After a dismally short production run of only 27 months in both 1,340-c.c. and 5,498-c.c. form the Classic has been quietly dropped by Ford and replaced by the Corsair. This financial disaster is comparable to the one which befell Ford of America when their Edsel model flopped. Neither the Edsel nor the Classic could have been called bad cars mechanically and the classic has provided reliable every-day transport for many people and suffered from none of the excruciating mechanical disasters which have plagued owners of more ambitious designs recently.
Just why the car failed is something of a mystery, although the people who designed it (in rather a hurry so we hear) were never very fond of it. Most of the road-test reports were complimentary, almost glowing in fact, except those published by Motor Sport. Said the Motor: “It is clear that the Ford Company have made no attempt to provide the cheapest possible car in its class in order to undercut their rivals but rather they have endeavoured to provide at a modest price the performance and facilities that belong to a more expensive range. One feels that they have gauged very accurately what a large sector of the public is seeking.” The public obviously didn’t agree!
Said the Autocar: “The new car is just the size so many people want, is right up to dare in appearance and equipment, and has been carefully planned both as a whole and in detail. Moreover, it is very much more than mere transport, having likeable road manners which make it interesting and rewarding to drive.”
Said Motor Sport after a preliminary canter: ” . . . but it would appear that the Classic is aimed at the family motorist requiring five seats with good luggage capacity and not requiring exceptional acceleration or road-holding. In short, it will probably not appeal to racing or rally drivers as it is over-bodied or, more accurately, under-engined, and the Works do not plan to rally the Classic.” They took our advice and fitted the bigger engine, and after testing this model we said, “The Ford Consul Classic can be summed up as a dull car that is just what many motoring families enthuse over. And the new 116E engine will be welcomed by competition drivers in several spheres.”
Having patted ourselves on the back and reminded you whose road tests to read we must admit that our efforts to persuade you that the Cortina is equally uninspiring have met with little success for a recent Press release from Ford gleefully informed us that the 250,000th Cortina had just rolled off the line!
All the same, One must question the wisdom of Ford policy, for they seem to be introducing a whole gaggle of cars which compete with each other. The Cortina and classic had many similarities and now comes the Corsair which is based very much on the Cortina, while the Zephyr 4 is not far away in design and price. Apart from the Anglia the range is entirely concentrated in the medium-size range. Fortunately Ford have realised that the average family man is more interested in whether he can fit his stout mother-in-law in the back seat and whether he can get a deck chair and push chair in the boot along with several suitcases, than the fact that the car doesn’t handle as well as it might.
The Corsair follows this policy closely. The car is to be sold in three different forms, Standard, de luxe and GT, all three being available in 2- or 4-door form. A steering-column gear-change with a bench seat is standard equipment, with floor change and separate seats costing £8 9s. 2d. extra, although only being available on de luxe models. A heater, costing £15 2s. 1d., is an extra on all but the GT. The 2-door standard model costs £653 1s. 3d., the 4-door standard and 2-door de luxe cost the same at £677 4s. 7d., the 4-door de luxe is £701 7s. 11d., the 2-door GT £816 3s. 9d. and the 4-door GT £840 7s. 1d.
Basically the car resembles the Cortina very closely for it has similar body/chassis pressings except that the wheelbase has been lengthened 3 in. at the rear. The actual body styling (done by Roy Brown, the man who did both the Edsel and the Classic) is a mixture of Thunderbird, Taunus 17M and Cortina, with even a faint touch of Classic. Mechanically the Corsair is similar to the Cortina 1500 with the same 1 1/2-litre 5-bearing engine giving 59.5 b.h.p.). at 4,600 r.p.m. The engine of the GT model is also the same, giving 78 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m. Both engines are mated to the well-known 4-speed all-synchromesh gearbox. We note with regret that the Borg-Warner automatic transmission will soon be available as an optional extra instead of the far superior Hobbs automatic transmission which Ford have been testing for a long time.
The suspension is the usual Macpherson front layout and rigid rear axle with leaf-springs, the steering is recirculating ball, and brakes are front disc, rear drum by Girling. Unusual features are the printed electrical circuit and the double skinned floor section which, it is claimed, reduces interior noise level.
Faced with this proved but unexciting proposition Ford wooed the Press, first with a lavish lunch at the new Hilton Hotel (No, you can’t see into the Queen’s bedroom at Buckingham Palace!); followed by a three-day trip to Ireland where the Press were allowed to rush round Killarney’s lakes and fells in various Corsair models. Accompanied by that “American in Paris,” Henry Manney of America’s Road and Track, I sampled the GT model first of all. You can tell it’s a G.T. car by the badge at the back. The interior is similar to that of the Cortina GT with the rev.-counter attached to the steering column (Ford call it a phenolic housing), an ammeter and oil-pressure gauge on the central console, remote control gear-lever, and separate seats. Ford call them bucket seats but they are not. They have had the good sense to abandon the vaguely marked fuel contents and water-temperature gauges of the Cortina for properly marked instruments. The GT differs from the normal model by virtue of its high-lift camshaft, twin-choke Weber, 4-branch exhaust manifold, stiffer front springs and shock-absorbers, stiffer rear shock-absorbers, slightly raised steering ratio, and vacuum assistance for the brakes.
To sum up the Corsair quickly it can be fairly stated that “If you’ve driven a Cortina you’ve driven a Corsair.” There are differences of course, but basically the car is so similar that one wonders why Ford bothered to replace the Classic at all. There is undoubtedly much more room in the rear seat and the tallest person should not be uncomfortable, but several people remarked that the cushion bottomed too easily and gave no support under the thighs. Unfortunately Ford have been mean with the front-seat room and even with the seat right back medium-sized drivers felt cramped. The backrest is too upright and the steering wheel would be much better with four inches lopped off the column. Ford engineers told us that it is almost impossible to move the front seats farther back without major chassis modifications.
The Corsair performs much the same as the Cortina. It moves along quite quickly without ever getting exciting, but the engine is tough and not unduly noisy, while the gearbox has a very pleasant feel, being notchy but precise in its movements. Its ratios are unfortunately spaced in similar fashion to the Cortina so that there is a big jump from 2nd to 3rd. Consequently acceleration suffers somewhat and with a high top-gear ratio the Corsair is inflexible, and any attempt to accelerate below 30 m.p.h. in top gear is accompanied by violent judder. However, top-speed cruising does not give the driver the feeling that the engine is about to come apart at any moment.
The ride of the Corsair is slightly softer than that of the Cortina and it is reasonably comfortable over most surfaces. Axle hop can be generated fairly easily over bumps but Ford did not try and hide anything from us and, in fact, managed to get a really foul piece of Irish “three-ply” road closed for us. This rough cart track could be taken quite fast in the Corsair with no qualms as to the possibility of suspension breakages but we would not like to do it for too long as the ride gets rather lively, to say the least. Henry Manney, being a devout coward, urged me to desist at any speed over 40.m.p.h., especially when the 1,000-ft. drops were on his side! Being a cynic he remarked that on this kind of going the wheels appeared to be anchored to the body by spaghetti!
The handling is nothing to enthuse about but at least it is difficult to get into trouble. Roll is moderate but the steering tends to become heavy when holding it against the caster action on bends, although it is reasonably light around the straight-ahead position.
Fuel consumption is not particularly outstanding, ranging from 22-26 m.p.g. for the GT, and from 25-30 m.p.g. on the normal models.
It seems that Ford are wedded to the idea of producing conventional motor cars with proved features which will be reliable and long lasting but having no outstanding characteristics to excite the man who drives for pleasure. Perhaps the Corsair can be summed up in the words used by the Editor when commenting on the 1500 Classic … “a dull car that is just what many motoring families enthuse over. . . .”—M. L. T.