History Lessons: #3 – Mark 2 Cortina-Lotus
Not all of us are purebred. In fact, if you’re like most of the people on this earth, you come from two separate and distinctive families. The new Ford Focus ST follows a similarly branching family tree. For the first time, the high performance Focus you buy in the US is the same as the one you could buy in the rest of the world.
We’ve tasted from the European performance well in the US in the past as recently as the 2002 – 2004 Focus SVT, which was similar to the European Focus ST170. This “World Car” attitude is very present in the current and upcoming Ford vehicle catalog; the Fiesta has been for sale here for some time now and the 2013 Ford Fusion we’ll be seeing here is very much the same as the new Mondeo seen throughout the rest of the world.
In this series, we’ll look into the history of compact performance offerings from Ford and how two parallel developments in the US and Europe have evolved into the new 2013 Ford Focus ST.
When we last left you, Ford had an instant hit with their Mk1 (say “Mark”) Cortina-Lotus. The last revision of the Mk1 Cortina-Lotus introduced a more simple and durable rear end system that was shared with the Cortina GT. This cost-cutting measure proved to be successful in racing and set in motion the groundwork for the Mk2.
Ford decided that the next Cortina Lotus had to be more cost effective than the last which meant moving production from Lotus back to Ford. The new Cortina Lotus shared much in common with the latest Mk2 Cortina GT, with the main differences being the engine and suspension. The Mk2 continued the tradition of the Mk1 by offering a stronger 109bhp version of the 1558cc Twin Cam. The cars were now offered with a choice of colors and allowed for cars to be adorned with or without the signature side stripe. The car now rolled on radial tires, increasing cornering performance even more. Another complaint of the Mk1 was its tiny fuel capacity. The Mk2 increased the fuel capacity while also allowing the spare tire to be mounted in its wheel well and battery to remain in the trunk to keep the car’s balance.
The Mk2 was another success for Ford. The cost-cutting measures paid off, the car remained competitive and the reliability was far better than the Mk1s. Not long after the car debuted, Ford replaced the Lotus badge with their own “TWIN CAM” badge to further link themselves to the performance of the car.
On the track, the Mk2, under Team Lotus, was under new rules in the Group 5 Touring Car class. Fuel injection with dry sump oiling was now allowed, and now equipped with Lucas injection, the cars were producing 180bhp at a screaming (for the time) 7750rpm. Significant changes were done to the suspension. The cars were switched from McPherson struts to double wishbones and the rear end featured a beefed-up, complex system more in common with the early Mk1 Cortina-Lotus than that of the street Mk2. Graham Hill and Jacky Ickx both drove these to many wins and always finished ahead of the Porsche 911s. Unfortunately, Alfa Romeo was running full steam with their GTA Giulias and that meant that the Cortina wasn’t as often a podium sitter as was the Mk1 version.
The performance pedigree of the Cortina Lotus made way for Ford’s next big thing: the Mk1 Escort Twin Cam. More on that next time.