's Great British Cars – Ford Cortina Mk1

Sat 13th Oct 2018

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Ford Cortina Mk1
When Ford’s chief designer Roy Brown Jr. was sent to the motor company’s Dagenham plant, a punishment for the disappointing Edsel, which was considered unattractive, overpriced and overhyped, he had a huge task on his hands to rescue his own personal reputation. The Edsel lost Ford $250 million and the very name became a symbol for commercial failure.

Banished to the UK, Brown hit back with the Cortina, one of the most iconic car designs of all-time, Ford’s most successful ever car in British history.

After naming the Edsel after Henry Ford’s only son, the company moved to safer territory by naming the Cortina after an Italian ski resort, Cortina d’Ampezzo, which had been the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Ford actually used the resort’s bobsled run in a publicity stunt featuring several Cortinas driven down it.

In stark contrast to the sophistication and complexity of the Edsel, the Cortina’s ethos was to be economical, cheap to run and easy and inexpensive to produce. The car was aimed squarely at the market which was buying the Morris Oxford Farina and Vauxhall Victor.

Launched a few weeks before the London Motor Show of October 1962, it originally came with the longer brand name of the Consul Cortina, before standing on its own as a Cortina following a facelift in 1964.

The Cortina was an almost instant success, the perfect car for the time as drivers embraced the new long distance motorways which were fast appearing across the nation. A triumph of both design and practicality, the Ford Cortina would sell over a million examples in its first four years. Later to go on to be Britain’s best selling car of the 1970s.

Years of manufacture: 1962-1966 
Price when new: £643

Price now: £500-£55,000

Engine: 1,498cc 4cyl petrol, 60bhp

Top speed: 82mph