Named after a car, the Ford Cortina, the band moved from R&B towards covering songs by punk forerunners like the New York Dolls and The Stooges. "In retrospect, I suppose we were very hip," Sheppard says. "We were listening to the right records, as we were right there at the right time."The band developed a large and enthusiastic following in their hometown. Unfortunately, their growing popularity began to attract a great deal of crowd trouble.

The band were also frequent visitors to London and became one of the pioneering punk bands that played live in the first few months of the now-legendary Roxy Club. They supported The Stranglers in January 1977 and then headlined twice the following month. The Cortinas headlined the Roxy again in March and April, supported by The Models on both occasions. In June 1977 they had their first headlining show at the Marquee Club. Later they played as support act for Blondie and Chelsea.

The Cortinas' first two singles both appeared on Step Forward, the label run by Police manager Miles Copeland. In 2001, the band’s debut single, "Fascist Dictator" (originally released in June 1977), was included in a leading British music magazine’s list of the best punk-rock singles of all-time and sold over 20,000 copies
On 16 July 1977, a few weeks after releasing "Fascist Dictator", the band recorded a session at Maida Vale 4 studio, for John Peel at BBC Radio 1. The tracklisting was "Defiant Pose", "Television Families", "Having It", and "Further Education".

Later the Cortinas signed for CBS and released one album, True Romances. One critic described the album as “disappointing” but rescued from “bland oblivion” by “cheeky tracks such as ‘Ask Mr. Waverly’ and ‘I Trust Valerie Singleton’. . Another called it a mix of “rock’n’roll, R&B and pop-rock” and therefore “much more mainstream in style and delivery” than the Step Forward singles. This was a view echoed by Wilson Neate of the All Music Guide: “Having begun life under the spell of '60s R&B and garage rock, the Cortinas soon emerged as Bristol's premiere punk band, injecting a speedy, shouty, confrontational edge into their sound for their first two singles ("Fascist Dictator" and "Defiant Pose"). By the time of their 1978 debut album for CBS, however, they had re-embraced their formative influences and added a more pop-friendly dimension... True Romances sounds more befitting of a bunch of middle-aged pub rockers than five teenage punk rockers”.

The band split up in September 1978

Nick Sheppard went on to play in the last line-up of The Clash. In 1993 Sheppard moved to Perth, Australia and has formed and played in two local bands, Heavy Smoker and the New Egyptian Kings.
Bass guitarist Dexter Dalwood went on to become a successful painter.
And Jeremy Valentine a teacher.