The Surprisingly Fast Family Car
Once, saloon and estate cars behaved soberly. Some of them got a bit spritely with the addition of a second carburetor and 1/2 inch wider tyres, and indeed I offered the 1962 Alfa Giulia as the partial template for the modern hot hatch/saloon a while back. Then, of course, there was the Lotus Cortina. The Mk2 Jaguar doesn’t count because it was always supposed to be fast anyway, so only surprised people who bought it in 2.4 litre form and found it slow.
Rover put its new V8 into the P6, but only in auto form until near the end of its long life and they mistakenly pitched it towards their clumsy preconception of the US market. Unlike today, the German industry generally showed remarkable restraint back then. The Neue Klasse BMW took a while to become surprisingly fast, the 2002 being the first that caught people’s attention. Pushing the idea of a family car, there is of course the glorious 300 SEL 6.3 V8 Mercedes. But there is a people’s alternative for the accolade of a missing link that led to RS Audis, M Series BMWs and AMG Mercedes, the Cortina Savage.
After the introduction of the Mark 2 Cortina near the end of 1966, ex race manger Jeff Uren decided to pop the 3 litre V6 from the new large Zodiac into the mid-sized Ford. The chassis was modified to accommodate this, and the conversions were highly professional, and with Ford’s blessing. In basic form, Ford’s pushrod Dagenham V6 unit was no Ferrari Dino competitor, and its 136 hp sounds rather meek today, but sub 10 seconds to 60 mph and a 110 mph top speed from a lazy, flexible engine were quite heady back then. Additionally there was the capacity for tuning, some later Weslake versions are supposed to have managed 218hp.
Later Uren did the same V6 shoehorning into Cortina Marks 3 to 5, Escorts and Transit vans and others, such as Crayford and Superspeed, followed the same route.