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The Carchive:- The Ford Corsair

This week from The Carchive (exclusive to Redusernab) we kinda-sorta have a theme going on, but only a very tenuous one. Three Fords demonstrating a reciprocal relationship with the USA, and to lessen the excitement still further I’ll tell you now that two of them are Merkurs, one of which I’ll admit to covering once before, albeit for a different year.

So now that we’ve established that there are literally no surprises coming from the series this week, and I foresee a record low on comments and page views, we’ll get on with it. Starting with the Ford that, in my view, drew the most influence from the USA. It’s the Corsair.

“…designed, equipped and finished to make driving smoother and pleasanter in every way.”

Pleasanter? Is that even a word? If it is, I don’t like it, but however questionable the syntax, they weren’t lying. Other than the Zephyr and Zodiac at the top of the Ford tree during the ’60s, comfort had never scored all that strongly on UK Fords for everyman since the war. The further up the range you went, the more stick-on goodies could be had. Buyers of the Anglia and Cortina, though, had to live without much in the way of pleasantness. The New Corsair, though, was much comfortabler.

“…equipped with ever modern aid to enjoyable motoring, details such as childproof locks on the rear doors, padded fascia top, built-in seat belt anchorages, conveniently positioned headlight flasher, windscreen washers and heater as standard equipment”

A heater! Yep, wall-to-wall decadence in the Corsair. Of course, in the USA you’d find comfort-aire air-conditioning on the options list, forget the heater. But things were steadily improving on this side of the pond. Ford of Dagenham course did occasionally speak to Ford of Michigan, and knew perfectly well that there was something called a Thunderbird issuing from between Wixom factory gates and prowling futuristically along boulevards the country over.

If only some of that glamour could be translated to a car for England…

Well, they had a go, and quite honestly I think it worked out rather well. Of course, the bullet nose of the ’61 ‘Bird was rather better suited to a car a yard longer, and with two doors and a shorter greenhouse, in fact UTTERLY DIFFERENT proportions, but the Corsair was quite a stylistic leap for Ford in the UK, perhaps even Ford in Europe, although some of the Taunuses were pretty sharp, and the 17m drew from similar inspiration, but tamed-down a tad. Indeed, to use accepted Ford vocab’, Corsair had cranked up the enstylishment.

“The new Corsair’s commanding power comes from a completely new 1662cc V4 engine delivering 81.5hp”

Of course, yer actual Thunderbird was hauled up the road by a V8 of comparitively massive capacity, so using the American Thunderbird engine would have been no more likely than using the American Corsair engine, by which I mean the Ling Temco Vought variety. Instead, as much of the underlying structure was sourced from the Consul range (which also included the Cortina, Classic and Classic Capri) it was only natural that the 1.5 litre Kent engine should provide thrust.

After a while it was realised that the Corsair ought to be positioned a little way upmarket of where it was, otherwise, well, what was the point? At the same time Ford were developing a medium sized van called the Transit, which needed a compact engine to fit behind a stubby, flat nose. The answer came in a V4, and two birds were killed with one stone.

Just to add to confusion, we’re talking the Essex V4 here, an engine that was developed from beginning to end by Ford UK and built in Essex, the same place I was built. It developed into the Essex V6, and is absolutely unrelated, as far as I can see, to the Cologne units that went into European Fords, Saabs and others. If any of you knowledgeable types can throw any light on why Ford UK didn’t just use the Cologne (which was already in production) and have done with it, please slap a comment down below. Interactive, this feature…

“…exceptionally quiet and flexible with effortless performance which allows you to purr along for mile after mile in the high eighties”.

Partial credit. With the V4 installed the Corsair was a much faster vehicle than it had been before, a high speed cruise was no problem which was great on Britains new and expanding motorway network which, at that point, didn’t yet have a speed limit. However, it wasn’t the smoothest. Any mention of silence or hushed refinement was an outright lie; even with balance shafts added the V4 was rough as eel wine.

“Elegant, purposeful, outstandingly equipped”

Come ’67 there was an even powerfuller version, with even more fastness. The V4 was expanded to two litre capacity, and the vinyl-roof and extra gizmo equipped 2000E model was born, with a name plaque that would go on to grace a Cortina and a Sierra. Carburetion was via twin-choke Weber and top speed was around 110mph; that front end may well have had some aerodynamic benefit after all.

“A drive in the Corsair V4 will convince you that this is truly one of the worlds finest cars”

I can’t help but think they were getting a little carried away here, but they just couldn’t help themselves. In fact:

“The new Corsair V4 sets standards by which other cars will be judged for years to come”

Wow. Well, there you have it. If anybody dares to suggest a car built since 1967 that was better, overall, than a Ford Corsair, please feel free to mention them below. Be mindful, though, that the entire remaining internet could very well get completely filled up by the resultant list, which would be interesting.

Whatever, Ford decided after all that the Corsair was so good that they’d stop building it in 1970, replacing it with the Cortina MkIII, which had grown, and which was influenced by US styling trends in other, far more derivative ways.

Anyway, I like them. I think it’s a good shape. The official Abbot-converted longroof version was nice, too, as were the built-to-order two-doors, and the now kind-of-desirable Crayford convertible version; sort of a Mini-Thunderbird suitable for English roads. I would think that a Corsair, a set of 15″ Minilites, a new set of Spax shocks, a Cosworth YBB and a comprehensive re-think brake-wise would be quite an agreeable recipe. What better way to add wonderfulism?

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford, who last used the Corsair name on a rebadged Nissan, of all things, in Australia, which I’ll probably cover at some point. Don’t say life gives you nothing to look forward to)

  • DemonXanth

    1963 must've been a really awkward time in the ad/sales departments
    <img src="; width=300>

    • Vairship

      Corvair = CORVette + Bel AIR, so:
      Corsair = CORSette + Bel AIR?

  • I'm pretty sure I had a Lesney Matchbox version of the four door sedan as a kid. Also, that longroof would be a hoot to Hoon around in these days. Can't even imagine how many are left.

    And the text in that brochure with the woman and the dashboard should have read:

    "New Features to make Corsair even more better."

    Also, wasn't there an Edsel Corsair as well?

    • Edsel also made a Citation and a Pacer, so Ford wasn't alone in recycling those model names.

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        Don't forget the Ranger, which was later a small badge on a large Ford pickup before becoming a larger badge on a smaller Ford pickup.

  • Devin

    The bullet nose is one of those trends I'd like to see make a comeback, even if it's probably pretty much impossible with current regulations.

    • It's pretty Thunderbird-ish, isn't it?

      <img src="; width="600">

      • Ummm….don't know about that.

        <img src="; width="600">

  • That looks quite comfortatious.

  • scroggzilla

    Also available as race car.

    <img src=";

    • Sjalabais

      +1 for waving right at me.

  • david42

    Cute car… I never knew about this design before. The rear door cut-out is surprisingly modern: most cars of the era had a cut-out that followed the arch of the wheel-well. But the Corsair's pointy cut-out looks like an early-2000's 3-series.

  • skitter

    The third image, with the lady dressed as a bird, belongs in Classic Caption Tuesdays.

    • nanoop

      I think it's a brocade dress – or is it just me who didn't get a joke involving "birds" as expression for women both younger and more attractive than me?

      • skitter

        You say brocade dress, I say bird costume.

        Obviously, one of us knows far more about fashion than the other.

        • nanoop

          Bird costume? LBD!
          <img src="; width="330">
          (Still somewhat on topic? sorry Chris, I really like the Carchive and read every single issue, but I couldn't resist here…)

  • Ate Up With Motor

    On the question of why Ford of England didn't use the Cologne V-4, my guess would be some combination of Cologne not having the capacity at that time to supply Dagenham and prohibitive import duties on engines they did import. (I don't know what the rules were in the U.K. about duties on components, but given the duties on complete German cars in those days, that would probably be a big incentive to set up local production.)

    I've always assumed the Corsair 2000E's purpose was to be a sort of budget alternative to the Triumph 2000 and Rover P6; what you gave up in refinement and badge cachet you saved on the bottom line.

    • Despite having displacements quoted in metric units, the Essex V4 is, I think, an SAE engine when it comes to fasteners. Ford of England may not have wanted to introduce the entirely metric Cologne V4 to its own home market.

      • Team Blitz

        The Cologne is not entirely metric, but a mixed metric-standard amalgam. It was, in fact, designed in Dearborn as an industrial motor, THEN used in automobiles and produced in Cologne (hence the name). "Ford of Europe" did not yet exist when the Brits and Germans got down to selecting and refining their 60-degree "V"-motors, so development when on independently for each national division of Ford as if they were competitors. Only when forced by Henry Ford II to collaborate on development and production of the new Ford Transit Van in the late '60s, did the new organization "Ford of Europe" finally shotgun a marriage. It was, as the article states, a waste of resources for the corporation overall. And Ford of Europe was created to rationalize Euro Ford divisions products and planning.

        • What part of the Cologne V4 isn't metric? Maybe some of the service items such as the spark plug and oil filter threads, but I don't recall any standard parts from working on them, including the one currently in my driveway. I'm not saying you're wrong, particularly since the rest of my 96 is standard, which means I often use whatever tool fits without getting too picky about whether it's one or the other, but I am at a loss to come up with specific instances of standard fittings on the engine itself. Admittedly it has been several years since I've completely rebuilt one….

          • Team Blitz

            Bingo, and others, like the oil pressure fitting too, and more. We've torn down and rebuilt over 500 Colognes in the last 30+ years.

            • Fair enough. I've torn down and rebuilt approximately, um, two in the last 15+ years.

  • dukeisduke

    On the features page, what is that picture between the clutch and the disc brake? I saved and zoomed the picture, and still can't make it out.

    • That's the "New, Safer Accelerator Pedal" shown over its range of motion.

  • warprints

    Used to have a SAAB Sonett III with the "other" Ford V4 engine. That engine was a trooper — right up to the point that it simply wore itself out.

  • John

    As someone who actually had a Corsair (I "broke" it for parts, due to severe corrosion, the deathblow to most Corsairs, the area across the car between the rear edges of the back doors, it would eventually separate at this point – the one I had did this), for its time it was a very comfortable car, especially in 2000E form but the V4 is not a particularly good configuration and this was its weak point, though the engine plugged on in a gazillion aging Transits for decades.

    Compared with the Triumph 2000 (my favourite was the 2500S, the carbureted 2.5ltr version, superb vehicle) and the Rover P6, it didn't have the cachet but equaled performance and comfort but not "perceived quality". I seem to be one of the few who was underwhelmed by the P6 (mine was a 2200TC), as I was pleased to get rid of it.

    • John

      In addition to my above post, with reference to the comment in the article about the Corsair as "most USA influence" for a UK Ford, I beg to differ. Undoubtedly the Classic (or it's "Capri" coupe version) or Consul 315 as it was initially known deserves this description. I raced a two door Classic on short tracks in the south of England for a number of years and absolutely nothing looked like it. Twin headlights, those "rolled over" rear wings – true taste of Americana! Wish I knew how to attach a photo.

    • edward

      Both the Rover and Triumph were superior to the Corsair in ride, handling and performance. Ford Zephyrs both the Six and Zodiac as well as the Capri were more heavily influenced by American styling.

      • TimKerr

        Not just styling but in wallowing suspension and poor handling! Although I did like them and would have loved the estate version. But absolute rust buckets, I haven't seen one for years and they don't seem to feature very much, if at all, at car shows even though earlier ones do.

    • TimKerr

      Would agree about the Triumph 2500, but with fuel injection. A friend had an estate version from new and it went like ' stink ' much to the surprise of other motorists. It also handled well. I'm firmly of the opinion that having owned many estate cars that due to the firmer suspension at the rear they corner better than the same saloon version.

  • Vairman

    I got hooked in when I saw the article was about Ford V-4s because in the late 60s my Dad bought an inboard/outdrive kit for his 18 ft boat that had a Ford V-4. But I realized half way through that it was probably a Cologne engine. What a neat little thing it was. If I'm not mistaken the kit was made by a company called Ranger. Prophetic, huh? Had great power and acceleration (compared to the 40 horse Johnson that preceded It), actually more than the hull could handle, which made for a very squirrely handling boat at speed!

  • TimKerr

    I had a second hand one of these years ago. Two tone, white top, pastel green lower.
    The only reason I bought it was that in my youthful eyes it bore a resemblance to the '60's Thunderbird as mentioned above.
    To be fair, that was not the only reason. Everyone else had a Cortina, which whilst was a good car for its age, was generally beaten on interior spec by the Corsair.
    Why it did not sell very well I'm not sure, perhaps it was that the Cortina sold more off the back of its appearances in motor racing and rallying which the Corsair seldom featured.

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