UK’s rarest cars: 1963 Ford Cortina Mk1 ‘Woody’ estate, one of only five left on British roads

Timber-effect side panels aimed to evoke American glamour in Ford's early-Sixties family model, but was it pastiche or perfect marketing?

1963 Ford Consul Cortina 1500 Super 'Woody' Estate - aka Cortina Mk1
The distinctive 'wood' panelling was actually Di-Noc, a synthetic laminate

In the early 1960s, advertising copywriters made valiant attempts to convince the British public how processed foods, artificial fibres and lavish use of Formica represented the future. After all, who needed real timber when the Ford Consul Cortina Super Estate sported Di-Noc, the easy-to-clean synthetic wood laminate?

Alas, motorists remained largely unconvinced, and Gavin Hutton’s 1963 example is one of only five known to the Official Mk1 Cortina Owners’ Club.

The Cortina saloon debuted in September 1962, followed seven months later by the estate version. Ford aimed for an integrated design, as opposed to the coachbuilt load-carrying adaptations of its Zephyr/Zodiac models. The new Cortina offered so much interior space “you can practically live in it”, and at £683 5s 5d, the 1200 De Luxe was cheaper than a Vauxhall Victor. Apparently, it was also so thrilling as to cause people to perform the Twist spontaneously.

Autocar praised the De Luxe as “an elegant, no-nonsense utility car for ordinary people” while for the more dynamic type whose role model was Ian Hendry in Live Now, Pay Later there was the 1500 Super Estate. Not only did your £785 19s 7d gain you a carpeted floor, a cigar lighter, windscreen washers and a heater, there was also that distinctive exterior panelling.

Unlike with larger Fords of the time, the estate version of the Cortina was produced in-house

A dealer might claim that Di-Noc was indistinguishable from tree-derived materials, which was true as long as you viewed the Cortina at night.

Ford GB intended the “dashingly attractive” Super Estate as a scaled-down, US-model County Squire but detailing that suited a larger car styled at Ford HQ in Dearborn, Michigan did not always translate to a more modest British design.

Many drivers regarded the Cortina ‘Woody’ in the same manner as a Southampton rock-and-roll singer affecting a Californian accent; a pastiche of US popular culture. Motor Sport snidely referred to the “ornate American imported Di-Noc trim that distinguishes (in the recognition sense) the Super 1500cc version”.

The bench seats and column-mounted gearchange further evoked US products

Ford facelifted the Cortina range in late 1964, dispensing with the Consul prefix, and Di-Noc ceased to be available on the Super Estate in the following year. Authentic survivors are a now very rare, not least because so many appear to have been customised into a ‘surf wagon’, thereby losing their 1960s charm.

Fortunately, Hutton’s example looks the same as when it startled an Eric Sykes/Terry Scott-style Morris Oxford-driving neighbour some 57 years ago. 

Hutton is a devotee of the Cortina, acquiring one as his first car in 1985 and currently owning a “two-door saloon, and five estates”. He acquired this one in 2013 when it was lacking its distinctive trim: “I thought I’d never get the original stuff,” said Hutton.

The great irony is that this car wore replica panels made of real wood until a set of plastic originals could be sourced

The solution was to fit replica panelling, ironically made from genuine timber. In this form, the Hutton Ford regularly took part in the Goodwood Revival, but last year he bought a De Luxe Estate which had been retro-fitted with Di-Noc panelling in the mid-Sixties.

So, naturally, Hutton transferred the plastic decorations of his latest Ford to XMW 107A, and the result is a car of quite remarkable charisma, down to its “special order” black paint finish.

The four-on-the-column gearchange and the front bench seat further emphasises an air of scaled-down Americana. The Woody looks primed for a cruise along Sunset Strip, although firing the 1,498cc engine provokes a clatter more redolent of East Cheam. 

For £785 19s 7d the more upmarket Super trim got you a carpeted floor, a cigar lighter, windscreen washers and a heater - plus the all-important exterior panelling 

The Di-Noc look may have represented a rare marketing error by Dagenham in the early 1960s, but this example of the Mk1 Cortina Estate is as eye-catching as any Lotus Cortina. It is the type of car once encountered in the driveway of a semi-detached villa with its owner sporting a Terylene suit and a horizontally striped tie.

Plus the Super’s load bay stacked with TV Dinners and other essential commodities for this exciting modern age. 

Thanks to: Gavin Hutton, Mike Jordan and the Official Mk1 Cortina Owners’ Club.

For tips and advice, visit our Advice section, or sign up to our newsletter here

To talk all things motoring with the Telegraph Cars team join the Telegraph Motoring Club Facebook group here

A-Z Car Finder