Ford Lotus Cortina – 1963

Although it was technically a variation on the Ford Cortina Mk I theme, the brilliant Ford Lotus Cortina deserves an entry all its own. This was one of the most interesting British saloon cars of the 1960s, making its debut in 1963 as the result of a partnership between Ford and Lotus Cars.

Lotus supremo Colin Chapman had developed a twin-cam version of the Ford Kent engine for racing purposes. Ford’s competition department asked Chapman to fit this into a thousand Ford saloons, so they could rally and race in Group 2. The deal was swiftly done and the Type 28 was born. Ford called it the Cortina Lotus, but for once the little guy won out and the world remembers this splendid custom car as the Lotus Cortina — which undoubtedly had a better ring to the target market of boy racers. Lotus did the mechanical stuff while Ford handled distribution and marketing.

A reinforced two-door Cortina shell provided innocent-looking wrapping around a potent 1.6 litre twin-cam Lotus engine that belted out 105 bhp. Lowered and revised suspension plus servo-assisted disc brakes ensured that the Lotus Cortina handled well, with wide road wheels and tires providing limpet-like grip. Nobody who tried to beat one of these stylish sprinters away from the traffic lights had any doubts about what they’d just run up against — but just in case someone thought this special sports saloon was any old Cortina, a white paint job and green side flash proclaimed the Lotus Cortina’s exclusive parentage.

Ford wanted to continue with the cooperative venture when the Mk II Cortina appeared, but Lotus declined and the Lotus Cortina Mk II was produced entirely by Ford from 1966 until 1970, with the Lotus badge being replaced by a bland ‘Twin Cam’ announcement after a few months.




1963 (until 1966)


1,558 cc DOHC Straight Four


Top speed of 108 mph (174 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 10.1 secs


The aim of creating a great sports racer was successful, with the Lotus Cortina enjoying many race victories. Unfortunately, it was prone to mechanical problems when used as a road car, but was so exciting that besotted owners easily forgave its faults.



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