What the Escort took away from the Cortina on track was echoed to a certain degree on the sales charts. The Escort was the 105E Anglia replacement launched locally in 1968 and despite being a step down from the Cortina on the hierarchy, the level of practicality and pricing saw the 1100 and 1300 format stealing some market share from the Mk2 Cortina. In its arrival year, an 1100 Escort would have hit the pocket at R1 356, while a range-topping 1300GT cost R1 729.
Forecasting this conundrum, Ford Britain set about raising the Cortina status by unveiling the 1600E version at the ’67 Paris Motor Show. Upgrades included Rostyle wheels, a black rear panel and vinyl roof, uprated Kent engine (bigger valves, reprofiled camshaft and twin-choke Weber carb), more sporting suspension, a Burr Walnut woodgrain-trimmed dashboard and door cappings, bucket seats, race car-like steering wheel and additional instrumentation. It worked like a charm and the car became the family Ford to have.
Ford South Africa looked into the 1600E and a few test units made their way to PE. But it was not to be though, with our executives opting to cosmetically doll-up a GT and call it an XL instead. Additional long-range driving lights, chrome wheel arch and rocker panel mouldings, four moulded individual seats and full-width dash fascia panel were the parts that distinguished the XL from the rest of the range but despite the addition of 24kg over the GT, performance between the two was on a par.
At sea level the GT/XL delivered a zero to 60mph (96.5km/h) sprint of 12 seconds flat and could keep trucking up to the 150km/h mark. While these figures were more than comparable with the competition, Ford South Africa had another trick up its sleeve to get the Mk2 to the top of the performance pile – enter Basil Green of Perana fame.
Ford believed in motorsport as a marketing tool, but when it realised its main man Olthoff wouldn’t have a competitive car for the ’68 season, the powers that be turned to Green. Ford could have looked into the Mk2 Lotus Cortina (the likes of Clark and Graham Hill were racing these overseas) but it’s likely that the cost implications were too great and Ford feared that, in regular road-use the twin-cam motor might prove problematic 6 000 feet above sea level on the Highveld.