An even better Ford Cortina GT

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My respect for the Ford Cortina GT must have been apparent from the article about it which was published in the December 1964 Motor Sport. The car is notably dependable and economical and possesses excellent performance. The smooth 5-bearing engine will run unconcernedly to 6,000 – 7,000 r.p.m. (although there is not much point in habitually taking it beyond its peak speed of 5,200 r.p.m., which shows how much it has in hand), there is a good gearbox and disc front brakes. The ride and road-holding are less palatable aspects of what is, after all, a competitively-priced family-saloon.

For 1965 two notable improvements and a number of worthwhile minor changes were introduced. The rear axle is now located by radius arms, which has materially improved the backseat ride, although the suspension is still too lively, and a very efficient Aeroflow ventilation system has been added, which gives excellent control of interior hot or cold air and changes the atmosphere within the car every 40 sec. by means of rear extractor vents. In addition, the facia has been tidied-up, with four small central dials recording fuel-tank contents, battery charge, oil pressure and temperature, a Leston dished wood-rim steering wheel with three drilled alloy spokes replaces the former undistinguished wheel (but tends to obscure one’s view of the petrol gauge), and a r.h. stalk control has been substituted for the specialised dual-levers for lamps and turn-indicators which some drivers disliked.

I was recently able to sample this latest 4-door Ford Cortina GT. It was nice to re-make acquaintance with a car which I had enjoyed so much throughout last year, the more so as the improvements are very apparent. The improved ride has already been mentioned. The new ventilating system works extremely well and has the great merit of never calling for an open quarterlight. Apart from a dribble of cold-air past the driver’s swivelling facia vent when its control knob was in the “off” position, creating an unwanted draught, as the vents themselves have no blanking off position, the system worked splendidly. The normal twin quadrant controls vary the level, temperature and extent of the heat flow, aided when necessary by a 2-speed blower which is quiet at its slow-speed setting. Driver and passenger have separate knobs for controlling the flow from the aforesaid universally-swivelling vents, giving two volumes of cold air and one of warm air, although to promote the latter, the blower may be required in cold weather or at low speeds. This new heating and ventilating system would be a great achievement in an expensive car; in one costing less than £781 it is revolutionary.

Turning to the other aspects of the improved Cortina GT, the stalk control is effective, but as it moves in an arc to operate the turn-indicators the horn-push on its extremity is more elusive than formerly. Moving the stalk up and down provides for changing from full to dipped headlamps beam, but there is the disadvantage, not existing in the former arrangement, that both side and headlamps have first to be selected from a facia flick-switch. However, pulling the new control inwards provides for daylight lamps-flashing.

The clear-reading hooded speedometer and tachometer are as before, but instrument lighting can be switched off with a flick-switch under the facia. The new steering wheel is pleasant to handle in spite of a rim which on first acquaintance seems too thick, but the ends of the spokes are a bit sharp to ungloved fingers. The steering seems to have been improved, although control is still reminiscent of stepping along a high-wire. The seats are also more comfortable with more resilient cushions. The useful lidded cubby-hole, under-facia shelf and lidded glove box between the front seats are retained. The bonnet was much easier to open than on the car I drove last year but the lid of the boot could not be closed quite as quietly. The “hot water bottle” containing the screen-washers’ fluid was the exact opposite of its appearance, as, although it is on the exhaust-manifold side of the engine compartment, the liquid in it froze all too easily right back to the control button (which is some way below the wipers’ flick-switch, whereas formerly a single control sufficed)—which suggests that it should be stiffly laced with FoMoCo anti-freeze in cold weather. Ford ME-1163B anti-freeze, put in last November effectively protected the cooling system after the Cortina had spent a night on a bleak Welsh hillside in the exceptionally cold weather of early March. And wipers and washers, after the latter had thawed, worked diligently.

Under snow and ice conditions the traction was better than I had expected from a front-engine/rear-drive car, although the tyres were normal tubeless F7 Firestones. (Dunlop SP41s can be fitted if specified by the customer.) The capacity of the Cortina’s luggage boot never fails to surprise me, the only snag being that one is encouraged to load it so that the nose of the Ford is permanently in the air, when some means of adjusting the headlamps, as on the R16 Renault and Citroën, would be appreciated by oncoming drivers!

There is no need for me to eulogise again the rapid acceleration and high speed of the GT version of the Ford Cortina. However, as some people have expressed surprise that a car of this performance will regularly return 30 m.p.g. or better of premium petrol, I was interested to see that the absolute range on a tankful on this latest version was 251 miles. If the maker’s capacity figure of 8 gallons is accepted, that represents over 31 m.p.g., mostly cruising at between 70 and 80 m.p.h. on a main-road journey. Thereafter the snows came, making conditions about as bad as they could be for a fuel consumption check, with much low-gear work, frequent cold starts followed by prolonged warming-up, and a journey through London traffic. Just out of interest I kept a check and the Ford still returned a figure of 29.1 m.p.g. in conditions which could hardly have been more unfavourable. After 700 miles the oil level had fallen by the equivalent of 1-1/2-pints. The dip-stick is obstructed by the drum of the enormous A.C. air-cleaner.

Thus the improved Cortina GT—the name “Consul” has been deleted from the front of the bonnet’s dummy air-intake. Outstanding is the new ventilating system, which, according to the hand-out literature, was tested by cigar-smoking development engineers from Sicily to Arctic Sweden. It is said that this Aeroflow ventilation combats car-sickness and allows four smokers and a non-smoker to travel together without discomfort. Not being fond of lung-cancer I funked this test but certainly the Ford engineers have evolved an excellent means of maintaining fresh-air within the car without complicated controls and without opening the windows.

This, together with economy, low price, and in the GT version a top speed of 94 m.p.h. and a s.s. 1/4-mile time of 18.7 sec., will ensure the continued sales-success of the Ford Cortina, which has sold to the tune of half-a-million in two years.— W. B.