Lotus Cortina

The LOTUS Cortina’s [Type 28] with reference to Fords Significant Involvement and Contribution with Lotus and others.

The editors consider some of the “collaborative or developed” cars have tended to receive less attention than those considered ‘purebred’ Lotus.
This is both unfortunate and unwise and does not recognise:

  • Their engineering success
  • Their commercial success and availability to wider audience than specialist sports car market.
  • The enhancement and extension of the Lotus reputation in eyes of the public
  • Their economic contribution to Lotus and hence directly to the perceived “purebred” cars.
  • The pragmatic and conceptual/ strategic vision conducted by Chapman to deliver income and generate publicity. [With the possible ability to anticipate and extrapolate futures?]
  • The additional experience that could be mutated from the development [i.e. acquired at others expense]
  • Continuing to the present day the contracting and consulting role that contributes to viability.
  • Dealership network opportunities.
  • More symbiotic links developed through trust, respect and success.
  • Major manufacturers; particularly Ford’s contribution to motor sport.
  • That creative talent has much to gain through piggyback and borrowing; not least when little capital to innovation is employed as in start- up. We list many of those successful specialists below.

In this article we will look specifically at Ford and the Ford-Lotus Cortina.However in future articles we will continue this train of thought and analyse the Sunbeam Lotus [Type 81], Vauxhall and the Lotus Carlton Omega [Type 104]

The editors are proud to include references of reputable and objective road tests in period.

Once again this article was the happy coincidence when archive was acquired simultaneously creating a critical mass of data.

Ford /Lotus Symbiosis and Lotus Models that used Ford Engine.

The significance of the link up between Lotus and Ford cannot be understated or misunderstood. It was very significant.
Ford were a multinational in the 1960’s with a manufacturing base in Britain. [Dagenham] They built and sold millions of cars internationally based on a reputation of economic rugged reliability. They were not going to throw this corporate brand reputation away.
They may have desired to enhance it but certainly not squander it. Ford might have selected another specialist manufacturer [e.g. later Lola] but at this time Lotus were rapidly moving towards and had the potential for dominance. The trust and confidence they must have had in Colin Chapman cannot be underestimated particularly considering the clash of corporate culture, size, market share, reputation and ideology. Lotus had been in existence for just over a decade they did not have significant capital. A failure to “deliver” to Ford might have bankrupted them [depending on contractual details – see requirement for detailed research] and also possible provided irreversible damage to reputation. The fact the Colin Chapman / Lotus and its engineers could demonstrate capacity and multiple level competition success would provide the foundations for one of the most significant partnerships in motor racing history.
The definition of symbiosis relates to the relationship between two organisms living in close. ……Usually mutually beneficial association..etc. This is easily understood. In reality its more complex and when economics is involved with associated risk takes on greater implications. Symbiosis under these conditions implies or requires equality and guarantees. If we can measure the economic might of Ford and measure the goodwill the brand commanded we could begin to extrapolate the confidence they had in Colin Chapman.
The A&R conduct is not a passive recording of technical data. It exists to objectively analyse the true capability of Chapman and Lotus. If this to be fully understood it also needs to disseminate the powerful economic and strategic leadership pursued. The Lotus Cortina was just one of many. Engineering talent alone is not sufficient to create success. Neither pure business acumen nor entrepreneurship will deliver revered and iconic products. The blend of the two is quite exceptional and worthy of extended analysis.

See attached Spread sheet and also A&R article Lotus 30/40.

Time –Line

  • 1962.Lotus Elan with Lotus Ford Twin Cam
  • 1962.Type 28,Lotus Cortina with Lotus ford Twin Cam
  • 1963.Lotuts Type 27 with Ford Cosworth engine
  • 1963.Lotus Type 29 Indianapolis with Ford V8 engine
  • 1964.Lotus Type 30 Group 7 with ford V8 engine
  • 1965.Lotus Type 38 Indianapolis with Ford V8engine
  • 1966-68 Ford GT40
  • 1967.Lotus Type 49 Formula I with Ford Cosworth DFV
  • 1967.Lotus Type 51 Formula Ford with Ford Cortina GT engine
  • 1969.Lotus Type 60 Seven Series 4 with Ford Cortina engine
  • 1971.Lotus Type 74 Europa Twin –Cam with Lotus – Ford Twin Cam engine
  • 1970-74 Escort RS1600
  • 1970-74 Escort Mexico

The Lotus Cortnia Mk.1 [Introduction]

Lotus had used with great success Ford mechanical parts from the earliest trials cars through the Mk.VI, the Eleven and the Seven. [See A&R articles]. Chapman in the mid to late 1950 had adopted the Coventry Climax engine but this was both expensive and not an ideal “production” /volume sales car engine. It’s believed that Chapman wanted a performance engine that would be reliable and economic. The answer in part was the enhancement of an existing unit [thus avoiding development and initial capital set up and risk/ reputation] whilst being relative quick to market. Chapman’s concept/ direction lead to work with Harry Munday to design an improved twin cam for the existing well-proven Ford Kent engine. Keith Duckworth of Costin is also believed to have made a significant contribution in bringing the engine to a successful performance level [tune] c 1962

We must try to see events in the context and background of the era. From the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Britain had a successful motor industry, the international economy was good and mass production was viable to an increasingly young audience. Credit was becoming available. Fuel was relatively cheap. BMC and the Mini had a commercial and competitive success and there were marketing overlaps between the two. The Mini was on its way to becoming an icon.
Saloon car equated with the largest market. They were family cars. Racing gave mundane product glamour. Racing sold. To a certain extent manufacturers had to enter competitive motor sport to improve identity, brand perception, publicity and gain sponsorship.
Ford was unable to take the “Mini” small car share of the market. In marketing parlance they needed to compete in another segment and deducted perhaps the opportunity for a mass-market medium size car. For Ford’s success resulted from extremely detailed research and profiling. This was an absolute necessity for profitability. In hard commercial terms Ford needed to predict:

  • The precise share of the market and the volumes commensurate with this
  • The price that was required for this product to sell to anticipated audience within the category
  • The specification that conceptually would win the share and determine the profit margin as determined by point 2. [Bearing in mind failure relative to investment the formula has to be right]

Ford has built their reputation on this formula of shrewd and exhaustive market research. It’s hard nosed but it’s designed to deliver cost –value to the customer. Ford’s product might be slightly bland and this might be expected when you’re talking the necessary volumes to achieve affordable price; but the Cortina was eye catching and modern with perhaps a nod to American influence. [Another way of explaining is that it’s very democratic] The Cortina was a market leader and its believed it was the best selling car at point. Without saying it was very well engineered, yet easy and relatively inexpensive to produce. [A gift to the specialist builder]

The Ford Cortina Mk1 was the product of this detailed research. It was launched in 1962 and in production until 1966.

The basic parameters were:

  • Two door
  • Four seat saloon
  • Long stroke engine
  • Drum brakes
  • Ifs; solid rear axle on half elliptical springs
  • Possible retail price c £500

We have noted that BMC obtained a marketing coup with the Mini. In the 1960’s Corporate Ford was thinking along the same lines. This might have related to their product planning and awareness of demographic change i.e. the younger buying public – its taste and interest and requirement for glamour.

Its known Ford made a commitment to enter racing. This emerged as the “Total Performance” strategy and image. This was to become a global promotion deriving publicity advantage from competition through the decade of the 1960’s.It was a radical departure for Ford’s. Its probable Walter Hayes at Ford might have respected Chapman and identified him for collaboration. Lotus had track record and they had close links bridged over the Lotus twin cam engine. The editor has not been able to discover the paper records that debated the cost benefit analysis – it seems untenable Ford would have contemplated such a decision without financial analysis? It would be material to know where and when and how the decision was actually taken. This would be a particularly valuable piece of research and the type the proposed museum would need to undertake.

Why his research is important is that it might shed light onto the exact circumstances of the Lotus involvement and the contract negotiated. Perhaps also worthy of investigation are the politics or dynamics and respective corporate roles of British and American Ford. Again it seems unconceivable that corporate mentality within Ford would not adopt formal contracts. It coincided at the time that Lotus move to a vastly bigger building at Cheshunt whilst entering production with the Elan. Was this pure coincidence? Did Lotus have a business plan that enabled loans to be secured against volume production?

Ford decision to enter racing with the Cortina required a thousand cars. [I.e. to satisfy regulations regarding Group 2 homologation this was achieved by September 1963]. The competition class had to be selected carefully in relation to modifications vis regulations. This was no minor contract. We might never know the exact evolution of events but we can be certain that Chapman’s flair and association with Ford would be beneficial [after all Lotus had been successfully using Ford components for a decade].

The arrangement bought Ford competition success and Lotus income and a bit more !!

The Lotus Cortina

This model has been known by many names including “Ford Consul Cortina Developed by Lotus”. It was a high performance model resulting from the collaboration between Ford and Lotus. It did not perhaps have obvious potential [other than the communality of the basic engine / its physical layout /size with the Lotus-Ford Twin-cam.] However it did become a very successful marriage of Twin cam Twin Carb’ 105 bhp engine with modified Cortina body shell. Ford supplied the two- door body shell and Lotus undertook the mechanical modifications.
The car had several teething problems associated with its hybrid construction. There were upgrades through the production life. It’s believed some models were offered in left hand drive?
For many it was the engine that determined the success and charisma of the Lotus Cortina.

Brief Specification/Fact sheet

Production: 1963-1966 [3000 cars approximately] commenced February 1963?
Body style: 2-door saloon. With Lotus modified aluminium components comprising doors, bonnet boot lid, clutch housing etc.
Engine: Lotus-Ford 1558cc straight 4 Twin OHC. [105bhp @ 5500 rpm?]
Wheelbase: 98” [2489mm]
Length: 168”[4267mm]
Width: 63” [1600mm]
Height: 54”[1372mm]
Lowered suspension; front independent. Rear live axle.
Brakes: Disc front; drum rear
Wide rim wheels [5.5 J x13]
108 mph
21 mpg
States of Tune: standard 59.5bhp, Lotus 105 bhp, BRM 145bhp.
Weight: 1822 lbs? Estimated
Top speed: 107 mph? Approx.
All measurements /statistics approximate.

The Lotus Cortina Mk.II

Believed to have been designed by Roy Haynes it was launched in 1966. Its possible that it was Britain’s most popular car in 1967.It offered considerable value for money. The Lotus version may have become available in 1967.This model was more cost effective and was produced at Dagenham [this arrangement may have cut across Lotus relocation to Hethel in Norfolk.]
According to Hodges the Mk II’’s true role was to be “ a quick, comfortable and civilised road car”

Brief specification/fact sheet.

  • Produced 1967- 70 [Replaced by Twin Cam Escort]
  • Assembled by Ford’s
  • Approx 4000 cars built
  • Weight????lbs approx.
  • 2 door saloon
  • Engine 1558cc TOC
  • 105 mph
  • Terminated subcontract. Built by Ford on production line.

Brief Rally and Race Assessment.

The Lotus Cortina Mk.I would nearly dominate saloon car racing and rallying. This was in part due to the exceptional driving gifts of the likes of Jim Clark, Hill, Stewart, Beckworth, Sears, Sir John Whitmore, Ickx, Arundell and Alan Mann Racing. [In rallying by Taylor, Melia, Elford and Clark/Robson]
The Lotus Cortina won amongst others the:

  • 1964 BRSCC Saloon Car Championship.
  • 1966 RAC Rally
  • 1965 Welsh International Rally
  • European Touring Car Championship
  • It competed in Britain, Europe and America

Ford Lotus Cortina –“Motor” Road Test 1965 – No5/64

The testers were very complementary about acceleration and realistic is their assessment of the overall performance of the car. They quote a weight of 20.25 cwt laden as tested and a weight distribution of 54.5/ 45.5.Purchase price including tax was £1,100. 2-11
Regarding the transmission the noted “ This very close ratio gearbox is for connoisseurs who will derive endless pleasure from its continual use – the temptation is to use it far more than necessary”
Handling and breaking were of a high order.” It is in fact a car in which really long journeys can be made without fatigue even on Continental roads.”
Ergonomics were good as was vision.

Lotus Cortina versus Willment Sprint Cortina [Small Car –April 1965]

The article rightly calls attention to the development routes and respective complexity of each car. The Willment philosophy in fact retaining and enhancing standard parts to maximum effect. It looked “innocuous”. It also retained standard parts and trim within. It was more orthodox, improving the existing, keeping costs down, ensuring compatibility with associated ease of maintenance.
The article calls attention to the respective specifications inside and out. [Lotus being more extensively worked. It’s fairly well known that the Lotus was more substantially changed inside and out. ]

The article is a reasonable road test and good quality detailed descriptions of functions are provided for both cars. Again remaining more standard the Willment retains more space and accessibility is easier. The testers noted the clutch on both cars was fairly fierce and probably better suited to racing than roadwork.
It was noted that the Willment’s engine was perhaps higher tuned than the Lotus and as such with a slightly better gearbox the Lotus was easier to drive.
A surprise to the author was that the testers found the Willment had the more sporting ride but the Lotus was possibly more sophisticated and more acceptable over longer distance. It was noted the Lotus had more understeer.
This was a responsible test and it was recorded both cars has a petrol consumption of appox. 23mpg. The range was around 180 miles and this caused reservations. Running costs were not prohibitive [insurance was not stated]

In summing up the magazine felt the Willment offered good value at £917 but the Lotus was more sophisticated with higher specification at £992.It was probably considered both were equal pond per specification with a slight nod towards the Lotus.
The article as accompanied by full technical analysis including
Speed, acceleration, fuel consumption and breaking
Construction specification
Running / maintenance, operation
Rating. Comparability/ criteria checklist
Body shape/layout comparison

Cortina Lotus Auto Car Road Tests [March and September 1967]

The Autocar report dated 9th March 1967 traces the development of the Lotus Cortina up to 1966; “to all intents and purposes the 1966 car was a Cortina GT with a twin cam engine and a few trim changes”
They continue “Basically the well –known Lotus inspired twin ohc engine – itself a conversion of the Cortina GT unit is unchanged, but the Special Equipment tune, previously a costly extra item has been standardised”

By way of summary Autocar commented; “ To the purist the rationalisation of the Cortina –Lotus is disappointing, but there can be no doubt that the 1967 car will be the best engineered and most reliable yet.”
The car retailed at £ 1068. 2-11
The report included a detailed mechanical specification.

The report of the 14th September 1967 was based on a week long extended test drive and featured a rally car. It was titled–Given the Works No.8
“The degree of engine tune was not very high and I was surprised how tractable the and un-temperamental was the Cortina”. Of driving it was noted “The crescendo of mechanical whine, throb and beat as the revs built up, drop momentarily when the gears are switched and then continue in a different key is something which has to be experienced”
A positive conclusion was drawn “ It is certainly extremely exciting and the kind of machine that one can never leave standing it just has to be driven”

Ford Contribution to Motor Sport.

Fords did not have a major direct involvement with motor sport like many other manufacturers from inception. However their reliable, tuneable and inexpensive engines and components both the straight four and V8 were used successfully in specials. This took on greater significance from the 1930’s. [See A&R articles relating to Les Ballamy]
However from the 1960’s onwards corporate policy and politics might have changed and perhaps it was thought “sexy” to re-brand and address a younger more sporting orientated audience. They launched the “Total Performance “ image. Ford entered motor sport and achieved considerable success quickly in both racing and rallying. Along with the Cortina their most famous products from this era included the GT40 and the Escort BDA Escort RS1600 [1970-74] Escort Mexico, Capri and Sierra Cosworth.In summary Ford’s contribution to motor sport includes:

  • Can Am
  • Formula Ford
  • Le Mans
  • Indianapolis
  • World Rally Championship [up to the present day with Focus WRC]
  • Production/ Touring car
  • Engine Supply
  • FI [First GP win in 1967 with Lotus –Ford and Jim Clark]
  • CART

Qualities associated with Ford Engines and Particularly Kent.

  • Inherently robust
  • Robust
  • Tuneable
  • Relatively light weight
  • Availability matched to affordability [inexpensive] with spares back up.
  • Aftermarket
  • Compact layout, with good power to weight ratio
  • New and Second hand with warranties
  • Complementary, consistent and integrated drive train through clutch, gearbox and rear axle.

Applications of the Ford Kent Engine and Twin Cam.

  • 1962-74 Lotus Elan
  • 1963-64 Lotus Cortina
  • 1967-70 Cortina Twin Cam
  • 1968-70 Ford Escort Twin Cam
  • 1968- Formula Ford Motor racing
  • 1972-75 Lotus Europa [Type 74]
  • 1973-74 Caterham SS

Brief List of Other Specialist Manufacturers that have used Ford Engines.

  • Vale
  • Allard
  • Morgan
  • TVR
  • Westfield
  • A.C
  • Elva
  • Jensen
  • Ginetta
  • Kieft
  • Chevron
  • Chaparral
  • Various Italian super car manufacturers from 1960’s
  • Numerous British Ford Specials [Trials &racing]
  • Substantial No.FI /GP racing cars

Lotus: Consultancy &Collaboration.

Colin Chapman enjoyed a fruitful and symbiotic relationship with Ford’s. The emphasis communicated here is towards reality, practicality, pragmatism and enhancement. There is the opportunity for truly beneficial interrelationships even dependencies. Briefly others are [not in chronological order]:

  • BRM
  • Vanwall
  • De Lorean DMC-2
  • Chrysler Sunbeam Talbot
  • Toyota [arrangement to use Toyota parts]
  • General Motors, Isuzu, Chevrolet
  • Alvis
  • LV engine using Vauxhall engine components [LV 220]
  • Kia, and Proton.


This has not been the easiest of articles to write as the editor has the least direct experience. The editor was also aware that there seems to be an absence of the actual contractual documents surrounding the award of the contract. Its unimaginable that Ford would undertake such an important venture on a handshake. From a truly objective/academic perspective the editor considers a major piece of research would involve tracing and publicising the exact terms that were negotiated. Such research might reveal that the Cheshunt works/ production facilities could be financed against assurances of scale and that further mass-produced Lotus cars might result and be possible? In any circumstance it was felt important to examine and analyse how mass produced components can be adapted into specialist manufactures product range.
The Ford –Lotus Cortina was a competitive product in its own right. It did no harm to Lotus. It contributed significantly economically. It extended dramatically ownership. It brought additional publicity into new forms of motor sport. Not least it gave Lotus a reputation for successfully consultancy and free access into product development. Possibly along the line they also gained greater appreciation of quality control and the economics of mass production. Denigrated by some the editors consider that the Ford –Lotus Cortina ought be re-evaluated and that young engineers, especially those with low start up capital ought study the formula and take inspiration from its practicality. Through out the 1960’s many extremely competitive machines were developed along this short cut e.g. Mini Marcos and Italian super cars.

Through critical analysis the reader has to acknowledge the often-excellent fundamental engineering of the mass produced product and the economy that results. For many small scale manufactures production would be impossible without access to such raw material and their cars viewed with greater suspicion without the reliability and availability of mainstream parts.
Ford and other manufactures e.g. Triumph suspension components have done much to enable a specialist motor constructors to exist.
The lesson for all engineers contemplating design and assembly is an examination of both the economics and performance of over the counter mass produced parts. Added value resides in the enhancement, integration and transformation of components.
A silk purse can be made from a sow’s ear providing you appreciate what you have in the first place.

Ford products may have lacked the “romance” and perhaps an aesthetic [but they also understood their market] but none the less have made a contribution to motor sport out of all proportion to their direct investment.

The A&R wish to record this fact and state in the event that the proposed museum was established Ford engineering would be given due prominence and “interpretation”. Ignoring this essential component / ingredient would be irresponsible, prejudicial and negligent in terms of equipping engineers with the fundamental underpinnings that permit a spring board into manufacture. It would also fail to objectively explain much of the success Lotus achieved. The Lotus –Ford link is also a significant aspect of British economic and manufacturing history.

“The Indicator” Journal of the Mk.II Cortina Owners Club. Souvenir Edition ;October 2006
New Cortina Owners Handbook 1966
“Small Car” April 1965.”Titans: Lotus Cortina/Willmet Sprint”
Jim Clark “Portrait of a Great Racing Driver” by Graham Gould. * [Paul Hamlyn 1968] *see A&R book review.
“The Motor” & “Autocar” Road Tests.
Colin Chapman –Lotus Engineering by Hugh Haskell. Osprey 1993. ISBN 1855323761
Illustrations: please see photographs from Crystal Place Revival sprint etc
The Lotus Book by William Taylor [particularly useful due to specification appendix]
Lotus –The Legend by David Hodges, Parragon 1997