According to legend, the birth of the Lotus Cortina concept was conceived as a result of a choice meeting between Walter Hayes, Vice Chairman of Ford of Europe with particular responsibilities for public relations and the enigmatic Colin Chapman, founder and managing director of Lotus.

From the outset, the pair's discussion reportedly was very lighthearted on the implications of taking the simple family salon that was the Ford Cortina Mark I and upgrading it so that it would be capable of reaching sufficient levels of power to compete in motorsport.

Such was the enthusiasm and curiosity from both participants in the scheme, that little time was wasted in discussion before the first stripped-out two-door body shells began to make their way from Ford UK in Dagenham, Essex to the Lotus assembly plant situated in  Cheshunt slightly north of London.

The first the Lotus-Cortinas were almost entirely different from the regular two-door Ford model, considerably lighter, thanks to the aluminium body skin panels specially created for the doors, bonnet and boot lid.

Powered by a Lotus-designed twin-cam engine partnered to a close-ratio geared, alloy transmission, the Lotus Cortina's elaborate real axle casings were also produced in a tough but exceptionally lightweight alloy, comprising of coil springs over dampers, radius arms and an A-frame locating the rear axle.

These factors combined to make driving the Lotus Cortina Mark I an exhilarating experience, with ride and handling being very firm, helped in no small part, by the car riding on 5.5in rims.

Specially designed instruments and custom designed seating all added to the mystique, which was topped off by a lowered ride height, front quarter bumpers, and the model's distinctive green-on-white paint job, which was the only colour combination available.

Lotus's drive to get the Lotus Cortina project up and running was credited to be the cause of the initial and many problems that the first owners experienced.

These problems were gradually ironed out during 1964, with some of the many
alloy panels and castings that were standard fixtures, in the beginning, being available only as standard.

Lotus also began to produce the car with an updated wide-grille body, fitted with Aeroflow ventilation,

From June 1965 the coil spring/A-frame type of rear suspension was abandoned, replaced by Cortina GT type leaf springs and radius arms.

The last major upgrade came in the Autumn of 1965 when Lotus began to fit yet another set of gearbox ratios into the car, this time taken from the Corsair 2000E set.

While not without its share of teething problems, the Lotus Cortina had become a reality.

Although a fast and always charismatic car which won bucket-loads of touring car races, the Lotus-Cortina Mark I had a troubled career as a road car, especially in its early years.

As time went on these problems faded to such an extent that when the Mark I was discontinued in 1966,  to be replaced by the Mark II, there were a lot of car enthusiasts sorry to see it go.

 Early-type versions of the Lotus Cortina, with only a few thousand produced, are much sought after among collectors and restorers.

Back to the homepage- and don't spare the horsepower.