The Ford Cortina 1600E, new at the Motor Show, can be described as the latest Cortina with the new cross-flow bowl-in-piston Weber-carburetted GT 1,599 c.c. 93 (gross) b.h.p. engine and the lowered and stiffened Cortina-Lotus suspension, to which luxury embellishments have been added. The last-named include black-painted radiator grille, and a painted colour strip along the side of the 4-door body, black pile carpeting, extra sound insulation, a padded arm-rest to that useful between-the-front-seats stowage bin, shaped, fully reclining bucket front seats, a glossy wood facia and deep matching wood door-cappings, an aluminium-spoked steering wheel with leather gaiter, gaitered gear lever, dual-tone horns, cigar-lighter, spare wheel cover, “E”-motifs on the body panels, twin Wipac stainless 562 spot-lamps, to supplement the Lucas lighting, automatic very bright reversing lamps and those Rubery Owen Rostyle pressed-steel wheels, chromium-plated, which look like magnesium-alloy rally wheels or trendy U.S.A. styling to the uninitiated. These “pretty” wheels are, however, of 5½J size, shod with radial-ply tyres, so road-holding benefits.
I have had considerable experience of both the pre-1968 Cortina GT and the latest Cortina-Lotus and am very enthusiastic about both these Fords. The 1600E costs about £100 more than the 4-door GT but is £90 less expensive than the Cortina-Lotus with its twin-cam engine, quoting pre-devaluation prices.
My feeling is that, while there is certainly a demand for luxury family cars—we have in the past praised the Princess 1100 and Triumph 1300 for filling this role admirably in the smaller categories—I do not think a wooden interior decor looks right in a modern “tin” saloon, particularly, as in the case of the 1600E, it is blended with PVC upholstery, “racy” wheels, and a general impression of high-performance. Indeed, I object to this treatment, even though the veneers match well in this Ford (although I do not suppose Rolls-Royce would approve of the visible Allan holding-down screws!) on two counts: (1) that this styling is out-of-place on the smaller family cars unless used with leather upholstery and other true-tokens of sumptuousness and, (2) that its use on such vehicles diminishes the prestige such decor should have when applied to large sedate, expensive cars.
Be that as it may, I expect Ford Market Research has satisfied itself that there are sufficient self-styled executives about to merit the introduction of an E-model even in the under-£1,000 price bracket. So let’s take a quick look at this Cortina 1600E.
The first thing I noticed were small but subtle changes from the older GT I used to know so well. For instance, the Styla steering wheel is thick-rimmed, although not so obviously sponge-padded as the wheel of the Cortina-Lotus, but it is small and well out of the driver’s line of vision. The choke can be locked fully-out but it no longer twists to hold it in intermediate positions, which could be done on the older car. The bigger gear lever knob is not entirely likeable. The wooden facia has necessitated recessing the flick switches, which is probably a good safety move; maybe it is just imagination that this has rendered them more “fumbly.” The ignition-key now has a guard to prevent damage to the flywheel ring when the engine is running. The unlockable cubby-hole lid in the new wooden facia is too small to take objects which would go into the older cubby space; there is a shelf under the facia on the nearside. The padded T-piece of the pull-out-and-twist under-facia handbrake feels a bit clumsy. But the change I really object to is that the facia-vents of the ever-excellent Ford “Aeroflow” ventilation system now have their volume controls as twist-knobs in the vent centres, so it is almost impossible for the driver to reach the nearside one, which
is unfortunate if he wants to adjust it while alone in the car; the former pull-out knob adjustments on the facia were much more convenient. The Kienzle clock low down on the console is illuminated when the instrument lighting is on, but the heater controls remain in darkness. At times there was a noise below the facia, emanating presumably from the speedometer drive and some minor rattles.
These aspects of the new Ford apart, it is, like all Cortinas, a thoroughly commendable, very fast and accelerative family car of capacious carrying capacity, as I have observed previously of these dependable best-selling cars. Admittedly the suspension is not outstanding and the road-holding only fully acceptable with wide-base wheels and the right tyres. The test car was on India Autobands, whereas Fords usually come to us on Goodyears or Pirellis. I did no high-speed driving in the 1600E, so could form no proper opinion of these Indias, although they have transformed the road-clinging of the children’s ancient VW and the Ford seemed to have adequate traction on snowy gradients. In dry road conditions, however, another driver found the road-clinging sufficiently reassuring to make him stop the car, get out and look to see what kind of tyres it was running on. The brakes, of the 1600E are adequate rather than memorably powerful.
The clutch pedal is very light to depress, if not quite so noticeably light as that of the Cortina-Lotus, which makes it insensitive. As there is a good deal of free play in the transmission, low speed running tends to become jerky. Generally, however, there is a better sense of “feel” to all the controls than on earlier Cortinas. The gearbox remains one of the best in the family-car field, but its synchromesh could just be beaten when snatching a change from 2nd to 3rd gear and the ratios are still not entirely suited to the car. The gearing is such that if the speed falls much below the built-up area legal limit it is desirable to drop into third, yet at the Castle-limit maximum the engine, then doing around 4,000 r.p.m., becomes noisy.
The first snow of winter coinciding with the test of the 1600E, I did not take any performance figures, but this is clearly a very high-performance family saloon. After standing in the open covered in ice it fired first turn of the ignition-key and only two turns were required to start it after it had remained for a day and a night buried under the snow. The Weber change-over flat-spot is faintly discernible when accelerating. Consumption of premium petrol came out at a useful 28.2 m.p.g., driving fairly normally, and from the gauge-reading the range from full to fill-up-needed would be taken by most owners as around 240 miles. The driving seat is comfortable, and the ratchet-type reclining squab adjusts over quite a fine range.
As usual, the Ford’s heater provided plenty of warmth but on the test car it roasted the driver’s feet while the front-seat passenger was receiving only luke-warm air. The usual row of elevated, hooded dials record water temperature, generator-charge, oil-pressure and fuel contents, the tachometer markings indicate that the engine can be taken to 6,000 r.p.m., and there is now an internal bonnet-release (the bonnet still has to be propped-up), while the screen is of wide-zone toughened Triplex. There is a clear decimal reading on the total odometer, but no trip recorder.
The dipstick which, like the small Ford Kwik-Fill battery, is very accessible, showed that after 720 miles no oil was required. The price at time of test was £982 2s. 1d, The Cortina-Lotus, with its extra 24 b.h.p. gives even more performance more smoothly, but for those who want a de luxe GT Cortina the 1600E will fill the bill admirably especially as the new car has notably good acceleration.—W. B.