Cortina MKIII – Model Introduction


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    Kim Warner

      This was to become the most significant Cortina of all time, a radical departure from the earlier two models, on an all new chassis, Double-wishbone front suspension mounted on a separate subframe which also carried the engine gave a wide internal engine bay, the body became slightly shorter overall, but increased both in wheelbase and width giving a much roomier interior. These underpinnings formed the basis of the rest of the Cortina models.

      The Cortina had matured, and this coincided with the merger between Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany to form Ford of Europe, so the German Taunus and British Cortina now has a common platform with only minor cosmetic differences distinguishing the two, thus the project name for this model was the TC, for Taunus Cortina.

      The MKIII was inspired by the “coke-bottle” styling prevalent in Detroit at the time featuring a narrowed waist and fluted bonnet.

      The initial release in South Africa included “L” (luxury), “XL” (extra luxury), “GT” (Grand Touring), engines were initially 1600 crossflow Kent, and 2000 V4 Essex available in each of the L and XL versions, and a brand new overhead cam inline 4 (which became referred to as the “Pinto”) for the GT.

      All South African Models featured 4 door sedan bodyshells with the exception of a 5 door estate available initially only with the V4 motor.

      Late in 1973 the Cortina line was given a mid-production facelift, the “sloping” dashboard was replaced by the more modern version which remained largely unchanged throughout the MKIII, IV and V models, new engines were now also offered, the V4 was dropped from all the models except the estate where is soldiered on for another year, and the 2500cc Essex V6 (big Six) was introduced giving smooth 6-cylinder power in compact enough dimensions to fit into the Cortina engine bay with ease.

      The XLE powered by the 3000cc Essex V6 became the flagship of the range, luxurious, powerful and quiet this vehicle set the standard for luxury on the mid-priced vehicles of the time, the XLE LDO was released later offering even more luxury at a premium price.

      The XLE was distinguished by a vinyl covered roof, rectangular headlights and an aluminium trim panel between the tail light lenses.

      The nomenclature was also revised, with “GL” replacing the “XL” models.

      For South Africa, the big news came late in 1972 with the release of the Cortina “Bakkie”, a pick-up truck version of the Cortina that was locally developed and exhaustively tested, and became a local icon for generations to come, there was simply nothing locally available that could even compare.

      Initially the “bakkie” was available with either the 1600 Kent, or 2000 Essex V4 engine options together with the sloping dashboard of the earlier models.

      Trailing the facelift of the other local Cortina models the Bakkie eventually got it’s upgrade featuring better loadbody strength, losing the “coke-bottle” treatment in the process, the new dashboard and the taillights were moved from their vulnerable corner positioning to a very protected placement under the tailgate, this revised loadbody did duty in all the succeeding models right up to the last MkV’s produced in 1986.

      Personal Notes: Again courtesy of my brother Allen’s vehicles (I was only born in 1969). Allen owned versions of both these “bakkies”, the earlier version having had the V4 engine replaced with an ex-XLE 3.0V6 Essex, and this metallic grey beast served duty both with his Carpentry business and as his first rally vehicle. He posted such good times with this unorthodox and basically unsuitable vehicle that South African motorsport legend Sarel vd Merwe took it upon himself to organise a replacement vehicle for Allen, which eventually materialised as an ex-works Datsun 120y running a modified Datsun Laurel Motor, but we stray from the Fords now.

      This vehicle was eventually replaced by a pristine facelift version in blue and white, which was stolen days after acquisition, much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes ensued until eventually another blue and rust facelift version was acquired with a 2500 Essex and automatic transmission, Allen learned his lesson and retained the shabby appearance of this vehicle, while slowly upgrading the running gear until “Betsy” sported a freshly overhauled 3000 Essex V6 and 4 speed “bullet” box. Betsy survived until late 2002 when a collision with a rock ended this motoring chapter.

      • This topic was modified 3 years ago by  Kim Warner.
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