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Original Q-Ship: 1966 Lotus Cortina

1966 Lotus Cortina

Sigh. Do you ever look at a car, realize how much you’d love to own one and realize it’ll likely never happen aside from Powerball-grade good luck? That’s how I feel about the Lotus Cortina, one of my favorite sedan-style (I realize it has two doors) vehicles that was designed from the get-go to go fast and handle deftly. This 1966 example here on craigslist needs everything and has a hefty asking price: $57,000 smackers. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Troy H. for the find. 

Lotus Cortina

The Lotus badge throughout the years has represented the transformation of ordinary cars into cherished vehicles, as if Colin Chapman himself breathed pixie dusts into the cylinders. In a way, that’s not far off: the Cortina bodyshells were supplied by Ford and then the Lotus engineers went to work. Lightweight body panels, a close-ratio transmission lifted from the Elan, and a hotted-up twin-cam rendition of Ford’s Kent engine effectively converted the Cortina from Grandma’s grocery getter to Grandpa’s hot rod.

Lotus Cortina Engine

When these cars  were released, it set the enthusiast world abuzz: no longer did you have to strap yourself to a Mini Cooper for the sensation of speed. It was all right there, in a comfortable, water-tight cabin, with handling capabilities like only Lotus could deliver. The free-revving engine and close ratio box must be a magical combination – a driving experience I’d like to have first-hand, someday.

Lotus Cortina Project

There’s already a fair amount of rust visible on this car and the seller says it will need complete restoration. I’d love to know more about the history, but the seller chooses instead to go on about what the car will be worth once restored. I know these are going up in value, but I don’t think the asking price is realistic given the unknowns; then again, with only 3,306 Mark I’s ever made, finding a genuine Lotus Cortina in any condition is quite a find. What do you think it’s worth?


  1. mike young

    Good basis it appears. However …easier car to restore than some. But still would cost $40k to make it nice. Priced about 30k high.(for me)..but someone bought it it seems. I’ve had three…they were fun. 50 in first, 75 second, ninety-five in third. Shocked a lot of people. I found it a better street car once I put a medium ratio gearbox in it.

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  2. ydnar

    For that kind of money, there are dozens of better picks that will be marketable to so many more people. This Cortina has a very small market for buyers.

    I think it is priced double of it’s worth, but hopefully for the seller I am wrong.

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  3. john

    Actually this is not a really bad one. It is also the airflow model, arguably better than the first ones. It is also a left hand drive. Therefore the price is not that bad at all and this is a car that keeps marching in value. It always will. It is worth whatever you have to spend on it. Mechanically they are by today’s standards pretty simple. It is the body that is the issue and one look at the crusty strut tops tells you there are some usual early Cortina issues. If it is too bad you could re shell it. But best not. Good mark one Lotus Cortina’s are making $75000 quite frequently these days in Europe, if you can find one. Even an ordinary Mk 1 Cortina in very good condition can make $7,000 these days the side of the pond. With LHD this one might be headed for Europe.

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  4. cory

    I like these cars, but not that much. I’ve also heard lots of stories of fakes, so I would approach with caution. But, pretty simple to restore, and you will have a rare cool factor with this car.

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  5. Rancho Bella

    I’ve lusted for an early one since they came out. I can’t bring myself to pay that kind of money. Restored they sell just under 100K

    I hate to admit this. I would rather a new Corvette for 57K

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  6. wynkin

    My dad had one in the seventies, lovely induction roar and quick in its day.

    Sadly it burst into flames one day and a policeman used a fire extinguisher on the engine, it shorted the electrics and turned the engine over pumping more fuel and the car went up in a fireball.

    My dad was heartbroken and only saved the rear wheels.

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  7. Gary I

    Wow! Someone is willing to ask $57,000 for this and people were talking down the orange 1971 Challenger listed for $5,000 on BF. I would drop five times more on a mid sized muscle car than a small foreign car of any make any day! You do know that new Corvettes can be had for this kind of cash. The car world comes in all shapes and sizes, likes and dislikes, but the market drives value. Here is a car I would think $5,000 would be fair for and those that are interested in it think more highly than I do. This is exactly why I have always loved cars! People have different opinions and incomes, but in the end we all love cars for our own reasons.

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  8. Elmer Fudd

    I love LoCorts but at that price I can buy 2 really nice Elans and have more fun. Elans are tiny compared to Cortina but at 6′ I fit very well.

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  9. guggie

    I had one of these in 1968 , it was a sleeper for sure , surprised a lot of Detroit iron with it . Traded it for a 1970 Mustang fastback with 302 4 speed , that would be the car I would want back. This one has lots of rust ,wish I could see the interior >

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  10. PAW

    Price is indeed a joke.

    I would rather get a real car(s) with FIA passport and proven race worthiness with years of National championship positions in either a real deal or a replica form built to save the real one

    Heck, I would rather get them both!

    Or even the cool Sebring from same place

    No affiliation to the cars nor the shop. Just made an inquiry of the Lotuses last week

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  11. Tom Hall

    Another few pumps of air into the collector car market bubble…….
    Neat car – would like to have one – only 3300 made
    This is crazy.

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  12. John

    No. That’s an obscene price for a Cortina. You wold be hard pressed to put it right for less than $40-50K. That means you would have $97K in a car which might be worth $75k. My limited math skills keep me from figuring how you could win on this one. Unless, of course, you have visions of Jimmy Clark over steering his way to victory at Silverstone or some such fantasy. The fact is, it’s a Cortina. Yes it has a BDA under its hood and some badly worn D’ellortos or perhaps the are Webers. If you are buying it to drive, good luck. These out-handled most everything on the road in their day. Today, a Mazda3 will put it to shame. $57k indeed. It’s just sad.

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    • mikec

      its nt a BDA, its a twin cam lotus and those are webers.

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  13. bcavileer

    I rest my case. A ruined hobby. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$…..

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  14. Bobsmyuncle

    The math doesn’t make sense. Sadly there are too many that don’t need to consider the math. The rest of us just watch the rich have fun while we bicker on car blogs.

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  15. 365Lusso

    I’m with Fudd on this one–never raced against a Lotus Cortina, but bet my S2 Elan would run rings around an LC for way less money, and a lot more Lotus ‘panache’. Don’t get it…

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