The Cortina Bakkie is a full-blown South African development. The birth of the legend goes back to 1962, when the Ford engineers in Port Elizabeth were tasked with developing a mid-sized utility vehicle. Their first attempt was to convert a German-built Taunus station wagon into a load carrier, but the cost proved exorbitant and wouldn’t sell to the masses. Next up on the experimental list was the MkI Cortina station wagon, but its monocoque proved too weak and the lack of heavy-duty differentials in the range meant the load capacity was too small to carry out real workhorse functions. Over the next seven years they pushed on with eight prototypes based on the Corsair, MkII Cortina station wagon, MkII Cortina sedan and Escort panel van. While some looked promising, the diff issue was still a thorn in the side and the engineers felt that a frame-type chassis, although primitive, was still required.
When, in 1969, Borg-Warner set up an axle-manufacturing plant just down from Ford in Uitenhage, the engineers were able to call on a heavier duty diff that met local manufacturing content regulations, so that conundrum was solved. They were also let in on details of the upcoming Cortina sedan design, so got an early start on penning a rear ladder frame to graft onto the new model. The solution was a frame section that, by means of what Ford called a torquebox, joined to the front half of the MkIII Cortina sedan’s monocoque. In simple speak, the torquebox was a box section running transversely at the back of the cabin and tied the front and rear with numerous braces under the seat.
By 1975 the MkIV Cortina was becoming a reality and Ford SA set about using this to make an even better bakkie, with a load capacity goal of one tonne. This model was ready by 1977, and although the Kent-powered unit remained as a base vehicle, the Essex 3-litre (2994cc) 6-cylinder replaced the 2.5 as the top tog. Thanks to a 2.6m² double-skinned steel loadbin, the engineers hit the 1 000kg-carrying goal and Ford took the chance to drop the title ‘Pick-Up’ from marketing material and went straight to the point, replacing it with ‘Ford 1-Tonner’.
On a good wicket the firm then soldiered on, face-lifting the 1-tonner in line with the new MkV model in 1980 and hit the export market with some slightly longer-wheelbase models sold under the P100 banner. From 1983 Ford officially added the title ‘Bakkie’ to the party with the arrival of the more refined 3000L Leisure Bakkie. With the higher-specced fittings the 3000L pushed the Ford 1-Tonner into the world of multi-functional tool/weekend toy and the advertising team jumped with images showing the bakkie at play and wording not normally associated with a utility machine.
Below is an advert from when the 3000L was launched.
YOUR GREAT BACKDOOR TO THE GREAT OUTDOORS
There’s a whole new go-anywhere driving experience waiting for you in your Ford 3000 Leisure Bakkie. A vehicle that combines practical utility, gutsy performance and luxurious comfort. The unique 3-litre 6-cylinder engine unleashes effortless power, yet is unrivalled for all-round economy. Wherever you’re going, or towing. Heads will turn to take in the two-tone paint, the styled steel road wheels and the bumper-mounted driving lamps. And eyes will open wide at the cab interior. Woodgrain fascia and door cappings, full loop-pile carpeting, Bristol/Sanford cloth bench seat and full instrumentation.