In the late 1960s, Ford set about developing a third generation Cortina, which would be produced in higher volumes than before.
The Mark III Detroit-inspired "coke bottle" shaped Cortina was a hit amongst fleet buyers. It replaced both the Cortina Mark II and the larger, more expensive Ford Corsair by offering more trim levels and the option of larger engines than the Mark II.
The MacPherson strut front suspension was replaced with more conventional double A-arm suspension to give the car a soft 'freeway' ride. The larger engines induced distinct understeer.
Ford UK originally wanted to call it something other than Cortina, but the name stuck. Although the Mark III looked significantly larger than the boxier Mark II, it was actually the same overall length, but 4 inches (100 mm) wider.
Trim levels were now Base, L (for Luxury), XL (Xtra Luxury), GT (Grand Touring) and GXL (Grand Xtra Luxury). 1.3 L, 1.6 L and 2.0 L engines were offered, the 1.6 L having two distinct types - the Kent unit for models up to GT trim and a SOHC Pinto unit for the GT and GXL, the latter of which was also offered in 1600 form for a short while. 2.0 L variants used a larger version of the 1600 Pinto unit and were available in all trim levels except base.
Four headlights and Rostyle wheels marked out the GT and GXL versions, while the GXL also had bodyside rubstrips, a vinyl roof and a brushed metal and black tail panel on the GXL and plain black one on the GT. All models featured a downward sloping dashboard with deeply recessed dials and all coil suspension all round. In general styling and technical make up, many observed that the Mark III aped the Vauxhall Victor FD of 1967.
In late 1973, the car received a facelift. Outside, there were revised grilles, rectangular headlights for the XL, GT and the new 2000E (the "E" standing for executive), which replaced the GXL. The 1.3 L Kent engine was carried over but now, 1.6 L models all used the more modern 1.6 L SOHC engine.
Inside, the car received a neater dashboard that no longer sloped away from the driver's line of sight and upgraded trim. The 2000E reverted to the classy treatment offered by the 1600E instead of the faux wood-grain trim offered by the GXL.
Ford Cortina Mark III 2000E (ie executive version) , with a pre-facelift Cortina Mark I de luxe alongside.From 1972, the third generation Cortina was the most popular new car in Britain. The Mark III was never sold in the US, although it was available in Canada until 1973.
The Mark III was available in South Africa as the XLE with the Essex V6 3.0L engine. There was also a pickup truck version available.
For Japan, the cars were literally squashed by a few millimetres at each end on arrival in the country in order that they fit into a lower tax bracket.