This Circuit-Ready Lotus Cortina Is In Need Of A New Driver
Photography Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
It’s something the current car market is in dire need of: affordable, lightweight, front engine, rear drive sporting cars. In the ’60s and ’70s, fun-to-drive front engine lightweight rear-wheel-drive cars were offered from nearly every major manufacturer. The Germans offered the BMW 2002, the Italians had the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, the Japanese provided the Datsun 510, and the European Ford market got the Cortina—something many of us in the U.S. are still jealous over, and for good reason.
Ford wanted to enter the Blue Oval into Group 2 racing but needed a proper platform to contest. Auto industrialist Colin Chapman got together with Lotus engineer Harry Mundy to develop a highly revamped iteration of the Ford Kent four-cylinder engine. The 1,499cc twin-cam was honed for a slightly larger bore to the stroke of 1,557-cc in order to maximize the sub 1.6-liter racing class’ maximum displacement. Good for a sweet singing 105 horsepower, the new DOHC inline-four was composed through a close-ratio transmission—the same gearbox fitted in the Elan.
As the powertrain was under development, Ford (initially) sent just 1,000 Cortina shells to Lotus for final production steps/tweaking. These homologation coupes received an aluminum bonnet, boot lid, and doors for added lightness. Lotus even cast new lightweight gearbox and differential casings to further drop pounds in addition to split bumperettes in place of the full sized heavy standard units. All (with just a few exceptions) were painted white with green flank stripes.
Aside from its Lotus-tuned pacemaker, one of the more notable mechanical alterations was the reworked suspension. The front received short struts and forged control arms while the rear standard leaf spring setup was ditched entirely for coil springs and dampers. Additional chassis bracing required the spare tire and battery to be moved, which ended up significantly improving weight distribution. Behind the wider 13×5.5 inch steel wheels, new Girling 240mm front disc brakes helped shed mph.
Inside, the Lotus Cortina was kept minimal and driver-focused. A lowered center console was fitted to accommodate the redesigned shift lever, front semi buckets offered superior bolstering for occupants, and the dashboard received only the essentials: a tachometer, speedometer, oil pressure, water pressure, and fuel gauge behind a wood-rimmed Lotus wheel.
The Lotus Cortina proved to be a serious contender as soon as it hit the tarmac. With legendary drivers like Jim Clark, Roger Clark, Jackie Stewart, and many others, the white-hot Ford saloon competed in several major series with great success. This example began racing with wheelman Giancarlo Giordano of Vercelli, Italy, in February 1964. Sergio Piana purchased the Cortina in 1967 and flogged the racer for a year before selling the car to Mario Fren—a Ford, tuned by Lotus, driven by three Italians… that’s quite a concoction.
Although in recent years the car has seen only light competition use at events like the Silverstone Classic, what accompanies the sale adds significant value for the anxious racer. Already equipped with standard competition safety accouterments, the package includes a like new JS Motorsport engine and transmission with just two hours of drive time, another engine with zero hours logged, two extra differentials, two sets of magnesium wheels, and a plethora of parts.
If you’re on the hunt for an all-original Lotus Cortina, best of luck in your search, this one isn’t for you. But if you’re searching for a true racing value bundle of fun, this really is hard to beat. With rich racing history and a garage full of spare parts and powertrains, the only thing a race ready homologation special 1964 Ford Lotus Cortina needs… is a new driver. What are you waiting for?
– One of 3,306 Mark 1 Lotus Cortina built
– Used competitively since new
– Race ready
~105 hp JS Motorsport built twin-cam four-cylinder, rebuilt close-ratio gearbox, independent front suspension, coil spring live-axle rear suspension, front Girling disc brakes, and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 98 in.