Wednesday December 18, 2019
‘When I was growing up my dad owned a 2-litre Cortina Ghia Mk. IV. He’d owned it from new, and it was his pride and joy’. The eight-year-old Simon Hoar not only ‘learned vehicle mechanics from a very young age’ but developed a great affinity with Dagenham’s most famous product.
Nine years later, Simon passed his driving test and acquired a Vauxhall Chevette, but he was naturally keen to take the wheel of the Cortina. Alas, the Ghia ‘more or less ended up on its roof’ and Simon briefly contemplated avoiding paternal wrath via escaping to the Falkland Islands.
But that Royal Blue Cortina made such an impression on the young Simon that two and half years ago he became the owner of ALY 331S, one of only 476 2.3S Mk. IVs to leave the factory – and one of only two known to survive in the UK.
In September 1977, Ford offered the option of the V6 “Cologne” engine on the GL, the S and the Ghia, which represented a major step in the model’s development.
There were, of course, the very desirable Jeff Uren conversions of the Mk. II, but Ford had never previously marketed a six-cylinder Cortina. Nor were the 3-litre South African or the 3.3-litre and 4.1-litre Australian Mk. IIIs ever sold in the UK.
The Mk. IV debuted in 1976 and Car even called the 2.0S ‘very good looking but a bit of a bounder’. The 2.3 unit was chosen in response to Ford noting the early popularity of the 2-litre versions.
A V6 Cortina would also appeal to the executive who might have otherwise looked at the Granada 2.0L as his/her company car. Another advantage of the Cologne unit was that it offered only a 64 lb weight penalty.
Naturally, the 2.3S offered the buyer ‘Performance In A Car That’s Built To Last’, with its uprated suspension, gas shock absorbers, “sports road wheels” and halogen driving lamps. As with the 2.0S, the sporting V6 was only available with a manual gearbox.
As a high-powered medium-sized saloon, the 2.3S had virtually no domestic rivals. The potential customer might have also looked at the very desirable Triumph Dolomite Sprint, but that was a very different – and four-cylinder – vehicle.
Vauxhall did not offer a six-cylinder version of the Cavalier Mk. I and the 2.6-litre “Leyland Marina 6” never found its way to this country.
However, sales of the 2.3S were limited, with Simon remarking about the fuel and insurance costs, plus the fact that the price of a V6 was ‘nearly £900 more’ than its 2-litre stablemate.
The Mk. IV is now the rarest generation of the Cortina, due to a production run of merely three years - and banger racing. When Mr. Hoar encountered ALY 331S, it was ‘an MOTed drivable car but it was not to the standards I wanted’.
The Cortina was originally finished in “Roman Bronze” but was in “Daytona Yellow” when Simon became its custodian. He ‘wanted it to be finished in an official “S” colour of that time so I had it resprayed in “Signal Amber” which was available only in 1978’.
The result of a ‘genuine nut and bolt restoration’ is a Ford that looks in better than showroom condition. The black vinyl roof - ‘It was an option, and my car was originally fitted with one of those’ – accentuates the finish. The S has black, rather than chrome, exterior fittings which make for a striking contrast with the paintwork.
The other extras fitted to the Hoar Cortina are a remote control door mirror, mud flaps and an uprated radio set so that the owner could better enjoy The Bee Gees singing Night Fever.
Simon observes that ‘the hardest part of the restoration was the original “Orange Cadiz” upholstery, as you cannot find trim for the S for neither love nor money’.
He finds the Cortina ‘fantastic to drive. For an old car, it has quite a turn of speed. It is very smooth and so flexible that you can travel at 30 mph at 7,000 rpm’. He also ‘loves the interior. That and the vinyl roof are my favourite bits’.
Today, Simon inevitably finds that ‘you can never take it anywhere without attracting attention’. The most ludicrous comment he has ever heard about his Ford is ‘nice car but why have you put that horrible interior?’ - some people really do have no taste.
Fortunately, countless others who appreciate the Cortina’s style, verve and charisma. And no 2.3S could ever be regarded as a bounder.
WITH THANKS TO: