Curbside Classic: Ford Cortina MK3 – Cortinas In The Hood

We left Puerto Rico and arrived to El Salvador in August ’76; behind us was a land of American land yachts and Beetles, ahead one filled with Japanese econo sedans and utilitarian trucks and pickups. What additional surprises would this land offer to this, car obsessed kid?

Some acquaintances of father allowed us to stay a short while in a small apartment complex. After a few days of hotel stay in hectic downtown San Salvador, the temporary move to the upper class neighborhood was a welcomed change. So, what kind of Fords were these in the apartment building’s parking area? This was no Galaxie, nor Fairlane; it was something quite different.

Cortinas? What an odd name, in Spanish that is. I had, at my tender age of 5, come to realize that not all Fords were created the same; this was no imposing LTD, nor an undernourished Pinto. What kind of parallel reality had I arrived to? As the weeks passed by the occasional Taunus also appeared, as well as the Mazda derived Courier. Lacking internet and car magazines back in ’76, it would take me years to find out why these non-Detroiters existed.

(“More car in those wheels” – local newspaper advert)

I had memories riding a proper American Ford back in Puerto Rico; a Galaxie mom drove for a few days, and me sliding from side to side in the front bench. It seemed clear to me the Cortina would fail that particular kiddie test. And going back to that name; Cortina, curtains in Spanish, my kid-self failing to grasp it was probably Italian in origin. Meaning aside, it had a nice ring and flowed when uttered. Yes, a car could be a cortina, I agreed in the end.

The car seemed more sensibly sized than American Fords. Was it a looker? Kind of. It certainly was broughamy, but in a more sedate way. The usual American excesses had gone through a European diet, nothing to be too excited about for this kid in love with sports cars, but still an ok presentation. Very spirit of the times; it would have worked rather well with a polyester suit had I been a young executive.

The Cortinas carved a distinctive shape in Salvadorian traffic, that was for sure. Against the dominant Japanese sedans, the car looked more imposing and had a bit of a premium air (not hard to do against a sea of Publicas and Sunnys). The model was one of the most common European offerings in local traffic, and with the V6 option, it was a relative “scorcher” against the Japanese weaklings. Probably a factor in some purchases.

Cortinas have been covered at CC a few times, and I had been in active search of one since joining the site earlier this year. I hadn’t seen one in ages, a result of Ford pulling out of the market during the Civil War and making spare parts awfully rare. To my luck, three samples appeared one after the other in the space of two weeks; two forlorn ones, and the much cleaner one that opens this post.

So, have I missed you Mr. Cortina? To be honest, I didn’t know of my fondness until I stopped seeing you on the roads. Rarity makes for appreciation, you know? Where have you been, you old quintessential UK Ford? Well, as the photos show, time hasn’t been kind to you. Has it?

And to think of it, I do have a connection with you Mr., as I found years later my family’s Pony pickup had inherited some Cortina bits on its chassis. Who would have thought you would provide the basis for Korea’s car making ascent?

As Roger Carr’s post explains, the model was a defining one for Ford’s UK ops, offering an array of options that covered a large swath of the market. With its coke-bottle styling, and its mix of sporty and luxury themes, the car was oh-so-70’s in ways the public couldn’t get enough of. The model had a successful mix of attractive yet-not-daring styling, with luxury and comfort in a sensibly priced and sized package.

Like Camrys or Impalas, the model suffered some by becoming too ubiquitous. Ford’s known and tried winning mix of lux and suggested sportiness sounds cynically easy to deride, but if it were that easy, wouldn’t all carmakers have an endless stream of hits? Chance, work, money, talent, dealer numbers; all conflate to make or break with that inevitable variant, the public. And aren’t we an unpredictable lot? Just when a carmaker releases that over-clinicked Malibu, we’ve moved onto gas guzzling SUVs (and kept to our Camry love as well).

“Do you like shooting abandoned cars?” The man told me as I took pics of this “bumblebee” Cortina. “Sure I do! Is the Cortina yours?” He approached the edge of his home’s porch. “Nope, not at all… it’s been sitting there for about 4 years, it belongs to a lady up the street.” I looked to where he was pointing, a low-middle-class house further away. This Cortina was a long way from the upscale neighborhood where I had discovered the model in my youth, the usual fate of non-too-premium offerings.

And talking about fading premium qualities, the “bumblebee” Cortina lost its vinyl top long ago, acquiring this peculiar and unattractive paint job in compensation. The exaggerated hips, particularly on the 4-door, are an acquired taste that work better in subdued form on Ford’s own Taunus. Talking about which, and based purely on CC Cohort evidence, the Taunus appears more often than Cortinas. Does the Taunus has more love? Or better German assembly?

So, have I missed you Mr. Cortina? Yes I’ve, even in broken down and tattered state. So glad to have found you. So glad you’re still part of the neighborhood, any neighborhood.

More on the Cortina:

Carshow Classic: 1975 Ford Cortina The Swiss Army Knife Car – Roger Carr

The Hyundai Origin Myth Revealed: There’s a Ford in Your Pony – David Saunders

COAL: Hyundai Pony Pickup – A House Divided; Or How Split Partners Push Forward