The new Ford Cortinas
Improved 1300 & 1600 models
Two new o.h.c. cars
It is a trifle over eight years since the Mk. 1 Cortina was introduced to the British public, and since that time the Cortina in all its many guises has become the most successful car ever built in Britain. Since September 1962 we have seen the Cortina in its many forms top the charts in terms of competition motoring as well as the sales leagues with over 2 million models being sold since the birth of the Cortina.
The Mk. 3 version of the Cortina announced last month seems almost certain to continue the impressive record already set up by its predecessors, although the announcement could hardly have come at a worse time with the British motor industry in a rather unsteady state, to say the least. However, FOMOCO do not usually make mistakes, and of all the UK car manufacturers Ford always appear to have the edge over their competitors, and no more does one hear reference made to “Dagenham dustbins”, for it cannot be denied that the Dagenham products are of better quality nowadays and their popularity is obviously reflected in their sales figures. Their progressive and go-ahead policy, together with their involvement in most forms of the sport has paid dividends in the past, and one hopes the story will be true in the future.
Although there are no less than thirty-five different versions of the Mk. 3 Cortina, due to the number of trim and engine options available, the new car and the variants thereof are based on four models which feature at the bottom of the range, the 1,300-c.c. crossflow-engined Cortina, followed by the 1,600-c.c. crossflow version, then the two models which sport the brand new engines, the 1,600-c.c. o.h.c. GT, and at the top of the range the 2-litre o.h.c. engined Cortina which in effect directly replaces the superb Mk. 2 1600E, and the Corsair 2000E which is now phased out.
The new model is very much a European car, with the same bodyshells being used for the German versions, although the Cortina manufactured for the German market will feature modified trim, and of course the range of engines will be different. The bodyshell whilst giving the appearance of being rather longer than the Mk. 2 is in fact exactly the same length, whilst the width of the car has been increased by 2.1 in., thus giving more shoulder space.
The wheelbase is increased by 3.5 in. to 101.5 in., with front and rear track at 56 in., which is an improvement of 3.5 in. front and 5 in. at the rear. The whole car is slung almost 3 in. lower than the Mk. 2, which gives the car a very purposeful appearance and obviously a lower centre of gravity which enhances the car’s road-holding and handling.
The four engines used in the Mk. 3 are either completely new or have been modified to give a power increase, and it is a measure of Ford’s efficiency that three hundred of the brand new o.h.c. engines have already been installed in Ford Capris and tested all over Europe by Ford personnel in order to assess the merits or otherwise of the engines. Starting at the foot of the scale is the 1,300-c.c. crossflow, which features larger intake valves and intake porting, revised timing, piston-bowl profile and cut-outs, whilst carburetter choke and jet sizes have been modified, as has the intake manifolding. The 1,298-c.c. engine develops 57 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. (gross), with torque at 67.2 lb. ft. at 3,000 r.p.m. (gross).
The 1,600-c.c. crossflow unit features improved valve seating, whilst revisions have also been made to the camshaft timing, the intake manifold, the piston-bowl profile and carburetter choke and jet sizes are also revised. The 1.6-litre crossflow unit develops 68 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m. (gross), with torque at 85.3 lb. ft. at 2,600 r.p.m. (gross). Increased valve diametry is evident on the new 1,600-c.c. o.h.c. GT engine, which is also being supplied for the Pinto, the new American sub-compact, together with improved intake efficiency, redesigned exhaust manifolding, piston-bowl profile and cut-out revisions, whilst the carburetter choke and jet sizes have also been improved.
The o.h.c. engine blocks are of cast iron, as are the heads, and a 5-bearing crankshaft is of course retained. The valves are inclined at an angle of 15º, with the combustion chamber cast into the lower head face, and the valves are operated by rocker arms pivoting on adjusting screws. The camshaft, driven by a cogged belt, is carried on three supports cast integral with the head, and also drives the oil pump and the distributor. A steel sheet protects the camshaft belt and the water pump and alternator are driven by conventional vee-belt ahead of the camshaft drive. Weber carburetters are retained on the o.h.c. engines, and alternators are fitted on the 1.6 crossflow and the o.h.c.-engined versions. The revised 1.6 o.h.c. engine develops 88 b.h.p. at 5,700 r.p.m. (gross), with torque at 91.85 lb. ft. at 4,000 r.p.m. (gross).
Perhaps the greatest surprise of the Mk. 3 Cortina is the abandonment of the MacPherson strut-type front suspension which Ford pioneered in this country, and it is odd that whilst Volkswagen have introduced this type of suspension on their new K70, Ford have opted in favour of a short and long arm double-wishbone system which they feel will reduce the amount of noise transmitted from the road into the interior of the car, and will provide better road-holding. The front suspension is a self-contained unit mounted on a cross-member which as well as providing a platform for the suspension, acts as a support for the front of the engine and the rack-and-pinion steering. The upper and lower wishbones are attached to this cross-member, with the springs and shock-absorbers mounted at the upper end of the overhanging crossmember, and at the lower end of the lower wishbone. A roll-bar is fitted to the 1.6 and 2.0 o.h.c. models for additional stiffness and is mounted to the body, and via a vertical link to the leading edge of the lower wishbone.
Gone is the well-tried leaf-spring system on the rear suspension, which now features a 4-link system with coil-springs and double-acting telescopic shock-absorbers. The outer and longer arms or links run parallel to the centre of the car and are attached to the body at the side rail and to the axle via a bracket beneath the axle tube. The two inner arms are also attached to the body at the side rail and are located to the differential housing by bosses on either side of the main casting.
Servo-assisted dual-line hydraulically-operated disc/drum brakes are fitted as standard equipment to the 1.6 and 2.0 o.h.c. versions, but servo-assistance is an option on the other two models.
Having completed 36,000 trouble-free miles in a Cortina 1600E in a little over fifteen months, I was most interested in the Mk. 3 Cortina, especially the 2-litre GXL version, which being the most expensive and powerful version available in the new range is the direct successor to the 1606E. A colleague and I were able to test drive this model at Ford’s Lommel test track in Belgium last month, and on 150 miles of Belgian road which ranged from the typical Belgian pavé surface to long stretches of autobahn. My initial impression of the 2-litre GXL model was one of disappointment. Whilst the exterior of the car is acceptable and pleasant on the eye, the interior reminded one very much of a Vauxhall Victor, with the overall finish of the car not matching up to the previous high standard set by the 1600E. The mock wood facia was particularly displeasing, and the four instruments situated in a binnacle at the front end of the centre console were very small and hard to read (although they are inclined towards the driver a la Alfa Romeo), and the Bakelite-type binnacle itself looked cheap and nasty. The three main instruments sited directly behind the slightly oval-shaped steering wheel, however, are sensibly large and easy to see, and one wonders in fact whether a certain amount of jigging about with the four supplementary instruments, as was done on the Mk. 2 GT and 1600E versions, would take place with future models. A revised aeroflow fresh-air system, with slatted vents above the three main instruments and above the glove box, is featured and, according to Fords, this system is supposed to be an improvement over the previous one, but quite frankly during our test drive we found the new system leaving a great deal to be desired.
Very comfortable fully reclining front seats are fitted to the 2-litre GXL model and are covered in a newly developed fabric which we found to be most pleasant indeed. There is definitely more leg-room for the rear-seated passengers even with the front seats adjusted to their fullest extent, but I would say this increased space has been achieved at the expense of driver and front passenger leg-room.
We found the 2-litre o.h.c. engine, which develops 98 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m., to be very revvable and torquey, and although the particular model we were driving had covered less than 1,000 miles we were able to cruise quite comfortably at an indicated 95 m.p.h., whilst top indicated speed achieved was 105 m.p.h. A 0-60 m.p.h. time of 10.6 sec, is claimed for the 2-litre version, a further 1.7 sec. being required to reach this speed in the 1.6 o.h.c. version. The ride and handling characteristics of the Mk. 3 are, I would say, slightly better than the Mk. 2 1600E, with the same amount of understeer present. The same delightful all-synchromesh gearbox operating on the single rail process is employed with a slightly longer gear-shift. We were not overjoyed with certain instrument controls which fell off in our hands, as did the interior door handle, which after it had snapped off was found to be manufactured from plastic.
A foot-operated screen-washer is fitted, with at last a two-speed screen-wiper, whilst a most efficient electrically heated rear screen is also standard equipment on the 2-litre GXL.
Prices of the new models range from £913 17s. 10d. for the two-door 1,300-c.c. saloon to £1,338 3s. 10d., which is the price you will have to pay fur the 2-litre o.h.c. GXL version. These prices are inclusive of purchase tax, and it is interesting to look back eight years to see the basic 1,300-c.c. Mk. 1 Cortina selling at £573 6s. 3d. A 3-litre version was observed at the Lommel test track, but not driven, and a spokesman for the Ford Motor Company informs us that an unnamed Police Constabulary has already ordered eight of these models, which will be available to customer specification from the AVO division of Ford.
There is no doubt that the new Mk. 3 Cortina is ideally suited to the intended market, and doubtless within the space of a few months it will be selling very well, but personally I prefer the Mk. 2 1600E which for my money is one of the finest cars Ford of Britain have ever produced and a car which I cannot praise too highly.—H. G. W.