Management at Ford of Britain in Dagenham created a family-sized car which they could sell in large numbers. The Cortina was aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, that was launched on 20 September 1962. The car was designed to be easy and inexpensive to produce in Britain. The front-wheel drive configuration used by Ford of Germany for the new Ford Taunus P, a similarly sized model, was rejected in favour of traditional rear-wheel drive layout. The car was branded as the Consul Cortina until a modest facelift in 1964, after which it was sold simply as the Cortina.
The Cortina was available with 1.2 L and 1.5 L four-cylinder engines in two-door and four-door saloon, as well as a four-door estate forms. Standard, Deluxe, Super, and GT trims were offered but not across all body styles. Estates offered the option of simulated wood side and tailgate trim. There were two main variations of the Mark 1. The Mark 1a possessed elliptical front side-lights, whereas the Mark 1b had a re-designed front grill incorporating the squarer side-lights. A notable variant was the Lotus Cortina.