Ford Cortina GT Mk.2

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Ford Cortina GT Mk.2

Ford Cortina

Ford Cortina Mk. II GT

1966 - 1972
United Kingdom
4 cyl.
1599 cc
88 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
80,000 +
4 star
Ford Cortina Mk. II GT
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


In Autumn 1966 the Mk.II Cortina GT was released. The body was, of course, completely restyled, along with the entire Cortina lineup, but initially the car was still using most of the Mk.I GT drivetrain. The same 78 bhp engine was used, and the same gearbox with the big gap between 2nd and 3rd, albeit with a new diaphragm-spring clutch, and a new three-rail remote gearchange.

The final drive ratio also remained the same at 3.90:1. The fuel tank was enlarged to 10 gallons, while 4.5" wheels became optional, and radial tyres became an option. Some suspension modifications were made, but mainly because the new body required it. As well as the new body, the car also had a new dash, which took a lot of its design cues from the last of the Mk.I GT dashes.

The speedo and tacho were still behind the driver's wheel, and the Aeroflow vents, toggle switches, and under-dash parking brake handle were still in evidence, but the auxiliary instruments had moved to a binnacle on top of the middle of the dash, their old location occupied by the heater controls.

Mechanical changes were, however, to be introduced on the Mk. II GT during its production cycle, starting in January 1967 with the introduction of the '2000E' gearbox ratios, as used in the Corsair 2000E and Lotus-Cortina. In August 1967 what is now commonly called the 'crossflow' version of the Kent engine was introduced, and the Weber could now be found sitting on a cast-alloy inlet manifold on the opposite side of the engine to the exhaust manifold.

With an increased capacity of 1599cc (nominally 1600), output went up from 78 bhp at 5200 rpm, to 88 bhp at 5400 rpm. Also introduced with the crossflow engine was 4.5" wheel rims and radial tyres as standard, and a new centre console featuring a clock. The next significant change was made in January 1968 with the removal of the locating radius arms on the rear suspension on all the UK models and on a lot of export cars as well.

In October of the same year the cars received a minor facelift, with new grilles, new badges, and new seats, plus the option of reclining seats on two-doors. The instruments were moved (again), the handbrake was moved to the transmission tunnel, and a new gearchange mechanism, a new gearbox casing, an internal bonnet release, and a fully fused electrical system were introduced.

For the US market a polished wood veneer was added to the dash, as used in the 1600E. About 80,000 Mk.II GTs were sold. When first released, they were selling even better than the Mk.I GTs, but when the 1600E was introduced, the sales rate was cut in half, but they still sold respectably, with the sales for the 1600E easily making up the difference.

The 1969 GT Update

By 1969 the GT Cortina was suffering a decline in sales, partly because of the newer sports machines being built by other manufacturers, and partly because its time in the limelight during its Bathurst 500 days were in the past. Ford needed it to stand out in the showroom – and the application of large side stripes announcing the fact that it was a GT seemed to do the trick. But there were also some very worthwhile changes made. Most notable among these changes was the fitment of radial ply tyres on wider rims, which moved the already good handling of the GT into the excellent class and kept the power well in hand at all times. Such was the grip offered by the Olympic radials fitted that it was much harder to induce wheel-spin.

Twin quartz iodine driving lamps were fitted as standard equipment and there was a very sensuous sports steering wheel with leather covered rim. This, and the vast improvements made to the finish of the dashboard area transformed the appearance of the interior. Ford did away with the matt black paint which graced the dash of the earlier GT and the complete fascia was covered with black vinyl material. Where the previous car tended to look a little on the cheap side, the 1969 model had a real high-quality look about it.

Instrumentation remained exactly the same, except that the four instruments which were once housed in a hooded surround on top of the dash were moved down onto the dash proper. They comprised ammeter, oil pressure gauge, temperature gauge and fuel gauge. The speedometer and the 7000 rpm tachometer were placed directly in front of the driver, as before. The handbrake was moved from under the dash to the transmission tunnel between the front seats. Otherwise, the interior was exactly the same as before, with the central console locating the short, floor-mounted gear-lever and good quality carpeting throughout.

The front seats in themselves were quite comfortable, but they moved back on the old pivot arrangement which steepened the backrest angle as the seat was moved rearwards. Fine for back seat passengers, but not conducive to producing a relaxed driving position. Despite the driving position, the GT still impressed anyone who drove one. The clutch action was inclined to be sudden, but the vinyl booted gearlever provided rapid ratio swapping and braking was nicely progressive. The narrow gate between second and third gears made snap up-shifts a very simple matter and synchromesh was so strong as to be unbeatable.

The leather covering gave the steering wheel a much better feel and the only criticism any road tester could find was a slight reluctance to self-centre. Otherwise, road feel was very good and the degree of response offered by the radial ply tyres made the car very easy to manoeuvre at speed. Handling was close to neutral, with just a slight suggestion of understeer under hard cornering. On dirt or gravel, the tail could be induced to swing out quite easily. All-in-all, the GT's handling was of a high standard and on sealed surfaces it was entirely predictable, the pleasant steering giving the driver that feeling of being well in control of all situations.

Body lean was hardly noticeable from inside the car and this contributed a lot towards an overall feeling of security. Out-and-out performance was ok too, with a maximum speed was 95 mph. Despite the well matched gear ratios it only averaged around 10 seconds from 0-50 mph, and standing quarter mile figure of 18.6 seconds. Under pressure, the engine transmitted a certain amount of noise into the passenger compartment, but otherwise it was very quiet and smooth. At low speeds, the oversquare engine's inherent lack of torque was noticeable, but not embarrassing.

The Steele 1600 GT Cortina

THE late Joe Craig once said that tuning was ninety-nine per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration. Four decades on and there is still a great deal of truth in this. Back in the 1960's and 1970's it was not uncommon to encounter a "tuned" car which performed little better than the standard model, despite an impressive array of carburetters and extensive but haphazard modification of the cylinder head, camshaft, etc. Conversely there were some tuning specialist companies that demonstrated that careful attention to detail during the assembly of a perfectly standard engine could result in quite a worthwhile increase in performance (some of the Formula Ford engines providing good examples of this).

Although their nominal specification remained unchanged, those that received specialist attention usually developed significantly more power than their completely "stock" brethren. The Steele 1600GT was, in fact, based on Formula Ford practice. It received the same painstaking dimensional checks and adjustments, but as no formula regulations needed to be considered its power output had been further boosted by the use of a special camshaft and a moderate increase in compression ratio (from 9.0 up to 9.5 to 1).

Externally the Steele tuned version looked completely standard, save for an identification badge on the boot lid. Steele took an otherwise unmodified 1967 Cortina GT with its 1599 c.c. engine along with it's wide-ratio gearbox. There was nothing particularly wrong with this, however the taller gearing made it impossible to make meaningful comparison with later model GT's, the 1600E and Lotus iterations. The position was further complicated by the fact that the Cortina Lotus had a 3.78 to 1 rear axle ratio, compared with the 3.9 to 1 of the 1600E and the Steele 1600GT.

The Steele tuned engine was surprisingly flexible at all times, although as it warmed up some uneven running became evident at small throttle openings. This could be quite a nuisance in traffic; often necessitating a change into a lower gear to avoid unpleasant transmission snatch. It could well be due to over-richness in the progression stage, as opening the throttle instantly eliminated it. Apart from this the engine was surprisingly free from temperament. It was no noisier than the standard version and always idled reliably, if somewhat quickly.

Steele 1600GT, Cortina-Lotus and 1600E Comparison

The car's mean maximum speed of 100 mph was little better than the 98 mph returned by the 1600E, although given the size of the engine it should be remembered that even a small increase in maximum speed required a considerable increase in power - the Cortina Lotus's maximum of 104 mph illustrated that point. As previously mentioned, making comparisons between the various performance Cortina iterations could never be an exact science. From 0-80 mph through the gears the Steele 1600GT took 20.2 seconds, only 0.1 seconds more than the Cortina-Lotus but a full 6.4 seconds better than the 1600E's 26.6 sec. Over the standing quarter-mile the Steele 1600GT was fastest, taking 18.0 sec compared with the 18.2 seconds of the Cortina-Lotus and the 18.8 seconds of the 1600E.

Despite the better "step-off" which was afforded by the lower first gear of the Steele 1600GT (0-30 mph in 3.4 sec. commpared with the 3.6 sec of the Cortina-Lotus and the 4.1 sec of the 1600E), the Cortina-Lotus beat the Steele version, but only by 0.2 sec. up to 60 mph (11.0 sec for the Cortina-Lotus. 11.2 sec for the Steele 1600GT and 13.1 sec for the 1600E). The 1600E accelerated marginally faster than the Steele 1600GT over the 20-40 mph range in top gear (11.5 sec, compared with 11.8 sec). Surprisingly despite its higher gearing, the Cortina-Lotus took only 10.0 seconds, a good indication of the docile nature of the remarkkable engine.

It is in the middle speed range, 50-70 mph in top gear, that the Steele 1600 GT showed to best advantage. It took only 10.5 seconds, compared with the Cortina-Lotus' 12.4 sec and the 1600E's 12.1 sec. Relatively few special parts were used on the Steele 1600GT, but since the "Kent" series engines are even more robust than their predecessors there were no problems with reliablility. Although the Cortina-Lotus twin-cam engine was based on the old 1500 pre cross-flow engine, it incorporated a great many special parts to ensure maximum reliability. These included the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, clutch. flywheel, etc. In addition, there were details such as a cast-iron crankshaft pulley (instead of pressed-steel), a pressed-steel generator pulley (instead of plastic) and more robust generator mounting bracketsments not included on the Steele 1600GT.

Did that make the Lotus iteration better than the Steele? The answer was of course yes, however the Steele 1600GT was far more simple to maintain and had the advantage of being completely interchangeable with a standard push-rod unit. Certainly for such an innocent looking engine it performs remarkably well, and shows just how "tuneable" the Kent engine was.

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Also see:

Cortina 1600 GT (US)
Cortina Mk.II Model Lineup
Cortina Mk.II Specifications
Cortina Mk.II Brochure
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Posted Recently
I owned a few mk1-mk2 cortinas when i first got my license in 1988! I still have my first car...a '63 mk1 2 door. Hasn't been driven for years, since '93...but has been undercover all the time. I need a lh front guard for it, & a bonnet, because of my carelesness for a time. It is was originally a 1200,4 on the floor...then bought a damaged 65 1500 4 speed,& had the engine totally, no expense spared reconditioned, with brand new 40mm side draught weber, lynx manifold, genie 4 in41 extractors,:new everything.still all in my shed. Just need bits.
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