Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
1/5/16 4:05 p.m.

Pop quiz: How many Cortina Estates did Lotus build? Answer: zero–but you wouldn’t believe that if you stood in front of Bob Herzog’s one-off creation.

There are no fancy tube subframes, custom body pieces or one-off parts. Instead, he collected everything necessary to make this 150-horsepower screamer look just like it would if Colin Chapman had assembled it himself.

Just what is a Lotus Cortina? Good question, and fortunately a fairly easy one to answer. Here’s a simple analogy: The Shelby GT350 is to the Ford Mustang as the Lotus Cortina is to the Ford Cortina.

Ford of Britain wanted a car that could win races, and Lotus had just finished developing their famous Ford-based, twin-cam engine. Ford asked Lotus to spice up Cortinas for homologation purposes, and just like that, the Lotus Cortina was born.

Goodies over the standard car included that twin-cam 1557cc engine plus a lightweight transmission, reworked suspension, sportier interior and aluminum body panels: doors, hood and deck lid. To top things off, each Lotus Cortina received the same paint job: white with a green stripe down the side.

To the average person, the visual cues were all that separated a Lotus Cortina from the rank-and-file cars–until the Lotus Cortina driver nailed the gas. The Lotus engine produced 105 horsepower in stock form, which nearly doubled the output of cars like the Triumph Spitfire.

Though not a rocket by modern standards, the Lotus Cortina was a screamer in its day. With a curb weight of just over 1800 pounds, it was quick through the corners, too, and quickly became a major player in the day’s touring car races.

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