Ford Cortina MkII
This stylish compact Ford is still a bargain, but top models are appreciating fast. Now's the time to buy — although some costly pitfalls await the uninformed. Words Richard Dredge. Photography John Colley.
What to pay Ford Cortina MkII
- Basic roadworthy 1300s and 1500s cost £2500-£6250 Two-door shells are prized by those building Lotus replicas.
- 1500GTs and 1600Es command £4500 in driver condition; mint cars will cost £8.5k-£11.5k
- Even scruffy Crayfords can fetch £6000, rising to £20k in concours condition.
- Cortina II Lotus prices are in another league. You might find a scruffy one for £14k, but the best are making £30kand dealers are asking £40k for concours contenders and more for cars with motor sport history.
After decades spent in the shadow of its predecessor, Ford’s Cortina MkII is finally strengthening its own appeal as a classic, especially in 1600E sports- luxury form. Even though prices are on the up, a Cortina Mkll Lotus represents a sizeable saving over the Mkl, and base models still represent cut-price sharp- suited classic motoring, from an era when Ford was shunning downsized Americana in favour of European-style sophistication, and England football captain Bobby Moore drove one.
Nowadays, the best place to look for a MkII Cortina is among owners’ club online forums and Facebook groups — doting home restorers tend to want someone similarly enthusiastic to cherish their car once they’ve finished with it. Dealers advertising in more mainstream places will want mint examples — and the prices they charge will reflect this.
To compile our guide, we spoke to long-term Ford performance specialist Burton Power, Dave Brooks of classic Ford restoration specialist DBRS, and Paul West of classic Ford restorer Cambridge Classic Cars.
Which one to choose?
- Essentially a reskinned Cortina MkI with a wider track and restyled interior, the MkII was launched in 1966 with 1.3 and 1.5-litre engines carried forward.
- Sporty 1500GT featured a full ‘Rally-Pac’ instrument cluster and a twin- rather than single-choke Weber carb.
- Estate launched in February 1967. The 1300 Estate available with an optional 1500 engine, despite badging.
- New Crossflow engines was introduced in September 1967. Cylinder head upgraded on the 1.3-litre, and the 1.5 replaced with a new 1.6. This basic range remained in production unchanged until August 1970, bar a change in gearbox type in September 1968.
- Cortina II Lotus launched in October 1967, retaining the Elan-derived engine but this time it was built by Ford at Dagenham. Only available to buy as a two-door.
- Also in October 1967, the 1600E combined the four-door body with Lotus-derived suspension, the 1.6-litre crossflow engine, alloy wheels and a luxury interior.
- Coachbuilder Crayford offered official convertible conversions with a full range of engines including 40 Lotuses. Disappearing-hood 2+2 cabriolets were built at Ford’s Cologne factory under licence from Crayford.
They can get as expensive to restore and repair as a much more exotic classic'
It’s crucial to establish whether a Lotus or Crayford Cortina Mkll is the genuine article — the Lotus in particular is much easier to fake in Mkll guise than it ever was as a Mkl because of the way it was assembled on the regular production lines at Dagenham. Cross-check the chassis number with a Cortina or Lotus owners’ club or marque specialist — it’s stamped into the front offside inner wing near the suspension mounting and is often welded over during restoration.
As rising values make restoring a Mkll more viable, there are more good cars to choose from now than in previous decades, but there are still plenty of tatty examples out there. Scrutinise the entire car, ideally on a ramp. Starting at the front offside corner, check the metal around the headlamps, front bumper supports, anti-roll bar mountings, wing bottoms and wheelarches. Open the bonnet to check the MacPherson strut tops, inner wings and bulkhead. The latter is best checked from under the wheelarches and repairing it entails removing the front wings, which are welded in place.
Next check the bottoms of the doors, A-posts and sills for holes and signs of filler. Don’t forget to also check the B-posts on two-doors, and the rear jambs on four-doors. Move on to the rear wing bottoms and wheelarches, followed by the rear valance and boot lid. Beware of l6ooEs and other cars wearing a vinyl roof, especially if it’s an aftermarket fitment — they were often used to hide C-pillar rust.
Finally, have a poke around underneath. Floorpans, jacking points, main members above the rear axle and rear spring and damper mountings can also give problems; repairing them properly takes time and skill. Body panels are scarce to the point of needing to be remade from scratch unless you get very lucky.
Engine and gearbox
Noisy valvegear is often caused by wear to the rockers, camshaft followers and the camshaft itself, by which stage the engine will at least need a top-end rebuild, although the camshaft is housed in the block. Budget £500 for parts and £1200 for a specialist to do the work.
Twin-cam Lotus aside, all Cortina Mkll engines are based on the overhead valve Kent unit
They can get as expensive to restore and repair as a much more exotic classic'
Worn timing chains lead to the front of the engine rattling, but repair is cheap and easy. Worn piston rings
and cylinder bores — betrayed by fumes from the oil filler cap and blue exhaust smoke — are costlier to repair because it entails a bottom-end rebuild costing £1000 in parts, and £1500 for a specialist build and installation.
Rebuilding a tired Lotus twin-cam is a far more specialist job and what parts are available are often hugely expensive. Don’t expect much change from £l5k once all the work has been done.
Most survivors are fitted with one of two four-speed manual gearboxes. The switch happened in September 1968 and the two are not interchangeable. Each suffers from tired second gear synchromesh and wear can also cause each to jump out of top gear. If you’re lucky the problem will be a broken spring in the gear change fork rod, or the screw and lock nut which holds the selector fork rod together may have worked itself loose — easy DIY fixes or a couple of hours of a mechanic’s time. If not, the gearbox coupling dogs or selector fork rod may be seriously worn, suggesting major wear elsewhere in the gearbox. In this case a reconditioned unit — around £750 — is the best solution.
Automatic Cortinas are rare, but the Borg-Warner Type 35 is generally reliable. Clutch bands can break up and black fluid is a bad sign, but rebuilt units are easy to source and cost around £1500 plus £160 to fit.
Differential pinion seals can leak oil — replacements are readily available but don’t last long and should be replaced frequently. Droning or whining during the test-drive suggests the diff’ has covered a lot of miles — they need a £1000 rebuild after 100,000 miles.
Steering and suspension
The steering box gives an inch of movement at the steering wheel before the road wheels do anything. Rock the wheel from side to side and check to see how the ball joints and steering idler assemblies react — severe play is immediately obvious. Decent used steering boxes are hard to find and price — they go for anything from £50 to £200 depending on condition — and steering joints and track control arms are getting similarly costly so beware particularly vague steering.
Front MacPherson struts featured an upper mounting incorporating a thrust race ball bearing until August 1967; a lack of lubrication and intrusion of moisture lead to increased steering stiffness, but it was replaced on the later cars by more reliable tapered rubber bushes. Swapping MacPherson struts is an involved job requiring a spring compressor. Early and late strut parts are not interchangeable, and replacing the strut assembly in its entirety is a £130 job.
Cortinas are simple and cheap to run, but rotten ones can generate enormous bills — for a full-body restoration don't expect much change from £20k
Rear hub bearings are a pain to replace — chiefly because they require 12001b of pressure to remove and replace — so check for excessive play by jacking up the back of the car and rocking the top and bottom of each wheel. You’re looking at another £130 bill if it moves.
The braking system is straightforward but has its problems. All Mklls had front disc brakes, but the rear drums can leak or seize. Excessive handbrake travel could signify seized automatic rear adjusters, costing £35 apiece. However, rear brake shoes are scarce.
Trim and electrics
New original trim for the Cortina Mkll has been unavailable for years, but Aldridge Trimming offers a complete range of carpet sets, seat covers and door trim panels for 1600E, Lotus and Crayford models. A pair of front seat covers costs £290-£340, a carpet set £218 and headlining around £180. A vinyl roof is £115.
Wiring looms get ever more brittle over time and period-correct replacements are no longer available. Large wiring connectors on the loom are unique to Ford and no longer available, as are the fuseboxes. They become brittle, leading to electrical glitches. Replacement wiring harnesses are available from Autosparks for £300; fitting will cost a similar amount.
Dashboards crack with too much sun exposure, leading to disintegrating foam. Getting it re-covered it is the only solution.
A Cortina in good health should prove simple and inexpensive to run, but a rough example will soon go to work on your bank balance
Owning a Ford Cortina Mkll
Graham Bird, Hertfordshire
Dashboards crack with too much sun exposure, leading to disintegrating foam. Getting it re-covered it is the only solution
Owning a Ford Cortina Mkll
Graham Bird bought his first Cortina Mkll — a 1600E — back in 1973 as everyday family ИЛ transport. He says, 'I have had several Anglias and Cortinas over the years and I bought another Mkll 1600E, which I’ve still got, in 1995.
'I'm only the 1600E's third owner and the car has done just 72,000 miles but it was restored in 1990 during which time it was treated to a pair of new front wings and a respray. It's also had a new clutch but other than that it's needed only routine maintenance since it was restored. Now I use it mainly for shows and club rallies.'
'What few factory panels crop up cost hundreds — an original aluminum bonnet strip recently sold for £880 and a mint rear-view mirror recently sold for £600.'
Alan Swain, Buckinghamshire
Alan Swain couldn't find the Cortina 1600E he was looking for in 1994 so he opted for the 1967 1600GT in our photos instead.
He says, 'I paid £140 for my 1600E — it had been off the road for years so I had to completely restore it myself. I've since restored it again and it won Best GT at the national Club event at Stratford-upon-Avon in 2015.
Along the way I've acquired two more Cortina Mklls — including the 1600E I always wanted — but both need work, these cars always do.'
Pete Pascoe, Essex
'I have owned at least one Mkll Cortina ever since I was 19 — I'm now 53,' says Pete Pascoe, spares assistant for the Cortina Mk2 Owners’ Club. He currently owns 12, including a Cortina II Lotus.
'I bought it 20 years ago for £2000 as a Waxoyled bodyshell and a pile of bits. I shut myself away for a month and built it! However, the original engine was in a very poor state but I wanted to preserve as much of it as possible. I took it to Lotus specialist Eamonn Swords of Rapier Engineering, who rebuilt it with a new cylinder head for £5000 — although it'd cost three times that nowadays.
'If you’re happy with a driver-condition car and sourcing second-hand parts yourself, running a non-Lotus Cortina will easily cost less than £2000 a year. But as soon as rust sets in or you need body panels, it's a very different story — they can get as expensive to restore and repair as a much more exotic classic if this is the case, so good preservation is the key to low running costs.'
Sponsored by Carole Nash insurance
Peter Mcllvenny of specialist classic car insurer ref Carole Nash says' Just as you think a classic Ford can't increase any further in value beyond inflation, it does exactly that. It's easy to predict that a classic Ford will be a good investment but much harder to predict exactly how good. It's likely that a Ford of this age may have been subject to a budget repair here and there in its life so if you're not sure what to look out for it's worth paying for an independent engineer to assess it. Engine maintenance is pretty straight forward but if you do have a project car make sure it's complete, there's nothing worse than spending hours hunting online for a piece of dashboard for example.'
Classic car insurance quotes: 0333 005 7541 or carolenash.com
Ford Cortina Mkll — £27,995
The subject of a recent full restoration and built as a replica of the ex-Team Lotus Alan Mann Racing 1967 Cortina Mkll. Subjected to a full bare-shell rebuild with a rebuilt and enhanced 2.0 Pinto engine, re-fitted and re-trimmed interior, and overhauled and improved suspension, brakes and steering. First-class bodywork, superb paintwork and show- condition engine bay and underside. Incredible fun on the road.