The Ford Cortina was once found in record numbers on UK roadways. It was the bestselling car of the 1970s, with more units sold than any other competing model. This family mover also had a very long run, with production lasting from 1962 through 1982, with five different models produced over that span.
The Origins of the Cortina
The Ford Cortina entered the planning stages as early as 1960 and was originally codenamed Archbishop. The goal was to create a larger vehicle that could comfortably seat an entire family, while being popular enough to sell a substantial number of models. Ford certainly succeeded there. The first Cortina model, the Consul Cortina, went on sale in September of 1962.
The car featured a traditional rear-wheel drive layout, and was designed to be economical in fuel consumption, easy to work on for the average owner, and affordable to maintain over time. It was available as a coupe, an estate, and a saloon, and came with either a 1200 or 1500 four-cylinder engine.
The Early Standard version sold poorly in comparison with the higher end Deluxe trim, which makes surviving models quite rare today and often worth more than other models. The Early Standard was marked by a body-coloured grille, as well as a large, round cluster of taillights.
Mark II and Higher
1966 saw the birth of the Mark II Cortina, which ran from 1966 through 1970. It resembled the original model, at least superficially, but had a revised grille with less prominent headlights and slightly more angular body lines. Like its predecessor, it was available as a coupe, saloon, and estate, but it was also made available with a number of different engine options, including a 1.2-liter, 1.3-liter, 1.5-liter, 1.6-liter, and 3.0-liter, all of which were mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
In 1970, the Mark III hit the market. It was even more drastically revised in terms of body style, taking on a slightly more muscular look with more prominent wheel wells, dual round headlights, and a more aggressive stance. This model offered several 4-cylinder engines, but also a few 6-cylinder options over time. It would last from 1970 to 1976.
The Mark IV Ford Cortina only ran for three years, from 1976 to 1979, and the car was radically redesigned. It was boxy, and looked more like a VW than a Ford, with its square headlights and black plastic grille. The final model, the Mark V, was produced from 1979 through 1982, and it was really nothing more than a Mark IV with a slight facelift. It remained square and angular, with square headlights and a smaller grille.
The Ford Cortina was replaced by the Sierra, which featured much more aerodynamic styling. Overall, close to 3 million Cortinas were sold in the UK, which means that collectors have a wide range of models from which to choose. However, the Mark I Early Standard remains one of the more valuable models for collectors, despite the fact that it was less aesthetic than its descendants. The Cortina engine, dubbed “crossflow”, has been used by many other automakers, as well, including Morgan.