The New Ford Cortina
The Ford Cortina has long been one of the most successful cars of its kind. The first version appeared in September 1962 and the Cortina has been successively improved ever since. The Mk. I sold to the tune of more than 1,000,000 and so did the Mks II and III. The Mk. IV that came out in 1976 is well on its way to a similar very complimentary sales success. In the first six months of this year nearly 120,000 were sold, which is more than the Cortina has ever before achieved and double the sales of any other car apart from the popular Ford Escort. In fact, for six out of the past seven years the Cortina has consistently out-sold every other car on the British Market; in 1976 it was surpassed in this respect by the Escort.
With buyer-satisfaction at such a high level Ford could have rested on their laurels. However, C. G. Grey, Editor of The Aeroplane, remarked in 1939 that when he heard of people resting on their laurels he always wished a little holly could be mixed with the laurel, so he would have been glad to know that the Cortina has been improved and made more attractive still, under a £50-million development investment started four years ago. Ford claims that, by listening to experienced drivers’ comments, the latest version is the most economical, most refined, best-protected and fastest Cortina of them all — which, in view of the model’s popularity, is significant.
The range continues with the four-cylinder 1300 c.c. Kent push-rod-engined Cortina, the HC o.h.c. 1600, 1600 2V and 2000 (these engines gain a substantial power increase from the fitment of twin venturi Weber carburetters instead of single venturi Motocraft), and the HC push-rod 2300 V6-engined cars. The model-range has been extended by choice of the S (improved handling)-pack now being available for the 1.6L, 2.0GL and Ghia, and the 2.3 GL and Ghia models, and a new Estate, or “Business Wagon” (which I see has adopted the Fiat 126’s slogan of “A Vehicle for All Reasons”), is available. The styling has been enhanced, and the engineering changes are directed at improved fuel economy by the use of an average weight reduction of 40 lb., a new Weber carburetter and a clutched fan, and slightly raising the gearing of the 1.6 and 2.0 models. Also by reducing piston-ring friction and valve-spring loadings on the o.h.c. engines. This has resulted in increased power outputs. The V6 Ford power-pack has been given larger valves, a 9.2 to 1 c.r., transistorised-ignition, and timing and carburation changes, resulting in eight extra b.h.p. The new bodies are not only very handsome but have an increased glass area for improved driver-vision, and inside there are improved seats, with special resistance to sag after a period of usage, and sound-damping and trim have likewise been improved. The radio has been rehoused, and Ford’s hitherto excellent ventilation system enhanced by two additional louvres in the facia centre. For improved handling the coil-spring suspension now has a bigger front anti-roll bar in conjunction with 9% reduction in spring rate. At the back the 1980 Cortinas have springs stiffened by 5% in initial response and by 9% under full load. The new Cortinas are the first Fords to have revised anti-corrosion protection, introduced after a study of 4,500 vehicles across Europe, searching for the real reasons why cars rust under salting of highways, etc. Closed cavities are flushed before priming, wax is injected after painting, and stone-resistant PVC is applied to wheel arches and the lower body panels, while after assembly the entire underbody is sprayed with a special wax coating.
Other aspects include items that assist servicing, which is now set at 12,000 miles, with an interim 6,000 mile inspection. The very heavy bonnet-lid is hinged at the back. Plugs, battery and dipstick are accessible but there is a tortuous top water hose. These Cortinas which have been subtly but effectively improved go on sale on September 13th and those interested should presumably place orders immediately.
I was allowed to try the new four-cylinder-in-line o.h.c. 2.0 Cortina Ghia Saloon before the public announcement. It is a very fine medium-sized family car. The impression I got is that it might be put in the same category as a BMW, a category towards which Ford (and GM Opel) have been steadily moving in recent times. The whole car now feels solid, with nothing “tinny” about it. It corners with precision and in appointments, instrumentation, and appearance is a very up-market product indeed. There is performance in the order of comfortably over 100 m.p.h. and the ability to get to the normal legal pace of 60 m.p.h. in 9.8 seconds. The gear change (not spring loaded) functions with the expected Ford infallability and smoothness, even when reverse is required. The clutch is very light and smooth, the seats are extremely comfortable, the sound level low, so that a little wind flutter can be heard round the driver’s door, and this Michelin-X shod saloon was stable under rapid cornering.
The instruments in their “woodgrain bezel,” to quote the specification, are easily read, but the steady-indicating fuel-gauge is rather oddly marked (not calibrated), so that its needle traverses very little of its arc from full to half-full reading, far more of it down to “empty,” apart from which it takes a long time to indicate a drop from the tank full position. However, this was not intended to deceive, for the fuel economy is generous — the check I did showed 31.9 m.p.g. (four-star) from the Weber sequential twin-choke carburettor.
This would not have disgraced a mediocre 1 1/2-litre family saloon some years ago, and is praiseworthy from a decently high-performance 2-litre. The tank holds 12 gallons, giving a range of some 360 miles. The fuel filler and its flap are not lockable. Ghia equipment includes a tachometer, Kent alloy road wheels, 185/70 tyres, pile carpet, clock, wood cappings and remote-control door-mirror, etc.
Ford use triple stalk-controls, but the turn-indicators are operated from the I.h. one in Continental fashion, and I did not altogether care for the separate r.h. lever that puts on side lamps and headlamps, with dipping to be done rather clumsily; from the r.h. lever. There are two high-mounted, rather vulnerable, Ford Carello spot-lamps to supplement the Lucas-Ford halogen headlamps on full beam. The headlamps are cleaned by four water-jets. The car’s 1980 styling caught more than one eye, when it was all supposed to be hush-hush, testimony to the handsome, attractive new lines. The boot holds 11.8 cu. ft. of luggage. I would have liked central-door-locking but enjoyed the wind-open sunroof. This was a very new car, so one can overlook the slam needed to completely shut the o/s rear door and a vibrating rear-view mirror. The disc/drum brakes are powerful but spongy, which is better than being over-servoed but they are not entirely reassuring, although powerfully progressive. And under emergency action the front end of the car became a trifle “squidgy,” as on a Granada. These are, however, minor matters in a car of high overall good qualities, although perhaps without much “character.” The rack-and-pinion steering asks 3.7 turns lock-to-lock, with a turning circle of 32.8 feet between kerbs. The wheel is small and mounted sensibly low. The Ford’s ride is good but not outstanding. This 102 b.h.p. (PS) 2.0 Ford has an engine that peaks at 5,400 r.p.m., runs safely to 6,000 r.p.m., gives maximum torque at 4,000 r.p.m. (which makes it just outside the all-day-in-top-gear-if-you-must kind of car) and is geared to do 70 m.p.h. at just 2,300 r.p.m., which is economy gearing indeed. No oil was required in over 600 miles. My preview of the newest 2.0 Cortina Ghia convinces me that the 1980s models will continue to maintain Ford’s fine sales-records. Comments on the 1979 Cortina 2.3 Ghia Estate appeared in November 1978. — W.B.