The MkII Cortina carried on the good work of the MkI before it.
Unveiled in 1966, the MkII Cortina’s well-proportioned and boxy bodywork helped to spearhead the move towards less curvaceous styling at the tail end of the 1960s. Reliability was assured too, as the MkII used much of the old MkI’s oily bits, with appreciative customers offered a multitude of different trim and engine options. From 1297cc to 1599cc units and somewhat austere saloons and estates, through to plusher and sportier versions, there was a model to suit every taste and budget.
1968 Cortina 1600E
Power (bhp@rpm) 71bhp@5000rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 91lb ft@2500rpm
Top speed 88mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Condition of the bulkhead and A-posts is paramount, as both are complex and expensive to fix. Check them carefully, along with other hidden rot spots including the strut tops, sills, spare wheel well and opposite void, boot floor and floor pan. The jacking points can also dissolve, as can the main members above the rear axle, along with the rear spring and shock absorber mountings.
Visible rust is most likely in the area around the headlamps, front bumper supports, front edge of the bonnet, front wings, rear arches and both front and rear valances.
Also check the B-posts and closing panels for the rear doors. New-old stock panels do occasionally surface, but a good selection of remanufactured panels and repair sections is also available from companies such as Ex-Pressed Steel Panels (01535 632721, www.steelpanels.co.uk).
The first signs of trouble from a Kent engine will be noisy valve gear, usually down to worn rockers, cam followers and ultimately the camshaft itself. If the extent of the wear has spread to the latter, then a top-end rebuild is the only remedy, although the camshaft itself is housed within the block.
Worn timing chains also give trouble – listen for a rattling noise emanating from the front of the engine – but compared to these potential problems, it’s worn rings and bores that will cost the most money to fix. Fumes from the filler cap and blue smoke from the exhaust should give the game away, meaning a bottom-end rebuild is required.
Worn synchromesh is the first sign of trouble on manual gearboxes, along with it jumping out of top gear. Listen for droning or whining differentials as they don’t like high mileages – after 100,000 miles they’ll be in need of a rebuild.
Suspension can get saggy, especially the rear, but all the basic components are either available new or can be refurbished relatively easily. Rear hub bearings are a tricky to replace, requiring 1200lb of pressure to press them out and the same to get the new ones in. So make sure there’s no play there by jacking up the rear of the car and rocking the top and bottom of each wheel to see if there is any movement.
All MkIIs were fitted with a steering box, which is not as precise as a rack-and-pinion setup, so expect up to an inch of movement at the steering wheel before the road wheels join in. However, the steering box can be rebuilt if there’s too much play or tight spots. An extremely vague steering response can often be attributed to worn inner track rod arms, as the ends wear prematurely. Replacements are becoming difficult to find, so check carefully when viewing a prospective purchase.
Poor rear brakes can often be attributed to rear adjuster cogs failing, in turn meaning that the auto-adjust doesn’t work. New discs and pads are available, but any pulling to the side under braking points to a binding caliper.
Decent interior trim is extremely difficult to find, so don’t underestimate the task of bringing a tired interior up to scratch. Seat frames can break and both trim panels and carpet sets often get damaged over the years, so bear all these potential bargaining points in mind.
Everything that attracted 1960s buyers still holds true today. Crisp styling, stout engines, smooth gearboxes and perky handling are the order of the day, regardless of model, while almost any mechanical malady you’re likely to encounter can be addressed relatively easily and cheaply. Bodywork issues are a different matter however, so don’t necessarily dismiss cars with good bodies but rough and ready running gear.