In the late 1950’s it was apparent that the aging Anglia 105E would no longer be able to maintain it’s market share, and an all new car would be needed to help Ford compete against the likes of the Vauxhall Victor and Hillman Minx.
The car was code-named “The Archbishop”, the brief to build a car that would take Ford to the number #1 position in the sales charts in the small car segment.
And to do that, the engineers knew that they would have to keep the costs down, while ensuring the new car was a lively performer (particularly given the competition now included the BMC Mini.
It is testament to the ingenuity in the Cortina’s original design that some 15% of the body weight was saved over the outgoing Anglia, and it used 20% fewer body parts. And of course the usual means of keeping costs down, using the parts-bin from other cars, was also used.
The styling was completed in a short 9 months, although the rear tail light set-up took some time to finalise, with Detroit now favouring a rounded design.
Next, Ford needed to come up with a new name for the Archbishop, the inspiration coming from the 1956 Winter Olympics, which were held in the Italian winter resort 'Cortina di Ampezzo'.
Production of the Mk.I started in June 1962, and was launched in the UK in September the same year, where it was originally known as the ‘Consul Cortina’.
Powering them was the familiar Kent 1000cc engine carried over from the Anglia, although the engine had been stroked to 1198 cc. It was an oversquare design, reducing piston travel per revolution, cutting down on wear, allowing higher revs, and able to be made relatively smaller and lighter.
There were two models on offer, the Standard and Deluxe, the two door version being joined by the 4 door in October 1962. The Standard was a pretty utilitarian affair, featuring only a simple painted grille and headlamp garnish. Much more attractive was the Deluxe, and as it was only a little more expensive this is the car most Cortina buyers opted for.
In January 1963 Ford released the Super Deluxe in both two and four-door iterations. They also released the 1500 cc (1498 cc) engine as an option, although it was standard fitment to the Super Deluxe.
The 1500cc engine featured a 5 bearing crankshaft, as opposed to the 1200's three bearings. The design was typical of the time, traditional and well liked by the mechanics. The 4-speed gear shift was floor mounted, there was a live rear axle and leaf springs, and the steering was a recirculating ball system.
Drives Like Fun, Saves Like Crazy
Then in December 1963 Ford released the Borg-Warner automatic, it being available as an option on any cars fitted with the 1500cc engine, excluding of course the GT.
The following year Ford integrated flow-through ventilation, this necessitating a complete re-design of the dash. And, in keeping up with the offerings from the Japanese competition, a heater and windscreen washer system became standard kit on all models excluding the Standard.
In 1965 the word ‘Consul’ was dropped, soon after the Standard model being discontinued. The production run would finish in September 1965, with the remainder being sold until September 1966. By that time, over 1,000,000 Cortina’s had been manufactured.
Australian Cortina’s were designated the 220 (1200 2-door), 240 (1500 2-door), 440 (1500 4-door) and GT. In 1965 there was also a GT 500 manufactured, it being homologation special GT designed for the 1965 Armstrong 500