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The Ford Cortina

Chances are if you were born in the 70s then either your father, or your mates father owned a Cortina at some point.

The first Cortina, the MK 1, came out in 1962 and set a new standard for mid size sedans. It was a great looking car, and for the time, had pretty good performance from 1.2 or 1.5L Kent engine. The MK 1 Cortina made its mark on the world when Lotus got involved, fitting it with a 1.6L Twin Cam engine and making substantial improvements to the suspension. The Lotus Cortina was very successful in most forms of motorsport and original examples are now worth a lot of money.

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The Mk 1 was followed by the Mk 2 1966, a wider car with more interior space, it also added the 1.6L version of the Kent engine to the lineup, and had its own Lotus special.


The Mk 3 came out in 1970 and was a significantly larger car. It added the 2.0 overhead cam Pinto engine to the range and in some markets was fitted with various versions of the Essex V6, or the 4.0L straight six from the Falcon.

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The MK 1 was designed with curves, the Mk 2 was more square and the Mk3 went back to having curves. The Mk 4 of course was a square design again, and during the 80s was a pretty recognisable shape on the roads. At the time of it’s release in 1976 it was starting to date, but By this time the Cortina was truly a global car, being sold in Europe, Japan, Africa, North America, Australia and here in NZ. The engine range was also huge, but varied greatly by market, we mostly got 2.0 Pinto powered cars here, but a few V6 models also made it, along with a few of 4.0L straight six powered cars that used the same Falcon engine from the Mk 3.


In 1979 there was a Mk 5, really just a face lift of the MK4, but by this point the Cortina was really out of date, and although the Mk5 was the best Cortina ever made, in 1979 it certainly wasn’t the best midsize sedan on the road. It lasted until 1981 when it was replaced by the Seirra, that was then replaced by the Mondeo.


The Cortina’s were popular as new cars, but never as popular in the modified car world as the smaller lighter Escort, or the bigger Falcon. As good as the Cortina was, an Escort could be made to go faster and would handle better, while the Falcon was the obvious choice for anyone wanting a V8 ford.

Cortina’s now are hard to find, and only the Lotus models are really desirable. A quick search of TradeMe found several Mk 1s, a single Mk3 and a few Mk 5s for sale. One of the Mk 5 was a wagon with an SR20DET swap, which could be fun to drive.




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