The Cortina 1600 GT was naturally enough based on the Cortina 1600 - a very good starting point. Externally, apart from the Goodyear 165 SR 13 radial ply tires and minimalist GT badging, it was difficult to tell a GT from the lesser car. Things changed however the moment you set eyes on the instrument panel. Simply put, it was magnificent - arguably much better than most real sports cars of the era. Right in front of the driver was a large, round speedometer and tachometer. Over toward the center of the panel were four more round gauges, fuel, oil, temp, and amps. Each gauge had white numbers on a black background. No trick stuff. Just straight-forward information sources. Being inside the 1600 GT was a pretty good thing too, not just because of the instrumentation, but because it was a roomy little sedan, with well spaced pedals (although some found the brake pedal was too close to the transmission hump. Compared to US automotive designers, you could be forgiven for thinking their British counterparts had less imagination than an anvil, and the Cortina was a case in point. A decidedly British ftavor surrounds the Cortina-even the heater speaks with a British accent, the same pulsating whir we've heard from British blowers for the past dozen years; and the drivetrain broadcasts the same gravelly whine that characterized English sports cars after World War 2. Ford might just as well have painted the Union Jack on its bonnet, because the Cortina's origin couldn't be more obvious. This is not to say a foreign car has to be Swedish or German or Italian or (lately) Japanese to be worthwhile-but 12 years? Can't we expect some awareness of even little problems like heater noise after 12 years? Please? The big news about the Cortina and the deciding factor in arousing our interest enough to do a road test was the car's re-designed engine. From the name, Cortina 1600 GT, you may have suspected the displacement is now 1600cc, up 100cc from past Cortinas. Your suspicion is well founded. What Ford is really crowing about, though, is the new crossflow cylinder head for the in-line Four. It's still of the pushrod operated, overhead valve type but now the in-take ports are on one side of the head and the exhaust ports on the other. "No corners for the gases to turn-they go straight in and out," says Ford, celebrating the whole philosophy of crossflow and the wonders it does for breathing. Of at least equal interest I are the combustion chambers, now dish-I shaped cavities in the tops of the pistons I with a flat surface on the head, just the reverse of the conventional system. A similar idea was used on the 348-409 series Chevrolet Y-8 starting in 1958 and is frequently seen in Diesels. Like most foreign manufacturers that sell cars in the United States, Ford controls exhaust emission in the Cortina with an air pump. Blowing fresh air into the exhaust port causes the unburned hydrocarbons andcarbon monoxide to burn in the exhaust manifold rather than be exhaled out the tailpipe like bad breath. This process results in abnormally high exhaust manifold temperatures which may shorten the life of the exhaust header tubing. All this has been carping to some degree, because it's annoying to see someone set out to build a car rather than a module and lapse Into diverse idiocies. But the GT is a car and there are certain microsplendors about it as a result. While the basic engine is shared between the standard Cortina and the Cortina GT, the GT version gets some help in the form of a twin-choke Weber carburetor, higher compression ratio, and an impressive looking tri-style exhaust header of steel tubing. Ford advertises the output of its high-potency GT engine as 89 hp at-5500 rpm, and we believe it. With less than 200 miles on the odometer when we made our timed runs, the GT would do a standing quarter mile in 18.6 seconds at 73.2 mph. The scrambler tires weren't much for bite on the asphalt which made the ET a tenth or two worse than it could have been. It's surprising to note how close the factory performance figures correspond to those of the test car. Ford claims 0-60 mph in 12 seconds and a top speed of 95 mph. The test car did 0-60 mph in 12.2 seconds and was still accelerating at 92 mph when weshut off to avoid driving off the end of our test strip. Given more room it would have made 95 mph and when fully broken in 97 mph is quite likely-maybe even 100. Our confidence in the words of auto manufacturers is somewhat restored now-theydon't all speak with forked tongues after all. As vile as the Formula Vee racers tell us drag racing is, we have to admit we enjoyed the drag strip part of 'the Cortina test. The car feels tough, like a midget super stocker, so we treated it accordingly. What a gas. Rev it up. Pop the clutch. The rear tires buzz a little bit, just like the real drag racers, and the Cortina is off. Then it's time to play Dick Landy with the shift lever. OK. Accelerator to the wood, stab the clutch and pull the lever to the next gear-all in a micro-second; true communion between man and machine. Again and again for third and fourth, each time at 6000 rpm. The Cortina 72 doesn't even flinch-just comes back for more. Its shifting mechanism is very precise. Never any confusion about what the hidden portion of the shift lever is doing or the feeling that it might even come off in your hand. There aren't many imported sedans in which we would even try this, rude behavior because it's embarrassing to bring back a test car in a basket, but the Cortina just invifloggers like us to do our damndest. Even though the transmission is super noisy its virtues outweigh its faults by a whole lot. The Cortina contains no outstanding surprises in the suspension department. A garden variety MacPherson strut is used in front with the assistance of an anti-sway bar. Semi-elliptic leaf springs hold up the rear. Unhappily, the wheels are only four inches wide. That's the going width in the econo car business, but the GT is supposed to be a notch above plebian transportation and wider wheels (as well as hop-up equipment are available for the car. English Ford doesn't maintain a full time competitions director in the V.S. any more, buttspecialty firms like Northern California's WinkSpeed offer bolt-ons to make the little car into a genuine pocket terror. It's a good thing. When it comes to handling, the Cortina needs help. It's predictaable enough, to suit even long-range planners, but its cornering speeds are not what we expect of a car with sporting flavor. The inside rear wheel unloads, even in large radius turns, allowing that wheel to spin uselessly. How can you get around a corner in a hurry when you can't put the power to the ground? All the while it's trying to hang its tail out but it takes a real effort to get it going fast enough to do the job. The Cortina isn't too sure-footed during quick lane 'changes either. Althoughnot dangerous, it tends to wag its tail like a station wagon. Ford could well spend more development time on the Cortina's suspension and more roll stiffness in the front would be a good place to start. The -Cortina is bigger than you would expect. Not a whole lot, mind you, but enough to be noticeable. After checking out the dimensions we found the Cortina's 98-inch wheelbase is about three inches longer than its Opel, Datsun and Toyota competitors and that its 168-inch overall length is 3.3 inches longer than an Opel and almost six inches longer tban a Datsun or Toyota. The Cortina has plenty of room for four even though it could never be called spacious by American standards. Room or no room, the same guy who's been darting around the British motor industry sneaking in dividers in interior design whenever possible has struck again. In the Cortina his, pack-rat complex has gone too far. He's got storage compartments in his storage compartments-or so it seems. The GT has a conventional glovebox in the dash. Everybody has those, right? That act is followed by a parcel tray under the dash on the right side. Not really too surprising because parcel trays have become a European tradition. Now, since tbe Cortina GT is a sporty-type car, and sporty cars are recognized by chrome proclamations on the outside and consoles between the front bucket seats on the inside, the Cortina had to have a console, right? Motivated by a desire to build a truly good sporty sedan, the Ford people did a fantastic job on the console. Obviously any console worth ifs space has a storage compartment, so the Cortina has a total of three bins for its occupants to fill. But the bin in the console is a masterpiece. It has a padded lid which serves as a center armrest for. the front seat passengers, the opening is surrounded with bright metal trim and there is even a friction apparatus which holds the lid open in an infinite number of positions. To give a console an official appearance it probably should contain at least one 'instrument- and the more important the instrument the better. You're not going to catch Ford napping there, either. Ford followed the prescription by putting a clock in the Cortina GT's console-s-and next year, who knows, it ,maybe joined by an anemometer. In the unlikely instance that you've been dazzled by the clock, the tachometer brings you back to reality-British reality. Right there on the face of the tach in white letters appear the words <em>n</em><em>egative earth. One way or another, there will always be an England. When it comes to schemes and devices to actuate the horn" the Cortina ranks with the best of them. Would you believe the turn signal lever telescopes and just as the lever reaches its shortest length the horn goes off? The end of, the turn signal lever makes a middling small target when you're <BR>
frantically trying to honk the horn but we've seen worse 'systems. Ford has chosen 'a shotgun approach to interior ventilation=flow-through system and vent windows too. That's taking no chances, like wearing suspenders and a belt. It works, though, and it works well and, that's where the points get counted. Now that the safety regulations are in effect we see interesting variations in safety belt design. Most American cars use two separate belts-one for lap and one for shoulder. The Japanese favor a detachable shoulder belt. The Cortina uses just one strap with a sliding buckle to equalize tension between the lap and shoulder sections. The disadvantage
with this system is that it puts the wearer in an all-or-none situation rather than allowing him an option of choosing the lap belt only. Have we managed to say yet that the Cortina is a British car? Whenever we try
to describe it we come back to that statement. It has some endearing characteristics, we loved to flog it because it feels strong and responsive although it never gives the impression of being a precision machine. The engineand drive train are very noisy contributing to a high background noise level at cruising speeds, the ride is quite harsh, particularly when we discovered that ride comfort hasn't been traded for good handling. Light cars normally have poor resistance to crosswinds and the Cortina is light and substandard for its weight. Most of all, though, we were impressed with the GT's performance. The car is quick for a sedan of its displacement and price,almost as good as a BMW 1600 with a $350 less imposing list price. We're left with the conclusion that the Cortina GT is a hard- nosed little flogger car, and to hell with everything else. That's no bad thing to be.