How a Ford Became South Africa's Most Beloved Legend

This Car Outran Lions and Stole Hearts

In the sprawling lands of South Africa, where the veld meets the bustling cities, a legend on four wheels transformed the automotive scene forever. Enter the Ford Cortina, a car that didn't just cruise on the roads, it boogied, sashayed, and occasionally sprinted, carving its name into the heart of South Africa with the gusto of a Bokke victory chant.

1964 Ford Cortina Mk I Delux

Launching into the local scene in the swinging sixties, the Cortina was more than just a set of wheels. It was the unexpected guest at the braai who ended up being the life of the party. With a humble 1.2-litre engine under the bonnet, it promised the agility of a light car but packed the punch of a medium-sized contender. Its top speed? A breezy 125 km/h, proving you don't need a lion's pace to rule the jungle.

Ford wasn't just playing in the minors, they were crafting a legacy. The Cortina GT swaggered onto the scene with lowered suspension and a rev counter that winked at enthusiasts, sporting a gear lever as confident as a Springbok flanker. But the real veldskoen hadn't dropped.

Enter Basil Green, the South African tuner with a Midas touch, who in '68 decided the Cortina needed a bit more "oomph." Like placing a potjie on a roaring fire, he transplanted a 3.0-litre V6 into the Cortina's heart, creating a beast that roared as fiercely as the Big Five. This was no ordinary ride, this was a Cortina that had feasted on the essence of the Zodiac, emerging as the emblematic Perana, a legend in its own right.

1981 Cortina XR6 TF

As the years rolled by, the Cortina evolved, mirroring the resilience and spirit of South Africa. From the Mk I to the final Mk V, it wasn't just a car, it became a companion to more than 303,000 South Africans, a witness to history, to moments of joy and sorrow, of triumph and defeat.

The Cortina's legacy isn't just in the numbers sold or the races won, it's in the tales whispered in the wind across the Karoo, in the laughter echoing from a Durban beachfront, in the silent nods of appreciation from Johannesburg to Cape Town. It became the backdrop to stories of love, adventure, and the simple pleasures of a Sunday drive.

Cortina Bakkie

And who could forget the Cortina bakkie? A marvel of South African ingenuity, it was the unsung hero, carrying the dreams and toils of a nation on its sturdy back, from the gold mines to the vineyards, proving that sometimes, the most extraordinary stories are found in the journey, not the destination.

So here's to the Ford Cortina, a true South African icon, blending the lines between car and culture, power and poise, heart and horsepower. It didn't just change Ford's footprint in South Africa, it drove into our hearts, leaving tire tracks that will forever guide the way home.

Reference : Ford // Stuart Johnston

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