1967 Ford Cortina
1967 Ford Cortina. Click image to enlarge

Article and photo by Bill Vance

The Ford Motor Company of England’s first “captive imports” that came to North America shortly after the Second World War were pretty primitive machines. Upright styling, leaf spring front suspension, mechanical brakes and tiny long stroke, side-valve engines that gave very modest performance made those little late 1940s Anglias and Prefects only marginally suitable for our driving conditions.

But new post-war designs soon appeared, and cars like the 1951 Ford Consul, six-cylinder Zephyr and more powerful Zodiac were thoroughly modern cars that kept up with normal traffic and carried five/six passengers. They also brought us a couple of engineering breakthroughs: MacPherson strut front suspension and suspended pedals, both of which would eventually sweep the industry. They were also the first Fords with overhead valves and 12-volt electrics.

The smaller Anglia and Prefect were also modernized with new styling and a short stroke, overhead valve four that would prove robust and almost infinitely expandable. It would establish an enviable reputation in sedan and open wheel racing and in various displacements powered a variety of Ford cars, including the Cortina.

The original Cortina, originally the Consul Cortina, arrived in the fall of 1962 as a 1963 model. It drew some components from the Anglia such as the four-cylinder engine with its stroke increased from 48.3 mm (1.90 in.) to 58.2 mm (2.29 in.), which enlarged displacement from 1.0 to 1.2 litres. But even with the longer stroke, a bore and stroke of 81 X 58.2 mm (3.19 X 2.29 in.) was still very oversquare. The Anglia also contributed its four-speed, floor-shifted transmission.

The Cortina came initially as a 4/5 passenger two-door sedan and was soon expanded to four doors and a station wagon. Styling was pleasant and straightforward, with generous windows providing good visibility.

Performance was modest, though comparable with other small cars of the day. Its 53 horsepower could accelerate the 805 kg (1,775 lb) two-door to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 24.4 seconds (Road & Track 2/’63). The most popular small car of that period, the Volkswagen (Beetle), took 27.7 seconds (R&T 12/’60). The Cortina’s top speed was 121 km/h (75 mph), the VW’s, 115 km/h (71.4 mph).

While R&T was favourably impressed by the Cortina, they noted the shortcoming that plagued most small cars of that era: low gearing. At a normal 96 km/h (60 mph) cruise the Cortina’s four was buzzing at 3,800 rpm, while at a not unusual 113 km/h (70 mph) it was straining at more than 4,400.

Connect with Autos.ca