Driving the Corsair V4 GT
I had a bee in my bonnet as I drove out of London the other day, the car being a 2-litre Ford Corsair GT 4-door saloon. The test had been postponed and rumour had it that this biggest version of Ford of Britain’s new V4-engined passenger range wasn’t poking out the sort of performance that made Stirling Moss exclaim in Ferodo’s Motor Show advertisement : “And the GT with 2,000 c.c. It should sizzle, I must try that, … …”
It wasn’t sizzling when it came to me! To see how it accelerated I asked D.S.J. to drive it at the British Drag Racing Association’s practice day at Graveley, because that way it would be timed over the s.s. 1/4-mile by approved timing apparatus. Admittedly the day started as one of the wettest of a very wet February and the course was wet. But this is not all that detrimental to a car developing less than 90 b.h.p. and weighing 10 cwt. unladen, and the best this 2-litre so-called GT could do: was 19.04 sec., finishing its run at 5,200 r.p.m. in 3rd gear, or at an indicated 75 m.p.h. In the hands of drag-happy Denis Jenkinson and Jerry Belton its average for six runs was 19.43 sec. This seemed to me insufficiently “Grand Touring” and I did not feel the need to get a full set of performance figures. It compares with an average of 19.6 sec. obtained in the dry by the testers working for a weekly contemporary. At Graveley the car was timed with only the driver aboard and 3 gallons of Cleveland Discol in the tank.
Leaving this matter of the performance of the Corsair GT V4 for a moment, in driving to Graveley I was surprised to find big 50-m.p.h. speed-limit signs on most of the long, straight, deserted roads of Huntingdonshire. W’hether the limits are there because young airmen from the local airfields tend to beat it up along these roads, or because this is a singularly pedestrian county, I do not know. But this is something to which Mrs. Barbara Castle should give her attention, now that there is a 70-limit everywhere in any case.
The fact has to be accepted that to date this 93.7 x 72.4 mm. (1,996 c.c.) version of the new V4 Ford range is slower by over 6 m.p.h. and less accelerative up to 80 m.p.h. by a whole 2 1/2 sec. compared to the 1 1/2-litre in-line Corsair GT. The V4 version is fractionally higher geared but this is not the reason, which lies in an engine designed to give good torque quite low in the permissible speed-range which, without much purpose therefore; can be taken to 5,000 r.p.m. before it gets into the red-segment on the tachometer. The V4 Corsair GT is thus less fussy, but less satisfying to drive, than an in-line Corsair GT or Cortina GT. Its engine is smooth, quiet and responsive up to an indicated 70 m.p.h., which represents 3,500 r.p.m. in top gear, after which acceleration falls off and there is an unpleasant resonance, and vibration transmitted through the gear-lever. In fact, generally there is more noise from the power unit than I had expected. All of which is disappointing after the build-up the vee-cylinder formation has received—it apparently requires eight “pots” to get that fluid pick-up whitch Ford offered at low cost before the War from their famous V8. The Corsair V4 GT weighs one hundredweight more than its predecessor and this seems to have ruined the steering, which lower geared by a whole turn of the steering wheel than previously, is very heavy for parking and tightens up towards full lock, which is frequently resorted to in combating the understeer. Nor is it particularly accurate, and as the car lurches about roadholding is really rather horrid, whereas Cortina steering is passable.
The clutch is indecisive, the servo-brakes powerful but snatchy, the ride no better than in other medium-sized Fords, which means that it is kinder not to discuss it. The test car was shod with 5.60 x 13 Goodyear G8 4-ply tubeless tyres, which break away rather easily if power-cornering is attempted in the wet. There is no need to describe the Corsair V4 GT in detail, because the 1.7-litre Corsair V4 which it resembles was reported on in Motor Sport last December. My personal feelings are that I do not like fumbling for switches on a ”two-tier” facia, missed the separate, properly-calibrated oil gauge and petrol gauge of the Cortina GT I normally drive, and found the “Aerollow” ventilation good but less effective at de-misting than that on the less expensive Cortina. The Corsair GT’s steering wheel has a half-horn ring, and there are 2-speed wipers, a fuel filler concealed beneath the spring-loaded rear number-plate. and well-shaped, deeply p.v.c.-upholstered separate front seats which change their angle as they move forward on their runners. The lidded cubbyhole and the stowage between the seats no longer take a Rolleiflex camera as they do on a Cortina, and whereas all but the driver’s’ door on the Cortina can be locked from within, you have to use the key to lock both the Corsair’s front doors, which is horribly inconvenient. The engine was happy to accept premium petrol but ran-on, sometimes very badly, so that a gear had to be engaged just to stop it, after the ignition was cut, even when fed 100-octane, The Zenith carburetter needed more choke for cold-starts than does the splendid Weber on a Cortina GT. The fuel gauge registered zero for so many miles that I grew exasperated and did not run the tank dry, but by this time the car had covered 288 miles without replenishment. In uneconomical conditions it returned 29,6 m.p.g. and required no oil after 800 miles, while the only fault which developed in this distance was failure of the o/s sidelamp. The indicated oil pressure is 40 lb./sq. in.; the water thermometer is uncalebrated. The dip-stick has to be withdrawn awkwardly from between the top water hose and the battery, and the heavy bonnet still has to be propped open.
The Ford Corsair GT in its latest 2-litre V4 form covers the ground effectively, because mid-range acceleration is quick and commendably effortless, and it is a well-equipped, nicely upholstered family car, with that reassuring air of Ford dependability. The gear ratios, chosen by Ford’s race and rally teams, give maxima of 38, 56 and 79 m.p.h., at which speeds the engine feels very busy, But as a GT car it is a tragedy. I definitely prefer the less-lavish (but better instrumented, less-expensive, Cortina GT, which is a useful workhorse with unexpectedly good performance for its engine capacity and price—which cannot be claimed for the 89-m.p.h., 0-60-m.p.h.-in-14.6-sec., 2-litre Corsair GT. (Cortina’s figures 94 1/2 m.p.h. and 12.4 sec.). The latter may be thought better-looking, provided you don’t see it head-on, then it has some affinity to a narrow-gauge shunting locomotive, due to the overhang of the side panels. Certainly. performance-wise, Moss’ enthusiasm for driving one seems to have been as premature as Ford’s 100-m.p.h. claims for this new model.