The TC Cortina was introduced by Ford in late 1970
. The base model was designated "L", while the more upmarket "XL" model featured chrome trim around the wheel arches. A 2000 XL (112 bhp @ 3500 rpm) with a GS pack could reach 113.6 mph and cover a quarter mile in 17.2 seconds, a big improvement over the Mk.II.
The new model TC did not however immediately capture the heart of the buying public, with sales falling away to 12,000 after the previous models high of over 17,000 units. There are perhaps 2 main reasons for the downturn in the popularity of the Cortina, for starters the Japanese were making big inroads at the time, and unfortunately the Cortina was quickly gaining a bad reputation for poor quality and reliability.
To redress the situation, Ford decided to follow suit with Holden and introduce a 6 cylinder mid size car (particularly following the success of the Torana
). A little known fact is that around 500 V6 engines were imported from the UK and installed into the local Cortina's, however the decision was made to stick with the locally manufactured straight 6 as was being used in the Falcon
The two Falcon sixes were available, either the 200ci 3.3 litre or the 250ci 4.1 litre. To fit the straight sixes into the Cortina's body, the engine bay had to be lengthened - easy to spot, the six had a bonet bulge and quad headlights. Other Falcon parts were used, including the 3-speed manual, while the Falcon's 3-speed auto was made an option, as was the 4-speed manual ($53 extra) from the lethal Falcon GT
The 6-cylinder models may have been only marginally faster than their 4 cylinder cousins, but they were much better suited to Australian conditions, cruising with far less effort. An upmarket XLE model was introduced, which included appointments such as a vinyl roof, snazzy hubcaps, and bumper overriders.
While the six was a more relaxing car to drive, the sloppy front end quickly gained a bad reputation and sales continued to decline, particularly when compared to its rival the Torana
(which was selling 3 to every 1 Cortina). Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the TC was the dash, with the instruments being very low in comparison to the driving position, and the ventilation system incorporated into tiny "slits" between the instruments/glove box and padded dash top.
The XLE Cortina Six
You don’t need us to tell you that the TC was much better in six-cylinder form. And the best of the Cortina 6 was the "XLE'' - which brought almost Fairlane
standards to the mid-sizer. The XLE offered distinctive trim items to distinguish it from its more proletarian small Ford stablemates, and was equipped with practically every extra-cost item from the options list as standard equipment. It was easy to distinguish from outside, using special (and attractive) colour-coded hubcaps, a full width garnish panel across the boot, protective vinyl waist strips and quartz halogen inner headlight inserts in the blacked-out grille.
The interior was trimmed more lavishly, with Fairlane-style fabric-covered seating, an abundance of courtesy lights and enhanced instrumentation than was normally available on other TC models. Standard power train was the 250 cubic inch, 155 bhp six, linked up to three-speed automatic transmission, while the manual four-speeder could be had as an option. The XLE was aimed at creating a new luxury-car class in the under A$4000 category and, in 1973
, there was virtually no direct - either local, Japanese, or other European. It had the unique ability to offer comfort and performance that approached Fairmont/Fairlane standards, yet came in a more compact and sensible package.
But the XLE was not aimed at the sports minded driver – rather it was a luxury car in a smaller package. Most agreed that the best combination of engine and transmission was the 250ci mated to the automatic. Such fitted, it lost little in performance and economy and offered a smoothness which most felt was superior to the three and four speed manuals – although as Seinfeld would say ... “Not that there is anything wrong with that”. Final drive ratio was the same 2.76:1 as used in the manual 250, providing a tremendous high speed cruising ability which only allowed engine noise to intrude at speeds over 95 mph.
The 250 had power sufficient to push the XLE through the standing quarter mile in less than 18 seconds, while putting in 20 mpg-plus economy figures. This performance was well matched to the extensively re-designed suspension in terms of handling and roadholding, but the latter still fell short of ideal when judged in a broader context. The extra travel that Ford managed to build into the suspension improved ride comfort to a marked extent, but did not altogether solve the original problems of harshness and excessive noise transmission. These were magnified by the fitment of radial ply tyres
– but with safety becoming a big factor in the early 1970s Ford had little choice but to shod their cars with radials.
The main deficiency was with the amount of suspension compliance provided to dampen and absorb the sound of initial road shock. Although the spring and shocker rates were lower, and the ride softer, the setup was still prone to send banging and thrumming noises through the car's interior. It was likely the designers did not place enough emphasis on sound absorption, as the TC would "drum" badly at low speeds on smooth hotmix. Fortunately this was addressed by Ford engineers through the TC’s model run - but the smoothness and silence of the six-cylinder power train only served to make this more noticeable.
Another factor which detracted from the Cortina's road behaviour was the occasional tendency towards tailshaft imbalance which appeared in some six-cylinder models - although we have not found a road test of the XLE that had that criticism was blameless in this respect. But perhaps these were small deficiencies. We must remember the TC XLE was released in 1973
– 3 decades ago – and at the time it really was one of the most "complete" cars selling in the A$3500 category, not only in terms of standard kit, but also in provision of adequate comfort for all occupants. Unlike the car that came closest to competing directly, the Toyota Mark II, it offered sufficient space in both front and rear to accommodate four large people, with adequate width for five if the occasion demanded.
The seats were well shaped, although squab support was a little light-on in the front buckets, and the fabric covering was far more pleasant in either hot or cold weather than the usual vinyl material. Instrumentation on the XLE incorporated the full "GS" pack, complete tachometer, but the XLE was also fitted with a console-mounted electric clock. The steering wheel was bound in real leather and the central front armrest had a softer, more yielding padding than that fitted to the XL model. The whole atmosphere was much plusher than the base Cortina’s and, in the Ford stable, it was most closely similar to the much more prestigious Fairlane. It of course fell well short – but as a cheaper, smaller, practical alternative it really was on the money.