Lotus Cortina MK1 -” A Lotus with a Tin Roof”


Make: Lotus Cortina

Model: MK1


Year: 1965

Mileage: See Text


Colour: See Photos

Transmission: Manual


Trim: See Photos


Price: £54,950

Fords management team must have certainly seen the success of their rivals, with improved performance of mass manufactured cars and really really envious of the Mini Cooper’s success in competition rallies, races and for all its resulting publicity to have agreed to work with Colin Chapman and his young and virile Lotus organisation that Ford decided that it needed a real showroom puller.

So the start of the Lotus Cortina story begins around 1961, when Ford and Lotus got together with no doubt some smooth talking by Colin Chapman of Lotus – was all the goading Ford needed to launch its own Grand Prix-linked hot car.

Colin Chapman had been looking to build his own engines for Lotus for quite some time (due to the Coventry Climax unit being so expensive).  Colin Chapman’s chance came when he commissioned Harry Mundy (close friend, designer of the Coventry Climax engine and technical editor for The Autocar) to design a twin-cam version of the Ford Kent engine.  Most of the development of the engine was done on the 997cc and 1,340cc bottom end, but in 1962 Ford released the 116E five bearing 1,499cc engine and work centred on this.  It is worth noting at this point what an important part Keith Duckworth, from Cosworth had to play in tuning of the engine.

In October of 1962 Jim Clark the famous racing driver of the 1960’s had been secretly photographed at Silverstone putting it through its paces and played an important role in testing and specifying improvements for the the Lotus Cortina from the beginning and probably explains his love affair with this car for the next 6 years.

The engine’s first appearance was in 1962 at the Nürburgring in a Lotus 23 driven by Jim Clark.  Almost as soon as the engine was used in production cars (Lotus Elan) it was recalled and replaced with a larger capacity unit (82.55mm bore to give 1,558cc).  This was done to get the car closer to the 1.6 litre capacity class in motorsport.

So when Ford of Dagenham announced their new ultra-high performance saloon would be available to the public it was very exciting news and on the 23rd of January 1963 it was announced to the Motoring Press in Monte Carlo and then 4th of February at the Racing Cars show at Olympia London.

They were in short supply from day one for the partially hand crafted car as they could only manufacture 6 a day for the entire world with only 3306 made in total. The basis of this exciting car was the 1500cc Ford Cortina, of which the engine,transmission, suspension, brakes and equipment were all modified by Colin Chapman’s Lotus company.

The upgrades to the basic Ford 1500cc engine carries the Lotus twin overhead camshaft light alloy cylinder head that was designed by Harry Mundy and was manufactured by J.A.P.

With the camshafts being chain driven operating the valves through invert pistons and the sparkplugs being vertical on the central axis but are set back or forward of alternate bores to clear the inclined valves.

The crankshaft is specially balanced for the high revolutions with the pistons having been designed by Cosworth.

With two Weber twin-choke Carburettor’s supplying the fuel, with built in cold air supply carries an air filter. The exhaust system features a four matched pipes which are first paired and then run in together under the car.

The special close ratio all syncromesh gear box with a alloy bell housing which is fitted with an 8” clutch is used in it’s transmission.

Sitting three and half inches lower than Ford’s standard model Cortina with the all new A framed coil sprung rear suspension which was largely based upon the Lotus Seven suspension with 5.5J by 13 steel wheel rims.

In its construction considerable use of light alloys were also used with its outer panels of the body, doors, boot lid and bonnet being aluminium although the body shell and rolled wheel arches although it’s overall shape is identical to a standard Cortina. With the exterior of the Lotus Cortina being finished in Ermine White with Sherwood Green flashes and a Green on Yellow Lotus Crest. the interior was in black vyanide, with racing type heavily padded bucket style seats and crash pads, with a wood rimmed designed steering wheel which operates it’s special high geared steering box.

With such press headlines at the time quoting ” Ford Produces a Flyer with Lotus’s help” it was just what FORD had hoped for.

In 1964 in line with the normal Ford Cortina model range the updated Lotus Cortina model benefited from the nicer chromed nose and less austere interior, which also featured Ford’s now famous Airflow ventilation system

Lanes Cars are pleased to offer for sale this very original 1965  rebuilt Lotus Cortina Airflow model with all the correct factory ID tags which was supplied new and registered to its first owner on the 30th of June 1965 to Jones Brothers Garage in Llanwry near to Betws-y-coed Wales.

By June 1965 Ford were concerned with the A frame hybrid rear suspension unit that was proving too fragile and untrustworthy by half. It frequently broke and if it did hold together, flexing on the road caused the differential casing to work loose and leak its oil away so around this time Ford insisted that something had to be done and the conventional Cortina GT rear end was employed but with the addition of special radius arms to keep the axle in check.

This Lotus Cortina Airflow model no longer had aluminium bonnet, doors, boot lid and body panels, however all these alloy panels were still available by special order when ordering new at the time of purchase and this must have been one of the last bodyshells built before the decision by Ford to replace the A Frame with the Cortina GT rear end was actioned as it has all of the original brackets and mounting points for a A frame with the tell tale sign red painted Lotus 3A marking still exists on the rear parcel shelf under its trim, so fitment would be easy and is readily available as a kit for £600, and most likely also to have been supplied when new with a A frame axle. however this Lotus Cortina benefits from having a Ian Walker Racing conversion which uses leaf springs and adjustable dampers.

The previous owner has traced the owners of this Lotus Cortina all the way back to it’s second owner to whom he spoke to, who in 1970 purchased it with the Ian Walker Conversion which most most likely had been fitted by Jones Brothers Garage.

The engine has original L cylinder block and was rebuilt by DLE Engineering and is fitted with C type cams rather than the standard B type and finished in Lotus Green.

Also the Airflow model now benefitted from no longer having the ultra close ratio gearbox and was now fitted with the famous gearbox 2000E set of ratios which lowered 1st, 2nd and reverse about halfway between the Cortina GT ratios.

It’s interior has been partially retrimmed other than the front seats which are original and the correct early Lotus Cortina seats used just prior to the fitting of the Ford Cortina GT Seats along with all of the original dash instrument dials have been reconditioned by Lotus Cortina Spares Ltd.

An original Lotus Cortina wood rimmed steering wheel is currently being fully restored which will be supplied and fitted when finished.

 For further details or information please contact Martin Lane

Enquire About This Vehicle

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Telephone Number

I Wish to Request a

Your Message

[pagelink yourcode]

View More Other Cars For Sale