The Ford Cortina is arguably one of the most important cars built by the company. It was introduced in 1962 as a family car, and it was the company’s best-selling car throughout the 1970s in Britain. The car’s popularity here was no less, and it still remains an iconic classic today.
The car was produced through five generations from Mark 1 to Mark V, with production ending in 1982. It would be replaced by the Mazda-based Ford Telstar. The first-generation Ford Cortina, the Mark I, was designed from the onset as a car that could be mass-produced with little cost and effort, and this philosophy held true for most of the car’s production life. It was popular for its performance in the Armstrong 500 races and Bathurst performance, where the GT model took first place in 1963 and 1964, and the locally made GT500 won first place in 1965.
The second-generation Mark II was equally successful with its 5 models: the Cortina 220, 240, 440, GT, and the L, which was the top-end luxury model. The GT was the most unique one though, with its bumperettes at the front and rear. The third-generation Mark III was introduced as the TC Cortina in 1971. It also came with the brand new cross-flow engines. The engine options were a 1600cc cross-flow and a 2000cc single overhead cam, 4-cylinder engine. The cross-flow engine was discontinued two years later.
In 1974, the TD Cortina was introduced with L, XL, and XLE trims. These cars used single round headlights at first for 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder models. This changed with the 1976 facelift that introduced rectangular headlights. The four-generation Mark IV was introduced in 1977 with the TE Cortina nameplate. The TE had a 2.0L Pinto engine with 4-speed manual shifts in its early models. In 1980, 6-cylinder alloy engines would be introduced. The exterior design of the car and the dash were also revised.
The final-generation Mark V was introduced in 1980 with the nameplate TF Cortina. Local models were slightly different from other models of the Mark V Ford Cortina in their exterior look. For example, the bumpers were more pronounced with the TF, and the numberplate was positioned below the front bumper. From the car’s introduction in 1962 to its discontinuation in 1982, it remained the most popular large family car and best-selling car in Britain.
The Ford Cortina was instantly liked by the public throughout its five generations, despite its changes from one generation to another. While the first two generations had the Ford Cortina name, the forthcoming generation would be designated TC, TD, TE, and TF. From TC onwards, Ford was using the 200 and 250ci 6-cylinder engines from the Ford Falcon for its Cortina. One of the first big changes for the Ford Cortina drivetrain was the introduction of cross-flow head versions of the 4.1L and 3.3L engines. The engines got larger, and the body had to be made larger as well to accommodate these changes. The modifications on the car included reinforced centre pillar and side rails and a tubular cross-member support.
The new cross-flow engines and later revised engines of the Ford Cortina offered plenty of power to tap, but for the most part, they were limited by the chassis dynamics. The heavy load in front caused the car to understeer to some extent, making handling difficult. Nevertheless, the issue was slowly sorted out with each generation, and the popularity of the car proves that the handling issues were not much of an obstacle in the first place.
Through various generations, the Ford Cortina has been available in various trim levels with each level corresponding to different standard and optional equipment. For example, the first-generation Ford Cortina had a top-end L model that had luxury features at the time like wood panelling on the doors and dashboards. The floor was covered with moulded rubber or pile carpets, cigarette lighter, windscreen washer, vanity mirror, and foam rubber seat cushions at the rear.
The Ford Cortina had a fair amount of competitors in the large family car market, which included models like the Opel Kadett, Renault Dauphine, and various Toyota and Datsun models. Nevertheless, the Cortina dominated its competition throughout its production life and even outshone a rival from Ford Germany. In fact, its popularity and power gave way to the Ford Motorsport program that eventually got Lotus involved and ended with the production of another legend, the Lotus Cortina. The Ford Cortina beat the competition in almost every way; it was cheaper, faster, bigger, and more fuel-economical than most of its competitors throughout its life.