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Ford Cortina Mk1 buying guide

Ford Cortina Ford Cortina Ford Cortina Ford Cortina Anyone growing up in the Sixties was touched by the Ford Cortina Mk1. If there wasn’t one in the family, one of the neighbours would have one. The Cortina was one of the cars that defined the Sixties and it was a landmark model for Ford – a miracle of packaging, manufacturing efficiency and price. So it was no wonder that in just four years over a million examples were sold, to eager sales reps as well as families, keen to embrace the motorway age.

Although the Cortina was massively popular in period, few of those made have survived as they weren’t designed or built to last. Despite this, the Cortina remains as attainable as ever, with most derivatives worth very little. The Cortina’s original popularity hinged on a wide array of engines, trims and body styles being available, and things are no different now, although the Lotus editions have got very costly in recent years. For that reason we’ll overlook them here, but even without them there’s plenty to amuse.

Which one to buy

Cortinas are bought more on condition than specification, as is common at this end of the market. Although there was a variant for everyone when they were new, the rate of attrition for some of the lowlier editions means poverty-spec Cortinas are now very hard to find.

Just about any mechanical malady you’re likely to encounter can be knocked into shape cheaply and easily. But overlook bodywork glitches and things are very different, so don’t dismiss a car with a good body but mediocre running gear. The cost of reviving a project car can quickly run away with you, so be cautious about taking on a tatty or incomplete Cortina.

Unsurprisingly, the more powerful a Cortina is, the greater its desirability and value. As a result, GT editions carry a premium while autos aren’t very sought after as they’re rather uninspiring to drive, so don’t pay over the odds for one.

Estates are worth buying for their practicality, but they’re relatively unusual and most buyers prefer a two or four-door saloon instead. The former is especially sought after by those wanting a sportier look – and by those keen to create a Lotus lookalike.

Tech spec - Ford 1500GT

Engine 1498cc, four-cylinder
Power 78bhp @ 5200rpm
Torque 91lb ft @ 3600rpm
Top speed 91mph
0-60mph 12.1sec
Consumption 26mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual

What to look for

• Rust is likely and original panels are scarce and expensive, but some repro pressings are available. All inner and outer panels need to be checked carefully. The area around the headlamps corrodes along with the front bumper supports, the anti-roll bar mountings, the wing bottoms and the wheelarches.

• Also scrutinise the MacPherson strut tops, the bulkhead, the bottoms of the doors, the A-posts and the sills. Don’t overlook the B-posts, the closing panels for the rear doors, the rear wing bottoms, the wheelarches, the floorpans, the rear valance and the boot lid. Petrol tanks corrode too, along with the jacking points plus the rear spring and shock absorber mountings.

• Mk1 powerplants were based on the pre-Crossflow Kent engine. There were 1198cc or 1498cc variants, the latter in standard or more powerful GT forms. Engine rebuilds are straightforward, although some parts are hard to find. The first sign of trouble is usually noisy valve gear, because of worn rockers, cam followers and the camshaft itself.

• Worn timing chains also cause problems – listen for rattles from the front of the engine. But it’s worn rings and bores that will blow the biggest hole in your wallet. Even when really worn, blue smoke is unusual, so look for fumes from the oil filler and breather at the rear of the block.

• All manual Cortinas have a four-speed all-synchro gearbox. Worn second-gear synchro is the first sign of trouble, along with jumping out of top. This could be a broken spring in the gearchange fork rod, or the screw and lock nut which holds the selector fork rod together may have worked itself loose; both easy fixes. But it could be serious wear in the gearbox coupling dogs or selector fork rod.

• The Borg-Warner Type 35 automatic gearbox is very reliable, but also rare in the Cortina.

• The steering box gives an inch of play at the steering wheel. Check the steering by rocking the wheel from side to side, get somebody to watch the ball joints and the steering idler assemblies. Severe play will be immediately obvious.

• Look for play in the drag link pin and bushes which link the idler and steering box. New repro pins and bushes are available.

• The MacPherson struts’ upper mounting incorporates a thrust race ball bearing. Lack of lubrication and moisture getting in lead to it getting stiff.

• The rear hub bearings are a pain to replace, as they require 1200lb of pressure to remove and the same to put them back. Check for play by jacking up the back of the car and rocking the top and bottom of each wheel to see if there’s any movement.

Model history

1962: The Consul Cortina 113E two-door saloon arrives, in basic or de Luxe forms with an 1198cc OHV engine. Later, a four-door saloon appears.
1963: A five-bearing 1498cc engine is introduced; it’s standard on the Super and optional on the de Luxe. A five-door estate debuts and the GT arrives, with a 78bhp 1498cc engine, uprated suspension, disc front brakes. Also, the strip speedo gives way to a circular unit in a binnacle and there’s now an auto option on 1498cc cars.
1964: A facelift brings a full-width grille, disc front brakes, Aeroflow ventilation, interior upgrades and more power.
1965: The basic saloon is dropped
1966: The last Mk1 saloon and estate are built.

Key clubs and websites


Words: Richard Dredge
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Ford Cortina cars for sale

6 Search results
Ford Cortina
3995 55000 GBP
  • DEPOSIT TAKEN This particular Lotus Cortina is presented in great usable condition and was purchased new by the notable Mr Fred Bushell who was both the Chairman of Team Lotus and a Director of Lotus Cars at the time and owned the car until 1986 and during his tenureship was maintained by the Lotus factory. From what we can gather the Cortina was used Mrs Bushell as her daily driver and was maintained by the Lotus factory themselves during this time. It was then sold to Mr Utting in 1986 who confirmed with the factory that the mileage of 36,000 was genuine and matched the factory records. Complete with a lovely history file which includes the original handbooks and brochures, previous V5's, various bills and invoices for works carried out , documentation from Granada television regarding it's TV appearence on ITV's The Grimley's', plus lots more.......two boxfiles in fact. This Cortina drives fantastically and is a real piece of Ford/Lotus history and is surely an opportunity not to be missed. More detailed photographs are available upon request if required. *Viewing by appointment only*

    • Year: 1969

    Last update: 4 Days Old

    • Mileage: 47544 mi

    For sale
  • Hilton & Moss
    01279 813907
    see details
  • Probably the best there is, unmarked Sapphire Blue paintwork, detailed engine bay and boot, powder coated wheels , excellent chrome and original interior. This car hasn't been restored, and has all it's original body panels. Must be seen. Will feature briefly in upcoming BBC film 'The Lady in the Van'

    Last update: About 1 Month Old
    For sale
  • Affordable Classics
    01787 237887
    see details
  • The Ford Cortina MKV was announced on the 24th August 1979 and prices started at £3475 for a basic 1.3 model. The engines were improved from the MKIV models with improved power output and fuel economy. The estate model combined the MKIV bodyshell with the MKV front body pressings. The final year of production for the Cortina was 1982 and our example is a very late car that was first registered on the 1st February 1983. The Cortina was a huge success right through its long term production run from the 1960's through to the 1980's. Up to and including 1981 the Cortina was the best selling car in the UK and in March 2009 the Cortina was still the third most popular car sold in Britain. The estate versions have always proved popular and are becoming increasingly more desirable. We have taken this Cortina Estate in part exchange from a regular customer based in Norwich. The car has been used mainly for weekend use and some corporate advertising. The last owner, a Company Director had the car sign written with corporate logos but on arrival with us they were removed. On arrival we were pleased to note excellent, straight body panels and no rust issues, however on removal of the sign writ

    • Year: 1983

    Last update: About 1 Month Old
    For sale
  • see details
  • Unique to the South African market, the 3.0 XLE was the top of the Cortina range over there. It is fitted with the 3.0 Essex V6 (hence the 'E') and automatic gearbox. This car is in a very original condition, even down to the paint, although I'm sure it has had some paintwork over the years. Panel fit is good all round and it still has the original wheels with the XLE hubcaps. The interior is immaculate and is the dark tan vinyl. Some modifications have been made to the suspension including springs and bushes to make the handling more secure. A very rare car, I have not seen another in the UK, and don't know even if there are any others!

    Last update: About 1 Month Old
    For sale
  • Affordable Classics
    01787 237887
    see details
  • French registration Lotus Engine Type 120 E - Legendary model - Well prepared - Ready for regularity rallies - No reserve - Ex Rallye du Vaucluse 1968 Unveiled in 1965, this Ford Cortina Lotus Type 125E, had an early career in the Vaucluse region and participated between 1968 and 1970 in several regional races such as the 1968 Rallye du Vaucluse and the hill races of Lure, Manosque and Ampus. Till 1989, the car was still registered with its Vauclusien number and, between 1994 and 2005, it was owned by a collector from the Savoye region of France. In 2005, became the property of the famous rally driver and collector Pierre Bos, from Toulouse. The car at that point benefited from various restorations, as can be seen by an invoice from garage Harper, and an important file of the workshop ALS for the repair of the rear axle, the gearbox and the engine. The total of invoices is over € 20,000. Following this overhaul, the car participated successfully in the Rallye Monte Carlo Historique in 2007. Featuring a good preparation consisting of rollcage, bucket seats, harnesses and special tank, the car is powered by the double overhead cam Lotus engine, which gives the car its legendary character. The car comes with a FFSA passport from 1998, a FIVA Identity Card and a historic regularity sheet from FIA 2006.

    Last update: 4 Months Old
    For sale
  • see details
  • This original 1965 Ford Lotus Cortina Left Hand Drive Rally Conversion was restored in 1992 and having FIA identity from 1993. Currently finished in white with green stripe the car can be rallied or raced.

    • Year: 1965

    Last update: About 1 Month Old
    For sale
  • Desmond J Smail
    01234 240 636
    see details
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