This particular COAL came into my ownership in a somewhat strange story. My best friend’s mother was a very hard-working librarian who was raising three children pretty much on her own. In that sort of situation a little solid reliability is a valued commodity, which helps explain her 1964 VW Beetle family car chugging on through our high school years. In fact, this quality of reliability can be taken for granted, so when my friend urged his mom to buy another car around 1969, the idea of another VW did not seem like a good one. There was obviously more to life than just getting there, and (at least by the automotive magazines) there were more modern vehicles that promised to make those journeys a little more memorable. As far as my friend’s family was concerned this would prove to be very true.
The vehicle of choice was a two-door red Fort Cortina GT: 2,180 lbs, 88 hp from its 1600 cc “Kent” ohv four, four-speed standard transmission and radial tires. The Ford salesmen discouraged them from special ordering this car and encouraged the purchase of a four-door Torino. Undeterred, they proudly took delivery of a vehicle very much like the one pictured at the top (the wheels were not anywhere near as stylish).
Cortina GT Mk2 posted at the CC Cohort by Jim T
About a week after they took delivery, my friend kindly let me test drive it–and after I figured out the four- speed (I had watched my father row the four-speed column shift on his two-stroke Saab, so I transposed it to the floor) I found it to be a really nice ride. Things looked good for them; library hours freed up the vehicle for my friend’s after school use, and the heater was a lot better than the VW’s.
The next 20 months or so encapsulated what the British Auto industry had to contend with. Apparently it was one of many such sagas, a somewhat primordial class action suit by Cortina owners that percolated through the U.S. legal system later. I was on the periphery of nearly all of this, hearing mostly the disappointment from all of them when, as his mom pithily put it (in a turn of phrase bespeaking the benefit of a Wellesley education), “It cost (me) $300 every time it left the driveway”.
By the time I came into possession of it, the towing and repairs were being done by a patient nearby neighborhood mechanic (the aforementioned Angelo). With the inexplicable failure of the clutch (at less than 40K miles) his mom decided memorable was not enough and besides, she needed to get to work. As the trade-in value was $400 “as is”, my father and I made a virtue out of our ignorance and bought it, also paying the towing charge.
My ownership was nowhere near as exciting.The clutch problem turned out to be a ruptured hydraulic line, fixable by a simple part and very thin arms. For a few weeks I had delusions of somehow setting it up as a sports car and even sprung for a rear anti-sway bar from JC Whitney (don’t ask!). But the actual costs of doing much, my economic circumstance and, frankly, my boring style of driving soon disabused me of any of these notions. I did put my first stereo in it (8 track tape deck, for $19.95) which was a lot better than AM radio. The Cortina probably deserved a more exciting owner–I sold it about two years later for what I paid, and changed over to a far more pedestrian vehicle.
When these were new, the 3 Ford dealers within 30-45 from my home didn’t want to know about the Cortina, so all I knew about them was from car magazines. But these sparked my interest, an interest that would extend to the Capri. Of course, it didn’t hurt that these Cortinas looked like “junior-sized” Falcons….another favorite car.
I would own one of these whichever generation (an early 60s or a later 60s, like this one) and would probably upgrade the engine as icing on the cake.
These did a lot better in Canada, sold by L-M dealers here. I haven’t heard much bad about these, at least as far as British cars in general went. The real turds were the coke-bottle Mark III Cortinas, which were flogged here as late as 1973. The only good thing to say about those was that weren’t as bad as the Firenza, which isn’t saying much.
The main downside with these is the same caveat that applies to most captive imports. They are brought in to temporarily plug a hole in a given market segment, then unceremoniously dumped when they are no longer viable. The parts supply dries up and the resale value tanks, leaving a lot of POed owners. Ford is especially good at this game, doing it from the ’50s (Prefect, Consul, Anglia, Zephyr, Taunus et al) , the 60s and 70s (Cortina, Capri) right up to recent memory (Merkurs and Australian Capri).
Good commentary roger628, you nailed it precisely.
“The main downside with these is the same caveat that applies to most captive imports. They are brought in to temporarily plug a hole in a given market segment, then unceremoniously dumped when they are no longer viable. The parts supply dries up and the resale value tanks, leaving a lot of POed owners.”
Haven’t seen one of these on the street in a dog’s age.
Yup, there were quite a few of these in Canada. In 1969, my Mom purchased a (non-GT) example to replace our 1965 Envoy Epic. She had never quite mastered the Epic’s floor-mounted manual transmission (ditto with the earlier 1960 Dauphine), so this one had to have an automatic transmission. I learned to drive on this car, and I thought it was an attractive package, looking rather nice in silver with an off-white vinyl interior.
But the shine soon wore off, quite literally. The metallic silver paint quickly faded to matte silver, no matter how often I waxed the darned thing. Little did I know then that the matte silver look would become trendy some 40 years later.
The sad thing is, what I remember most about the car was how difficult it was to start anytime it rained. It would require long minutes of cranking, a long pause, more cranking, repeat… until it eventually came to life – maybe. I just can’t figure out how these cars ever started in rainy England, where they were built.
My Mom eventually got fed up and traded it in for a 1973 Dodge Dart.
They also did it with the Fiesta in the late ’70s.
Fords didn’t start in England either. Hence how many people bought Datsun Sunnys aka B210s when they first started coming over.
British Fords were notorious for bad starting, going all the way back to the sidevalves- I think it was a combination of the distributor placement allowing for condensation under the hood and a bit of carb icing for good measure. Pinto engined cars and Transits were much better on this front though.
My favourite Cortina, probably helped by the fact I had the Matchbox GT (with press-own steering!) when I was a kid. One of my teachers at school had a 4-door 1600E in deep purple.
I never realized how much the 2 door Cortina resembles the Datsun 510 of the same era… or is it the other way around? Those salesmen were probably trying to do her a favor by discouraging that purchase!
You think the 510 was a knockoff, look at what Rootes did.
Though a good car it looked very dated by the late 70s compared to Ford and Vauxhall opposition. Rootes certainly had their money’s worth from it as there were so many badge engineered versions,the last ones in the UK were sold as Chrysler Hunters
The Mk2 Cortina did come before the 510 Bluebird, but only by about nine months. However, except for the front end, the second-generation Cortina’s styling owes a lot to the bigger Consul Corsair, which arrived about two years earlier.
The 510 sedan has some similarity to the Fords in the greenhouse (accentuated by having the ventilation exits where the sail panels meet the body side), but I don’t see much Cortina/Corsair resemblance in the body or detailing.
Mr K loved his 02 BMW, but whenever I see a 510 I think Fiat 124.
Since the 124 only arrived a year before the 510 Bluebird, any resemblance there is almost certainly coincidental. Not enough time otherwise.
my experience is that when salesmen discourage a sale, it’s because they feel there is a chance to “up-sell” into a more expensive car….and bigger commission. I’ve only had once where a very principled dealer/salesman told me I didn’t really want to trade my 2 year old Pinto for a brand new Fairmont. His idea being that I “needed” to trade my cars on a 3 year schedule.
Yes in my experience too…. But I was thinking that possibly those salesmen had some deeper insight about the nature of that car!
I recently leased a small car for driving around the city, and the shopping experience was dreadful. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, yet 80% of the salesmen I met steered me toward something that was more money-for him, of course. I got to the point where I said, “If I am ever offered anything I don’t ask for, I walk.” On several occasions I did just that. The stealership I eventually settled on had, get this, a $650 “documentation fee,” by far the highest I have ever seen, but they quickly waived it when I told them I wouldn’t pay it. I told them I would pay what was on the website, but I would guess most stealerships are upselling $1000 in snake oil over the MSRP, or more. I just won’t pay it.
The Cortina had a reputation as a reliable car in the UK and was a best seller for many years.My 2nd boyfriend had a silver 1600E Mk2(with peeling silver paint).My brother had a gold 1600E,they seemed more rust resistant than the Mk1 & Mk3.
One of the great mysteries. How do brands that have such a great rep in their home markets (think Peugeot, VW-Audi) become steaming piles when exported to the big PX? I don’t doubt what you’re saying for a minute, Gem. All I know as these, and others of their ilk, didn’t like -40 on the prairies too much. Then again, neither did my mom’s ’62 Corvair.
I think we can file that question with what happened to Jimmy Hoffa and were do flies go in winter
Here is my take on it, coming from someone who has spent a fair bit of time in Europe. In Europe, a car is a symbol of what you are, especially in Germany, and there are a lot of very nice rides in Germany, and mostly very new. What we would call a “repair” for an Audi, a German would call “maintenance.” Japanese cars are simply not cool in Western Europe. Finally, incomes in Western Europe are high, so lots of nice cars.
The conditions in Canada are, ahem, rather different than in Germany, as is the skill level of the mechanics.
WRT to “tuning by Lotus” part of the title. When I first spotted it, I was expecting to see a real Lotus Cortina. The export GT was strictly a trim option, think UK Fairlane GT. Lotus had nothing to do with these.
There was a real Lotus version above this, very capable, apparently, and a little big for it’s britches price-wise, too. But with a genuine DOHC Lotus head, mind you!
Lots of money needed to buy a Lotus Cortina today,make sure it’s not a Sexton Blake if you’re buying.
Was a time when the Lotus Cortina hardcore wouldn’t give the Mk2 the time of day because it was built at Dagenham. Was a better car for it, but not as ‘pure’. If you wanted even more hair on your Mk2 chest, there was also the Savage 3 litre.
Sounds a bit like the Shelby Mustang boys in late ’67, when the bean counters in Dearborn shut down the original plant at LAX, and subbed out the conversions to A.O. Smith in the Detroit area. Hasn’t seemed to hurt the values much, though.
What’s a Sexton Blake?????
Fake. Think Shelby clones and you get the picture.
Cockney rhyming slang
And here I was both an avid “Sweeney” and “Minder” fan, and never heard that one.
You didn’t have a Scooby.
My scoutmaster had a 69 wagon that took our small scout troop on several adventures. I remember really liking the car, and still consider it one of the best looking small cars of the 60s.
It did not stand up well, however. I remember a leaky hydraulic clutch that required regular filling, faded paint, a driver’s wiper arm that snapped off, as did the shifter, requiring gear shifts with Vice Grip pliers. This was in 1971 when the Cortina was 2 years old. When we took a trip to Chicago, we took his wife’s 66 Dart because the Cortina wasn’t up to the task.
Even after all that, I still like Cortinas of this generation. Not that it matters, since they are long-extinct in the midwest.
I think the reasons for why a car can have a great rep on it’s home market and be a steaming pile of poo when sold elsewhere are:
The roads and/or climates can be different in every market. Here in the ‘states you can usually tell when you cross the border between states while on an interstate highway….or even 1 county and another within a state. Cars that may have adequate heat/ventilation in Hawaii may be miserable in Alaska…or even Michigan.
Cars transported longish distances can “suffer” damage in transit. In the 70s, Italian sedans delivered to the U.K. always drove worse than when in Italy. It turned out car transporters were not getting the cars secured on the trucks. As a consequence, the cars bounced on the trucks for the trip from Italy to the U.K.
Notice cars from Sweden/Norway did okay overseas (they were developed for extreme climates) while cars from Italy…not so much. Oddly, British cars, built for a humid climate, had crappy electrical systems.
I suspect Lucas’ monopoly supply position within the UK had something to do with British cars’ iffy electrics.
Front and rear styling is similar to the 1st. AMC Hornets.
I had a Cortina of this year in the yearly 70s, but it had the automatic transmission. Slow off the line but once up to speed it went ok. That transmission didn’t seem to have a torque converter as it didn’t “spool” up like American autos and was very sluggish from dead stop. But it got 30mpg which for the time was just great. The generator went out in it and it was so expensive to replace on a college budget; I used a battery charger every night and made sure I didn’t drive after dark. It also ate starters; chewed up the gear on the front of the starter, replaced that 3 or 4 times till got tired of that and traded for a junk yard special 1960 ford. I really liked the handling, it was much better then any of the American cars of the time.
Only very early MK2 Cortinas had any Lotus imput mainly because Lotus moved on to Vauxhall OHC engines, but in general MK2 Cortinas had a good rep the few things that go wrong are easily repaired as the story tells selling an otherwise sound car because of a minor hydraulic leak speaks of poor advise and too much money.
These can be souped up to perform quite well even using the Kent motor stiffer suspension and sway bars help the handling and they were a boyracer favourite here back in the day, and when you do finally wrap it around a tree the entire powertrain can be bolted into the smaller lighter Anglia/Escort and the fun continues.
The plastic clutch hose melted to the exhaust header on mine. Early seventies you could still get parts from the Ford dealer; I also found out what an ‘OSI’ catalog supplement was all about. Because almost everything was in the Obsolete, Superseded, or Interchange part of the book. Parts guy would look up and find the number for the hose, there would be an asterisk to inform us to look in the ‘OSI’ book.
I found a guy on the West side of Detroit that worked parts in a Ford Dealer and he had lots better prices. He had so much, I think he just bought all the Cortina parts for ten cents on the dollar and wasn’t sneaking them out the back door. Got the complete power brake booster for $20 new in the box. That kind of stuff.
Mechanically, I was in over my head at 19 with a car like this. Now, with having been thru a real factory training program and the wonders of the internet making formerly unfixable problems, fixable, I could actually keep it on the road and trust it to get home.