On this day in auto history - September 20th

Mon 20th Sep 2021

It was on this day in 1962 that the Ford Cortina - one of the UK's best-selling cars ever - was formally launched ahead of that year’s London Motor Show at Earls Court.

Very much a ‘Ford of Britain’ project, the Cortina - named after an upmarket Italian ski resort - was a non-nonsense, family-sized saloon car which was designed to be economical to run and could be purchased for as little as £573.

Such was its success, it spawned five generations in all and helped Ford gain a market leadership in the UK which it has never relinquished.

The Ford Cortina comfortably became the UK's best-selling car of the 1970’s, topping the table for nine out of 10 years between 1972 and 1981, the exception being 1976 when it was narrowly outsold by its stablemate, the Ford Escort.

Though it was popular in export markets, the Cortina’s phenomenal success was concentrated in the British Isles. In all, over 2.8 million Cortina’s were sold in the UK during its 20-year production life and it was the best-selling nameplate in the history of British motoring when it was eventually phased out in 1982.

Since then, it has been superseded by the Ford Fiesta, Ford Escort and Vauxhall Astra.

Due to its practicality and perceived reliability, Ford Cortina’s were a popular second-hand buy and remained a common sight on Britain’s roads well into the 1990’s, long after it had been succeeded in Ford’s line-up by the less popular Sierra.