Gone but not forgotten – The Lotus Cortina Mk I

Posted: May 25, 2012 by The Car Spy in Auctions, Classic Cars, For Sale, Ford, Lotus
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Fifty years ago Ford launched a car that they thought would take away some of the market share that BMC were stealing with their revolutionary Mini. Instead their brand-new ‘Consul Cortina’ created a marketplace all of its own which has pretty much endured to this day in the form of the current Mondeo and the multitude of similar-sized cars from most of the world’s manufacturers – all chasing the same market segment.

Their Cortina (still not sure why they insisted on using the ‘Consul’ moniker) appealed to the 2+2 family of post-war Britain that were hungry to escape the dark past of two world wars and were ravenously consuming the renaissance in music and design that was taking place during the 1960’s. Think Beatles, Mary Quant, Conran and the beautiful E-Type Jaguar as part of a tidal wave of newness that knocked the population off its feet.

The Cortina offered the family man in 1962 a car with clean, modern lines, (relatively) willing engines and performance for a reasonable amount of his hard-earned Pounds, Shillings and Pence – ‘new’ money didn’t come along along until the early 70’s. But there was more to come.

Ford had created a GT version of the Cortina with lowered suspension and – wait for it – 78 BHP over the standard 1500cc engined car which produced a weedy-sounding 60 BHP. Today of course we would expect more power from a sit-on lawnmower but in those days there were very few road cars that would achieve more than 100 BHP. Anything on offer to the general public producing more than that would have fallen very much into the ‘sports car’ category and was often far too expensive for ordinary folk. The Cortina did indeed put a smile on Family Guy’s face.

I had an uncle who once owned a Cortina GT and he drove it hard and fast. I blame that particular car for the love affair I developed later on in life for all things Ford including a Cortina 1600E, a 3.0S Capri in Daytona Yellow and a Scorpio Cosworth (sigh).

Four individuals were the catalyst for the birth of the Lotus Cortina – Colin Chapman, Harry Mundy, Walter Hayes and Keith Duckworth.

Colin Chapman owned Lotus with all of their chassis engineering expertise; Harry Mundy was an engine designer who joined Lotus from Coventry-Climax; Walter Hayes was head-honcho at Ford and Keith Duckworth a highly talented engine tuner (ex-Cosworth).

The four men created the cocktail of ingredients that created a true ‘sports saloon’ that distanced itself from its cousin the Cortina GT and its nearest rival the Mini Cooper. Press reviews were full of praise for the car’s handling and road-holding capabilities comparing it to the track-day Lotus 7 at the time.

On the track the Lotus Cortina inevitably blew everything else into the weeds and quickly became THE car to beat. The Ford Cortina-Lotus (as Ford preferred) is now firmly rooted in the folklore of saloon car racing and will still often make an appearance at classic car racing events today.

There was a simplicity in the approach that Ford took in the overall look of the car that is tasteful and pleasing to the eye. No fancy spoilers or wide arches just quarter-size bumpers, 5.5″ Wheels, Lotus badges and any colour you wanted as long as it was white with a green stripe. However, there is a story that one customer insisted on a blue stripe because he was superstitious about the colour green!

Today most Lotus Cortinas still running would have received an enormous amount of loving attention (and expense) to keep them on the road and their rarity value means that they are achieving high prices when they change hands. Figures in excess of £30000 would be readily paid for cars in top condition and concours examples could write their own cheques.

The forthcoming Baron’s auction on the 28th-29th May happens to feature a Lotus Cortina which has been described as follows:-

“This 1965 registered, Airflow model, Lotus Cortina,  underwent a full restoration in 2008/2009 meaning that GRO 28C is in very good order throughout. The car was produced in July of 1964 but was not sold and registered until March of 1965, Originally an “A frame” car, which was later converted to the more popular leaf spring set up, when used for group 2 historic rallying by the Ecurie Ten team from 1990.  Among the car’s six previous registered owners are the above mentioned Ecurie Ten team and well known and well respected  motoring journalist, Richard Hudson Evans. This car is known to the Lotus Cortina Register.”

The guide price is quoted as £30000 to £40000.

Click here for further details of the car that has been entered plus details of the auction

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