Developing The 2nd Generation
And now it’s Ford’s turn!
A lot of things had changed since 1963, and Ford had learnt a lot from Lotus with the Mk 1 Lotus Cortina, both positive and negative.
The Mk 1 started off as a no-compromise and flawed Lotus homologation track car, utilising the best ideas that Lotus could develop given the starting point…a 1200 deluxe Cortina, only a few weeks to develop the modifications whilst managing a staggering workload from the development of the Elan. And of course, their racing commitments continued.
The shortcomings of the Mk 1 soon became apparent, and Boreham, Ford’s competition department, were to play a significant role in sorting them out with the development of the rear suspension with radius arms for their rally cars. Once this had replaced the coil suspension that Chapman had pinched from the Lotus 7, the car started to win rallies as well as races, and the warrantee claims went back to a normal level. In truth, Ford had started to develop the 2nd generation of Lotus Cortina with the last year’s specification Mk 1 Lotus Cortina.
Lotus were moving from Cheshunt to Hethel in 1966, and Ford wanted to re-gain full control of their top-of-the-range performance car, so the decision was made to develop the Lotus Cortina Mk 2 in house at Boreham, and build it at Dagenham.
This time there was a clear starting point for the design….the Mk 2 GT had been launched with the rest of the Mk 2 range in October 1966, the last of the Mk 1 Lotus Cortinas were nearly fully rationalised to GT specification, so those two models were used as the base for the new Lotus Cortina.
Colin Chapman studies the Twincam instllation in the prototype Lotus Cortina, based on a GT. This was taken in 1966 at Boreham, with Henry Taylor (next to ACBC) and two other Ford executives.
The Mk 2 was developed from the outset as a slightly more refined road car. Most cars after all would be bought by owners who wanted performance with comfort and reliability. However, the competition department of Ford, based at Boreham, had grown up and developed a huge range of enhancements that could be provided for the Mk 2, and so a new ‘package’ was developed. This was the main difference between the Mk 1 and Mk 2, or the Lotus approach and the Ford approach.
On one hand, with the Mk 2 Lotus Cortina, Ford had a comfortable, reliable standardised high performance car that could be sold and supported with confidence around the world. On the other, a massive Performance Options package was available for the first time to the public which gave the customer the ability to replicate the ‘works’ cars if he so wanted.
From a sales viewpoint, this was a brilliant move. The vast majority of cars sold were completely standard, but the owners knew that they had, if they wanted, the basis for a full-blown race or rally car. And we’re all boy racers at heart! This ‘model’ of course continued with the Twincam Escort, and then ramped up a notch for the AVO Escorts, with a new purpose built facility at Aveley for manufacturing and modifying the performance Escorts.
It wasn’t the end of the relationship between Ford and Lotus, but it probably signified the beginning of the end.
The launch brochure for the Mk 2 Lotus Cortina show the car in a paddock alongside Lotus racing cars with a Lotus Elan in the background…obviously Ford wanted to maintain the link with Lotus and their obvious kudos to launch the car. Lotus formed a new Team Lotus around two highly modified Mk 2 Lotus Cortinas, fitted with the Formula 2 FWA engine, and campaigned by Graham Hill and Jackie Ickx, amongst others. I would imagine that the money to do this came from Ford.
Even as the Mk 2 Lotus Cortina was launched, Boreham were starting to develop the Twincam Escort…not Lotus Escort…which was itself launched in January 1968. Towards the end of Mk 2 production, the Lotus Cortina was marketed as the Twincam Cortina in European markets, and of course, the BDA engine replaced the twincam in the Escort in 1970.
The Mk 2 was slightly more popular that the Mk 1, even though it had quite a lot more internal competition with the Twincam Escort and 1600E, and a lot more external competition was in the market.
The Mk 2 had one specification, with the S/E 115 bhp engine as standard. It now came in the GT range of colours, although white with the green stripe (optionally painted on at the dealers site) accounted for probably 80% of sales.
The specification of the car at launch was, as mentioned above, much the same as the Mk 1 specification when it was finished. The steering and dash layout were rationalised with those of the GT, and the suspension was stiffened and lowered by 1 inch, after considerable trials by the lads at Boreham. The Mk 2 was launched in March 1967, nearly 6 months after the rest of the Mk 2 range.
Interestingly, Lotus still regarded the Mk 2 as ‘one of ours’ despite it now being built in Dagenham. Here is a photograph of the sales cars lined up at Hethel, with the Mk 2 bearing the famous 120 registration number adopted by many Lotus sales and management cars in the past. It is thought that this was Colin Chapman’s own car, which Graham Arnold used to say Colin much prefered to the old Mk 1.
Colin Chapman used an S/E wheel from a Mk 1 for his own car:
Here is a description from Motor Sport of the development of the Mk 2 Lotus Cortina by Fords competition department at Boreham.
Here is a write-up from Ford Times, April 1967, specifying the car and giving the Ford rational for it’s development.