" Funny how the shape of a car can cause a Proustian moment. Thing is with the Ford Cortina Lotus was that it chimed perfectly with a time when the A-Road riders sought desperately to differentiate themselves from the rest of "
The Dreams of a Little Cortina
It was a scorcher the day my Grandad picked up his new car. He had been telling me stories at bedtime about the little Cortina for what seemed my entire life. He would make up adventures for the cheeky little motor and I would sit rapt and beg for more when it was time to turn off the light. In these stories the little Cortina was always getting in and out of trouble; being chased by either the police or the bad boys. I can remember vivid dreams of adventures through mountains and across deserts, or screeching around sweeping London corners like they did on the telly. When I think of those dreams in my mind they assume an intense, colourful reality.
Perhaps that’s what happens when you grow up. Your dreams assume a greater reality than the prosaic world around you.
I suppose you always remember your childhood as an endless series of sunny days. But on this afternoon ( I think it was a Sunday) it was so hot you could feel the heat radiating from the car’s shiny new bodywork. There was birdsong and the tang of hyacinths in the air. I can remember my Grandad’s face as he pulled up outside. When he opened the door and I climbed in and burned my legs on the hot black vinyl. There were pretty dials and the smell of heat and polish and my Grandad’s aftershave. He was in his best clothes (that’s why I think it was a Sunday). He told me to jump in the back and my Nan climbed in the passenger seat up front. There were coos and oohs and aahs as we pulled away, and he pipped on the horn and waved as the neighbours came out to see us pull away. It seemed as if rather than simply going for a wander in the hazy Essex countryside we were driving away into a future of endless possibility and happiness.
Looking at the styling of the Mk1 Cortina now, you can see it evokes the glamour encoded in its name. Until the Cortina’s release in 1962, English cars had been given quintessentially English names. The Oxford. The Cambridge. The Wolseley. Now Ford decide to name their new family car after a glamourous Italian ski resort. In the suburbs of sixties England, far away from the bohemian circles where cultural revolution was in the air, anything vaguely Latin was as outlandish as anyone could imagine. Ironically, as the model evolved from the pretty Mark 1 through to the more brutish and unsophisticated later models of the seventies and eighties, the Cortina became known as little more than a Dagenham Dustbin – a byword for automotive mediocrity.
That’s what happens when you grow up. Dreams assume a greater reality than the prosaic world around you.
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