ACBC Approved: 1966 Mk 1 Lotus Cortina

DolphinBy Dolphin

The 1963-66 Mk 1 Lotus Cortina is probably the most coveted small British sedan of its time. It was the product of a collaboration between Ford and Colin Chapman, and had input from Harry Mundy and also Keith Duckworth of Cosworth fame. Find this well preserved example here on eBay in Millsboro, Delaware.

The early Mk 1 Lotus Cortinas differed significantly from both ordinary Cortinas and also the Cortina GT. The Mk 1 had a tuned twin cam engine, special close-ratio gearbox, light castings for the ‘box and differential, special suspension, and upgraded interior. There was also special white paint and that iconic green stripe on the side. These were not simply rebadged Cortinas. Rather, they were significantly re-engineered by some of the best car men in Britain.

The seller has owned this car since 1970, and has upgraded it with a Lotus Big Valve engine–good for 160 HP–and stainless steel exhaust and a repaint. In allowing himself to boast a bit, the seller mentions that “ACBC was very impressed with the car when he saw it at Watkins Glen at the U.S. Grand Prix in 1978” (ACBD is Colin Chapman). However, the car has been off the road for 6 years and has some needs. The engine is partially disassembled and is not currently running, which makes judging its health difficult.

An important issue with these cars is determining whether the car is a genuine Lotus Cortina and not a Cortina GT, and this question is raised by someone on the auction listing page. Although the car’s interior appears appropriate, and components such as alloy gearbox and differential housings could be mentioned, the seller provides only circumstantial information about the car’s authenticity in his answer. If you are after a Mk 1 Lotus Cortina this could be the car, but it will be important to confirm that it is genuine Lotus before taking the plunge.

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Comments

  1. fred

    Great for vintage racing…

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  2. Bob B

    I always likes small cars…Love the Cortina’s

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  3. Lon

    A left-hand drive Cortina! What a cool car! The bidding is up to $18818.18 at this time, and the reserve has NOT been met yet!

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  4. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    Two of my favorite videos of the Lotus Cortina, in the hands of two pretty good drivers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWp-0TuY4Sk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJgrTfV8n5k

    The amazing thing about these cars is that, when sitting still, they don’t really look the part of a race car. The back half looks overlarge and a bit ungainly. But on the track, they haul, especially as shown in those drifts in the Crystal Palace video. That was before the days of downforce and wide, super sticky racing tyres (= Br. spelling of ‘tire’). It was also before the days of Jacky Stewart’s safety crusade and Armco, so watch out for those trees at Crystal Palace.

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  5. Pete A

    Nice Mk1. All things say it is a genuine Lotus. If it were a GT, the VIN would say “BA77” instead of “BA74”. The “BA” is the assy plant for the stock body before Chapman performed the Lotus treatment. The “74” is 2 door Saloon. The “FT” is the mfg date of Apr 1966 in this case. The “BA” paint code is for the Ermine White. The drive code “2” is for LHD. The “S” code for the axle is std 3.90:1. The trim code “8” is molded carpet, the “7” is Ctr Arm Rest, “5” is center pillar cover. In addition to the obvious things, the Lotus is distinguished by the bump in the trunk floor as mentioned, and the VIN was hand stamped onto the right front inner fender(wing) about 1 inch forward of the RH front strut mount stud. It is a shallow stamp and hard to see with a repaint. The VIN will be upside down (when read from the front) and oriented from the engine toward the fender. One other Lotus-only treatment is a hand-sawn cutout on the forward bulkhead for gauge clearance. It cannot be seen from the engine compartment and the instrument panel must be removed to see it. The RTV on the top of radiator is a worrisome indication but easy enough to correct. Hopefully the engine did not overheat-the Lotus head tends to crack from excess heat. Otherwise nice car. Good luck.

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  6. J. Pickett

    Might be a little pricey, British price guides show a condition two car at about 6500 pounds.

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  7. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    Pete A:
    Takes a real expert to know all the small & large details. Very useful info for potential buyers.

    J.Pickett:
    Your price guide might bit out of date. The SCM price guide says $25K (low) to $50K (high) for a Mk 1. A quick Google search yielded for-sale prices of from 20K to 28K British Pounds–right in the SCM range. Come to think of it, the small production (2,894), racing success, and associations with Lotus/Chapman/Clark/Mundy/Duckworth/Moss, etc, suggests that they are still undervalued in comparison with some other ’60s cars that don’t have that kind of history.

    Still out of my league, unfortunately.

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  8. Ed A.

    According to this site, this car is a bonafide Lotus Cortina.

    http://www.lotus-cortina.com/mk1plate.htm

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  9. Dan

    I love those little cars, remember them cornering at Riverside with their inside rear wheel off the ground.

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    • Michael Rogers

      Well– if the REAR wheel was off the pave, the FRONT should be about 18″ higher, they had a bigger front ARB and none rear so the rear was almost invariably on he pave. I had a 66, sold it to Belgium years ago

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  10. Pete A

    thanks but no expert just sharing a few bits picked up here and there. My twin has had an all original ’66 MK1 LC since ’74. Here is useful info for all interested ; an excellent VIN decoder for the 65-66 Cortine (no affiliation).
    http://www.lotus-cortina.com/mk1plate.htm

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  11. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    Met reserve and sold for $35,878.00, right in the middle of the range of current values.

    That was a very good buy for someone who wants a genuine British performance/racing sedan. Well bought.

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  12. Michael Rogers

    SOB! I got around $22,000 maybe ten years ago for mine!

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