Ford Cortina v Austin/Morris 1100

Morris 1100 Mk1
The Austin/Morris 1100 was the best-selling car of the 1960s

Although the Mini undoubtedly was the car of the sixties, the real competition for the mass market was between BMC's 1100 series and Ford's Cortina. The 1100 was Issigonis' next car after the Mini. He took the transverse front wheel drive concept one stage further and designed a car of just over 12' long with a cabin as spacious as those of contemporary cars of 14' or more. The styling of Issigonis' initial concept was sharpened up by Farina. The result was a very neat and crisp design.

The Morris 1100 was launched in August of 1962. The Austin version appeared a full year later in September 1963. The 1100 was considerably better equipped than the Mini. Standard and deluxe versions were available priced at £675 and £695 respectively. Interior features included trimmed doors and better quality seats. Deluxe features included such luxuries as a passenger's sun visor, front door pockets and padded rear quarter panels. A heater was still an option in both versions.

Ford Cortina Mk1, 1966
Ford Cortina Mk1, 1966

Appearing in September 1962, the Ford Cortina competed head to head on price with the Morris 1100. It was priced at 639 for the standard version and 666 for the deluxe. Although these prices were for two door Cortinas. The four door models appeared at the end of 1962 and after purchase tax revisions in the budget of that year, they were priced at £591 standard and £615 deluxe. Morris 1100s, which were always four door, were then selling for £592 and £611 for standard and deluxe.

In spite of the similarity in price, the cars were very different in character. Ford advertising called the Cortina "The small car with a big difference". The Cortina was a conventional, rear-wheel drive saloon car. It's really revolutionary feature, though, was the price. Never before had a family saloon of this size offered such value for money. Ford did not cut corners with the design. The Cortina was very stylish and up to the minute. The overall look was well balanced and neat. It's circular rear lamps finished the design off beautifully. The Cortina Mk1 was used by Hattie Jacques' "Glam Cabs" in the film "Carry On Cabby" as sleek modern transport, driven by glamorous lady cabbies - to compete against husband Sid James' fleet of, by then, out-dated Austin Taxis built to a pre-war design.

The Cortina was 2ft longer than the 1100, but offered similar interior space. Ford had tried hard to keep the weight down and both cars weighed 16cwt. The Morris's 1098cc engine produced 48bhp at 5100rpm whilst the Cortina's 1198cc engine managed 48.5bhp at 4800 rpm. The Cortina's top speed was 77mph and it took 22.5 seconds to reach 60mph from rest. The Morris 1100 was a fraction quicker managing 78mph and a little more economical 32.7 mpg as against 30.2 mpg - but I am splitting hairs here. It was really down to personal preference. Both cars had strong followings throughout the sixties. Initially the 1100 was ahead in sales, but lost out by the end of the decade to the Cortina.

In October 1966 the Cortina became the Mk2. The new Cortina was, according to Ford's sales literature, "more Cortina". They were trading on an already established name and made it better. Stylistically, the Cortina had moved on. It had much straighter and squarer lines than the original Cortina, fitting in with the fashion of the time. It looked a far more modern car.

In comparison with the outgoing model, the new Cortina was the same length, 14 ft, but 2.5 inches wider. Overall it was roomier, and better finished and equipped. However, it did lack some of the original car's undoubted style. Ford had positioned the new model slightly higher up the in the saloon car market. In 1967, the new Cortina sold for 749 in four door deluxe form. Its original rival, the Morris 1100 was now selling for 689 for the four door deluxe.

In Autumn 1967, a facelift was applied to the Austin/Morris 1100 range. The cars received cropped tail fins. Fins by this time were becoming unfashionable. However, when the Austin 1800 was revamped a year later, it was given fins for the first time! Both cars (Morris and Austin) had a new grill and were available as 1300s as well. Both were available as deluxe, or super deluxe, there were no basic models. The deluxe version featured a central speedometer with parcel shelves either side, whereas the super deluxe had a much better equipped dashboard with a strip speedometer. The interior of the deluxe was actually quite plain. The super deluxe car had two-tone door trims, which were, to my eyes, more attractive. Although mechanically similar, the new cars looked considerably more modern than the cars they replaced and continued to sell well.

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

Mid Century ★ Facts & Figures ★ Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ Mid Century ★ Facts & Figures ★ Collectibles ★