Devised by Ford UK, the Cortina was intended to fill the gap between the 105E Anglia and Consul Classic. When Classic sales bombed, the conservatively-shaped Cortina very easily took its place. Using box-section techniques developed in Detroit, the British devised a two or four-door, medium-sized car with 1.2-litres as standard, class leading interior space and boot capacity.
The Consul Cortina was released in October 1962 and appeared here a few months later. Early cars came with two doors and minimal equipment but the range expanded to include a four-door sedan with front bench seat and a 1498cc engine.
A GT version with two or four doors was introduced in June 1963 with a dual-throat Weber carburettor, modified cylinder head and exhaust. These changes combined to boost power by 14kW over the stock 1500.
Extra instruments were initially mounted above the central console but from 1965 moved to the dash-top. Other features included disc front brakes, stiffer springs and obligatory GT badges.
Performance from 1.5 and later 1.6-litre cars certainly wasn’t shabby. A basic Mark 1 GT tested in 1965 hit 151km/h and accelerated from 0-80km/h in less than 10 seconds.
In 1963, the annual Armstrong 500 endurance race moved from Phillip Island to Bathurst’s Mt Panorama and gave Ford an opportunity to emphasise the toughness and pace of its Cortina. Harry Firth and Bob Jane combined to win the 1963 Armstrong 500 by a lap from the only EH Holden not to suffer problems. Cortina GTs also filled third and fourth places.
By 1965 Ford had committed to build 500 identical ‘GT500’ Cortinas with twin fuel fillers, blue-printed engines and improved brakes. They won that year’s Bathurst endurance race at a canter where their principal rivals were V8-engined Studebakers.
A revised Mark 1 appeared in 1965 with a new grille and ‘Air Flow’ ventilation. The dash changed to include ‘eyeball’ vents and there were chromed extractor vents on the rear pillars. ‘Consul’ finally disappeared from the designation and ‘Cortina’ was spelled in block letters across the bonnet. An automatic transmission was introduced.
The Mark 2 Cortina appeared on UK roads in late 1966 and came to Australia a few months later. The shape was modern but with fewer distinctive details than the Mark 1; wrap-around tail-lights replacing round ones, inset front indicators and a full-width grille to emphasise its width. Interior and boot room remained excellent but Australia was denied the station wagon that had been selling in the UK sales since 1962.
Later Mark 2 GTs sold here from 1969-71 had Lotus-inspired split front bumpers, black-out bonnet panels and driving lights. These GTs delivered 66kW and 153km/h. Local Mark 1 and 2 Cortinas will have spent 50 or more years on the road and been renovated at least once. Examples of both models have surged in price and it's almost impossible to find a decent base-model for less than $5000. GT versions are the most coveted and costly and almost all of the available cars cost $20,000 or more. Authentic or carefully restored Mark 1 cars will exceed $30,000 with ‘replicas’ worth 50 per cent less than a genuine GT. Mark 2 GTs are extremely rare yet still cost less than Mark 1 cars.
FORD(Cortina Mark 2)
(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)
SMART BUYER’S TROUBLESHOOTING
1962 - 1971
Rust attacks the floors, sills, lower mudguards and behind the headlights on the Mark 1. Once it gets into the fire-wall and MacPherson strut towers, repair costs may become uneconomic. Rear corners on Mark 1s were difficult to properly repair and some were reshaped using kilos of body-filler. Replacement panels are available from UK suppliers and local stockists have body rubbers, glass, chrome and rust repair panels. Replacement bumpers, grilles and new early tail-lights are difficult to find but window fittings are available. Secondhand rear lights for either series can cost $150 each with new Mark 1 lens sets at $75 per side.
‘Kent’ overhead-valve engines are among the most durable power-units of the 20th Century and need only basic maintenance to deliver long lives.. Clattering at start-up is likely to be nothing more than tappets needing adjustment but be wary of exhaust smoke from engines that haven’t been run in a while and may have cracked or sticking piston rings. Everything needed for a complete engine rebuild is still available from local suppliers and relatively cheap. The Mark 1 column gearshift can be sloppy due to worn linkages so make sure gears engage easily. Clutch shudder is a symptom of wear but can point to tired gearbox or engine mounts.
FORD CORTINA MARK 1-2
Unless the front strut mountings and rear spring hangers have suffered rust damage or poor repairs, everything under a Cortina is easy to replace or upgrade. Worn front strut inserts cause the car to bounce over bumps, worn bushes generate noise and transmit vibration through the steering wheel. Strut inserts cost $300-500 per pair. Cars with disc front brakes are recommended in preference to those with drums all-round (should any still exist) and parts for the conversion are available.
There’s not a great deal to go wrong in the sparse Cortina cabin. A car with ripped seats can be cheaply retrimmed, door hardware and electrical equipment including replacement gauges are available. Sets of new GT door trims cost $400-500 and interior carpet sets are less than $300, With bench-seat cars, check that the seat moves squarely on the runners. Small parts like GT gauges and/ or replacement interior light can cost more than $200 each second-hand. A new interior mirror in its original box was seen at over $800.
NUMBER MADE: 1.01 million (Mark 1), 1.02 million (Mark 2)
BODY: all-steel combined body/chassis two and four-door sedan and station wagon
ENGINE: 1198, 1298, 1498, 1598cc in-line four-cylinder with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor.
POWER & TORQUE: 58kW @ 5200rpm 131Nm @ 3600rpm (1500 GT)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 14 seconds 0-400 metres 19.2 seconds (1500 GT)
SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, MacPherson struts, lower control arms, anti-roll bar (on GT) (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs & telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc or drum (f) drum (r)
TYRES: 5.60x13 crossply, 165SR13 radial