I think it must have been January 1974 when my father announced that he was finally getting a company car – one beloved of suburban worker bees across the land – a Mark III Cortina!
For those of a younger disposition, a company car in the 1970’s was an easy way for employers to reward staff without falling foul of government salary increase restrictions imposed to combat rampant inflation, and the major home market producers, especially Ford, quickly cottoned onto this, forming a new hierarchy.
With the Mark 3 Cortina, for instance, you could have a ‘base’ spec (effectively a proper steering wheel and glass in the windows), L, XL, GT (pretty rare as I recall) and GXL, the latter 2 with racy quad headlamps and a 6-dial dash. Probably the 2.0 engined one meant you got the pick of the choice at the wife-swapping parties (spoiler alert – ours was a 1.6, although my mother still has the giant pampas grass in the garden – however I don’t think she’s aware of the urban myth)
As an 12 year old boy who’s underpants mysteriously had started shrinking every time he stole his grandmother’s Kays catalogue to look at the lingerie models, I spent hours poring over a Cortina brochure with much the same effect, imagining my dad turning up in his brand-new 2.0 GXL with a vinyl roof. I was looking forward to the envious glances of my friends.
The day came. My father came home in his brand new Cortina, PGB 271M * But where were the quad lights and the vinyl roof, and why was it dogs lipstick purple? And why was there no badge whatsoever on the boot!!!
The shame. The ignominy. After years of motoring stodge, my dad had had the chance to redeem himself by driving something cool and racy (from the perspective of a boy of 12) and had blown it big time by coming home in a 1.6 Base model. My friends would want to beat me up and Nikki Varley wouldn’t want to kiss me. Or was it the other way round?
It was tempting to leave home there and then until I remembered I was 12 , so would have to tough it out for a few years yet…
* PGB 271M was first registered February 1974, and was last taxed in 1987. It was actually quite a good car, and my parents bought it after it was replaced as my dad’s company car by 2 Mark IV Cortinas, an orange 1.6 Base and lastly a white 1.6L Oh, the decadence.
It was kept as our second car for a few years, even surviving a bizarre accident (where it demolished a fence and a table tennis table when some young fool who’ll remain nameless) lost control of it) with no more than a slightly bent number plate.