The Ford Cortina is 50 years old this year. A classic, understated and practical design, the Cortina has earned a deserved place in every discerning classic lover’s heart. I think it’s worth taking a look at this iconic car. Ford launched the Cortina in 1962 and while in production it survived 5 generations from (Mark I to Mark V) before being replaced with the not quite so memorable Sierra in 1982. 

By the time the Cortina was taken off the market, it had sold over a million. Each revised version proving to be more popular than it’s predecessor. In fact, the Cortina was Britain’s best selling car every year from 1972 to 1981. And there is even a rumour in some quarters that Ford may be about to inject new life into the Cortina in the not so distant future..

the sweeney, life on mars, carry on cabby

But let’s look at the more fun side of this legend of the British roads rather than dwell on facts and figures. The name was inspired by Cortina d’Ampezzo, an Italian ski resort that was host to the 1956 Winter Olympics. Ford generated publicity by driving several of the vehicles down the bobsled run – they called this Cortina Auto-Bobbing. Sounds crazy? Of course it was, but I defy you not to develop a smile when watching this old clip.

Both sides of the law
My first memory of the Cortina is from The Sweeney – not the recent film remake, but the original 1970s cop series. Jack Regan (John Thaw) drove a Ford Granada in the main, but a Cortina was nearly always their back up car which changed for each series.

But it was the other side of the law that got the public’s attention in 2009 when the Lotus Cortina that was used in The Great Train Robbery in 1963, was sold at auction for around £100,000. The Lotus Cortina was a 2-door model finished in white with a green side detail on each side. With a 1558cc engine and some lightweight aluminium panels, it doesn’t take much imagination to see why the robbers used this car.

lotus cortina

From Carry On to Ziggy
On a far less serious note, several Cortinas were used as a fleet of taxis in Carry On Cabbing, the classic 1963 British comedy. You might be getting the impression by now that the Cortina is not quite up there with the Aston Martins of Bond or the Porsches of James Dean or Steve McQueen. Well you may be right – after all, the Cortina has always been the British working man’s car. But you may not realise that a Cortina was also featured on the cover of David Bowie’s classic album Ziggy Stardust, which of course is celebrating it’s own 40th anniversary this year. There, in the background, is a Ford Cortina.

Is there life on Mars?
More recently you might have seen a metallic bronze MK3 2000E Cortina in the BBC series Life On Mars, with it’s wood rim steering wheel and Rostyle wheels. The car, known as Tina to fans of the show, appeared on Ebay on 2007 where it was snapped up by Paul Shedden. Mr Shedden said that he even found torn segments of script in the glove compartment. The car was auctioned in aid of Comic Relief and sold for £10,000.

Earlier this year, Frank Sheach’s Cortina came up for auction. But this car was a bit special, it had never been driven. The mint condition Cortina only had the delivery mileage on the clock – which was just 93 miles. Originally owned by the well known car collector, TC Harrison, Sheach had only ever taken the car to shows. The car sold for £18,000 in May this year.

ford cortina

So reasonably priced gems are still out there, the Cortina might not sell for the mega-bucks that other classic cars can command, but the Ford Cortina is a piece of classic British motoring history, much loved, and rightly so.
Images from www.aronline.co.uk, www.5years.com and www.kendall123

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