The Crayford Cortina Mk.1 Story

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The all new Cortina Mk.1 replaced the 315 Classic in October 1962 and was at first only available as a two door saloon, the ideal form for any Crayford conversion, its long transatlantic lines, and thin rear pillars were ideal for a roof chop. But Crayford had yet to be formed when the Mk.1 was launched and then all Crayfords early efforts went into the mini, so it was not until the 10th of January 1964 that Autocar announced the new Crayford Cortina Mk.1 to the public.

 

The Mk.1 Crayford Cortina was launched at the following weeks Racing Car Show at Olympia, London, on the 22nd January 1964. The dark blue car, a basic fleet model, was registered 560 VKO (believed to have been reregistered as HLR  681C).

 

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As Crayford did not have their Westerham Factory until after the profits of a Heinz 57 car order, all the early Mk.l convertibles, and Heinz 57 Wolseleys had to be built at David’s Home, Crayford  House, at Ship Hill, Tatsfield near Westerham, with the meaty part, the roof chop, being farmed out to a contractor, K.R. Wigley of Leatherhead, Surrey.  The picture here shows cars including two Mark 1’s, still hardtops, awaiting cutting at Wigley’s. 

 

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It must have been the winter of 1965-66 as the 57 Wolesleys had to be finished for the Heinz competition in May 1966. John Panther (no relation to J. Panther Cars)  repainted each car after cutting and Oxted Trimming in the next village would form a lifetime relationship with Crayford. So much of the early work was farmed out prior to the purchase of the Westerham Factory. But Ship Hill was well kitted out for final assembly of cars.

 

A big scoop for Crayford was the early order for thirty Mk.1 Crayfords for the island of Bermuda for use as hire cars and even Taxis, complete with fare meters on the dash.

 

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In the UK Phillips Motors, at the Convertible Car Centre, Chalk Farm, off Regents Park, London had the sole franchise to sell the Mk.1 Crayford on DeLuxe, Super and GT base cars, no Lotus Cortina Mk.1 was listed or found to date. A GT cost £1,024 and was £140 cheaper then its big brother the Crayford Corsair GT at £1,162.

 

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It was just as production at Crayford was at full swing, that Ford dropped the Mk.1 Cortina for the “all  new” Mk. 2, a very clever re-skin of the hugely successful Mk.1 chassis/bulkhead and windscreen, indeed with a 3 inch stretch in wheelbase it was also used to chassis and power the Corsair too.

 

David quoted four cars a week from the Westerham factory in their later days with a staff of around 10, but no doubt only a couple a week in their pre factory days with the Mk.1. The famous Crayford dozen (12) has often been quoted by David McMullan as the number of UK cars sold over and above the Bermuda order for 30 cars, a total of around 42. We have knowledge of 17 surviving Crayfords on the Mk.1 Register, if the press car 560 VKO and HLR  681C  are the same car. All have been seen and checked, none of the thirty Bermuda cars survive, they lived in a very humid climate surrounded by sea salt and had hard working lives.

 

All Lotus Mk.1 finds have panned out as “re-engined cars”. There may be another few  surviving Mk.1 Crayfords unchecked by the club.  So Less than fifty in all and about the right sort of figure Crayford could have made in the time the model was available.

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