Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

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.

Trim’s tricky

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.

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