Ford Cortina MkIV and MkV Buying Guide

The Cortina was once a best seller, and millions of us grew up with one on the driveway. Now Ford’s family favourite is rare, a bargain – and still utterly usable

How much to pay

• Project £800-1000 • Good £2500-4250 • Concours £5000-9000 •

Overview

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★
DIY friendly ★★★★
Investment ★★
Desirability ★★

If ever there was a car that epitomised comfortable family motoring for the masses, it was the Ford Cortina. Between 1962 and 1983 the blue oval produced five generations of the model, and they all proved to be best sellers, largely thanks to the mind-boggling array of engines, trims, bodystyles and options. As a result, no two Cortinas ever needed to be the same.

For many years now the Cortina MkI and MkII have been sought-after, bona fide classics, maybe because of the Lotus connection. The MkIII started to become a bit more collectible a few years ago, but the Cortina MkIV and MkV have continued to languish virtually out of sight.

Don’t let that put you off, though, because few cars will allow you to wallow in nostalgia like the boxy Ford saloon – or the incredibly practical estate. We’d be lying if we were to claim this is a car will raise your pulse, but if you’re looking for a rare and usable classic that doesn’t cost a fortune to buy or run, you’ll probably find the final generations of Cortina very appealing.

Your AutoClassics Ford Cortina MkIV and MkV inspection checklist

Engine

Three engine families were available in the Cortina MkIV and MkV: the Kent (1.3), Pinto (1.6 and 2.0) and Cologne (2.3 V6). Few Kent-powered Cortinas are left, as they’ve never been especially sought after; the motor has to work hard, which is why the bigger-engined variants have a better survival rate.

Most of the Cortinas that remain feature a Pinto engine, which must have frequent oil changes if its spraybar isn’t to get blocked up. A fresh cambelt should also be fitted every five years or so; it’s easy to do on a DIY basis.

The V6 is strong but eventually gets tappety once it’s worn, while the fibre cam-timing gear can disintegrate. Some owners opt for steel timing gear instead – it’s noisier but much more durable.

The key thing to remember about all Cortina engines is that they’re easy to maintain and rebuild on a DIY basis, they’re well served by parts specialists, and they’re generally easy to tune – especially the four-cylinder units.

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Gearbox

All Cortinas came with either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearbox. The auto isn’t all that smooth with its changes, and it could do with an extra ratio, but it tends to just keep going.

The four-speed manual typically lasts around 100,000 miles before the bearings and synchro rings have worn out. Rebuilds aren’t a problem, or it’s possible to fit a Sierra five-speed unit; quite a few cars have already had this surgery, as it’s virtually a straight swap.

The rest of the transmission is dependable. The propshaft and driveshafts might suffer from a tired universal joint, yet that’s the extent of any likely problems. Back axles are very strong, but if there’s whining galore because the differential has been allowed to run dry – or if it’s done a huge mileage – there’s no shortage of decent used units available very cheaply.

Suspension and brakes

The rest of the running gear is as conventionally engineered as the engine and gearbox, but there are a few things to watch out for. The void bushes wear in the rear trailing arms and on top of the diff, but they’re readily available and easily replaced – especially if you’ve got the special tool that’s available.

If the steering is heavy it’s probably because the inner top wishbone pivot has failed, which requires much dismantling to rectify.

Bodywork

Just like its contemporaries, the Cortina rots badly – which is why so few are left. A lack of wheelarch liners means the front wings dissolve. The wings are bolted on, so they’re easy enough to replace – although panels are costly when available, and the inner wings often need a lot of reconstruction.

Predictably the sills, wheelarches, door bottoms and valances (front and rear) all need careful inspection. The same goes for the A-posts and screen bases (front and rear), as well as the floorpan, boot floor and spare wheel well. So basically – everywhere.

There are few panels to go round; nobody is remanufacturing parts for the MkIV or MkV, so it’s a question of the occasional original panel cropping up now and then. And, as we said, they’re invariably expensive when they do appear.

Interior

No new interior trim is available, and even used bits are scarce as there were so many permutations and combinations. S trim is especially hard to track down. That’s why finding a good interior is key – although it’s not hard to source a fresh set of carpets if necessary. It’s also worth ensuring the switchgear and instrumentation is correct and working, as it’s hard to find exactly the right bits for any given trim level and year.

The electrics tend to be reliable, although the fuseboxes have a habit of melting if the headlight fuse has overheated. Check whether the headlights work; if they don’t, you need to scour the autojumbles for a replacement fusebox. Also make sure the fuel gauge works, as sender units are hard to find.

History

  • 1976: Cortina MkIV arrives with options of 1.3, 1.6 or 2.0-litre engines, plus saloon or estate configurations. The car looks all new, but it’s effectively a facelifted Cortina MkIII, with the mechanicals carried over, albeit with suspension revisions.
  • 1977: 2.3-litre Cologne V6 joins the range, in GL, Ghia and S forms, complete with power steering and firmer suspension.
  • 1979: Facelift in August brings a bigger glass area for the saloon (the estate bodyshell is carried over unchanged), laminated windscreen, slatted grille, revised seats and improved ventilation. Outwardly the car doesn’t change very much, but it’s still a ‘new’ Cortina, unofficially known as the MkV.
  • 1981: Louvred grille is now fitted, along with ribbed taillight clusters and adjustable headrests.
  • 1982: Run-out Crusader proves popular, with its sports wheels, remote door mirrors, wood-effect dash, Ghia-style seats and centre console. But by June it’s all over, with the Sierra replacing the Cortina 20 years after the latter made its debut.

AutoClassics says…

Cheap, practical, easy to maintain and ideal as a family classic, these Cortinas are now so unusual that they’re outnumbered by a lot of more valuable mainstream classics. If you want one, find the best example you can rather than trying to source a specific derivative.

Having said that, there’s not much pleasure to be gained from driving a Cortina MkIV with the 1.3-litre engine, as it’s breathless and slow; even the 1.6 unit doesn’t provide much urge. The performance figures below are for the MkIV, apart from the MkV-only 2.3 V6. The same engines were used in the MkV, and they got a bit more power. This means the performance is also boosted – but not by enough to make a useful difference.

If you do find a minter and it’s not quick enough, there are lots of things that you can do to improve the performance, and they needn’t cost you a fortune. But if you can find a really good 2.0-litre or 2.3 V6, and it’s been looked after, you’ll derive much more pleasure driving and showing it than you ever thought possible.

Specifications

Cortina 1300
  Power 50bhp
  Top speed 82mph
  0-60mph 16.1sec
  Economy 41mpg

Cortina 1600
  Power 59bhp
  Top speed 88mph
  0-60mph 14.7sec
  Economy 37mpg

Cortina 2000
  Power 98bhp
  Top speed 103mph
  0-60mph 11.0sec
  Economy 30mpg

Cortina 2300
  Power 114bhp
  Top speed 109mph
  0-60mph 10.5sec
  Economy 25mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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