I am still looking for a recording of the Arena programme “The Life and Times of the Ford Cortina” broadcast in 1982, the year that Cortina production stopped, this iconic car being replaced by the initially unpopular Ford Sierra, referred to by many as an upside down blancmange. The programme was an exploration of the car as cultural icon and featured Tom Robinson singing this hymn to the Cortina.
This was the car that the young me always dreamed of owning, ever since I set eyes on an aubergine one with a vinyl roof on the car park at Whistling Sands in North Wales in 1969. My siblings were keen to get down to that lovely sandy beach in its sheltered cove, to build sandcastles, explore the fascinating aquatic mini-worlds of the rock pools left behind by the retreating sea when the tide turned. But I only had eyes for the car, the dark majesty of its paintwork, the shine of the rostyle wheels, the radio aerial leaning rakishly back from above the windscreen, the racing car style pod wing mirrors. Inside there was a wooden dashboard with a rev counter with its shock of red (a bit like the hair I have at the moment!), the steering wheel with holed steel spokes. This was an executive sports saloon built for those for whom such a car would have been beyond their budget previously. I walked around it, admiring its perfect form, its understated beauty and fell in love.
There has always been a prejudice in certain quarters about girls and cars. Not just the jokes about women drivers (boys, we pay lower premiums than you, ever wondered why?), but also the mansplaining wisdom that the female brain cannot accommodate engineering concepts in its tiny form. Why these prejudices persist is unclear. There have, for example, been a number of successful female rally drivers, going back to the days of Pat Moss, there are excellent female motoring journalists, indeed Top Gear pre the Clarkson testosterone revolution always had at least one female presenter. In the last few weeks there has been Girls and cars on Radio 4, were female celebs come on to go through their automotive autobiography, talking knowledgeably about cars they have owned. Women can be petrolheads too and we don’t need gimmicks like “Girly” versions of cars (Mini Design anyone?)
So here is an extract from mine:
After an initial infatuation with a Mini I finally bought a 1600E, amber gold with a black interior, a but rusty in places but it looked the business, much more than the XR3 and other sporting Fords of the time. It was probably even by 1986 an old fashioned car, with its steering box, dynamo and cart spring rear suspension but the bonnet hid the delights of the engine with its twin choke Weber carburettor nestling under an air box that looked like an upturned frying pan, and the four branch exhaust manifold on the opposite side of the head, like a clutch of serpents. There was even a sticker on the head sayinh 1600GT in red letters. It all looked purposeful. And it was. The crossflow version of the Kent engine was a fine unit, with a lovely whine on the overrun that gave plenty of torque low down. With well chosen gear ratios you could pull from 10 mph in 3rd gear and 15 in 4th. A car for the open road really, and not a car for motorway cruising, (you couldn’t hear the radio once the speed got past 55 mph!) but, then again, there weren’t that many motorways in 1968.
I had the car two years before rust spread and became terminal, but two good years they were. And even though I am a 50s girl at heart and have a pic of a Mk 2 Zodiac on my Facebook profile, it is for the Mk 2 Cortina that my heart beats,
There aren’t that many 1600Es left and hardly any in daily use. I did see one last week and it turned heads, mine included. I felt a pang, about like seeing a former lover, remembering the nights, the beds where you explored each other, and wondering if he tastes the same today but reflecting wistfully that you will never find out.
This is meant to be a sex blog so I will mention the car’s biggest plus, vinyl seats, and you surely don’t need to ask why.