The in-between Ford for all occasions, we take a look at the Corsair...

The Corsair took over from the Consul 315 (tested in October 1961). Slotting between the bestselling Cortina and the larger Zephyr, the Corsair’s styling was decidedly quirky: there were pointy front and rear wings. Still, the great attribute of cars from the 1960s was that they all had such varying designs. Look at the body styles of the Cortina, Anglia, Escort and Corsair; all different, yet from the same stable.

Packaging

Boot space was excellent at nearly 600 litres and I recall the vinyl seating being very cosseting, almost Citroën-like. Ford instrumentation practically led the way in the 1960s but not with all models. The ­first cars had a ribbon-style display, giving way to four dials, with the GT adding a rev counter to the mix. The Corsair’s rear suspension used triple-leaf springs with a solid rear axle and the front boasted MacPherson struts. Braking was conventional with discs in front.

Powertrain

The familiar Kent engine was used, in 1,5-litre con­figuration, and many still run today because it was highly robust and modifiable. This was proven by Willie Meissner who brought out a tuned version that dropped the 0-60 mph (96 km/h) sprint time from 18,7 to 10,6 seconds. The other engine which was set to take over from the straight fours was the compact V4 with 2,0-litre capacity. Unfortunately, this was not a great success. It needed a balancer shaft that was not much help in curing roughness, weak timing gears, running out of puff before 5 000 r/min and other ailments. The acceleration time to 60 mph was a pedestrian 15,8 seconds (June 1966 test). A three-speed automatic was also offered.

Which one to get

We have to wonder what happened to all the Meissner-tuned Fords from the 1960s. If you can find one, maintain it in tribute to that talented engineer. The later GTs are worth a look, too.

What to watch out for

Like other Fords of the time, everything is basic but robust, so maintenance is straightforward. Parts are readily available for the four- and six-cylinder models but be wary of the V4s as they do not enjoy a great reputation. On the other hand, if you opt for a V6, expect to contribute more than your fair share of cash into maintenance (pay attention to propshaft universal joints and brakes). Although the 1600 uses a camchain with sprockets, the camshafts of the V engines used ­fibre gears for quietness and these may eventually break their teeth. In fact, the V4 engines have a single balance shaft driven from the crankshaft, also via a ­fibre gear. It has been known to strip its teeth when the bearings wear.

Availability and prices

Not too many remain. Escort, Anglia and Cortina models were more common and, thanks to this, they enjoy a highly collectable status. Mechanical parts are simple and interchangeable, but not so many body parts.

Interesting facts

Our test of the V4 in June 1966 showed off GT badges. In the Corsair’s case, this nomenclature was not really suitable for such a slow car. To save face, Ford quickly retuned the car with a higher compression ratio, larger valves and ditched the Zenith single choke carburettor for a twin-choke Weber. A free-flow exhaust manifold took care of the gases. Acceleration improved to 12,8 seconds, still well below the Meissner’s time. Willie used his high-lift camshaft, tuned exhaust and twin side draught Webers to good effect.

The GT, for Gran Turismo, was coined by Alfa Romeo for its 6C 1750 Gran Turismo of 1929. Due to the popularity of the small Fords in the 1960s, the name better denotes a sporty car instead of a grand tourer. While you may battle to see many today, in 1966, the Corsair was seventh on the sales chart at over 4 000 cars sold.

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