Colin Chapman’s Lotus Cortina Mk I was a tough act to follow. The heavily modified suspension, lightweight aluminium body panels and 105-hp Lotus Twin Cam engine proved to be the perfect tool for the likes of Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jack Sears and Jacky Ickx, who won the UK Group 2 championship in 1963 and 1964. Meanwhile, Sir John Whitmore took victory in the European Touring Car Championship for 1965.
There was a redesign for the Cortina planned for 1967, and Ford had concerns about the Lotus version’s reliability. The Lotus factory was also moving to Hethel and the company couldn’t undertake any major new jobs. Ford therefore took on the project themselves and built the Mk II Lotus Cortina in-house at Dagenham. Built alongside the Cortina GT, the Lotus version had a different engine and suspension setup.
Under the hood, the Lotus Cortina Mk II got a 109-hp engine. The fuel tank also grew and wider wheels were offset differently. Additional colors were available.
A few months after Ford started production, the badge on the trunk that had read Lotus Cortina now read Cortina Twin Cam. The model was dubbed the Cortina Lotus. In 1968, gauges were moved a bit and a clock was fitted in the console. About 1,000 more Lotus Cortina Mk IIs were built than the Mk I, making for a little over 4,000 total. It was produced until 1970, when Ford turned its attention to the newer Escort.
The Lotus Cortina Mk II isn’t as attractive as the Mk I, nor does it have the racing provenance or the distinction of actually having been built at Lotus. It is still a good car, however, and can be bought at a much lower price point.
The problem is that because more than a million Mk II Ford Cortinas were built, more than a few have been turned into convincing Lotus replicas. Provenance is essential when shopping for one of these.