Cars I have driven #10 – Ford Cortina Mk3

15 Aug

The Coke bottle waisted Mk 3 Cortina was quite a stylish car at the time and, as a car mad youth, one was on my wish list, albeit that I knew that I had no chance of buying one at the time. One of my football team mates did have the GXL version and I was very jealous of him for that, even to the point of trying to make sure that for any lifts to and from games I travelled with someone else if I could.

At work the assistant branch manager had a basic 2 door 1300cc version for his company car. One day there was an urgent need to get something to a customer and, with all of the vans being out at that point, his car was to be pressed into use. I, as number one reserve driver, was to do the run. It was early afternoon on a cold winter day when I set out from Romford and there was a lot of muck on the road as you find on such days and a film of it was starting to build up on the windscreen as I headed out into the low sun on my way towards Barking. I began to check the steering column controls for the wash/wipe switch, but without success. I shifted position slightly to look at the symbols on the stalk switch when the wipers suddenly made a single wipe, smearing the screen into an opaque panel.

I was doing around 30 mph at the time along Rush Green Road, cars parked here and there either side, and couldn’t see a bloody thing as the sunlight diffused off the smeared screen. What had happened was that the Cortina had a foot operated wash/wipe switch on the floor to the left of the clutch pedal. This was a bulb for the washer with a ring around the outside for the wipers. You could operate the latter without using the washers, or press both together for a wash wipe. I was familiar with such an arrangement, but had not realised that the Cortina had one, and I had inadvertently nudged the wiper ring with my foot when I had leaned over to look around at the stalk switches.

Realisation took a lot less time than to write about it and I hit the switch full on the get a wash and wipe running. I managed to get
forward vision back in time to avoid hitting anything and the momentary panic was over. To have wrecked the car would have  been a cock up too far at the time, let alone the fact that I would have damaged someone else’s property to
boot.

It was about 10 years later in 1982 that I next drove a Mk3 and this time I had bought it; a white, 4 door 1600L model. I had had to scrap the second of my Hillman Hunters and, as a married man with a second child on the way we needed a basic family transport. It wasn’t a bad buy, but one day my wife reported that there was water in the passenger foot well. This was true, and investigation revealed that the metal had rotted away and been replaced with cardboard that had been over painted to disguise it. We managed to keep it going for a couple of years over which time money became less of an issue as I began to climb the greasy pole of management.

Through a family contact we found another Mk3, a P registered 1975 model, again a 1600 4 door, but upgraded a bit with Rostyle
wheels and a vinyl roof. It was available at a decent price and so in 1984 the old white one went for scrap and we had our replacement Bristol registered (LEU) in time for the move from Essex to Wiltshire.

The second Mk3 also did us proud, but there were the usual little maintenance jobs to do. I had turned 30 and one day the realisation dawned on me that I was too old to be lying under a car in the freezing cold skinning my knuckles. I was doing well at work and we were managing the finances in fairly good order so something newer that I would not have to spend evenings and weekends fettling seemed a good plan, and the Ford got traded in 1996 for something that my wife chose.

I had just the 4 years of Mk3 Cortina motoring, but enjoyed them. It was a solid motor and still easy to fix yourself. They drove well, the 1600cc engine was a good and strong one and the gearbox was slick and easy. You could chuck them around if you wanted to, but they were also a great family transport. One of my favourites.

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