“Having a well-developed engine in a car weighing under 19 cwt unladen makes the Cortina GT not only one of the most lively 1 ½ liter saloons but also the fastest five-seater you can buy for less than £800.” Autocar, January 1965
Ford’s bang up to date family saloon, the Cortina, was launched in 1962 and it was destined to be the company’s backbone model for the next twenty years. The Lotus variants provided the real halo affect for the range but there was a place for a warm as opposed to hot version which spurned the complex cylinder head arrangement of the Cheshunt built cars but in reality, suffered only a relatively small power deficit. With a four door version available the Cortina GT’s appeal was far wider than that of the ‘LoCort’ and the fact that all the sales revenue went to Ford must have endured it to the Top Brass. While the highly strung Lotus’ ruled the roost on the circuits, a simpler, more robust machine was the weapon of choice in rallying where outright power was less important than a car’s ability to slug it out with the conditions – not to mention be repairable at the side of a track in Wales or Greece. As a consequence many a GT, with their Factory heavy duty body-shells and robust mechanical components, was pressed into service in open road competition and you might be surprised at how many opted for the four door configuration in period. Back then Rallying was more about endurance rather than the short duration out and out sprint of today’s format. Comfort and convenience on a multi-day (and night) event were higher up the list of priorities than ultimate pace.
This crackerjack Cortina is a Factory original ‘airflow’ four door GT that rolled off the Dagenham production line in August 1965 in the Ermine White shade it wears today, though at that stage it just might have had a Savoy Black roof (help us out here Cortina guys – the paint code is “BA A”). The Chassis Plate also confirms it to have been a right hand drive 1500 with the GT remote floor mounted gear change running a standard 3.9:1 differential and that it sported black vinyl trim as it (mostly) does today. Registered on 30th September 1965 it has apparently had just five registered keepers since, the last of which is a well-known and respected rally driver in both modern endurance and historic disciplines, who had been involved with the car since 2001 and owned it since 2011.
Though understood to have been in rally specification since at least 1994, the GT was comprehensively restored in the late 1990's. The shell was stripped back to bare metal and the car was rebuilt to Historic “Regularity” Rallying specification allowing it to acquire both FIA and FIVA papers. Since then it has been used regularly on some very prestigious events such as the Rally Monte-Carlo Historique and during this time it has been maintained diligently. On taking the car over in 2011, the previous owner continued this program of maintenance and improvement and the 'high torque' camshaft equipped pre-crossflow engine was tweaked and dyno tested on 24th January 2012 when it produced 94.6 bhp @ 5,600 rpm and 96.7 lbft of torque @ 4,300 rpm on a single twin choke Weber carburettor, both useful hikes from the standard cars 78 and 91 respectively. While not exactly breaking any records these figures are ideal for the car’s purpose which is not dissimilar to that of a rally car when the GT was new.
Today the Cortina displays a high standard of preparation, is in fine condition and we have to say it is refreshing to see a slate grey flash as opposed to the Sherwood Green of the wannabe Lotus’. The extensive specification includes a ‘Rocket’ gearbox with aluminium bellhousing feeding power to a Tran-X English Limited Slip Differential with a 4.1:1 final drive ratio. A centrally mounted aluminium fuel tank in the boot is drained by twin Facet ‘Red Top’ pumps feeding a Filter King fuel pressure regulator and filter via Aeroquip hose. Extra shell rigidity is provided by a strut brace and a Lotus Cortina front anti-roll bar with slightly lowered suspension and Spax adjustable shock absorbers on all four corners keep the car level-ish. A brake servo, insulated against exhaust heat, is fitted to compliment the harder Mintex brake material employed.
Competition goodies such as rear fog and spot/reversing lights, rubber boot catches, leather bonnet straps and towing eyes are all present along with the correct GT badges. Reliability is enhanced with electronic Ignition, an alternator and a pre-engaged starter. The battery has been relocated to the boot where the repositioned fuel tank allows two spare wheels to be carried alongside an ‘on event’ spares box containing essentials such as fan belts, a dizzy cap, and spark plugs. A spare coil is mounted under bonnet for quick substitution. Four 6.5” X 13” Minilites with 175 Vredestein Quatrac 3 Mud and Snow tyres are fitted and a spare is secured with a quick release mechanism in the boot.
Inside, the workmanlike interior sports a dashboard that is particularly well stocked with an Elliot 8,000 rpm tachometer neatly fitted in the original’s binnacle and a range of VDO gauges covering battery charge, fuel level and oil pressure. Stickers for cut-off switches and the like should keep the scrutineers happy and a SPA Fire Fighter extinguisher is mounted under the co-driver’s knees with a Retro Trip tripmeter above to compliment the Brantz Rally Timer. With a bendy map light and plenty of switches to play with, the navigator is well catered for and the handbrake lever has been relocated to a far more user friendly position between the seats. Some comfort is provided with full carpeting and a pair of Corbeau GTS reclining bucket seats are ideal for long runs paired with Sabelt harness’, ideal for short stops.
Though this is definitely a working car with the emphasis on function rather than beauty, the chrome and paintwork are more than presentable and definitely fit for purpose. The black carpets are in good shape as is the correct, possibly original, bench rear seat, save for a small split in the squab as shown in the photo gallery. The relatively new headlining is in excellent condition though the downside is it makes the original-looking sun visors look a little tired. Mechanically everything sounds, looks and feels absolutely spot on and new front brake callipers and pads plus new rear wheel cylinders have recently been fitted. The genuine Minilite wheels have been refinished and are in excellent condition with the taller profile tyres (barely worn) protecting them from kerbs and the like.
The underside is structurally apparently very sound and undamaged, partly no doubt due to this being a regularity rally machine so it has not been subjected to the damaging rigors of off road use though a sump guard is present in case the navigator fails to spot the odd humpback bridge. Reassuringly the GT specific rear axle links are still present and correct.
A wealth of scrutineering tags and entrants stickers testify to the GT’s long Historic Rallying career stretching back to the International Historic Tulpen Rally in 1994 followed by a clean sweep of the first five Rally Monte-Carlo Historiques from 1998 to 2002. Since then it has also entered a couple of European mainland events in 2004 and the ever popular Wales-based ‘Three Castles’ in 2011 and 2012.
A useful spares package is included in the sale comprising:
A thick folder contains a wealth of information and history including a useful list of component sources and part numbers covering brakes, clutch components and even ball joints and filters. There is a sheaf of old MOT certificates and a mass of bills covering a range of maintenance; electrical and brake work in 2012, a cylinder head rebuild by TMI in 2010 which included three-angle valve seats and race guides plus various bearings bushes, engine components, wheels and so on. Motoscope of Northallerton have carried out much of the recent work on the GT and the highlights of their bills include:
£450 in 2012 for a ‘Quick shift’ gear-change, brakes etc.
£1,359 in 2012 for the fuel system upgrades, brakes, Rolling Road session, switches etc.
£2,370 in 2013 for the differential, Powerflex bushes, ARP flywheel bolts, wheel and axle bearings, oil seals and a Lotus Cortina anti roll bar kit.
FIA Papers for Historic Regularity Rallying (1999) and FIVA identity card (2010) are included in the file along with copies of Homologation papers and Road Tests plus handy wiring diagrams for the additional electrical equipment the Cortina now sports.
The GT drives particularly well once warmed up and the choke is dispensed with. The engine is a little more ‘camy’ than a standard GT’s but it is still some way from being in petulant race-tune. The ‘2000E’ must surely be one of the nicest gearboxes ever made and the Quick-shift only further improves an already excellent setup. All of this compliments the taught yet forgiving nature of the ‘road-biased’ suspension set up.
Overall this well developed and presented Cortina GT feels ready to take on pretty much anything but with a level of comfort that is only sensible for endurance type events. Displaying the fastidious attention to detail successful machines require, it is on the button with twelve months MOT and ready for a new owner to again put it to its intended use. The icing on the cake is that we don’t believe there is a way into International motorsports competition for less initial outlay or indeed likely future expenditure.