The two-door Ford Cortina GT had already been proven in rallies and circuit racing when Ford executive Walter Hayes approached Colin Chapman to produce a world-beating racing saloon, following up a series of successful Ford-powered Lotus Formula Junior single-seaters. The plan called for Lotus to assemble 1000 cars to homologate the model for FIA Group 2 racing. Engineer Harry Mundy – who had previously helped design the Formula 1 World Championship-winning Coventry Climax engines – had been commissioned by Chapman to design a twin-overhead camshaft cylinder head to top the Ford 1500 Kent engine’s ‘unburstable bottom end’.
Cosworth Engineering helped develop and fine-tune these engines, while the Ford 4-speed gearbox as specified for the Lotus Elan was adopted for the Cortina program. Colin Chapman significantly revised the Ford Cortina’s suspension, changing the spring and damper rates, reducing the ride height, and utilizing coil springs at the rear. The body shell was lightened with aluminium skins in the doors, hood and boot lid. Aluminium was also adopted for the clutch housing, remote gearshift extension and differential case. The standard full-width front bumper was replaced by quarter bumpers. Lotus badges were added externally while the interior featured bucket front seats, pistol-grip handbrake and a wood-rim alloy-spoked steering wheel.
Production began in February 1963, with homologation being achieved in September 1963 despite production not yet having reached the FIA’s 1,000-off minimum. Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Vic Elford, Jack Sears, Sir John Whitmore, and Jacky Ickx all raced Cortinas. Jim Clark – multiple F1 World Champion and Indy 500 winner, also won the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship in his works version.
This lovely genuine Lotus Cortina has had we understand just 4 owners from new, covering just under 80,000 miles. The Lotus has been part of a small classic car collection, owned by an enthusiast and former garage owner who has worked on these wonderful cars since new. First registered on 1st January 1965, the Lotus has benefitted from a restoration a few years ago, with a recent engine rebuild which included the fitting of new pistons and bearings.
The Cortina has been cared for by the current owner for the last 8 years, during which time it has been stored carefully in a dry heated garage. A delightful original example of the definitive touring car.