Trying to establish how many Mk Lotus Cortinas were made has been the subject of many debates, and the total number varies from 2894 to 3300.

The lower number comes from Ford records, and the upper is from a combination of information from the only Lotus record left, the dispatch diary, and extrapolation of information from the register held by the LCR.

However, there are a few factors to consider that may explain the differences.

Firstly, there were many Service Shells made that wouldn’t have been included in Ford’s figures for cars made. They had a unique chassis code just as a completed car did, which would just be the ‘next’ number in the sequence for Lotus Cortinas .

Secondly, most Lotus Cortinas had the initial part of the chassis code as ‘Z74’ or ‘BA74’. There were quite a few that had ‘Z85’ or ‘BA85’ instead, and the reason for this difference is unknown. It’s also not known if the Ford lower figure includes the ‘85’ coded cars.

Thirdly, Lotus record keeping can be unreliable. Lotus kept many types of record to convince the authorities that the target for homologation was being met, and to gain tax advantage with creative accounting.

Ford’s records provide interesting reading, if for no other reason than looking at proportion of cars built by year. Their figures are:

1963 –  228  (22.8 per month over 10 months)

1964 –  563  (46.9 per month over 12 months)

1965 – 1112 ( 92.6 per month over 12 months)

1966 –  991  (123.8 per month over 8 months)

Total – 2894

When production started (early 1963) the pressure was on to get ‘1000’ cars built for homologation, but it seems that as few as 200 – 300 cars may have been made in 1963. Production doubled in 1964, doubled again in 1965 and increased in 1966, probably due to the introduction of the left hand drive (Type IV) model.

Despite the anomalies, the upper figure (rounded) of 3300 cars made seems to be the most accepted one.

There weren’t many left hand drive cars made as they were not available until October 1965. Some 160 were made for the North American market, with another 60 or so going to Canada. It is unknown how many were made for the European market.

The Special Equipment package was made available to give the cars a little extra performance and higher specification equipment. Officially, 68 cars were converted, but of course, considerably more than that had some if not all of the upgrades. It was a nice little earner for Lotus, and as an indication, more than 60% of Elans made were to S/E specification.

One of the main considerations for having an ‘official’ S/E package or not was that the Ford warranty was invalidated by having it! Little wonder that most cars didn’t go the official route but had the modifications done quietly at the workshop in Cheshunt.

It was intended to produce 30 ‘Production Racing’ cars for known racing teams around the world. However, 51 were produced. These cars were very close in specification to the Team Lotus works race cars.

Breaking down the production numbers by type is also a very approximate exercise, especially given the anomalies of the number of cars made. In providing this breakdown, the 3300 total is used, and the analysis has been done by examining chassis numbers, and extrapolating numbers from known change points.

In very round terms:

Pre-Aeroflow cars – 800

Aeroflow cars – 2500

A-Frame  (covering both Pre-Aeroflow and Aeroflow) – 1700

Leafspring – 1600

However, it is known that leaf spring ‘prototypes’ were started to be built in February 1965 (the KPU cars) and in June 1965 (the GBP Police cars), and that some customer cars were built with leafsprings at Cheshunt before A Frame production officially stopped In August 1965. We will never know those numbers of course, but the number of leafspring cars made could easily be an additional 100 units on the numbers above, with the same reduction in A Frame numbers.