As the Swinging Sixties got into gear, Ford was smarting from the mauling it was receiving from the trendy car of the moment — BMC’s iconic Mini. Ford couldn’t afford to retool to produce a competitive small car, so the company went with what it knew best — a new family saloon. The Cortina Mk I duly appeared in 1962 to take on Vauxhall Victors and Morris Oxfords.
Initially this angular car with tapering flutes along the sides and signature ‘Y’ rear light clusters was the Consul Cortina, but a cosmetic facelift in 1964 saw the Consul bit quietly buried. The Cortina had arrived, and would be around for some time. It came with two or four doors, there was a choice of engines (1.2 litre or 1.5 litre) and trim levels (standard and deluxe).
It wasn’t long before the Cortina family started reproducing. The 1500 Super arrived in January 1963, identified by tapered chrome strips along the flutes. A GT model with twin carbs, front disc brakes and modified suspension followed a month later. An estate car in deluxe or super made its debut in March, with the latter sporting fake wood panelling on the sides and tailgate. Over a million Mk Is would be sold, laying the foundations for what followed.
The Cortina just went from strength to strength. A Mk II version appeared in 1967, followed by the Mk III in 1970. The Mk IV occupied the 1975-1979 slot and the Cortina 80 was the last of the line, the very final one being a silver Crusader that rolled off the Dagenham line in the summer of 1982. It had been a more-than-modest success along the way, becoming the UK’s bestseller from 1967 until 1981, with 4.35 million units sold during the extended production run.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1962 (until 1966)
1,198 cc or 1,498 cc Straight Four
With 1.5 l engine – top speed of 85 mph (138 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 21 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Cortina’s name was derived from the glamorous Italian ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites (which was cheeky, as Triumph had first used the Dolomite name in 1934)- and a notorious Ford publicity stunt saw Cortinas driven down the resort’s fearsome bobsled run.