Cortinas to make a big splash at The Classic Car Show on July 9 at Nasrec
Here's a Mk II Cortina, built from 1967 to 1970. This is a GT version.

Ford Cortinas are expected to turn up in their dozens at the Winter 2023 edition of The Classic Car Show at Nasrec Expo Centre on July 9. The favourite family-Ford from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and in the past couple of years the collectability of well-preserved Cortinas has increased exponentially.

The Cortina was the car that changed Ford’s whole image in South Africa. When it was introduced in the very last months of 1962, it was small enough to be considered a light car, and yet it had room for a family of five, with a relatively massive boot. It had reasonable performance from its 1200 cc 4-cylinder motor that was initially on offer, and when 1500 cc versions appeared a year or two later, its utility as a family car was assured.

“The Cortina clubs have been supporting our show for many years in big numbers, and this year we are expecting something very special for the anniversary of this great Ford classic,” said Classic Car Show organiser Paulo Calisto.

“Of course there will be on plenty of other classics on display from all eras, including large numbers of the ever-popular American muscle cars.”

The most significant step that Ford took in terms of image was to introduce the Ford Cortina GT in late 1963. This was a 1500 fitted with a twin-choke Weber carburettor, a higher compression ratio, a “hotter” cam shaft and a branch exhaust manifold. The suspension was lowered and the instrumentation included a rev counter, a seriously sporty feature back in the ‘60s!

Cortina GTs soon appeared on race tracks all over the country, and Ford took this a stage further by importing a few race-spec examples of the then-new Lotus Cortina, a British-built twin-cam version that was never officially sold here. Cape Town’s Koos Swanepoel went on to win the 1964 South African Saloon Car Championship in a Lotus Cortina, distinct with its off-white bodywork detailed with olive-green side flashes, a black grille and wider pressed-steel wheels.

In Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia), enthusiasts could more easily import the road-going version of the Lotus Cortina, and a number of these cars found their way to South Africa over the next few decades.

The second-gen Cortina, featuring a much boxier shape, appeared in 1967 and introduced a new cross-flow Kent engine to the range, and then in 1971 a much more-sophisticated Mk III Cortina bowed in, which introduced the 2,0-litre overhead camshaft 4-cylinder engine, and later in this life-cycle, the classic V6 engine, which made the Cortina GT a seriously quick car for its time, with a top speed of 180 km/h.

The Mk IV and Mk V models that appeared in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s had a shape that was much more knife-edge. Engines ranged from the old faithful 1,6-litre Kent cross flow through the overhead cam 2,0-litre four-cylinder to the V6 3,0-litre, commonly known as the Essex V6. In the early 1980s Ford introduced some very special Cortina models including an XR6 Interceptor model that was fitted with three twin-choke Webers, and enabled the likes of Sarel van der Merwe and Geoff Mortimer to run at the sharp end of the Group One racing grid for a spell.

Talking of racing, nothing set the race tracks alight like the Chevrolet Firenza Can Am, which is also in an anniversary year in 2023, as it was launched in 1973. A number of Can Ams have turned up at The Classic Car Show over the past decade, and this year you can expect to see one or two of the few surviving Can Ams. There were only 100 produced, of these special South African classics and back in ’73 the Can Am had a genuine top speed of 230 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time in the 5,5-second region.

It cleaned up the top saloon car classes in South Africa wherever it raced in ’73 and ’74, no surprise as it was fitted with a motorsport-spec 5,0-litre V8 known as the Z28 motor, that probably produced in excess of 400 horsepower in track form. Look for a genuine alloy rear boot wing, black bonnet and tasty five spoke 13-inch Personal alloy wheels on genuine surviving examples. And realise that 230 km/h in a 50-year-old car would feel like 400 km/h in one of the modern supercars, thanks to the advances in road-holding and brakes in half a century.

All sorts of American, British and German classics are expected at Nasrec on July 9. And talking of German, the special Japan versus Germany section of The Classic Car Show has swelled to huge numbers in the past few years. Here you will see modern classics from the likes of Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Subaru covering a good portion of the Nasrec expo grounds. Most of the modern classics on  hand will have insanely low ride-heights, thanks to the wonder of specially-fitted air bag suspension kits which allow owners to lower their cars almost to the tarmac for display purposes, then raise them up to reasonable ride heights for cruising around the ‘burbs and the highways.

Some super-powerful motors are also to be found under the bonnets of VW Golfs, Polos, Honda Civics, BMW 3 Series and 5 Series. And Subarus are super-quick in standard form, while some of the modified examples expected at Nasrec offer supercar-like performance.

A day of family entertainment is on offer at The Classic Car Show 2023, with kiddies play areas, a flea market, helicopter rides and drifting at the Nasrec skid pan to get the blood boiling. Special new entrances for classic cars at Nasrec have been arranged to ease traffic build-up at this hugely popular petrol head event.

The Classic Car Show on Sunday July 9, 2023, opens at 8 am to the public runs until 4 pm. Drivers of classic cars and Japan vs German examples are admitted free as exhibitors.

Prices are R100 for adults and R30 for children under 12 at the gate. Tickets are available from Computicket at R80 for adults and R20 for children under 12. Secure parking is available for spectators at R30.

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