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Ford’s stunning Mk II Cortina celebrates 55 years


What do Australia, England, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan have in common? They all built the stunning Ford Cortina Mark II from 1966-70 and exported the model all over the world.

The British-designed second-generation Cortina was penned by Ron Hayes and was launched globally on 18 October 1966. Some of the model’s styling elements were drawn from the US Falcon, and although the model’s advertising slogan was the “New Cortina is more Cortina”, the car was shorter than before at 4270mm in length. Despite this, the new Cortina’s wider, more curved panels gave it more interior space.

It also boasted a tighter turning circle than its predecessor and a more comfortable ride. The MkII Cortina also had self-adjusting brakes and clutch and adopted a new five-bearing 1.3-litre engine in certain markets, later with a crossflow head.

The MkII Cortina became the best-selling car in Britain by 1967 and reviews of the day were positive. The media was complimentary of both the car’s style and performance, irrespective of body style – of which there was three: two-door sedan, four-door sedan, and five-door wagon, in as many as four different trim grades.

Arguably, the most important of the trim grades offered in the MkII Cortina line-up was the 1600E. Debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1967, it combined the lowered suspension of the Cortina Lotus with the high-performance GT 1600 Kent engine and luxurious interior trim.

Burr walnut dash fascia and door caps, bucket seats, a leather-clad aluminium steering wheel and full instrumentation adorned the cabin of the Cortina 1600E, while outside, a black grille and tail panel, front fog lights and Rostyle wheels really turned heads.

Cortina for racing

In Australia, the Cortina was built as a family car, but like most Australian family cars was popular on the racetrack. The MkI Cortina GT had won Bathurst in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and Australian racers had high hopes for the follow-up model, particularly the Lotus Cortina (or Cortina Lotus, depending on who you ask).

The story goes that Ford of England approached Lotus boss Colin Chapman to build 1,000 homologation specials so that Ford could go racing. Chapman’s Lotus-isation of Ford’s then-new Kent engine gave it a twin-cam head and a flywheel number of 78kW (105hp). It drove the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox from the Lotus Elan.

Chapman and his team completed a major overhaul of the Cortina’s suspension fitting shorter struts and forged track arms at the front and an A-frame cradle with coil springs at the rear. The lot was braced with strengthening ribs and the spare tyre mounted upright in the boot, opposite a relocated battery.

More go meant more whoa, and the MkII Lotus Cortina adopted 240mm Girling discs up front with servo assistance for good measure. A 200mm diaphragm-spring clutch replaced the coil-spring unit of the standard model. The bonnet, boot lid, and doors were all pressed from aluminium to keep the weight down.

It’s unknown exactly how many MkII Cortinas were sold in Australia, or how many true Lotus Cortinas remain here. What we do know is the MkII is a highlight of the era and the prettiest car to wear the Cortina nameplate in its 20-year and five-generation production run.


1969 Ford Cortina GT Mark II performance figures:

  • Engine:6-litre (97.6ci) four-cylinder
  • Outputs: 69kW/138Nm
  • Transmission: Four-speed manual
  • Top Speed: 155km/h
  • 0-100km/h:3 seconds
  • 0-400m:5 seconds
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