Posts Tagged ‘Lotus Cortina’


Norm Beechey and Jim McKeown at Symmons Plains in February 1968…

Both the Chev Nova and injected Lotus Cortina Mk2 were top-liners in 1968 albeit the one race Australian Touring Car Championship was won again that year by Pete Geoghegan’s Ford Mustang from Darrell King, Morris Cooper S and Alan Hamilton’s just arrived in the country Porsche 911S/T. It was Geoghegan’s fourth of five ATCC titles.

The 34 lap event was held at Warwick Farm on 8 September, by that stage Norm had replaced the Nova with a Chev Camaro- he retired with mechanical dramas after 11 laps whilst Jim’s race was over after only 2- axle failure the cause.

(L Ruting)

Photographs of the Camaro SS are not plentiful as it raced for only a short period- four meetings (Warwick Farm twice, Calder and Catalina) from July to September 1968 inclusive of the ATCC race where he qualified on the second row- the car was an ‘in between’.

The Nova raced from Easter 1966 and the Holden Monaro’s with which he became synonomous in the latter stages of his career date from October 1968, the Camaro fitted in between.

The photo above is during the first lap of the 1968 ATCC race with Pete up front, then Norm and the Bob Jane Mustang.

See this piece on the 1969 ATCC; , and on 1970;

Beechey trying to pursuade the Nova to turn in, Paul Fahey and Red Dawson in Mustangs, Rod Coppins in Chev Camaro at Baypark, NZ 1968 (T Marshall)


(M Rogers)

Beechey and John French, Nova and Cooper S on the Surfers Paradise grid in 1967.


Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Lance Ruting, Rod MacKenzie, Steve Holmes- The Roaring Season, Terry Marshall, Mervin Rogers

Tailpiece: Beechey and Geoghegan at Catalina Park 18 August 1968…

(R MacKenzie)

Classic Ford/GM, Geoghegan/Beechey battle. Who won?


(G King/oldracephotos)

Bob Jane leads Allan Moffat into Mountford Corner for the run past the Pits and start/finish line during the 1965 Longford Tasman weekend, Lotus Cortina’s both…

I’m not sure who won this encounter, over the years few other drivers have gone as hard at it- and swapped as much paint with each other as these blokes.

For a short time during 1968 Moffat drove for Bob, he had a few steers of the Elfin 400 Repco sports-racer and Brabham BT23E Repco Tasman machine- boofing them both! (the 400 at Warwick Farm and BT23E at Sandown) Moffat was soon picked up by Ford as a works driver during the halcyon Falcon GTHO/Superbird phase so the fall-out with Jane was timely really.

It was much better as spectators for self-made boy-from-Brunswick, businessman Janey to be ‘The Goodie’ and Canadian born pro-racer Moffat to be ‘The Baddie’- and didn’t they both give us some memorable battles to savour for a decade or so?

The Touring Car start- tail of Moffat’s car at left perhaps, cars folks? (E French)

Photo Credits…

Graeme King/, Ellis French

Tailpiece: Jane’s Cortina at Longford rest, what became of this jigger?…

(E French)




Norm Beechey’s Holden Monaro GTS327 V8 leads the field away for the final, deciding round of the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship, Symmons Plains, Tasmania 16 November….

Behind him is Alan Hamilton’s partially obscured Porsche 911T/R, local boy Robin Pare’s Ford Mustang, and then a Melbourne trio- Peter Manton’s Morris Cooper S, Jim McKeown’s Lotus Cortina Mk2 and Jim Smith’s Morris Cooper S.

I was casting around my ‘stock of photos’ and realised I had quite a few shots of cars raced in the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC), or during other races that year, many by Dick Simpson so it seemed smart to pop some words to go with them.

This season has been done to death in many publications over the years, so treat this as a pictorial with enough words to provide international readers with the context they need rather than anything particularly insightful. For Australian enthusiasts the cars and drivers are well known, force-fed as we are in this country with all things ‘taxis’.

Moffat, Geoghegan and Jane at Calder in 1970. Mustangs a threesome- KarKraft TransAm, locally developed ’67 GTA and Shelby TransAm (R Davies)

What a sensational period for Touring Car racing it was, the ATCC was then run to Group C Improved Production Touring Car rules, there was so much variety from the big V8’s- the Geoghegan, Jane and Moffat Mustangs, Beechey’s HK Holden Monaro 327, Lotus Cortinas and Minis. The perennial giant killing ‘bricks’ driven by Brian Foley, ‘Skinny’ Manton, Phil Barnes amongst others.

That year was very significant, it was the first of the ‘modern era’, in that the championship was decided over a series of races rather than a one race, winner take all format as had been the case since the first title won by David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 at Gnoo Glas, Orange, NSW in 1960.

Brian Foley, Cooper S leads Geoghegan into the Warwick Farm Esses in 1969 (Dick Simpson)

Melbourne’s Alan Hamilton, his family were the Australian Porsche importer for decades, nearly pulled off a huge upset in ’69 coming within a point and five metres of beating Geoghegan to the title in his new 2 litre Porsche 911.

In 1967 after winning the Australian Hillclimb Championship and having on-circuit success with his 906, Hamilton decided to have a crack at the ATCC. I wrote an article about him and his cars a while back, click here to read it;

A 911R was out of the question as it didn’t comply with the rules but a steel-bodied 911R did.

The new 911T was homologated for Group 3 Grand Touring, Porsche in time honoured tradition developed a new Rallye Kit to cater for racers, offering a range of go-faster goodies and less weight by removing various luxuries.

As always with Porsche you could order whatever you liked, that included the ‘Carrera 6’ engine and running gear from the 911R! Hamilton knew the capabilities of the engine from his 906 Spyder. Two of them actually. The 1991cc six was good for 157kW/206Nm, complete with a lightweight flywheel, slippery diff, competition clutch and other bits a pieces, it turned the Rallye into a very competitive little weapon.

Hamilton in his 911T/R at Hume Weir in 1969 (oldracephotos,ocm/DSimpson)

The Signal Orange 911T/R arrived Australia in time for the 1968, one race ATCC at Warwick Farm, Sydney on 8 September, a highly technical circuit which placed a premium on handling, brakes and power, Hume Straight was a long one.

Geoghegan’s ’67 Mustang and Norm Beechey’s Chev Camaro 350 were the main threats to Porsche victory with local boy Pete Geoghegan the man most likely.

And so it proved, Pete ran away with the race securing his third title on the trot. Hamilton was as high as second but blew a rear tyre at Creek Corner on the last lap and disappeared into the boonies before recovering to finish third. Darrell King was second and Fred Gibson fourth in Cooper S and Niel Allen’s Mustang respectively.

In 1969 the title was decided over five rounds in five states- Calder on Melbourne’s Western outskirts in Victoria, Mount Panorama, Bathurst in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, Mallala, 60 Km north of Adelaide in South Australia, Surfers Paradise on Queenslands Gold Coast and Symmons Plains, near Launceston, Tasmania. Truly a national title indeed!

New star-cars of ’69- Beechey’s shortlived HK Monaro 327 and Moffat’s long-lived TransAm Mustang, Calder, late 1969 (R Davies)

Hamilton’s Porker was far from the only fresh 1969 ATCC contender…

Allan Moffat’s KarKraft Mustang Trans-Am 302, a sinfully sexy weapon in the hands of the droll, fast Canadian for the following six years was soon on the water and arrived in time for the Mallala round. Click here for the story on this magnificent machine;

Norm Beechey had thrilled the crowds with a succession of exciting cars- Holden 48-215, Chev Impala, Ford Mustang, Chev Nova, Chev Camaro SS but for 1969 he built, with Holden’s assistance, an HK Monaro GTS powered by a 327 Chev cid V8.

Very early race for the new Beechey HK327 at Warwick Farm in late 1968- already some scars on the door! Car painted Shell blue over the summer- this colour and stripe combo ex-factory standard (R Thomas)

The car was built during ’68 by Norm’s team led by Claude Morton at Beechey’s Brunswick, Melbourne workshop. Whilst it was not completed in time for the ’68 ATCC it did defeat Geoghegan at Calder late that year.

Knocking off Pete in a car which was continually developed by John Sheppard in Sydney was always going to be a big challenge, lack of development time was a barrier, on the other hand the team knew Chev V8’s well, if not the balance of the new cars running gear.

In any event, Norm’s car had towards 500 bhp under the bonnet as the ’69 season approached- and had shown, even at this early stage, the pace to best Pete.

Beechey’s Holden HK Monaro 327 engine bay, circa 500 bhp from the Weber fed V8 (unattributed)


Calder Improved Tourer race later in ’69- this is Moffat giving Beechey a ‘love tap’ on the warm up lap! Geoghegan, Hamilton and McKeown follow (autopics)

The championship opened at Calder Park on March 23…

Geoghegan made the most of the freshly resurfaced track to score pole ahead of Bob Jane’s TransAm Mustang with Hamilton fourth behind Beechey’s Monaro. This car was very significant as the first of the Australian ‘Pony Cars’ to take on the American heavy metal which had dominated in Australia since the end of the ‘Jaguar Era’.

Beechey booting his Monaro around one of Calder’s tight corners during the ATCC round. Track only 1 mile long then (unattributed)

In a difficult start to the season Norm popped an engine in practice, decamping back to home base in Brunswick to rebuild the Chev bent-eight overnight.

Beechey led from the start but was passed by Geoghegan before turn one, Melbourne businessman/racer Jane passed Norm on lap 4 and Geoghegan on lap 5. Beechey popped another engine on lap 7!

Geoghegan tried everything to get up to and past Bob Jane at Calder in ’69- here throwing the car around in the manner for which he was famous (oldracephotos)

Jane had a strong lead but Pete came back at him, a passing move under brakes resulted in him running wide. Bob won the race at a circuit he would soon purchase from the Pascoe family who first built the facility in 1962. Geoghegan was second and then Hamilton third, a  lap down.

Bob Jane’s Shelby built Mustang Trans-Am, Bathurst 1969. Q2 and DNF. Bobs fortunes would change with the purchase of a Chev Camaro LT1 soonish (Bob Jane )

The fabulous, challenging Mount Panorama at Bathurst was the venue for round two on April 7…

Geoghegan had a sensational meeting plonking his ‘Stang on pole by 5 seconds and then proceeded to disappear during the race at the rate of ten seconds a lap. Pete was the master of Bathurst click on these links, about his Ferrari 250LM speed;

and his win in the ’72 Bathurst ATCC round aboard his Super Falcon;

Geoghegan, Mustang, Hell Corner, Bathurst 1968 (Dick Simpson)

In a meeting of attrition Jane qualified second but blew an engine on lap 9. Beechey boofed the Monaro in practice and did not start with Hamilton bending his rear suspension against the Forrest Elbow wall, finishing second, miles behind Geoghegan.

Phil Barnes, Cooper S from Mike Savvas Ford Falcon GT XT, Bathurst Esses  ATCC round 1969 (oldracephotos)

Phil Barnes did brilliantly in his Cooper S to finish third on this power circuit with Bob Inglis fourth in a Lotus Cortina.

After two meetings the pattern for the year seemed clear, Geoghegan’s pace, Hamilton in the Porsche finishing races and continually collecting points with the V8’s somewhat more brittle…

Moffat at Mallala in practice ahead of Kevin Farrisey’s Holden FJ (Dick Simpson)

Mallala, ex-RAAF Airfield 16 June…

Alan Moffat’s long-awaited TransAm Mustang was the star attraction, this car surely the most iconic ‘greatest’ touring car ever to race in Oz. Bias hereby declared!

Beechey was again a non-starter with yet another blown engine. The top four grid slots were Jane, Geoghegan, Moffat and Hamilton.

Moffat was the first to go out on lap 2 in what would become a race of attrition, followed by Jane at half distance. Hamilton followed Geoghegan home by a respectable 44 seconds for second with Peter Manton’s Cooper S third.

After a break of a month to prepare their mounts the teams took the long drive north to Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Melbourne’s Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina Mk2, Mallala 1969. Looks a picture in its Minilites (Dick Simpson)

Surfers Paradise on August 31…

Pete again took pole from Beechey and Hamilton who equalled the Monaro V8’s time- pretty amazing on this power circuit.

With Moffat and Jane non-starters, the race had looked like a foregone conclusion until Geoghegan was forced out with a puncture on lap eight, he had run over a piece of exhaust pipe left by one of his fellow competitors on circuit.

Pete returned two laps down but Beechey held on to take his first win of the season- and the first ever ATCC win for Holden with Hamilton second, collecting a bag more of points and Jim McKeown third.

A designers true intent is always shown with the first iteration of a car isn’t it? The ’68/9 HK Monaro a very cohesive design- and in GTS 327 spec a formidable tool in Series Production racing and here as an Improved Tourer. Here, Beechey’s car in the Surfers Paradise dummy grid/form up area. Car sold at the end of ’69 to WA, raced by Peter Briggs for a while and then, when some debts needed to be paid components ‘spread by the wind’. In the hands of a potential ‘restorer’ these days. Beechey focussed on his ’70 title winning, sensational HG GTS350 (unattributed)

The title now went down to the wire. Pete’s woes meant his championship lead was now only three points over the Porsche driver with Peter Manton moving into third in the title chase.

The competition rules provided each driver drop their worst score, the net effect of which was that Hamilton needed to win at Symmons Plains and Pete score no points for Hamilton to take the title.

These early 911’s are sex on wheels, Hamilton’s 911T/R as exotic as they came at the time. Still in Oz in the Bowden Family Collection. Clubhouse corner, Mallala 1969 (Dick Simpson)

Symmons Plains, 16 November…

Bob Jane had already withdrawn from the final round to attend overseas business commitments with team driver John Harvey driving his Mustang. Moffat was struggling yet again with engine trouble, the front row therefore comprised Geoghegan, Harvey, Moffat and Beechey with Hamilton back in fifth.

With just one minute to go before the flag, Geoghegan’s Mustang refused to start, leaving his crew little option but to bump start it after the race had begun and doom him to certain disqualification. All Hamilton had to do now was win!

Great arse! Moffats ‘stang has no bad angle. Symmons ’69 DNF typical of the unreliability of the car early on. It never did win the ATCC did it? Sadly. Car still in Oz, in the Bowden Collection of touring car racers (oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Harvey led Moffat until lap seven when the Mustang popped another Windsor 302. Beechey and Hamilton followed. Beechey extended his lead but the Holden started to suffer gearbox problems, he was having to avoid gearchanges, which meant he had to slip the clutch to keep the car mobile at lower speeds. By lap 15 Harvey was out with a puncture.

So near but so far! Beechey, his Holden trailing heaps of smoke from a failing gearbox, boots his Monaro away from Hamilton’s 911, last lap, last corner, last Symmons Plains round of the ATCC ’69 (oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Hamilton closed the gap getting to within a cars length of the Holden in the last corner of the race but Norm was able to boot the big V8, using all of its vast amount of torque, to accelerate away from the 2 litre 911 and win the race from Hamilton and McKeown.

Geoghegan had continued to race on, despite inevitable disqualification, breaking the lap record, making it onto the lead lap. With Hamilton failing to win, Pete won the ATCC title, his last, by one point…

Geoghegan flicking his Mustang thru Warwick Farm’s Northern Crossing in 1969. Pete always polls as Top 5 or 10 in any assessment of Australia’s Greatest Touring Car drivers (Dick Simpson)

‘You know, it’s funny’, chuckled Hamilton in a Unique Cars interview. ‘I’ve never really forgiven Norm (Beechey) for that one. Every time he comes around I like to give him a bit of curry about what happened in that race. You see, he was out of the (championship) running entirely at that point, and his car had all but expired.’

’In fact it actually did expire about 20 metres over the line. It finally just dropped dead! Still, I can’t complain. We did well to get where we did. Unlike the V8s, the Porsche proved to be very reliable. We had a colossal season in ’69, doing hillclimbs and medal races as well as the Touring Cars, but aside from routine servicing we didn’t actually have to do anything to keep it going’.

Etcetera: ATCC Cars of 1969…

Beechey, Hume Weir 1969 (unattributed)


One of the earliest appearances of Moffat’s Mustang in Australia, Oran Park, 17 May 1969 (Dick Simpson)


Phil Barnes, Cooper S at Mallala in 1969. He was 7th in the ’69 title with 5th at Calder and 3rd at Bathurst (Dick Simpson)


Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina, Hume Weir 1969 (oldracephotos)


Bob Jane and Mustang TransAm at Lakeside’s Karussell in July 1969 (G Ruckert)


Alan Hamilton, Porsche 911T/R during 1969 (oldracephotos)


Moffat at Peters Corner, to start the run up Sandown’s back straight. Moffat forever a BP man but displaying Ampol allegiance early in the Mustang’s career – May 4 1969 first race meeting? (autopics)


‘History of the Australian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard and Ors

Photo Credits…

Dick Simpson,, Robert Davies,, Graham Ruckert, Robert Thomas

Tailpiece: Pete Geoghegan, Mallala 1969- five time ATCC winner in 1964/6/7/8/9…

Geoghegan, Clubhouse Corner, Mallala 1969 (Dick Simpson)




Robin Pare, Pete Geoghegan in Ford Mustangs, Bruno Carosi Jag Mk2, Frank Gardner Alfa GTA and Robin Bessant Lotus Cortina on the downhill plunge towards The Viaduct, Longford Improved Production Touring Car race 1967 (

Pete Geoghegan did so many times too! The Sydneysider is here doing his stuff aboard the first of his two Ford Mustangs at Longford during the Tasman round in February 1967…

The Brothers Geoghegan, Leo and Ian or ‘Pete’ were stars of Australian Motor Racing from the late-fifties into the mid-seventies, Leo in single-seaters and Pete in ‘taxis’, touring cars of all pursuations. When he was a youth Pete was quick in a brief career in single seaters and a Lotus 23 Ford but he became a ‘big unit’ so his girth meant he was best suited to cars with a roof.

Geoghegan , Gardner and Carosi off the front row, no sign of Pare- perhaps not the same race grid as above ? (

A supreme natural, Geoghegan made a car sing with flair and feel blessed to some from above. Every car he drove. His band-width extended from GT’s to Sports Cars, Production Tourers and very highly modified Sports Sedans- sedans of considerable power and performance.

His CV included some of the most iconic cars raced in Australia over the decades above including a Lotus 7 , 22, 23, the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM, Holden ‘Humpy’, Jaguar 3.4, Morris 850, the two Mustangs, Cortinas- both GT and Lotus variants, Falcon GT’s, Falcon GTHO’s, Valiant Charger E49, highly modified Porsche 911’s, his iconic, Ford factory built and later Bowin Cars modified Ford Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’ and the superb John Sheppard built Holden Monaro GTS350 Sports Sedan.

That car was as conceptually clever, beautifully built and presented sedan racer as any ever constructed in Oz. Lets not forget his late career drives in Laurie O’Neill’s Porsche 935, a notoriously tricky device to master. Much earlier on he drove O’Neills Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, every bit as exotic as the 935.

Big Pete finesses the Mustang into The Viaduct (

Geoghegan, five times Australian Touring Car Champion 1965-69 was an immensely popular racer with the fans, his bulk, manner and ‘stutter’ part of his appeal. He was not without his issues mind you. Touring Car racing is a religion in Australia, our sedan racing has been the equal of the best in the world for decades and arguably for the last 20 years our V8 Supercar category has been consistently one of the Top 5 sedan racing contests on the planet.

A touch of the opposites on the exit to Newry (

So, the pantheon of talented touring car aces is large, and membership of the Top 10 a subject of much informed pub chatter, tough. Most knowledgeable touring car observers would have Geoghegan in their Top 10, if not Top 5, along with the likes of Norm Beechey, Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson, Jim Richards (a Kiwi but we take him as our own) Mark Skaife, Glenn Seton, Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup and others.


Photo Credits… Harrison and David Keep

Tailpiece: Came, Saw, Conquered and then returned to Sydney…

Other Reading…

Pete Geoghegan and his Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’

Pete’s 1965 Mustang notchback



Jim Clark explores the limits of adhesion of his Cortina during the Sebring 3 Hour Enduro in March 1964, he finished first in class…

MotorSport magazine road test of the car from January 1964, this Bill Boddy road test of the car ‘in period’ well worth the read.

‘A £1,100 competition saloon which is also a very practical road car, possessing extremely usable acceleration, very powerful Girling brakes, a top speed of over 100 m.p.h. and good handling qualities.

Soon after that man Chapman had been signed on by British Ford, Dagenham announced the Lotus-Cortina, which was to have a 1 1/2-litre twin-cam 105 b.h.p. engine in a Consul Cortina 2-door saloon body-shell using light-alloy doors, bonnet top and boot-lid, a close-ratio gearbox, modified suspension with a properly-located back axle with aluminium differential housing sprung on Chapman coil-spring struts, Corsair-size servo-assisted front disc brakes, larger tyres and other modifications to improve performance and handling. This Lotus-Cortina was announced enthusiastically in Motor Sport last February, when I remarked that it sounded like the most exciting British car since the Jaguar E-type.

Team Lotus were to run a trio of these Fords in saloon-car races, but the project was a long time coming to fruition, probably because the twin-cam engines were needed for Lotus Elans before they found a place in Cortina body-shells. And competition work with these exciting new cars, for which a top speed of 115 m.p.h. and 0-100 m.p.h. in around 30 sec. is still hinted at in Ford publicity material, was not possible until they had been homologated, which meant that at least 1,000 had to be built. Ford Dealers, promised these fast Cortinas, grew restive, the Ford Board wrathful, but gradually these outwardly normal-looking Cortinas with the colour-flash along the bodyside began to appear on the roads and, occasionally, by the date of Oulton Park’s Gold Cup meeting, on the circuits, while Henry Taylor drove one in the recent R.A.C. Rally.


(James Allington)

At last, late in November, a test car was placed at our disposal for a brief period, and let me say right away that we were not disappointed! The Lotus-Cortina is a very commendable all-round car of truly excellent performance, the acceleration being an outstanding feature, very usable from the low speeds at which the average motorist drives, and going on and on most impressively as upward gear changes are made, so that overtaking is rendered not only safe but a positive pleasure!

This Ford is not a 100 m.p.h. car in the sense that the “ton” can be attained almost anywhere, but it achieves an easy 85-90 m.p.h. on give-and-take roads and certainly has a three-figure top speed. Such performance will leave behind, say, a Porsche 1600 Super or Mini-Cooper S or Alfa Romeo Giulia T1, and it is accomplished without sense of fuss or stress, merely that nice “hard” sound of busy but efficient machinery associated with a twin o.h.e. engine. However, although the r.p.m. limit is set between 6,500 and 8,000 r.p.m., the engine in the test car would not go beyond the first of these figures.

Road-holding is another strong feature of Colin Chapman’s modified Cortina, the standard being extremely satisfactory, remembering that the basis of the exercise is a low-priced family saloon. The back suspension creaks a bit but the combination of coil springs, tying up the axle and reducing its weight has transformed the mediocre handling of the bread and margarine Cortina.

Cornering is mainly neutral, with a tendency to understeer. probably accentuated by the small-diameter wood-rimmed steering wheel, which makes the steering ratio seem rather low geared on acute corners; in fact, the wheel calls for 3 1/2 turns, lock-to-lock, including some sponge not noticeable when on the move. On normal bends the gearing feels just right and the steering very accurate and positive. Roll on fast corners is very moderate. The front-end feels softly sprung if sudden changes of direction or a heavy application of the brakes are made, when the weight of the twin-cam engine tends to be noticeable, but even over bad surfaces the front wheels retain firm adhesion with the road and the ride is comfortable. Even at 80 m.p.h. over a bad road the ride is very reasonable and the car in full control. At high speed there is a slight weaving action, accentuated by rough going, as if the back axle resents the restraint Colin Chapman has wisely put on it, but this does not develop into anything serious. Round fast, wide-radius bends the Lotus-Cortina holds the desired line most commendably, even with the inner wheels running along a rough verge, while the car goes exactly where it is directed when tucking in quickly after overtaking. There is some lost movement in the transmission, probably another product of restricting rear axle movement, just as the absence of a propeller shaft accentuates harshness of take-up in rear-engined cars. Had Chapman been allowed to instal i.r.s. this tendency to weave, and transmission of noise from the road wheels, might have been eliminated. As it is, there is very little judder through the rigid Cortina body shell but the axle does build up some shudder or mild vibration, which releases a number of body rattles. Reverberations from the engine can be cured by using the two lower gears when pulling away from low speeds.


The clutch of the Lotus-Cortina is extremely heavy, but engages progressively. The short remote gear lever is splendidly placed, and has a neat wooden knob. It controls a gearbox with the most commendably closely spaced and high ratios I have used for a long time, bottom gear being as high as 9.75 to 1. Chapman has clearly designed this gearbox for enthusiasts and doesn’t intend you to use a Lotus-Cortina for towing a caravan up Porlock.

The gear change is very quick and positive but the action is notchy and the synchromesh can be beaten if very rapid changes are attempted or the clutch not fully depressed. I rate this a good but not a superlative gear change. Reverse is easily engaged by lifting the lever beyond the 2nd gear position and the gears are quiet, but at certain speeds the lever rattles. The synchromesh bottom gear is as easy to engage as the rest of those in the box, which enables quick use to be made of the lowest ratio to keep the revs. up on sharp corners and steep hills.

The Girling brakes, 9 1/2 in. disc at the front, 9 in. drums at the back, with a suction servo on the n/s of the engine, are just the job for a car with Lotus-Cortina urge. They are light to apply, yet not too light and never sudden, and stop the car very powerfully and progressively with no vices, except for a tendency to pull to the right under heavy applications, on the test car. The hand brake is a normal Ford pull-out and twist affair. The combination of speed, acceleration particularly, road-clinging and powerful retardation possessed by this remarkable Ford enables 60 m.p.h. averages to be achieved on British roads effortlessly and safely, the Lotus-Cortina being easy to drive, no special techniques being called for, while its only notable disadvantages are some rather tiring engine noise and an uncomfortable back seat. However, the outstanding impression imparted by this excellent saloon car is of willing, purposeful acceleration, which goes on and on with no trace of hesitation or flat-spot. For this I feel quite certain the two twin-choke, side draught Weber 40DCOE18 Carburetters deserve most of the credit. The performance does not come up to the publicity estimates, as our figures show, but even so the Lotus-Cortina is a very rapid vehicle by 1.6-litre standards, quite apart from the fact that it is a 4-seater saloon! Because bottom gear can be held to nearly 50 m.p.h. and because acceleration commences to be really effective from around 3,000 r.p.m., a snick into 2nd gear produces extremely useful acceleration that leaves loiterers far and cleanly behind! Especially when it is realised that the rev.-counter needle only just touches the red mark at 70 m.p.h. in this gear, or at over 90 in 3rd gear!

clark, lotus at the wheel

The ‘light hands’ of Jim Clark at the wheel of a Lotus Cortina (unattributed)

In spite of its racing-type engine this Ford is perfectly docile in traffic, although if you motor through the thick of the rush-hour it is seemly to use 1st and 2nd more frequently than the 3rd and top gears, the water temperature will rise to 90˚ C but will stay at that, and your clutch leg may get rather tired. Starting from cold presents no problems.

I have dealt with the performance and controllability aspects of the Lotus-Cortina first, instead of commencing, as I do usually, with details of controls, instruments and decor. This is because anyone contemplating this particular and so very acceptable version of the popular Ford Consul Cortina sill regard these aspects as of major importance, and also because in general layout the car is like the normal, staid Cortina.

The separate front seats are comfortable and offer good support; they adjust in two planes, forward and upwards, in one movement. Upholstery is in matt black p.v.c., with a light roof lining. The dials are on a neat hooded panel before the driver, as on the latest Cortina GT models, but the instruments are better contrived, and in this case the background simulates metal instead of grained wood. The 110 m.p.h. speedometer has trip with decimal and total milometers, the tachometer is marked in red between 6,500 and 8,000 r.p.m., although the engine peaks at 5,500 r.p.m. The small fuel gauge is properly calibrated but shows a very definite zero some 30 miles or more before the 8-gallon tank empties. There is a combined oil-pressure gauge and water thermometer matching the fuel gauge in size; the oil pressure reading shows barely 40 lb./sq. in. at normal engine speeds, and falls to a depressing 5 lb./sq. in. at idling revs., although the green warning light does not show. In view of the fact that the twin-cans Harry Mundy-designed head has been grafted onto a standard Ford engine-base, this low pressure may prove disturbing to sensitive-minded engineers. No doubt proprietory oil-coolers will soon be offered to owners of these cars! Normal water temperature is 80˚ C. The two main dials are notable for steady-reading needles, white against a black background and moving in the same plane, which, with the steady-reading small dials and black interior trim, imparts an air of luxury, not found in lesser Fords. The usual Ford fixed r.h. stalk carries lamps and winker switches, the lamps control faired off, unlike that on other Cortina models. This makes it even less easy to use. That no lamps flasher is fitted is a serious omission; the horn push on the wheel, which is inoperative, might well be employed as such, enabling the push on the stalk-extremity to be used as a lamps-flasher.


On this Ford the screen-washers knob is adjacent to the starter-key, and the wipers knob, on the other side of the dash, pulls out to start the single-speed wipers. There is the usual choke knob. The bonnet is opened from outside the car and has to be propped up, although the self-locking boot-lid is self-supporting. The bonnet opens to reveal the neat twin-cam engine, with those big Webers on the o/s and a 4-branch exhaust system dropping away efficiently on the n/s. The ignition distributor is inaccessible beneath the carburetters. The latter have a cold air box led through a flexible pipe from a filter in the grille. The dip-stick is close to the dynamo bracket, but accessible. Blue cam-box covers signify the 105 b.h.p. version of this 1,558 c.c. Ford engine, but for competition purposes the “red” 140 b.h.p. engine is available.

This “blue” engine has a 9.5-to-1 c.r., so 100 octane petrol is called for. On a last run from Hampshire to Somerset and back this was consumed at the rate of exactly 25 m.p.g. The absolute range on a tankful, which holds within 1/20th of a gallon what the makers specify, was 200 miles. The horizontal filler pipe is unsuited to refuelling from a can.

The Lucas 60/45 watt sealed-beam headlamps enable most of the Lotus-Cortina’s performance to be used after dark and the illumination provided in the dipped position is to be highly commended. There is nothing else to mention that distinguishes the car from its less powerful brethren, except that the spare wheel lies on the boot floor, the battery and two strengthening struts are found in the boot, the boss or the 15 in. racing-type steering wheel and the gear-lever knob are endowed with Lotus badges, which are repeated on the radiator grille and on each rear quarter of the body, and that the 6 in.-section Dunlop tyres look imposing.

We obtained the following performance figures, two-up, using an electric speedometer on the test track (average of several runs, best time in parenthesis, best Cortina GT acceleration times within square brackets):—

If these figures disappoint anyone, there is the Cheshunt-built 140 h.h.p. race-tuned 1,594 c.c. Lotus-Cortina to bring smiles of satisfaction – if you can afford £1,725 or get your hands on one of the 30 to be constructed! But for all practical purposes the ordinary Ford Lotus-Cortina (or the 125 b.h.p. Special Equipment version) should provide amply sufficient speed and acceleration and, with its good road manners, will soon be giving joy and rapid travel to many discerning sportsmen. It is a much better car than I had dared to hope and there is something very pleasing in the knowledge that Lotus racing “know-how” has been handed on to this outwardly sober Ford saloon, which goes so well, is such great fun and so safe to drive, and which enjoys the widespread Ford spares and servicing facilities. Under the circumstances this Ford Lotus-Cortina is a good car to buy for £1,100 3s. 1d., or £9 10s. extra if front-seat safety belts are specified. (Other extras are a 4.1 to 1 back axle and a reversing light).

Time will show just how reliable this combination of Ford and Lotus components proves but in 600 hard-driven miles the only failures were the Smiths tachometer, which just couldn’t believe the engines high rev.-limit, and a loose bolt holding the carburetters intake box in place. The rubber fell off the clutch pedal. Twin-cam engines are sometimes thought to consume oil but none was used by the Lotus power unit in 600 miles.

In conclusion, I approve very strongly of Colin Chapman’s idea of a British Giulietta, which Ford sells at a price poor men can afford! As for the race-tuned version…!! – W. B.’


James Allington, MotorSport January 1964