Ford goes back to drawing board to redesign Cortina for 21st century... 50 years after the classic car's launch

  • The original design would not pass today’s crash tests
  • MkII model turned up in TV programmes including The Benny Hill Show

By Ray Massey

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Ford has gone back to the drawing board to re-design the classic 1960s Cortina and make it fit for the 21st century as it today celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Ford Europe’s chief designer Paul Wraith undertook the commission to mark five decades of the original Dagenham-built MKI Cortina, which was launched in 1962 to great acclaim.

The commission came courtesy of motoring magazine Auto Express, which wanted to know how the car giant might transform the legendary family saloon car and re-invent it for today.

The re-designed Ford Cortina combines parts of the iconic bodywork with the manufacturer's latest technology

The re-designed Ford Cortina combines parts of the iconic bodywork with the manufacturer's latest technology

Memorable design: The new Cortina displays recognisable nods to the legendary model

Memorable design: The new Cortina displays recognisable nods to the legendary model

The original Ford Cortina was launched 50 years ago today on September 21, 1962, costing from £573 for the standard 1200 saloon. Today a similar car range would cost from between £16,000 and £22,000.

 

Auto Express Editor Steve Fowler said: ’Ford is celebrating 50 years of the Cortina and we’ve got them to design a Cortina for 2012 – meeting all today’s regulations, but with the size and style of the original.

‘We told him we weren’t looking for a new take on the original but wanted him to stay as true to the design of the original as possible, but with every modern bit of technology and safety built in.

New look: The updated Cortina design features a wider rear windscreen and a lower, sleeker roofline

New look: The updated Cortina design features a wider rear windscreen and a lower, sleeker roofline

Crumple zones would have to be added and the supporting pillars around the windscreen thickened for the Cortina to pass modern safety tests

Crumple zones would have to be added and the supporting pillars around the windscreen thickened for the Cortina to pass modern safety tests

‘We effectively wanted a hi-tech, five-star crash test rated, pedestrian friendly Cortina of the Sixties.. Not much to ask.’

BRITAIN'S BEST-LOVED 70s CAR

The original Ford Cortina was launched 50 years ago on September 21, 1962.

It cost from £573 for the standard 1200 saloon. A similar car range today would cost from between £16,000 and £22,000.

There were five generations of Cortina: the MK I (1962-66); MkII (66 to 70); Mk III (70 to 76), Mk IV (76 to 79) and Mk V (79 to 82).

The original MK I Cortina with a 1.2 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine had a top speed of 76.5mph, took 20 seconds to get to 60mph from rest, and fuel economy of 30.2mpg.

The souped-up Lotus Cortina had a top speed of 108mph and could sprint from rest to 60mph in 10.1 seconds and averaged 21.3mph.

The 21st century Cortina with its frugal EcoBoost 1.0 litre 3-cylinder engine will sprint to 60 mph in 10 seconds with a top speed of 120mph and would average 56.5mpg.

Some 4.3million Cortinas were produced over 20 years from 1962.

The last Cortina was assembled in July 1982, to be succeeded by the Sierra costing £4,515.

The Cortina was Britain's best-selling car for 10 of the 20 years it was on sale: 1967, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

UK sales for the Ford Cortina totalled 2,816,639 and its best-selling month of all time was 25,790 in August 1981.

Total Cortina production was 4,279,079, of which 3,155,161 were built at Dagenham.
Cortina assembly also took place in Genk (Belgium), Amsterdam, Cork (Ireland) and at Cheshunt (Lotus-Cortina Mk I only).

The Ford Cortina has made dozens of film and TV appearances including Carry On Cabby released in 1963.

The MkII model turned up in productions as diverse as Billion Dollar Brain – driven by Michael Caine who, in reality, didn’t have a driving licence at the time – and The Benny Hill Show.

Ford designer Paul Wraith said: ‘The original car was accessible and agile. The body shape is really iconic and those ‘ban the bomb’ tail-lights are so recognisable. ‘But obviously we’ve got a host of global legal requirements we need to meet.

‘We also need it to be recognisable as a Ford from the outside. The original designers would have had a tight brief limited by the fact that they had to make it profitable.’

The original Cortina design – with a jutting front bumper and sharp edges, would not pass today’s vitally important European crash tests to protect driver, occupants and even pedestrians, he says.

Crumple zones would have to be designed in, the supporting pillars around the windscreen thickened and the windows made shallower to survive side impacts.

The distinctive rear tail-lights are retained but given a sharper and more modern look. The two sharp ridges or ‘pontoons’ on the boot are retained in the 2012 version. But a wider rear windscreen is needed to ensure all-round visibility. And a lower, sleeker roofline is needed to fit with modern sporty taste.

The boom in demand for diesel engines which are bigger and need more cooling, would require a bigger front opening. But Ford’s new frugal 1.0 litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine would be the perfect fit while satisfying today’s demand for fuel economy and performance, managing the sprint from rest to 62mph in about 10 seconds – compared with 20 seconds for the original - with a top speed of  about 120mph.

This is despite the extra demands of technology and safety pushing the weight of a new Cortina up by 50 per cent to 1.2 tonnes, compared to 0.8 tonnes for the original in the Sixties.

That means more powerful brakes are needed and the chassis would have to be strengthened to cope. Air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB digital radio would be musts today.

The original MK 1 Cortina with a 1.2 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine had a top speed of 76.5mph, took 20 seconds to get to 60mph from rest, and fuel economy of 30.2mpg.

The souped-up Lotus Cortina had a top speed of 108mph and could sprint from rest to 60mph in 10.1 seconds and averaged 21.3mph.

The 21st century Cortina with its frugal EcoBoost 1.0 litre 3-cylinder engine will sprint to 60 mph in 10 seconds with a top speed of 120mph and would average 56.5mpg.

There were five generations of Cortina: the MK I (1962-66); MkII (66 to 70); Mk III (70 to 76), Mk IV (76 to 79) and Mk V (79 to 82).

Heyday: A 1976 Ford Cortina Ghia, complete with jutting front bumper and sharp edges

Heyday: A 1976 Ford Cortina Ghia, complete with jutting front bumper and sharp edges

A four-door Cortina Mark III. In the new design, the distinctive rear tail-lights are retained but given a sharper and more modern look.

A four-door Cortina Mark III. In the new design, the distinctive rear tail-lights are retained but given a sharper and more modern look.

AutoExpress editor Mr Fowler said: ’It all seems a world away from the simple, original car that made such a splash in the Sixties. But these days buyers are more demanding. We want our cars to be practical, efficient and hi-tech – all for a great price.’

More than a million of the original Mk1 Cortina’s were built between 1962 and 1966 with total Cortina production topping nearly 4.3million by the time the Mk IV came to the end of the road in 1982.

Celebrated in song, in poetry by Sir John Betjeman, in movies and on TV, some 3.15million Cortinas were built at Ford’s Dagenham plant in Essex, now given over to engine production.

Will Ford put their designer Mr Wraith’s 2012 version into production and bring back the Cortina name? Lovely to think so – but don’t hold your breath.

 

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Great news...all Ford fans will be delighted with this "retro" decision by Ford to consider bringing back the Cortina name.....they see what the retro look did for the Mustang.....and remember in its 20 years from 1962-82 it achieved 10 x 1st .....8 x 2nd.....and 2 x 3rd place (total = 20) in the sales charts .....look forward to driving one in the near future !

Click to rate     Rating   4

All Ford fans will be delighted with this Ford "retro" decision and design which really kicked off with the modern retro Ford Mustang a few years back.........look forward to driving a future Ford Cortina

Click to rate     Rating   4

They all fell to pieces when the wire worm paid a visit!

Click to rate     Rating   6

Just bring back the Escort Mk1, Capri Mk1 & Mk3 Cortina updated with all the mod cons like a 70 MPG diesel & air con etc. Owned all three they were all fantastic cars. I wish Ford would make them again it would end the economic downturn in an instant..

Click to rate     Rating   6

What a disgusting new design. It's an offence to anyone who actually cares about the original Cortina.

Click to rate     Rating   8

There was only one Cortina worth mentioning the Lotus version a classic

Click to rate     Rating   4

Dagenham Dustbag! Although very fond memories of a Mk III and my first girlfriend....

Click to rate     Rating   3

Very basic, you could fix them yourself,Usually every weekend

Click to rate     Rating   14

Every car looks the same mini Audi Aston with borrowed design parts. The car industry is stagnated and lost with gadgets and branding!

Click to rate     Rating   10

My favourite was the Mark III. Preferably with Philip Glenister and John Simm as optional extras ;-)

Click to rate     Rating   7

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