The FORD CORTINA in the 70s and 80s (Mk III to Mk V)

By Mark Nobes

For this post, I'm going to take a look back at the iconic Ford Cortinas which graced Britain's roads back in the 1970s and 80s, which were the Mk III, Mk IV and Mk V.

The Cortina quickly became a beloved family car in the United Kingdom and beyond. Known for its practicality, affordability, and reliability, it appealed to a wide range of drivers. Over the years, it underwent several design iterations, each one improving upon its predecessor.

The Cortina was first produced in the UK in 1962, with the Mk 1 being built until 1966. The final Mk 5 model was eventually replaced by the Sierra in 1982. The Mk 1 cost under £700 to buy and was made using the mechanical parts from other Ford models. Despite this, it was still the UK's best-selling car for nearly two decades, which is why it goes down as an all-time classic.

Mk III (1970-1976)

Yellow British Ford Cortina Mk3

At some point in the 1970s, my Dad bought a brand new dark blue Cortina. Unfortunately, my Mum managed to scratch the roof while reversing it out of the garage - I believe that the door didn't hold tightly in place and fell onto the roof! We solved the problem by having a black vinyl roof covering made and it actually looked pretty damn cool back in the 70s!

The original Mk3 (pre-facelift) Cortinas with round headlamps at the front and American "coke bottle" styling of the bodywork became iconic during the 1970s and is many people's favourite model. It looked larger than the Mk II, but was actually the same length but around 4 inches wider, although the wheelbase was 76mm longer which helped to create a more spacious interior. It was also a heavier car than the Mk II.

The early Mark III Cortinas came with the same 1300 and 1600 cc engines as the Mk II, apart from the 1600 cc GXL. A new 2.0 L Pinto engine was also introduced.
The GT and GXL pre-facelift models were most definitely the preffered choice if you had the cash, with four headlights and Rostyle wheels.
In 1973, the Mk III was given a facelift with rectangular headlights for the XL and GT, which felt like a downgrade to me! The dashboard and instrument panels were now flatter, and the front grille and rear lights were upgraded.
Side view of a yellow Ford Cortina Mk III with black vinyl roof

A yellow Ford Cortina Mk III with black vinyl roof (Public domain image by terimakasih0 on Pixabay)

In this video is a superb example of a Mk III with a 3.3 V6 Essex engine.

Mk IV (1976-1979)

The exterior of the Mk4 looked very different to the Mk3, with the front end now having two larger rectangular headlamps with a flat grille sat in-between, rather than the round headlamps being embedded withing the grille panel, although the Mk III GL and GT models had already been given the two rectangular lights in the 1973 facelift, but they were still embedded in the grille, which kind of prepared the buyer for the new styling of the Mk IV. The bodywork looked rather more conservative with a squarer design, which gained the attraction of different buyers such as fleet buyers and the middle classes.
Mechanically, it was pretty much the same as the Mk III, and the interior felt familiar, although the steering wheel was brand new, with the V-shaped centre being replaced by a rectangular one, giving a more sturdy feel. The instrument panel was0 the same, as this had been introduced to the MkIII's in 1973 during its facelift.
A new top-of-the-range Ghia model was introduced for the first time and The Mk IV became Britain's best-selling car throughout its entire production.
Ford Cortina Mk5

Mk V (1979-1982)

The final Mk V Cortina was built from 1980 to 1982, with prices starting at £3475 for the most basic 1298cc model. At first glance, it looks quite similar to the previous Mk V, but can be distinguished by its wider front indicators and wider slats in the front grille. The rear lights and indicators are also wider on the saloon models, the roof is flatter and the C Pillars are smaller. The engines are slightly beefier and more fuel efficient. The Cortina continued to be the best-selling British car in 1980 and 1981.

Public domain image of a Mk5 Ford Cortina 2.0 Ghia Automatic. Original image here:

The front interior of a Ford Cortina Mk5 2.0 Ghia
The interior of a brown Mk5 Cortina 2.0 Ghia. As you can see, there are rectangles galore! The steering wheel has a rectangular centre and there are many rectangular cut-outs for the ventilation and heating controls and radio, and the dashboard is rectangular, too! 


1982 Ford Cortina 1.6 GL (14105290055)
By Kieran White from Manchester, England (1982 Ford Cortina 1.6 GL) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

More Photos

Blue 1970 Ford Cortina Mk III GXL with black roof

Blue 1970 Ford Cortina Mk III GXL with black roof - public domain image by Tap Tapzz on flickr

Ford Cortina MkIII GXL ca 2000cc registered June 1972
Ford Cortina MkIII GXL (1972) by Charles01 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


1972 Ford Cortina MkIII
1972 MkIII Ford Cortina complete with furry nice and all the trimmings!

Mk3 Ford Cortina
Copyright-free, Public domain photo of a 1972 MkIII red Cortina
North American Cortina
Public Domain Photo: A North American 1972 (Mk 3) model

Ford Cortina TC (15830955621)
By jeremyg3030 (Ford Cortina TC) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1974 Ford Cortina 2000E (23850365009)
By Riley from Christchurch, New Zealand (1974 Ford Cortina 2000E) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


1972 Ford Cortina (15783885512)
By GPS 56 from New Zealand (1972 Ford Cortina) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons