Play at being Jim Clark with this restored Lotus Cortina
By John Howell / Sunday, October 10, 2021 / Loading comments
OMG. I don’t use that trio of letters often, but come on. Seriously. What a proper car. On every level. Obviously, I state that on the basis it’s a Lotus Cortina; a car I have loved since I was a kid. No, I am not so old I was around at the time they were new, but when I ‘were a wee lad,’ my old man told me about the first (and only) car he bought new: a Mk I Cortina GT in red. I fell in love with Cortinas there and then. Those amazing triangle-section rear lights, the slightly Americanised styling, the multitude of dials (I’ve mentioned this before: I have a thing for dials).
Then I saw the Lotus version. Christ on a bike. To my innocent mind this was something else entirely. I had no concept of speed back then. By that stage, my dad had migrated to Hillman Hunters so I’d never actually been in a properly quick car. I had a child’s brain, though, and they’re brilliant for imagining stuff – like the concept of speed. I knew the Cortina GT was fast – my dad had told me and dads are always right – so it didn’t take much mental conjuring to draw the conclusion that the Lotus Cortina must be hypersonic.
I had the facts to back it up, too. It had Lotus roundels on its grille and flanks, a blue-topped twin-cam crossflow motor, a pair of twin choke Webbers (40 DCOE18) and – the pièce de résistance – a whacking great green stripe running nose to tail. Then I started looking up the Lotus Cortina in books and saw pictures of Jim Clark at the helm, back wheel cocked jauntily at a black-and-white Brands Hatch. Boom. That was it. The fastest thing…as it happened…on three wheels.
It took some years for the penny to drop that it wasn’t quick. At least in road trim. The race versions made around 160hp at 7,500rpm, but fresh out of Perrys we’re talking 106bhp and 0-60mph in 13.6sec seconds. I still dream of driving one nonetheless. It’s not always about pure speed; I have faith that the easy-breathing, Harry Munday-designed top end, which still allows 6,500rpm in road trim, mated to that well-proven Kent bottom end, will prove more than the sum of its parts (or power). Especially with just the 905kg kerbweight to wrestle along.
As it happens, I wouldn’t mind popping my LC-cherry at the wheel of this example. The description is brief but the pictures tell you most of what you need to know – it’s just a shame there aren’t any engine snaps. The Ermine White and Sherwood Green body looks pristine, but it’s the views underneath that are perhaps even more gripping. The picture showing what appears to be a surgically clean floorpan garnished with perfectly powder-coated axle, leaf springs and prop are a bit saucy, to say the least. It’s an early car, which at first made me think it could be part of the 1,000-or-so homologation batch.
But I think (feel free to correct me) that the diff casing is steel, rather than the aluminium used in those cars – that was to lower the unsprung mass but they proved fragile. I am torn, too. This early car’s front quarter bumpers are far more fetching than the full-width bumpers added to later examples, but I tend to prefer the later cars’ dashboard. I also love them sitting on standard 15-inch steels with chrome hubcaps. Yet it’s all a pipedream. I don’t have the £50-odd thousand to have this or any Lotus Cortina. I can still imagine, though.
SPECFICATION | LOTUS CORTINA
Engine: 1,558cc, four-cylinder
Transmission: 4-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
Top speed: 108mph
Year registered: 1963
Price new: £1,100
Yours for: £49,990
See the original advert here
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