Classic Lotus Cortina: ’Ullo John got an old motor?
By Jacqui Madelin • 21/12/2015
A genuine Lotus Cortina, original ownership papers included
You’d expect plenty of Mustangs at an All Ford Day, but perhaps not this little gem.
The 1966 Lotus Cortina is owned by John Bloor, a builder who’s “trying to get retired”.
He brought the car from England in 2008. He’d gone there to work.
He’d go back for the car clubs, but says he wouldn’t retire there — because there’s a nice 10-acre block awaiting him here.
Once in the UK he’d kept a keen eye out for a suitable car, having owned a Cortina GT when he was young, but “it took me a couple of goes to find it.”
A genuine car with the original ownership papers, it was restored in England and had only 72,000 miles (115,873km) on the clock when we spoke, despite racking up the occasional 280km-odd round trip from Thames to Auckland.
The Lotus Cortina was built from 1963 to 1970 in a collaboration between Ford and Lotus. Colin Chapman had commissioned Harry Mundy, designer of the Coventry Climax engine, to design a twin-cam version of a Ford, with work initially focused on the 116E five-bearing 1499cc motor.
It debuted at the Nurburgring in 1962 in a Lotus 23, but was soon replaced with a 1558cc variant that better fitted 1.6-litre racing classes.
Ford’s Walter Hayes asked Chapman to slot the engine into Fords for Group 2 homologation, hence the two-door Lotus Cortina. Ford supplied the body shell and marketing, Lotus did the mechanical and detail changes.
The car got this engine and the Elan’s close-ratio gearbox. Shorter struts were fitted to the front suspension, while the rear used vertical coil spring/dampers to replace the leaf springs, and two trailing arms with A-brackets.
There were more braces behind the rear seat, and from the rear wheel arch to the chassis, in the boot, so the spare wheel moved aside and was joined by the battery to improve weight distribution. Lightweight alloy panels were used for the doors, bonnet and boot, and the dash changed to allow a new position for the gear lever, with later cars getting a tacho, speedo and oil, water and fuel gauges.
The 1000 vehicles required for homologation were built by September 1963 when the car made its racing debut.
Jim Clark won the British Saloon Car Championship in one, and Jackie Stewart and Mike Beckwith took the Malboro 12-hour in the US.
The model won the Austrian and South African Saloon Car Championships, the Swedish Ice Championship and NZ’s Wills Six-hour.
It was even rallied in the mid-1960s, though that A-bracket suspension gave trouble, and the GT rear suspension was made available in 1965.
The year this car was built, Roger Clark finished fourth at Monte Carlo in one (and was then disqualified) and Bengt Soderstrom won the Acropolis rally.
I’d seen them compete at the Goodwood Revival, but this one’s never been raced, and John wouldn’t consider it now — “it’s worth too much!”
He says the car cost around £1100 when new, but one sold for £136,000 recently.
“This one’s not worth that much, more like that in NZ dollars.”
He lifted the bonnet to reveal that tidy engine.
“They have won just about every race there is, worldwide. They were the car to have, they’d do 110mph [177km/h] and they’d race them on the old M1 motorway when they didn’t have a speed limit.
“Won Indianapolis in 1965, all the cars after that came with that badge, and won Bathurst in the early days. They were popular out here.”
No doubt recording its fastest speed — 237km/h — at Mt Panorama helped.
These aren’t the original 13-inch steel wheels, “but the Minilites look a lot nicer.”
The car got disc front brakes “with a power booster” and drum rear, a lot bigger than the standard car, which had drums all round.
“There were about 3383 of them built,” John said.
“I’ve no idea how many are left, the car club is trying to do a register, but a lot of owners won’t bring them out.”
Seems a shame.
A car like this is designed to be enjoyed — and John looked as if he was already planning the best route home.