Classifieds Hero: 1965 Ford-Lotus Cortina
This rally and race hero from Colin Chapman and the Blue Oval is a motorsport icon. Here’s a chance to own one of the best around
Born from Colin Chapman’s desire to build his own engines for his Lotus sports cars, the Lotus Cortina was first unleashed upon the public in 1963 – when the world was still black and white, and the public lived in fear of the Kray twins’ Jaguar 420G.
Using a twin-cam design first commissioned in 1961, which was based upon the Ford Kent engine series, Lotus Twin Cam-powered cars wiped the racing board clean. Chapman initially used small-capacity versions of the Kent engine for development, but then decided the 1557cc unit – which first appeared in the Lotus 23 driven by Jim Clark – was the best way forward. The powerplant also went on to whisk the Lotus Elan into the history books later that same year.
As the engine underwent development work, Walter Hayes, a commanding force within Ford’s UK division, persuaded Chapman to shoehorn the unit into 1000 production models for Group 2 homologation. Ford offered to supply the two-door bodyshells and take care of the marketing, including the sale of the vehicles, whereas Lotus would be charged with ensuring all the mechanical and cosmetic changes were successful.
Aside from fitting a Lotus engine, there were major revisions to the gearbox, interior styling plus front and rear suspension. The exterior also enjoyed a crash diet, with various weight-saving modifications to keep the 100mph target speed within grasp.
After everything was signed off, the Ford-Lotus Cortina – its official Ford title – launched to a deluge of positivity, from both critics and public alike. It was an instant success, and the Mk2 took the family reins in 1966 with improved running gear and updated trim. Production ceased in 1970, by which point the Lotus Cortina had logged major successes in both rallying and racing, having captured the public’s imagination and made a mark as a cultural icon.
The model landed as an instant classic, but the market has since gone mad for this tarmac-abusing beast. There’s something irresistible about a car that appears sedate enough for a leisurely Sunday jaunt, but is also capable of terrorising passengers with tail-sliding aggression.
In historic racing, the Lotus Cortina continues to reign supreme, retaining its status as the most sought-after choice for current competitions.
From the classifieds
This 1965 Ford-Lotus Cortina was fully restored by the current owner back in 1992, gaining its FIA HVIF the following year. Seldom has it seen a race in anger since, and it’s remained in immaculate condition having been kept in air-conditioned storage for a number of years.
With values on a steady climb, and a rarity factor all of its own, there isn’t another investment around that can offer the same exhilaration for anyone with the inkling and the capital.
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