This series of articles is centred around the many and varied cars my father owned as I grew up in England.
The first instalment concerned the redoubtable Standard Vanguard (see Part 1) and ended when Dad reluctantly sold it in order to change to a smaller, lighter car more suitable for my mother to drive. Enter the Triumph Herald, which died dramatically on the occasion of it's first MOT test (see Part 2).
Ford Cortina Mark 1 (1962-1966)
So there we were, the whole family stranded at Williams Automobiles in Bristol. The proprietor had just delivered the dramatic news that our Triumph Herald was a death trap - it was destined for the scrap yard. "Take a look at this one", he said, ushering Dad outside to where a grey Ford Cortina was parked tight against a wall. "It needs a new engine which is coming tomorrow, so I can't start it for you" he added.
In another strange decision for a man who had good knowledge and understanding of motor mechanicals, Dad decided to buy the Cortina despite being unable to start the engine, drive it or even look at the left-hand side! Nevertheless, before long the Cortina was our new family car, complete with reconditioned engine.
For once, fortune favoured the brave; both the new engine and the left-hand side of the car were fine. I can't explain why, but the Cortina is one of only two cars from my youth of which I can remember the registration number. The other was my own first car. The Cortina's was 999 RHU. I've often reflected that in the UK now, that number if available as a 'cherished plate' would be worth considerably more than the car. (For the benefit of any Kiwis reading this, 999 is the Emergency Services telephone number in the UK, hence it's probable value)
Life with the Cortina was relatively trouble-free. It had just three faults worthy of mention:
On one occasion, Faults #1 & 2 combined beautifully to create a 'perfect' day. Mum was about to drive to her Teacher Training college in Bristol on a particularly wet morning. "Don't worry" Dad told her. "If the car stops, just call me at work - I'll come and rescue you". We couldn't afford AA membership, so family and friends were our 'Rescue Service'.
With those reassuring words ringing in her ears, Mum set off into a heavy storm. Predictably enough, as she drove along an exposed road, the Cortina's engine suddenly died, leaving her stranded on the roadside. As this was many years before the advent of mobile phones, she wound down the drivers door window to see if there was a public telephone box anywhere nearby. As she did so, forgetting in the anxiety of the moment about Dad's warning, "Remember not to wind the window fully down", there was a clanging sound as the window glass hopped off the winder mechanism and fell inside the door. The rain was blowing directly onto the drivers' door and now came inside, soaking everything including Mum.
She sat for a while wondering helplessly what to do, when a car driven by a total stranger pulled up behind the Cortina. The driver (a man) hopped out and came to ask if Mum needed help. She told him what was wrong and he immediately offered to drive her to a public telephone box so she could call for help. "Thank you, but I don't have any money" Mum told him. Remarkably, he said, "Never mind, I have some" and very kindly drove her off in his car to find a telephone box, where Mum called Dad at work and explained the situation.
Fortunately Dad's office was relatively close by, so by the time Mum's White Knight took her back to the stranded Cortina, Dad was already there, retrieving the window glass from deep inside the door. By the time he had managed that, the engine had dried itself out and started easily, allowing Mum to continue her journey to college, a little damp and stressed but still in one piece.
My only other clear memory of the Cortina involves Fault #3; rust. The keen-eyed among you may have noticed rust bubbling near the offside front headlamp of the Cortina in the "Family Day out" photo above. Slowly but surely, the rust ate away the thin, untreated steel from the inside until there was a ring of rust clearly visible just behind the headlamp.
As luck would have it, some genius had recently invented fibreglass, a strange substance that could be moulded to any shape, then set hard. Dad and I decided to 'repair' the rusty Cortina, paint it up nicely, then sell it quickly before the rust returned, as it surely would.
Many, many hours of physical labour ensued. We cut away the rusted metal and inserted a cage structure roughly fashioned out of chicken wire (yes, really). Then, we applied layer after layer of fiberglass and waited for it to cure. As expected, it set hard as rock and was extremely difficult to sand smooth. We didn't have electric sanders in those days, so we worked by hand with various grades of emery paper and sandpaper, toiling until the surface was smooth and our hands were raw.
Next, we painted the area, first with primer and then with multiple layers of the correct shade of grey paint. Finally, we stood back and to be honest, it didn't look at all bad. We congratulated ourselves and felt we would be able to sell the car before the problem became too obvious again.
The very next day, an old friend and colleague of Dad's came to visit. His name was Jim Wright; Jim was a tall man I remember always having a pipe in his mouth. He was chatting to Dad outside our house, walking around the Cortina as I watched and listened. Without warning and a little strangely, he abruptly reached out and put his hand directly onto the area we had just bodged up, leaning his full and considerable weight onto the fibreglass repair. To his surprise and our horror, there was a cracking sound and the entire repair came away from the rest of the front wing and hung there by a few strands. Our work was ruined.
Poor Jim was mightily embarrassed but of course Dad never blamed him. I don't recall what Dad eventually did about that rusty front wing, but before long, the Cortina was gone from our lives, to be replaced but never forgotten.
Using the project name of "Archbishop", management at Ford of Britain in Dagenham created a family-sized car which they could sell in large numbers. The chief designer was Roy Brown Jr., the designer of the Edsel, who had been banished to Dagenham following the failure of that car. The Cortina, aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, was launched on 20 September 1962. The car was designed to be economical, cheap to run and easy and inexpensive to produce in Britain. The front-wheel drive configuration used by Ford of Germany for the new Ford Taunus P4, a similarly sized model, was rejected in favour of traditional rear-wheel drive layout. Originally to be called Ford Consul 225, the car was launched as the Consul Cortina until a modest facelift in 1964, after which it was sold simply as the Cortina.
The Cortina was available with 1200 and 1500 four-cylinder engines with all synchromesh gearbox, in two-door and four-door saloon, as well as a four-door estate forms. Standard, Deluxe, Super, and GT trims were offered but not across all body styles. Early Standard models featured a simple body coloured front grille, earning it the nickname 'Ironbar'. Since this version cost almost the same as the better equipped Deluxe it sold poorly and is very rare today. Options included heater and bench seat with column gearchange. Super versions of the estates offered the option of simulated wood side and tailgate trim. In an early example of product placement many examples of the brand new Cortina featured as "Glamcabs" in the comedy film Carry On Cabby.
There were two main variations of the Mark 1. The Mark 1a possessed elliptical front side-lights, whereas the Mark 1b had a re-designed front grille incorporating the more rectangular side-light and indicator units. A notable variant was the Ford Cortina Lotus.
The Cortina was launched a few weeks before the London Motor Show of October 1962 with a 1198 cc 3-bearing engine, which was an enlarged version of the 997 cc engine then fitted in the Ford Anglia. A few months later, in January 1963, the Cortina Super was announced with a 5-bearing 1498 cc engine. Versions of the larger engine found their way into subsequent variations, including the Cortina GT which appeared in Spring 1963 with lowered suspension and engine tuned to give a claimed output of 78 bhp (58 kW; 79 PS) ahead of the 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS) claimed for the Cortina 1500 Super. The engines used across the Mark I range were of identical design, differing only in capacity and setup. The formula used was a four-cylinder pushrod (Over Head Valve) design that came to be known as the "pre-crossflow" version as both inlet and exhaust ports were located on the same side of the head. The most powerful version of this engine (used in the GT Cortina) was 1498 cc (1500) and produced 78 bhp (58 kW). This engine contained a different camshaft profile, a different cast of head featuring larger ports, tubular exhaust headers and a Weber double barrel carburettor.
Advertising of the revised version, which appeared at the London Motor Show in October 1964, made much of the newly introduced "Aeroflow" through-flow ventilation, evidenced by the extractor vents on the rear pillars. A subsequent test on a warm day involving the four different Cortina models manufactured between 1964 and 1979 determined that the air delivery from the simple eyeball outlets on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was actually greater than that on the Mark II, the Mark III or the Mark IV. The dashboard, instruments and controls were revised, for a the second time, having already been reworked in October 1963 when round instruments replaced the strip speedometer with which the car had been launched: twelve years later, however, the painted steel dashboard, its "knobs scattered all over the place and its heater controls stuck underneath as a very obvious afterthought" on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was felt to have aged much less well than the car's ventilation system. It was also in 1964 that front disc brakes became standard across the range.
Ford Cortina Lotus was offered only as a two-door saloon all in white with a contrasting green side flash down each flank. It had a unique 1557 cc twin-cam engine by Lotus, but based on the Cortina's Kent OHV engine. Aluminium was used for some body panels. For a certain time, it also had a unique A-frame rear suspension, but this proved fragile and the model soon reverted to the standard Cortina semi-elliptic rear end.
Production 1962–1966 933,143 units
Ford Dagenham assembly plant(Dagenham, Essex, England) Ford Lio Ho (Chungli City,Taoyuan, Taiwan)
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1962–1975 Campbellfield, Victoria, Australia Lower Hutt, New Zealand Ulsan, South Korea
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door saloon/4-door saloon/5-door estate
3-speed manual, 4-speed manual all-synchromesh Automatic
98 in (2,489 mm)
Length 168.25 in (4,274 mm) (saloon) 168.5 in (4,280 mm) (estate)
Width 62.5 in (1,588 mm)
Height 56.5 in (1,435 mm) (saloon) 57.75 in (1,467 mm) (estate)
1,736 lb (787 kg) (De Luxe) 2,072 lb (940 kg) (Estate)