A Corsair is born

 

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In the early 60s, the Ford Planning Department divided the car market into five categories to assist them when planning and developing future models.  The divisions were based on the vehicle sale price and were categorised as follows:

A)  Vehicles up to 449.00

B)  450.00 to 600.00

C)  601.00 to 720.00

D)  721.00 to 850.00

E)  851.00 upwards

Category 'A' represented vehicles such as three wheelers and bubble cars and this small, specialised market was not catered for by Ford who concentrated on its philosophy of  bringing affordable motoring to the masses.  The 105E Ford Anglia was Ford's offering in the small car market and was a category 'C' product. Category 'D' was covered by the Consul Classic 315 and category 'E' was filled by the Mark 3 Zephyr and Zodiac range.  The spanner in the works was BMC's mini which due to its unbelievably low sales price was a category 'B' car and undercut Ford's equivalent Anglia by a considerable amount. 

Ford, therefore, began to plan a new 'C' category model as a replacement for the Anglia with a view to lowering the Anglia's sale price to make it a category 'B' offering.  The criteria for the new model, codenamed 'Archbishop' were simple.  It had to be a medium sized car that was light and cheap to manufacture so that it could be offered at a low price.

Work began by taking the much heavier and convoluted Consul Classic 315 and finding ways in which weight could be shaved off.  A new body design was created and work began on the new model. Everything on the new car was meticulously costed and wherever possible, without weakening the car's structure, weight was saved.  What eventually emerged, was the Ford Consul Cortina.  What Ford had done, unintentionally at first, was to create a model which spanned two of the above categories, namely 'C' and 'D'.  The car offered larger car roominess and performance at a very attractive price and was unprecedented value.  It went in to competition with BMC's new 1100 range and became an instant success both at home and abroad.

So, where did the Corsair come in ?  Well, during the development of the Cortina, it became obvious that the Consul Classic 315 was an unnecessarily overengineered and therefore a very expensive model to produce.  While the Cortina yielded huge profits for Ford, the classic's profit margin was much lower due to the higher manufacturing cost.  The issue for Ford was that while the Cortina sold like hot cakes, the Consul Classic 315 did have a following as it was a more luxurious model than the Cortina.  It was therefore decided to create yet another model as a replacement for the Consul Classic 315 for that market for whom the Cortina was a little too bargain basement.

The idea was to produce a model along the lines of the Cortina but to make it more upmarket by providing a better quality of finish and extra comfort.  The new model, codenamed 'Bucaneer', was to be the first model to be built at Ford's new Halewood assembly plant and was based on the Cortina floor pan lengthened by three inches ahead of the rear wheels.  It used the same running gear and the 1498cc Kent engine from the Cortina Super.  All of the glass area, with the exception of the rear window, was the same as that on the Cortina as were the door frames, front pillars, front scuttle, bulkhead and the inner wings, although the latter again slightly lengthened.  Underneath, the car that was to become the Ford Consul Corsair was essentially a Cortina, but its outward styling was totally new and there were many differences.  There was much more emphasis on quietness with double skinning of the drive tunnel and extra insulation between engine and passenger compartments.  The interior had loop pile carpets and the doors had soft cappings and kick plates where the Cortina had painted metal.  They also had anti torsion locks obviating the need for them to be slammed shut.  Redesigned seats were described by the motoring press as the most comfortable Ford had ever produced. As mentioned above, the overall quality of the finish was much higher than on the Cortina.

The Corsair offered the more discerning motorist luxury at an affordable price and with its sleek, modern, although slightly controversial styling was a very attractive package.  Of particular note is the incorporation of the door handles in to the upper bright work, the clever combining of the indicator/side light in to one unit and the incorporation of the headlights in to the front end making it instantly recognisable.  Also, the Corsair was the first British car to use a printed circuit board for the facia instrumentation.

When launched in October 1963, it was available in eleven solid colours plus five duo tone combinations on the deluxe model.  The model was available as a saloon only and came with two or four doors in standard, deluxe and GT guise.  Column change with bench seat was standard except on the GT which came with bucket seats and 4 on the floor.  This was an option on the deluxe model only.  Borg-Worner 35 automatic transmission became available early in 1964 on the standard and deluxe models only.

Few examples of the more basic 'standard' model were produced with most customers opting to pay the little extra for the more refined deluxe model.   Most of the standard cars were destined for the fleet market or for export to countries where the car buying market was a little less discerning.

The Ford Consul Corsair was an instant success on its launch in October 1963  and there was soon a twelve week waiting list for new orders.

A redesigned facia was introduced for the 1965 model year and other colours became available, eg Alpina Green, Malubu Gold, Alcuda Blue and a new duo tone grey scheme combining Platinum Grey roof with Lombard Grey body.  In October 1965, the Corsair was revamped with a V4 1700 or 2000cc engine and the interior was redesigned to incorporate Ford's new Aeroflow ventilation system. The only external differences were large ventilation outlets on the rear pillars and new badging with the new models known simply as the Ford Corsair.  A Crayford Convertible and an Farnham Estate were also added to the range as was a 2000E version in 1967. Production of the new Corsair continued until 1970.

NB  A handful of Crayford convertibles were produced in 1965 using the 1500 GT.  Customers could order models in colours not normally available, eg Savoy Black, paint code A on the VIN plate.  The VIN was the same as for the corresponding saloon as the convertible was manufactured from saloon cars delivered to the Crayford factory.

 

 

A total of 159951 examples of the Ford Consul Corsair in all its guises were produced from 1963 until October 1965.  This is broken down as follows.

Standard models:  1288 examples

Deluxe models:  136446 examples (including automatics)

GT models:  22217 examples

 

HOW THE THREE MODELS DIFFERED EXTERNALLY

Apart from badging, the only way to differentiate between the standard, deluxe and GT models is by the exterior bright work, or lack of it.

The most popular model was the deluxe. It had a trim strip running along the top edge of the body work which began at the side light/indicator unit and ran along the top edge of the wing, along the doors, incorporating the door handles, and finishing at the back of the rear wing just ahead of the rear light cluster. There was also a chrome effect gutter strip running above the doors. The standard model lacked both of these particular embellishments and had different door handles. Ironically, it was these door handles which were to be used on the much later, top of the range 2000E.  The deluxe model carries the word 'deluxe' in chrome 'handwriting' on the rear panel, to the nearside of the number plate.  The standard model had no badge at all.  If the car is an automatic, standard and deluxe models only, the word 'automatic' appears in chrome 'handwriting' on the back panel to the offside of the numberplate. 

The GT also had no badge on the rear panel but was immediately identified by a small red GT badge in the shape of a shield which was located to the back of each of the rear wings, just ahead of the rear light clusters.  In addition to the bright work found on the deluxe, it also had a trim strip running along the bottom crease of the body work. It began at the bottom of the side light/indicator unit and ran along the lower edge of the front wing, along the sills just beneath the doors, the lower edge of the rear wing and terminated at the rear bumper.  The tops of the doors around the windows were finished in chrome instead of the painted finish found on the deluxe and standard models, another feature which found its way on to the later 2000E.  Another difference, although only visible when the doors were open, was the uniquely designed body protector plates at the base of the door opening.  All models had badges on the offside end of the boot lid and on the nearside of the front slam panel indicating the model name. The badge, the same on both front and rear said 'Consul Corsair' on the standard and deluxe and 'GT Corsair' on the GT model. All models carried a small oblong 'Ford' badge on the bottom rear of the nearside front wing.

 

During the sixties and seventies it was very popular to modify vehicles or add 'extras'.  It is worth bearing this in mind when looking at surviving examples as all is not necessarily as it seems.  Many cars had their roofs repainted to contrast with the body colour, a very popular trend in the sixties. Just because a car may have a white roof, it does not mean that it left the factory that way although two tone colour schemes were a factory option.  Two tone paint schemes were not available on the standard or GT models.  In the seventies, vinyl roofs became en vogue, and some cars had these added later but they were not original options.  Of course, many people, mostly subsequent owners, repainted their vehicles if the original colour did not appeal.  Only the colours listed in the VIN information section were available when the cars were new and of course many cars have now had their original engines replaced by much newer and more powerful units. 

This said, however, as with most products, customers could have whatever they wanted if they were prepared to pay the extra.  I do know of one car in Monaco red with a black painted roof which is original.  This is the colour combination requested by the customer when the car was brand new, although not a brochured option.

 

 

 

 

 

 
     

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This site was last updated 11/10/08