Ford’s new car for 1962 was the Consul 325 and took aim at the inexpensive family car market with a brilliantly engineered package. Soon into its life, the Consul 325 swapped out its numbers for the name inspired by the Italian ski resort Cortina d’Ampezzo, where the 1956 Winter Olympics had been held. It was a match made in heaven and the car, first badged Consul Cortina and then Ford Cortina, took the sales charts by storm. If there was a downside to the Mk1 Cortina it was its very fashionable styling. Like all trends, the look dated quickly, and Ford hurried into launching the Mk2 version four years later. Ford’s Mk2 tagline read ‘New Cortina is More Cortina!’ and claimed more space, more power, more comfort, more luxury. It worked, with more sales.
With design boss Roy Haynes taking a page out of Ford America’s book, the Mk2 went with a boxy-minimalistic aesthetic. For the most part, the copywriters told the truth – there was more… more overall width, more cabin room, more boot space, more occupant comfort and ergonomics, more luxury and a plusher ride.
But then along came the Escort – 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.
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 considered the 1600E and a few test units made their way to PE. But our executives eventually opted 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.