The immortal Lotus Cortina by Ford of Dagenham, in England, is one of the most charismatic, best loved and universally successful high-performance cars ever to represent the great globalized American company’s famous blue-oval badge.
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 trunk 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.
The production Lotus Cortina was itself updated, the 1965 homologation model returning to leaf springs in place of coil-springs at the rear. The engines were tuned by 1962 F1 World Champion constructor BRM. By the end of production late in 1966 it is believed that some 2894 Lotus Cortinas had been built, virtually all finished in Ermine White with Sherwood Green body band and flash.
This wonderful example of the Mark 1 Lotus Cortina was converted in 2016 to a fully compliant Appendix K race car by the current vendor to compete in the Silverstone Classic. After the race, the engine was rebuilt in order to increase the output to 180bhp with all new steel crank, piston liners, cylinder head and valves. A new gearbox and differential were also fitted along with a new exhaust. We are told that the vendor has spent over £70,000 in the restoration and set up of this car and it certainly shows. Ready to be campaigned by the lucky new owner, we are sure this Cortina will provide a huge amount of enjoyment and some competitive results to boot.