When the British division of Ford decided to go Group 2 racing, a class established for touring cars, it turned to its compact Cortina as the basis for the race cars. Only problem, the puny 4-cylinder engines assigned to the Cortina were fine for roads, not so hot for racetracks.
Ford called on Colin Chapman and his giant-killer Lotus racers for the solution. Thus was developed the legendary Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine, a compact inline-4 that went on to power some of Lotus’s most iconic road cars, such as the Elan and the Europa, as well as numerous racers.
But in 1963, the Cortina had it first. The high-revving, 105-horsepower engine powered the Ford sedan to unanticipated racing success in the hands of such motorsports greats as Jim Clark, Jackie Ickx, Graham Hill and Jack Sears, and winning the UK championship in 1963 and 1964. And it became a much-coveted homologation special in showrooms.
The Pick of the Day is a 1967 Lotus-Cortina Mk1, one of the last of the original run of about 3,000 produced before the second run of less-valuable Mk2 models. While the earliest Lotus-Cortinas were bedeviled by reliability issues, the later Mk1s were more developed, although the twin-cam engine still needs to be maintained by an experienced technician.
This left-hand-drive Lotus-Cortina has been completely restored to original, with its engine rebuilt by a Ferrari expert, and driven just 400 miles since, according to the San Carlos, California, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com. The two-door sedan stands in immaculate show-ready condition, the seller says, and the ad photos bear that out.
“This is a very rare car, being LHD from the factory and never raced,” the seller says in the ad, noting that the Cortina has documented history going back to the ’80s, with restoration receipts, photos, registration cards and original bull of sale. “There are not too many left with this history.”
The 1,600cc Lotus-Ford engine is only part of the story of turning the dowdy passenger car into a racer. Lotus also worked its magic on the steering, suspension and brakes, and fitted it with more-aggressive wheels and tires. These components have been redone, the seller says, including installation of an upgraded Salisbury-type differential with a 3.70:1 gear ratio.
Even with its attractive factory paint scheme in correct white-and-green and its lowered stance, this tuned Cortina would be something of a sleeper for the uninitiated, and capable of some driving thrills on a back road or local track.
The asking price is near the top of the collector car valuation range at $89,995, but this freshly restored example seems worth the cash for a race-bred rarity that could be the toast of any British car gathering, as well as a great historic driving machine.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.