The original Cortina 1200 two-door saloon of late 1962 sold for only £573, which was much less than any other car in this category. In those days, incidentally, a heater was an optional extra – for £15.10.
The Cortina was Britain's best-selling car for 10 of the 20 years it was on sale: 1967, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981. It was in second place for eight years and in third for the remaining two.
For sale to Japan in the 1970s, Mk III Cortinas had to be slimmed down by a few millimetres to sell within a particular tax bracket which depended on a car’s width. This was done by clamping and squeezing, the newly-assembled body shells in a special fixture.
The largest engine ever fitted to a Cortina production car was in one version of the Australian-assembled Mk IVs of the late 1970s, which had a 4.1-litre straight-six cylinder power unit.
In 20 years, no fewer than 788,012 Cortinas were exported from Dagenham in kit form, for assembly in other countries. Straight-six engined versions (Australia) and 3-litre V6 types (South Africa) were never available in Europe.

Forty years ago, on September 21st, 1962, Ford’s new Cortina was launched. Costing £573 for the standard 1200 saloon, it became an instant best-seller and enjoyed a 20 year career in which 4.3-million examples were produced.

The last Cortina was assembled in July 1982, to be succeeded by the controversially styled jellymould Sierra, which was a radical change from traditional three box designs.

Conceived in 1960, the new car, code named ‘Archbishop’ until the Cortina name was adopted, was intended to fill out a range in which the Anglia 105E and Zephyr/Zodiac models were prominent.

When originally planned, Ford thought it could sell at least 100,000 Cortinas every year – yet more than 260,000 Cortinas, with their trademark bodyside flutes and 'ban the bomb' badge-style rear lamps, were sold in the first full sales year, 1963.

Those highly distinctive rear lamps on the MkI very nearly didn't make the production car at all. Charles Thompson, one of the design team, recollects: "We were going to have neat strips of angled lamps and the body tooling was well underway. Then there was a last minute change of mind and the circular lamps were adopted instead."

Derivatives of the Cortina – particularly the GT and the Lotus-Cortina – won races and rallies all around the world in the 1960s. Formula One World Champion Jim Clark, and the ‘Bearded Baronet’ Sir John Whitmore won race championships in Britain and Europe. ‘Works’ GTs and Lotus-Cortinas, prepared at the Boreham motorsport centre, also won the East African Safari, and the RAC rallies, two of the world’s toughest endurance events.

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Despite their popularity at the time, they're a rare sight on the roads these days. Probably because they've all been used for banger racing!


Comments (36) Join the discussion on the forum

  • DIGGA 17 Sep 2002

    They are a rare sight nowadays, but they were a cracking motor in their day.

    My Dad had a much cherished 2.0 GL as a company hack. Kept it clean, always checked the oil etc. - very dilligent considering it wasn't his own motor - then a year or so after he got rid of it, we saw it being pranged by Pete Beal on Eastenders. We were gutted.

    >>> Edited by DIGGA on Tuesday 17th September 17:02

  • smeagol 17 Sep 2002

    The Ford cortina we had was okay but I can certainly remember pushing it when the morning was damp. How did the starter go? wrrrrr, wrrrrrr, wrrrrrr, wuuuuuuuurrrr, wuuuuurrrrrrr, ....Clack!!

  • DIGGA 17 Sep 2002

    Okay, so they weren't generally paragons of reliability (although our 'tina, admittedly new at the time, ran faultlessly) but you kind of wonder how kids will get on with the current generation of cars in 10 years time, with all the elecrtickery they have.

    My mates first car was a hand-me-down 'tina from his Dad (via his mother too), and it was great. Easy & cheap to fix, and with the multi-coloured panells it would cut a swathe through any BMW and Mercedes populated rush hour. No one wanted to trade paint with that thing!

  • cotty 17 Sep 2002

    Just tought I would share that with you.

    Yep the MK1 Cortina is more hands on that the current crop of cars. Im not greatly mechanically minded but on my red MK1 I changed the gearbox, clutch master cylinder, adjusted the tappets and generally maintained it myself if the problem was not to big.

    Driving in london was fun as it had a 1600cc X flow so was quite nippy and launchig out ot junctions no one wanted to trade paint. It was not in top nick just good rear wheel fun for a young lad (well I was then).

    I would love another MK1 but this time it would have to be a 2 door GT. I think they have so much more cariture that cars now days which is why they are reintroducing old models like the GT40 and Thunderbird. But it they reintroudced the MK1 again they would sanitise it and it would be the same.

    If I had the money I would rebuild one from the ground up with a cooking 1740cc X flow and just have a laugh


  • steve-p 17 Sep 2002

    Hey... a couple of decades ago I had a Mk1 GT in Topaz, and a Mk3 GT in a sort of peeling metallic purple with a black vinyl roof. (And 2 Capris, a Corsair, an Anglia and 2 Escorts).

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