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Project ’65 – Car & Classic’s Racy Ford Cortina

We’ve gone and bought ourselves another project car, and already things are looking a bit rusty. But don’t worry, we have a plan!

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By Chris Pollitt

Car & Classic is more to us than just a website where we can buy and sell classic cars. It’s also a way of life. When we’re not improving the site in a bid to perfect the buying experience, we’re living and breathing petrol, carbs and chrome. It’s what gets us up in the morning. The thought of getting behind the wheel of our own classic, well, that’s the dream.

Why have we bought a project?

It’s simple really. The classic car world is about more than the cars within it. It’s also a social world full of events, which in turn are full of interesting people who of course, have interesting cars. We have a calendar of events we plan to be at, and frankly we could be there without a car of our own. But where’s the fun in that? We don’t want to turn up in some ubiquitous modern car that nobody looks twice at. If we’re going to these events, we’re going to it properly.

This website is us, it’s what we live for. Many of the staff behind the scenes have classics – the CEO for example, has a Rover P5B Coupe, our Editor has a Zephyr, there’s a Capri in the car park, too. We love classics. But for this new venture we wanted a new car, so that’s why we went scouring through our own adverts and bought this.

The other thing is that, unlike everything else on the Car & Classic fleet, the car we’ve bought is a racer. A proper, time-served racer at that and as much fun as it would be to send the CEO’s Rover P5 howling into apexes, we thought it best to buy something better-suited.

What car is it?

It’s a 1965 Ford Cortina 1500GT. As we alluded to earlier, it’s a race car and has been for a long time, primarily being used for rallying with the occasional track stint thrown in for good measure. It is, for lack of a better phrase, a proper bit of kit. It’s not a ‘have a go’ racer – our Cortina has the FIVA and FIA paperwork to back up its racing claims.

Cortina, Ford Cortina, Cortina GT, Carandclassic, project car,

Painted in Alan Mann colours, it’s got the right look from the off. Add in the Mini-lite wheels, the Safety Devices roll-cage, the Recaro bucket seats, harnesses and other racy parts and it makes for one mean-looking little car.

Cortina, Ford Cortina, Cortina GT, Carandclassic, project car, Cortina badge, Recaro bucket seats, Safety Devices, Cortina interior

Of course, it’s not all for show. Our Cortina has the go, too. This comes care of the 1500 pre-crossflow engine. From the factory it was a fairly unremarkable lump, however, ours has been played with by the talented hands at Throbnozzle Racing. A silly name, but a very serious outfit when it comes to getting power out of these old engines.

The engine has, as far as we can tell, been reworked from the cylinder head up. That means it’s been ported, polished, the cam has been swapped out for something keener and the whole thing has been made to feed off a pair of Weber twin 40s. All in all, this means approximately 100bhp. Not a lot in today’s terms, but more than enough for our featherweight Cortina.

Cortina, Ford Cortina, Cortina GT, Carandclassic, project car, Cortina 1500 engine, Weber twin 40s, Throbnozzle Racing

Chassis-wise, it’s largely standard in terms of mountings etc – there’s no four-link, for example. This is to comply with certain historic regulations. The suspension has been lowered and uprated though, and the brakes are now slightly more capable than the stock parts thanks in no small part to the addition of a servo. The fuel tank has been relocated, there are no back seats, there are sump guards and the current tyres are of a ‘gravely’ disposition.

The car was converted for competition used some years ago and was campaigned by HERO as one of their ‘arrive and drive’ classics for road rally and track events before being retired around three years ago. Since then, the poor old thing has just been sitting around, awaiting its next chapter.

Sounds nice – what’s the catch?

What do you mean? Catch? There’s no catch… okay, there is. KMB505C has had a hard life, but we knew that. What we didn’t know, however, is that said hard life has had a fun time with the underside. We knew about the dented wing and the damage on the rear from a ‘love tap’. We also knew about the rust in the doors. We didn’t, however, know just how rotten it was underneath. Oh dear.

Cortina, Ford Cortina, Cortina GT, Carandclassic, project car, Cortina badge, Cortina rear

The inner wings are mostly rust, but the chassis rails are good, so there’s that. The A-pillars need a fettle before they get worse. The bulkhead has some holes, too. It’s the rear, however, where the true horror hides. It turns out the rear spring hangers are very nearly dust. The chassis rails are also suffering from a fair bit of ‘ventilation’ too. Not ideal.

Oh, okay. What’s the plan then?

We’re going to fix it, of course. We’ve bought a race car and we will race it. We’re not going to be scared off by a bit (okay, a lot) of corrosion. As such, we’ve got the car booked in to have all the bad metal cut out in readiness for the welding in of fresh, non-corroded metal. Then we’ll rust-proof it, lots. We’re not going through this again!

We’ve already got an old Ford specialist on side, so we just need to get the car to him and then we can get cracking with the repairs. But don’t worry, when we do, we’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

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