The Ford Cortina is a car that was built by Ford of Britain in various guises from 1962 to 1982, and was the United Kingdom's best-selling car of the 1970s.

The Cortina was produced in five generations (Mark I through to Mark V, although officially the last one was only the Cortina 80 facelift of the Mk IV) from 1962 until 1982. From 1970 onward, it was almost identical to the German-market Ford Taunus (being built on the same platform) which was originally a different car model. This was part of a Ford attempt to unify its European operations. By 1976, when the revised Taunus was launched, the Cortina was identical. The new Taunus/Cortina used the doors and some panels from the 1970 Taunus. It was replaced in 1982 by the Ford Sierra. In Asia and Australasia, it was replaced by the Mazda 626–based Ford Telstar, though Ford New Zealand did import British-made CKD kits of the Ford Sierra estate for local assembly from 1984.

The name was inspired by the name of the Italian ski resort Cortina d'Ampezzo, site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. As a publicity stunt, several Cortinas were driven down the Cortina olympic bobsled run at the resort which was called Cortina Auto-Bobbing.

In the late 1960s, Ford set about developing the third-generation Cortina, the Mark III, which would be produced in higher volumes than before following the merger of Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany into the modern-day Ford of Europe. The car marked the convergence of the German Taunus and British Cortina platforms with only minor differences between the two, hence the car's internal name TC1, standing for Taunus-Cortina. It was also the last European car engineered by Harley Copp as Vice President Engineering and head of Brentwood, before he returned to Detroit.

Ford UK originally wanted to call it something other than Cortina, but the name stuck. Although the Mark III looked significantly larger than the boxier Mark II Cortina, it was actually the same overall length, but 4 inches (100 mm) wider.

Within the overall length, a wheelbase lengthened by more than 3 inches (76 mm) also contributed to the slightly more spacious interior.

The Mark III Cortina was inspired by the contemporary "coke bottle" design language which had emanated from Detroit – the car sported similar fluted bonnet and beltline design elements to the North American Mercury Montego and Ford LTD of the same era. It replaced both the Mark II Cortina and the larger, more expensive Ford Corsair, offering more trim levels and the option of larger engines than the Mark II Cortina. The Mark III's continental European sister car – the Taunus TC – was subtly different in appearance, with longer front indicators, different door skins and rear wing pressings that toned down the drooping beltline, lessening the "coke-bottle" appearance of the Cortina.

The MacPherson strut front suspension was replaced with more conventional double A-arm suspension (Also known as double wishbone suspension) which gave the Mark III a much softer ride on the road' but did give cars fitted with the larger, heavier engines distinct understeer.

Trim levels for the Mark III Cortina were Base, L (for Luxury), XL (Xtra Luxury), XLE (Xtra Luxury Edition - Australia and South Africa only), GT (Grand Touring) and GXL (Grand Xtra Luxury).

The early Mark III Cortinas came with the same 1300 and 1600cc engines as the Mark II Cortinas, except for the 1600cc GXL. These engines are known as the Kent, crossflow engine or over head valve (OHV) engine. There was also the introduction of the 2000 cc engine, the single overhead cam engine, now known as the Pinto engine. The OHV Kent unit was fitted with a single choke carburetor and was used for the early models up to GT trim, the SOHC twin choke carburetor Pinto unit was used for the GT and GXL models. The GXL was also offered in 1600 in the later Cortina Mark IIIs.

In left-hand drive markets, the 1600OHC was replaced by a twin-carb OHV (Kent) unit not offered in the home market, in order to distinguish it from the competing Taunus which only came with the OHC Pinto engine.

2.0-litre variants used a larger version of the 1600 cc Pinto unit and were available in all trim levels except base. Base, L and XL versions were available as a five-door estate.

Although no longer than its predecessor, the Mark III was a heavier car, reflecting a trend towards improving secondary safety by making car bodies more substantial.[23] Weight was also increased by the stout cross-member incorporated into the new simplified front suspension set-up, and by the inclusion of far more sound deadening material which insulated the cabin from engine and exhaust noise, making the car usefully quieter than its predecessor, though on many cars the benefit was diminished by high levels of wind noise apparently resulting from poor door fit around the windows.

Four-speed manual transmissions were by now almost universally offered in the UK for this class of car, and contemporary road tests commented on the rather large gap between second and third gear, and the resulting temptation to slip the clutch when accelerating through the gears in the smaller-engined cars:it was presumably in tacit acknowledgment of the car's marginal power-to-weight ratio that Ford no longer offered the automatic transmission option with the smallest 1298 cc-engined Cortina.

Four headlights and Rostyle wheels marked out the GT and GXL versions. The GXL also had bodyside rub strips, a vinyl roof and a brushed aluminum and black boot lid panel on the GXLs, while the GT had a black painted section of the boot with a chrome trim at either side of it. All pre-facelift models featured a downward sloping dashboard with deeply recessed dials, and coil suspension all round. In general styling and technical make up, many[who?] observed that the Mark III Cortina aped the Vauxhall Victor FD of 1967.

The Cortina went on sale on 23 October 1970, but sales got off to a particularly slow start because of production difficulties that culminated with a ten-week strike at Ford's plant between April and June 1971, which was at the time reported to have cost production of 100,000 vehicles, equivalent to almost a quarter of the output for a full year.

During 1971 the spring rates and damper settings were altered along with the front suspension bushes which reduced the bounciness of the ride and low speed ride harshness which had generated press criticism at the time of the Mark III's launch.

Volumes recovered, and with the ageing Austin/Morris 1100/1300 now losing out to various newer models, the Cortina was Britain's top selling car in 1972[28] closely followed by the Escort.[29] It remained the UK's top selling car until 1976 when overtaken by the Mk2 Escort.

In late 1973 the Cortina Mark III was given a facelift, and was redesignated TD. The main differences were the dashboard and clocks which no longer sloped away from the driver's line of sight but introduced the flatter dash and clocks also found in the later Mark IV and Mark V Cortinas, upgraded trim levels and revised grilles, revised rear lights, rectangular headlights for the XL, GT and the new 2000E (the "E" standing for executive), which replaced the GXL. The 1.3-litre Kent engine was carried over but 1.6-litre models now used the more modern 1.6-litre SOHC engine. Whilst the TD Cortina still had double A-arm suspension with coils at the front and a four-link system at the rear, handling was improved.

The 2000E reverted to the classy treatment offered by the MkII 1600E (and carried over to later Mark IV/V Ghia) models instead of the faux wood-grain trim of the GXL. The 2000E was also available as an estate version.

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