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Ford Cortina Mk4 and 80 (1976 - 1982)

Last updated 18 January 2014

The archetypal 1970s family saloon; everyone had one
Everyone remembers the rust and those void bushes

Introduction

The biggest step forward for the fourth-generation Cortina was a that it finally saw the convergence of the German Taunus and the British Cortina. No longer were these two separate ranges, but merely the same cars carrying different badges. The arrival of the Mk4 was also significant because it meant that UK Ford dealers would now be able to sell Cortinas built overseas – a consideration that would take on considerable significance as Dagenham became increasingly blighted by industrial unrest during the mid-’70s.

As for the car itself, although the Mk4 was a much more more conventional design than its predecessor, and in terms of technology amounted to little more than a rebody of the outgoing Mk3 – so that meant a retention of that car’s running gear and suspension layout, and a retention of the final model’s dashboard and revised seating position. So, for existing Cortina owners, driving a Mk4 would feel very familiar indeed, albeit with a much nicer view out, thanks to a 15 per cent greater glass area. On the outside, Uwe Bahnsen’s smart new clothes were very much of the moment, and rendered the Mk3 Coke bottle immediately redundant – a familiar phenomenon in short life span cars.

Interestingly, although the ’76 Taunus hit the marketplace in February of that year, it wasn’t until September before the Cortina Mk4 made it to the UK showrooms. The main innovation for this model was the arrival of the Cologne V6 in 2.3-litre form, further pushing the Cortina upmarket. Although it was incredibly smooth and refined the Cortina 2.3 wasn’t a huge success, as with 114bhp on tap is wasn’t significantly quicker than the 2.0-litre car in ‘S’ form – and it was far less economical. As before, the Cortina was offered in a wide variety of trim levels – base, L, GL, S and Ghia. The new top model was a nod to Ford’s outright purchase of the Italian design house, and within a couple of years, the wood ‘n’ velour model would be rolled out across the entire range.

In September 1979, the final Cortina incarnation was released – and although it’s hard to classify it as a facelift or a rebody (as it was a bit of both), the Cortina 80 represented a useful improvement over the car it replaced. The improvements were plentiful – revised head- and tail lamps, wraparound indicators and an aerofoil grille were the main points of interest on the outside. But the new roof with larger windows – although subtle to look at – really made the interior an airier place to spend time. Inside, trim and equipment levels were improved, as was the ride quality. Most importantly, though, for future Cortina fans, these were properly rustproofed…

These final cars could be described as the ultimate Cortina variations, and were a true proponent of Ford’s model policy of short production runs and regular updates. And even though the opposition had caught up and overtaken the Cortina – most notably the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 – it remained a fleet and family car favourite, and firmly ensconced in the hearts of British car buyers. The final Crusader special edition proved hugely popular, and with its two-tone paint and Ghia style trim, it was the one that buyers wanted in the run up to the introduction of the radical new Sierra.

Next: Specifications
 

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