Monday July 9, 2018
‘How?’, you might fairly ask, can certain versions of the Ford Cortina be ‘built to last’. Some of them – the Mk. IV comes to mind – are now exceedingly rare but to see any cherished survivor at a car show or on the road is to be reminded of their impact. Furthermore, their fame has lasted long beyond 1982, for this is the car whose passing merited a documentary on BBC2.
From the 20th September 1962 to the end of production twenty years later, seeing a Cortina was as much a part of the everyday routine as the arrivals of the postman’s BLMC J4 and the Unigate milk float in the morning or watching The Magic Roundabout before the BBC news.
All of which serves to mask the fact that the original Consul Cortina (the prefix lasted until 1964) was a rather unusual new model in terms of the British automotive landscape of that time. It was billed as a ‘small car’ yet was of similar dimensions to the Hillman Minx or the Austin A60 Cambridge/Morris Oxford Series VI “Farina”.
The body was lightweight, the styling up to the minute without being overly flamboyant and the road manners were much better than would have been expected on a very reasonably priced family car. Ford also ensued that by time of the 1962 Motor Show, a sufficient number of the Cortina had been built for every dealer to carry the latest Ford on the showroom floor.
The Consul Cortina was not as radical design as its near contemporary, the Morris 1100, but nor did it ever claim to be. It was a car that was very much in the British Ford tradition of cloaking straightforward engineering that would not be beyond the scope of the average home mechanic in a smart America-style suit.
From the 1200cc models of 56 years ago grew a whole empire of Cortinas – from the “Woody” Estate and the Lotus with that green side stripe to the 1600E Mk. II, the GXL Mk. III, a Ford that complemented the owner’s tasteful maroon flared slacks, to the 2.3 V6 Ghia Mk. IV. Small wonder that the Cortina was Britain’s best-selling car in 1967 – and from 1972 to 1981 inclusive.
As recently as 1979, Motor tested the mid-range 2.0 GL Mk. V, a car that was to become as much a part of suburban life as moving the lawn and badly cooked barbeque sausages and found that ‘In most respects the market leader is better than ever’.
Perhaps the legacy of the Cortina is that it came to define a form of motoring in the UK. Within months of its launch, the name was principally associated not with a ski-resort in the Italian Alps but a good-looking medium-sized car that would fit in any circumstances – a sales meeting, the managers’ private car park, a holiday in the rain somewhere in Dorset – or merely a trip to Fine Fare.
It was a mass-produced car whose impact was indeed ‘built to last’ and so, in celebration of one of the finest vehicles to hail from Essex, here is a promotional film demonstrating why your new Consul Cortina is the most way-out car of 1962. Daddio -