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Ford Cortina turns 50

All up, Ford sold over four million Cortinas worldwide.

It was Britain bestselling car from 1972 through 1982, when it was replaced by the Serria. All up, Ford sold over four million Cortinas worldwide.

That concept of the Cortina was for a simple, basic car that was easy to maintain and cheap to build. On this platform they built two and four doors sedans and wagons, in various guises, from poverty pack through to a sports /luxury "GT" model.

When the boys at Lotus got a hold of the GT they turned it into a legendary winning race car. Even the Formula One jocks such as Jim Clark strapped into Lotus Cortinas for a bit of Sunday afternoon hi jinx against the Mustang of yet another Formula One star, Sir Jack Brabham.

A Lotus Cortina was used as a getaway car in the 1963 Great Train Robbery. The exact car used by Ronnie Biggs and others in the famous heist is now owned by a car collector in Exeter, UK.

In Australia, the Cortina was Ford's entry into the "mid-sized" market, sitting below the Falcon in size and price. Locally, Ford followed the British market strategy, with inexpensive two door price leaders enticing the buyers to dealerships and the top of the range "GT" as the eye candy.

Harry Firth was given the task of making the GT a race winner and the car dominated the (then) Bathurst 500 in 1963 and 1964. For the 1965 race Firth and Ford developed the GT500, essentially a local Lotus, and it won again.

The Cortina went through four more series in Europe and in Australia. But there the similarities end. In the UK and Europe Ford stuck with four cylinder power, while in Australia, the success of the Torana 6 and V8s motivated Ford Australia to shoehorn in its 3.3 and 4.1 litre sixes into the tight confines of the engine bay, in addition to the four cylinder engines.

The result was plenty of power and torque. The handling characteristics were what most motoring writers focused on. As with so many classic cars, the six cylinder Cortinas might not have been widely popular when new, but they are sought after now. 

Ford Australia finally pensioned off the Cortina in 1982 when they cloned the Mazda 626 and labelled it Telstar. In July this year, to mark the 50th anniversary, the first Cortina Nationals will be held in Albury. We expect a big roll up.