WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Rust is a killer
Like many of its contemporaries, the Cortina rots badly, which is why so few are left. A lack of wheelarch liners means the front wings dissolve. They’re bolted on, so they’re easy enough to replace, although replacements are costly when available, and the inner wings often need a lot of reconstruction. The sills, wheelarches, door bottoms and valances (front and rear) all need careful inspection. The same goes for the A-posts, screen bases (front and rear), floorpan, boot floor and spare wheel well. So, basically everywhere! There are few panels to go round; Ex-Pressed doesn’t do MkIV or MkV versions, so it’s a case of the occasional panel cropping up now and then – and they’re invariably expensive when they do.
Which engine has yours got?
There were three engine familes available: Kent (1.3), Pinto (1.6 and 2.0) and Cologne (2.3 V6). There are few Kent-engined Cortinas left as they’re not sought after; the engine has to work hard, which is why it’s the bigger-engined variants that have survived. Most of the Cortinas that remain have Pinto engines, which must have frequent oil changes if its spraybar isn’t to get blocked up. A fresh cambelt should also be fitted every five years or so, although it’s easy to do on a DIY basis. The V6 is strong, but eventually gets tappety once it’s worn, while the fibre cam timing gear can disintegrate, which is why some owners opt for steel instead. The key thing to remember about all Cortina engines is that they’re easy to maintain and rebuild on a DIY basis. They’re also well-served by parts specialists and are generally easy to tune, especially the four-cylinder units.
Ask if the gearbox is rebuilt
All Cortinas came with either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearbox. The auto isn’t all that smooth with its changes, and it could do with an extra ratio, but it tends to just keep going. The four-speed manual typically lasts around 100,000 miles before the bearings and synchro rings have worn out. Rebuilds aren’t a problem, or it’s possible to swap one for the five-speed unit in the Sierra – quite a few cars have already had this surgery as it’s virtually a straight swap.
Listen out for whines
The rest of the running gear is as conventionally engineered as the engine and gearbox, but there are a few things to watch out for. The void bushes wear in the rear trailing arms and on top of the differential, but they’re readily available and easily replaced,
especially if you have the special tool that’s available. The back axle leaks oil, allowing it to run dry. The result is a diff that’s scrapped before its time, so listen for whining on the move and look for any evidence of oil underneath the car. If the steering is heavy, it’s probably because the inner top wishbone pivot has failed, which means much dismantling is required.
There’s no new interior trim available and even secondhand bits are scarce as there were so many permutations and combinations. S trim is especially rare. That’s why finding a good interior is key – although it’s not difficult to source a fresh set of carpets if necessary. It’s also worth ensuring that the switchgear and instrumentation is correct and working, as it’s hard to find exactly the right bits for any given trim level and year.
Check the electrics
The electrics tend to be reliable, although the fuseboxes have a habit of melting if the headlight fuse has overheated. Check if the headlights work; if they don’t, you’ll need to scour the autojumbles for a replacement fusebox. Also make sure the fuel gauge works, because sender units are hard to find.