Throughout the 1960s Ford pursued an ambitious and wide-ranging motor sports programme - 'Total Performance' - that would see the 'Blue Oval' triumph at Le Mans with the GT40, while Ford-powered cars also won at Indianapolis and took the Formula 1 World Championship. In Group 2 production car racing the firm was just as dominant, thanks to one particular model: the Ford Lotus Cortina.
Ford's Walter Hayes commissioned Lotus boss Colin Chapman to develop the Group 2 competition version of the new Cortina saloon; Lotus would then build the 1,000 cars required for homologation. Launched in 1963, the Lotus Cortina - Cortina Lotus in Ford parlance - featured the Elan's Ford-based, twin-overhead-camshaft, 1,558cc engine in the two-door bodyshell. McPherson strut independent front suspension was retained, with revised spring and damper rates, while the rear leaf springs were replaced by coil-spring/damper units, axle location being achieved by trailing arms and an 'A' bracket. The adoption of an alloy differential casing proved a mixed blessing, the lightweight component proving far less oil-tight than the original. Reversion to Ford's standard leaf-sprung axle cured the problem. Its early outings had proved that the Lotus Cortina was fast, but the handling was far from perfect and designer Len Terry was asked to make the necessary changes to the rear axle locating arrangements.
Production of the Lotus Cortina began in February 1963, but it was not until September of that year that it was eligible to race. Driven by Jack Sears, a works Lotus Cortina finished 1st in class on the model's racing debut at Oulton Park on 20th September, with Trevor Taylor second. The following year the late Jim Clark, a supremely gifted driver who seemingly could do anything with any car, took the British Touring Car Championship driving a works-entered example. Clark's spirited driving of the Lotus Cortina, often cornering with only three wheels on the ground, will never be forgotten by those privileged enough to have witnessed it.
Lotus Cortinas dominated saloon car racing's 2-litre class, often challenging for outright honours. Works cars were driven by Clark, Graham Hill, Peter Arundell and Jackie Ickx, while Sir John Whitmore, driving an Alan Mann-entered Lotus Cortina, was European Touring Car Champion in 1965. After the axle change, the hitherto fragile Lotus Cortina proved a highly capable rally car, works driver Bengt Soderstrom winning the Acropolis and RAC rallies in 1966.
Built at the Lotus factory in Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, in March 1966 and previously resident in the sunshine state of California, where it had only three owners in the Los Angeles area and was last licensed for the road in 1976, this left-hand drive example has been fully restored over the course of the last three years and is presented in commensurately excellent condition. The original body/chassis was refurbished and repainted in 2010/2011, and the engine fully rebuilt, with original US specification SE camshafts retained, by leading twin cam specialists Throbnozzle Racing of Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex in June 2012. In 2013, the transmission was fully overhauled and the interior renewed with totally authentic trim and fittings, while the electrics have been checked and components replaced with new as necessary.
We are advised that the car is essentially to original specification, right down to US-correct rectangular rather than oval Ford badge fitted to the wing, apart from having a pair of the preferred front quarter-bumpers, a rear blade bumper minus US market over-riders, radial tyres, UK-legal front/rear lights and a stainless steel exhaust system. Accompanying documentation consists of a photograph album and CD-ROM of images documenting all aspects of what has been a most comprehensive rebuild with diligent attention to detail; the original VIN tags; a written history of the car and its restoration; and the old State of California Certificate of Title. Following a 1 July 2103 MoT test pass and the issue of a first certificate, this well presented 47 year old was UK registered for the first time with Swansea V5C and issued with an historic vehicle road tax disc. An inspection in the metal at Goodwood will confirm that this is an exceptional example of a left-hand drive Lotus Cortina road car, which, unusually, has never been raced or rallied.