Ford Cortina Mk1 (1962 – 1966) Review

Ford Cortina Mk1 (1962 – 1966) At A Glance

+Good to drive, easily tuned, lots of classic car kudos

-Rust should be sorted on the survivors, but if not...

Ford's fortunes took an upward tangent with the launch of the Cortina in 1962. It was the mid-sized car that caught the mood of the moment, fitting families and fleet users better than any other car in its day. Its new name was designed to evoke thoughts of glamorous European locations (having been named after the 1960 Winter Olympics resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo), and added to the car’s all-round appeal, but it could have so easily been much less appealing.

Throughout its development programme, Project Archbishop was going to be called Consul-225, a clear link with the existing cars in the range, but right at the last moment (and during pre-launch press photography), the decision was made to go with the Italian name – thereby also allowing Ford to make the car more saleable in European markets.

The first thing that struck everyone in the market was that the Cortina was just what they needed, and although the original cars had a starkness about them that Ford would move away from in later years, there was masses of room inside, it was cheap to buy, and looked simple to service. The original 1200 was powered by a 1197cc three-bearing version of the 1-litre Kent engine found under the bonnet of the 105E Anglia. This revvy little number had already proved popular with Anglia owners, and was instrumental in its success, and it was bound to have the same effect on the Cortina market.

Adding to the range’s appeal, the Cortina Super was added to the range in January 1963. The big change was the arrival of the five-bearing 1499cc engine power unit, which developed 60bhp. Performance was significantly increased as a result, and aspirational buyers now had the option of spending more money at their Ford dealership. Following on from that came the Cortina GT – basically a Super with lowered suspension – and a 78bhp engine, arguably the first in a long line of hot Ford saloons that would keep the public entertained for years.

Keeping with Ford’s mantra of continual improvement, a facelifted version of the Cortina was introduced at the London Motor Show in October 1964, and featured a number of notable improvements. The main innovation was its Airflow ventilation system, which might now seem like an odd item to promote at a car launch, but with its ability to refresh the entire interior in under under a minute, it’s made an important contribution to overall driver safety. Beyond that, the car received a new dashboard, instruments and controls, which were engineered to give the car a less stark interior as well as improve ergonomics. Finally, front disc brakes were added – another big improvement. It was in this form that the Mk1 Cortina saw out its days, and in doing so, it threatened to take the top seller’s spot in the UK from the BMC 1100/1300.

Ask Honest John

I would like to buy an affordable older carburettor equipped car - what do you suggest?

"I would like to buy an affordable older carburettor equipped car that isn't a Morris Minor (I've done them to death). It doesn't have to have vivid performance but like the Minor must have reasonable spare parts availability and reasonable economy. What do you suggest?"
There are plenty of choices, but if your main concern is parts supply then (assuming you're UK based) it's probably easiest to go with a British classic such as a Mini, MGB and most things with a Triumph badge on. Which car is best for you will depend on what your total budget is and how you plan to use it - if you're moving people or things about, then a Ford Cortina might suit you, alternatively, if it's just you then an MG BGT is a good everyday driver.
Answered by Keith Moody

Can you recommend a classic car for a 17-year-old driver?

"I am just about to come into my final year before my GCSEs, after which I will be entering VI Form and hopefully be learning how to drive as I am September-born. I live about 25 miles away from the school itself in Southampton, and I would like to own a good first classic car, as no modern cars with the addition of expensive pieces of plastic and excessive safety features take my eye. The main reason for a classic is the availability of spare parts, owners clubs and also the endless books of advice and easy maintenance and tuneability. I’ve had a look at some classic cars already (Triumph Dolomite Sprint, Ford Capri, Ford Cortina, Mini) but I have reached a unified stuck end, to which my father pointed me to you, who I have read most weekends on in the DT! I would like to know if you recommend any classic cars that are reliable, good-looking and easy to tune. I’m willing to spend up to about £1750-£1900 on the car itself, so hopefully your assistance would be dearly needed!"
First of all you can forget tuning anything otherwise you will be facing insurance premiums of £10,000 or more a year. The best way in is probably a Morris Minor. There's a huge club giving excellent advice, organising big club events, and all the bits you could ever need. Alternatively a Triumph Herald, if you can find one that isn't rotted out. Austin A35s have gone dear because of their potential for historic racing. First check with classic car insurers such as to find out if they will take a 17-year-old on an agreed value limited mileage classic car policy.
Answered by Honest John
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