Ford Cortina Mark V (1979–1982)Edit
The Mark V was announced in September 1979. Officially it was known as "Cortina 80", although the Mark V tag was given to it immediately on release, by the press, insiders and the general public.
A large update on the Mark IV, it was really a step between a facelift and a re-body. The Mark V differentiated itself from the Mark IV by having revised headlights with larger turn indicators incorporated (which now showed to the side too), a wider slatted grille said to be more aerodynamically efficient, a flattened roof, more glass area, slimmer C-pillars with revised vent covers, larger, slatted tail lights (on saloon models) and upgraded trim.
By contrast, the estate models combined the Mk4's bodyshell (which was initially from the 1970 Ford Taunus) with Mk5 front body pressings.
Variants included the regular Base, L, GL, GLS and Ghia variants (all available in both saloon and estate forms), although various "special editions" were announced, including the Calypso and Carousel. The final production model was the Crusader special edition (although sold in high numbers) which was available as a 1.3, 1.6 and 2.0 saloons or 1.6 and 2.0 estates. 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 and grip.
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 Renault, but the brand image of Ford's blue oval ensured the Cortina was a success in virtually every country where it was sold.
The very last Cortina – a silver Crusader – rolled off the Dagenham production line in July 1982 on the launch of the ultramodern Ford Sierra, though there were still a few leaving the forecourt as late as 1987, with one final unregistered Cortina GL leaving a Derbyshire dealership in 2005.
1982 was also the year in which the Cortina lost its title as Britain's best selling car, having held that position every year since 1972. It was still selling well though, and the number one position had been taken by another Ford product: the Escort.
The Mark V/ Cortina 80 was known as the TF in Australia, and featured the same trim levels and motor options as the TE.
The Ford Cortina was a very popular car in Britain throughout its lifespan. In 1967, it interrupted the Austin/Morris 1100/1300s reign as Britain's best selling car. From 1972 to 1981, the Cortina enjoyed an unbroken run as Britain best selling car every year. Its key rivals in the 1960s were the Morris Oxford and Austin/Morris 1800, during the 1970s it was competing with the Vauxhall Cavalier, Austin Maxi and Morris Marina. At the end of its life it was facing stiff competition from the more advanced and practical second generation Vauxhall Cavalier, but was still more popular.
The final incarnation of the Cortina was Britain's best selling car for the 1980 and 1981 calendar years, and combined with Mark IV sales the Cortina also topped the sales charts for 1979. Even in 1982, when during its final year of production it was pushed off the top of the charts by the Escort, the Cortina was still hugely popular with buyers.
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 last Cortina rolled off the production line in 1982, thousands of them remained in stock (with more than 11,000 being sold in 1983), and the final six examples didn't find homes until 1987.
As recently as the early 1990s, Cortinas were still a common sight on British roads, and in May 1992 The Times newspaper revealed that the Mark IV / Mark V models were still among the 10 most common cars on Britain's roads.
By 2000, however, the vast majority of them had headed for the scrap yard. In August 2006, following a survey by Auto Express, it was identified as the second most scrapped car to be sold in Britain since 1976. Of the 1,065,682 Mark IV and Mark V Cortinas registered in the UK, just 2,010 were still in working order — fewer than one in 500. It was second only to the Morris Marina, which had ceased production two years before the Cortina and fared even worse with less than one in 1000 still registered.
Racing and rallyingEdit
The Cortina also raced in Rally (sports) and Lotus did some sportier editions of the Cortina Mark I and Mark II referred to as the Lotus Cortina.
This car is, today, used for racing, because of its powerful cast iron engine. The car can have imported cylinder heads, with hydraulic valves, which give an enormous power boost.
Other cars using Cortina enginesEdit
The Kent engines used in the Cortina, being lightweight, reliable and inexpensive, were popular with several low-volume sports car manufacturers, including Morgan who 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 was the basis of Formula Ford racing, until replaced by the "Zetec" engine.
The Kent engines were also used in several smaller Fords, most notably the Escort, lower end Capris and Fiesta.
Non-United Kingdom sales and manufactureEdit
The Cortina was also sold in other Right hand drive markets such as the Republic of Ireland where it was assembled locally, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, 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, in South Korea (by Hyundai) and in 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, 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 Pinto, though it continued in Canada until the end of the 1973 model year.
The third generation Cortina was also sold in some Continental European markets, such as Scandinavia, alongside the Taunus. A small number were exported to Japan, with the rear of the bodyshell compressed to make it narrower — this was because cars in Japan were taxed on width, and having a narrower body enabled the Cortina to avoid being heavily taxed.
In Australia, the Mark I Ford Cortinas sold well, helped by some outstanding successes on the racetrack. The most notable performances were in the Armstrong 500 races at the Mount Panorama circuit, Bathurst, New South Wales where the Cortina GT was first across the line in 1963 and 1964 and the locally developed GT500 took the flag in 1965.
The Mark IIs continued the sales success, being offered in five different models - the 220, 240, 440, GT, and the rare "L" luxury model which featured solid wood panelling on the dashboard and doors.
After the Mark IIs, Cortinas in Australia had a two-letter code beginning with 'T' (with a wagon being introduced to the local range). Hence, the Mark III was the TC, with a mid-life revised model called the TD. The Mark IV was the TE and the Mark V the TF. Models for the TC and TD were L, XL, XLE and for the TE and TF were L, GL, Ghia, with sport options GS Rally Pack (TE) and S-Pack (TF).
While the first two generations were similar to the British models, Ford Australia began fitting the 200 and 250 in³ six-cylinder engines as available in the Ford Falcon (Australia) to the TC onwards in addition to the four-cylinder engines. The last of the TD, TE and TF models were fitted with the cross-flow head versions of these engines, referred to as 3.3 L and 4.1 L.
To hold the larger engines, the Chassis had reinforced side rails and centre pillar, and a tubular Crossmember support under the transmission. In addition, the firewall panels were shaped to accommodate the longer engines and wider Bell housing, and were manufactured from thicker metal. This change was spread across the Cortina range so that the four cylinder models benefited too. But this was not enough to prevent the additional front mass of the larger engines causing roll steer, resulting in relatively unsophisticated handling by today's standards, especially on rough roads. Braking was also an issue under harsh conditions.
The TC six cylinder model had twin headlights which distinguished it from the four cylinder. The TD was identified by rectangular headlights. Both the TC and TD six cylinder models were immediately recognised over the four cylinder versions by the raised 'power bulge' (to clear the air cleaner) in the centre of the bonnet. Basic transmission for the six-cylinder model was originally a slick-shifting three-speed manual floor shift with a four-speed Borg-Warner transmission available, taken straight from the Falcon GT. Also available was a Borg-Warner three-speed automatic across all models.
In 1973 to 1974, Ford Australia proposed a three-door Coupé version of the Cortina, in order to compete with the upcoming Holden Torana hatchback. It would also be a local Capri replacement. This car would have used the Pinto tailgate and other parts from around the world (such as the longer 2-door Cortina doors). However, Ford rejected the idea, as a unique model, particularly a small coupé for Australia could not be justified on cost grounds.
Also on cost grounds, there was a proposal in 1975 by Ford Australia to simply facelift the TD (Mark III) series Cortina for 1977, rather than introduce the Mark IV. A prototype facelift was made, however Ford instead went with a re-engineered Mark IV (TE, née the German Ford Taunus).
The TE Cortina was released in 1977, and the TF in 1980. Apart from specifications, the Australian TE and TF had minor exterior differences to the Cortina models sold elsewhere. Bumpers were the most noticeable differences (larger steel bumpers for the TE, rubber RIM moulded for the TF), while the TE had additional indicators in the front wings. Another example was that the TF's front numberplate was mounted below the front bumper, further distinguishing it from its European Mark V counterparts. The whole TE and TF range had a higher centre pressing in the bonnet to accommodate the six cylinder engines air cleaner. This change is not obvious unless you have the two different bonnets side by side.
In the late 1970s, the Cortina wagons were built in Renault's local Heidelberg factory in Melbourne, (now closed), as Ford Australia's own factories did not have the capacity. For the last year of Australian Cortina production, 1981, a Ghia wagon was produced, although this was also listed in the September 1980 factory brochure.
Despite the TF Cortina introducing worthwhile improvements in ride, handling, noise reduction and fuel consumption, the Cortina generally was seen by the motoring press as outdated, and buyers generally preferred the rival products — in marked contrast to New Zealand where the Cortina was a highly regarded success.
Ford Australia, however, found enough customers to last to the end of the model's life. In 1982 it was replaced initially by the smaller Ford Meteor (a rebadged Mazda 323 sedan) and then the Ford Telstar saloon / hatchback range in 1983.
The New Zealand Cortina range generally followed that of Britain. Overall CKD assembly ran from 1962 to 1983, at Ford's Lower Hutt (Seaview) plant.
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 2-door sedan was not offered. Engine sizes of 1.6 and 2.0 litres were available. The 2.0 L was a very popular fleet vehicle and the transport of thousands of sales reps in New Zealand over the years.
Additionally there were limited imports of Australian Mark IV Cortinas, equipped with both 2.0 four-cylinder engines – with more emissions control equipment than the UK-sourced cars – and the Falcon's 4.1 L 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. A 2.0 S was introduced in 1982, and unlike in the UK, it was a model in its own right. A "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 V6, it was the only transmission offered. A unique option, offered under guarantee by a dealership, South Auckland Ford, was a Turbocharger.
The Ghia models were reasonably equipped, complete with wood trim; the 2.3 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.
Unlike Australia, the Cortina was always a popular car in New Zealand, and was missed by many when it ceased production in mid-1983, notably after Ford New Zealand had scoured the globe for surplus assembly kits, a number of which came from Cork (city) in Republic of Ireland. Wagons remained available until 1984. The Cortina range was finally replaced by the 1983 Ford Telstar range and the 1984 Ford Sierra wagon.
In South Africa, the Cortina range included V6 "Essex"-engined variants, in both 2.5L and 3.0L forms. From 1971, a locally designed pick-up truck version (known in South Africa as a "bakkie") was also offered, and this remained in production after the Cortina was replaced by the Sierra.
The Cortina pickup was exported to the UK, in a lengthened wheelbase form, as the P100 until 1988, when Ford divested from South Africa, and a pick-up truck version of the Sierra was introduced.
- Cortina Owners Club Of Ireland Website
- Cortina Mk4 & 5 model information, dimensions, technical specifications
- Ford Cortina Information Page.
- A Cortina enthusiast page
- Cortina MK 1 page
- Mark III GT 1971
- Ford Cortina Australia | Cortina Crazy Car Club
- Online resource for the MK4 and MK5 Cortina
- Australian Ford Cortina photographs
- Elliott Racing 1970 GT2 Cortina