1966 Mk1 Cortina GT

By Jim_builds

59 minute read

( 4 )



I've been lurking on here for some time and though I should actually post something, this is my long term project that I have owned since I was 19 back in 2005. The reason for buying the Cortina was that the Triumph Herald my dad purchased via a radio auction (seriously!) was less than deserving of the MOT it had been supplied with!

The Cortina was used daily till the engine went into Cadillac arrest after losing oil pressure on a spirited country drive, this was just before I departed for university so the Cortina stayed in my parents garage with the intention of fixing the engine and tarting up a few bits...

I had started by removing decades of underseal which I thought would be an easy job - it wasn't, I was on my back with the car inches above me heating that would smelling stuff and coming out of the garage looking like a miner!

That's when the real problems started.....

There are no big problems, only lots of little ones.
- Henry Ford.

He had a point too, my floor for example had lots of little repairs that had been poorly done and a few pin holes. I didn't find any large rust holes.

I'd have preferred large rust holes because you know what you're dealing with!

The spare wheel well was attached using body filler, several repairs had been made from what I assume to be bean cans and offcuts of tin foil!

The floor repairs and welding took place over 4 years mainly because the car was at my parents and I was at university studying etc.

The intention was to have the Cortina road legal for Le Mans 2009 but that's when the chassis leg was found to be none existent around the mount for the leaf spring which is amazing it didn't collapse whilst I was driving it around. A new leg would take 3 months to arrive and would blow the budget I had to sort the engine because I wanted someone who knew more than I did to fit it with it being an intergeral part of the car.

Eventually though I had a solid shell.


I've finally resized the photos, which felt like a lifetime if I'm honest.

Keeping with the repairs to the chassis...

Some old chipboard came in handy for making formers - it's useful if you don't have a shrinker/stretcher

If you think it's ugly now...

I should also apologise as the timeline for all this work is not correct, I kept a decent record of work in the form of photos but not so much in dates themselves!

In 2009 in preparation for the Le Mans trip and my return to university in September after finishing my work placement year I set about sorting the engine.

I feel I need to explain why I drove the engine with no oil pressure that day. Back in 2006 during daily duties the Cortina's oil pressure gauge suddenly dropped to 0. I saw this and quickly pulled over and proceeded to check everything I could at the side of the road but there was no loss of oil (which is odd because it's spilled more oil than BP!) nothing was seized or suffering from no oil pressure it was an issue with the pressure sender for the gauge.

Oil pressure senders are specific to the GT compared to the other models of the Mk1 (lotus used smiths gauges I think). so I removed it and cleaned it as best as I could be to no avail. I continued driving with no issues till it sprang into life 2 months later, a further 3 months later it dropped off again and I thought it had decided to have a day off - I was wrong! The sump plug wasn't attached to the car it was about a mile away with a trail of oil to help me find it!

So I lost my engine and upset the local council. Far from ideal!

I hadn't planned on reconditioning the engine as I was going to fit a zetec engine, I purchased an ST170 lump, a type 9 gearbox and a spare crossmember to modify. I measured it all up and just before I cut the crossmember I had a change in heart, I looked at the zetec and I didn't want to do that to my car.

My engine was sent to a local engine refurbishers who upon inspection saw that the work required to the block was uneconomical because of the damage to the cylinders which were blued due to heat and the cam bearing carriers needing to be line bored because we couldn't source a new set of +5 thou (modern ones only go up in 10's).

A hunt on eBay found this engine from a local college that had been used to teach student how to cross threads and do cam timing but it was dry stored and useable

This block has been bored to +90 giving me 1590cc, the bottom end was balanced.

The engine has also had an A2 fast road cam, electronic ignition and a ported and polished head

This then sat till 2015 till I went it was finally placed into the car. I had decided to essentially rebuild the cortina to get make sure this all worked and get anything fabricated before it was all painted.

2015 was also a pinnacle year for the build - this was the 1st time in 10 years that I actually lived at the same place as the Cortina. All because I bought a house with a garage! I also got married that week so I took some time off working on the Cortina


That block helped me out no end, I now have plenty of spares which is great if anything goes wrong.

I have also acquired a 711M 1600 crossflow block and crank and an Eaton M45 for a rainy day project once the Cortina is roadworthy

I'll focus more on what's happened since 2016 as this was when the Cortina moved in with us officially!

To move the Cortina meant I had to get the shell rolling and placing the engine in situ - the engine bit was a bit redundant as it was stored in my Grans garage and we actually bought her house so I had moved it for nothing!

I stuck with the plan to not only build the engine up using its original carburettor rather than playing with the bike carbs that I had on a bench to avoid complications. I also wanted to replace the dynamo with an alternator because of the additional electrical loads I was going to add; the mechanical pump was toast and I figured I'd fit an electric fuel pump plus it allows for more carbs! An electric coolant fan because I intend to use the Cortina almost daily so will have to deal with traffic and H4 headlights for the same reason.

To do this I would need to add a fuse box because the Mk1 only has 1 fuse for the indicators! I'd also need a relays for the headlights, fuel pump and the coolant fan.

Alanis Morissette knows nothing about Irony!

Whilst working my way through the fuse box installation which was me having the Cortina fully wired up insitu, cutting a wire then extending it to the fusebox and returning it back to where it came from. It was a solid plan on paper because if it worked before it should work after but with a fuse.

In reality the side light was being problematic so I wiggled the wire, I heard a fizzing sound and then my fingers got very hot! I jumped back to watch the side light wire get incredibly hot and smoky - it was like watching a long dynamite fuse in an old western!

I managed to cut the power just as it made it's way into the dash wiring but it was toast! As ironic as rain on your wedding day!

This left me frustrated, I'm not an electrician by any stretch so I decided to speak to autosparks in Nottingham who are able to produce wiring looms and add the additional items I wanted. I rang them to discuss and we agreed on a price of £400 - £200 for a standard loom and another £200 to modify it - a bit strong considering the fuse box I bought from them was £10!

An hour later I was at their workshop to drop the loom off to be told that they've decided the drawings they have aren't up to scratch so they'll need to make new ones, so my loom will cost £800! any looms made after than would be the agreed £400 because they won't need to reproduce a drawing - so I was being coerced into paying their development costs! Needless to say I didn't take them up on the offer!

With a knackered loom and a ludicrous quote I thought I'd have a go at making my own loom. I ordered new wires in the correct colour and spec and made a cup of tea and slowly removed a wire from the loom and made a new one its place - I even used the correct uninsulated bullet connectors, it's as close to the original as anybody else would do it. All in all this loom fix was £100!

Being wary of how I ended up in this mess I used some old chipboard removed from our house that I turned into a pin board, if anyone is in my situation I'd recommend this - I used some old 90 degree racking brackets as earthing and simulate the loom till its all present and correct. It looks ropey but it worked!

Once satisfied this was transferred to the car.

I have recently pulled the loom out of storage but I'll get to that in a later post, those of you who are still awake after this - well done!


Whilst the loom was being reconstructed I had also started work on the fuel system. I'd already decided on a small fuel pump which will put out 4psi which is plenty, it also needs to sit close to the fuel tank.

I didn't want the fuel pump to have it bolted through the boot floor so I made up a removeable plate with 2 supports that are welded to the underside of the boot floor. The reason I made the pump plate removeable was so if I change the type of pump I use whether that's for carbs or fuel injection which I am tempted by.

I needed a fuel tank as my original was in a bad way, I have kept it as it could be fixed/ modified but I still haven't got round to it! At the time I found an ebay auction for 2 tanks and a Frost fuel tank seal kit for £50! which came at the right time! I went to pick them up - he threw in a 3rd tank!

I stripped the paint off them, cleaned them up using the Frost kit and fixed the pin holes using plumbers solder - an easy way to plug the pinholes that has a low thermal impact on the tank

This just reminds me of a bad night out!

I can't find any photos of them finished but I managed to refurb all 3 and sold 2 which paid for the wiring loom - stonks!

I moved onto the fuel line which I wanted to put some extra brackets on - again if I chose to go injection I'll need 2 fuel lines so I thought I'd sort that now plus the Cortina's fuel lines are held in with hair clips!

They have an M5 nut welded to the back and are dimensionally the same as the brake line brackets.

With a safe fuel supply I ran the engine - 7 years after it was refurbished! It was an amazing feeling to know that I had a running car, the motivation levels were through the roof!

My wife wasn't as enthused - I had been running the engine and tuning the carb and ignition with no exhaust and was worried about what the neighbours would say!

Performance exhausts for the Cortina are surprisingly sparse when compared to the escort. the Ashley ones are poorly made and mild steel, 105 speed used to have a manifold and system made by piper but the manifolds are no longer available and the systems will need modifying to work with the GT's original 4 branch manifold.

Modifying a £250 exhaust system wasn't what I wanted to do and as nice a that exhasut system is its a 2" system which is too large for the Cortina's performance. Fortunately I know a guy who can weld stainless so for the price of a few beers I'd make a system, tack weld it and he'd finish off the welding.

I bought 3 U bends, and over axle set, a 2m straight length and a straight through silencer - all in 1.75" and cost £120!

Once it was all welded up it's quiet on idle and has a nice rasp to it, I have videos of it but not sure how I can share it.

The plan was to get the Cortina essentially "built" basically running with parts that needed fabricating all taken on before the paint because that's how a paint job gets ruined!

Becasue I wanted to keep the Cortina as built as much as possible for as long as possible I started the bodywork with everything in situ so I could run the engine for 5 mins after a day of sanding which is quite frankly boring!

As you can see in the photos repairs had been started so the body was a mix of Ermine white, red oxide, etch primer, rust and filler!

I used nitromorse type stripper to get to the steel and then laid a 2K epoxy primer over the body.

 then took a 300mm long sanding block and a 180 grit pad to find the high and low points, This isn't the most effiecient way to work as you use double the epoxy primer but it does help find problem areas on your bodywork.

it was at this point the Cortina was stripped back down to a rolling shell.


The body work prep was a long blur as one week I'd be prepping the underside the next I'd take a break to look at a door, this was mainly down to getting the whole body bare, repaired and primed roughly at the same time.

I'll focus more on the floor first:

The red oxide had started to show signs of surface corrosion but it had been left "bare" for some time which is not how it is meant to be used.

Whilst the underside was being taken back to bare metal the interior received the same treatment.

It was at this moment I became a massive tart and insisted that the boot floor needed some dressing up.

I used the interior as a trial for filler, priming and painting (which I'll come on to in a later post)

With both sides primed I could seam seal.

I had spent a lot of time researching the various treatments and coatings I could use for the underside, I settled on Upol Raptor which I would recommend, I used the tintable because I wanted the underside to be body colour. It's easy to mix and use an can be applied by brush, roller or sprayed, I started with a brush for seams and inside edges where spraying wouldn't be affective but spraying using a Shultz gun is simple but a pain in the @rse if you're on your back with the car above you!

White might not be the right colour for the underside of a car you intend to use but I felt that if I didn't attempt it I'd regret it and it's a lot easier to change to a black stone chip than go from black to white. This again was a motivational boost as I'd started the filling of the exterior panels which is soul destroying - mixing it, applying it then sanding it! you're always wearing a mask, it was the height of summer so work fast and sweat profusely and I have the upmost respect of people who do this daily!

At this point the raptor was applied to the mid section of the Cortina as the front and rear suspension was still on the car, the plan was to then remove the suspension and finish the job.

With no way of moving the shell around and my narrow garage (I can only walk down 1 side of the Cortina.) I made up a frame for the front that uses the subframe mounts and a rear frame that uses the damper mounts.

I now had a mobile shell that had could turn on the spot and be pushed around with minimal effort!

You will have noticed on an earlier post that the doors had been removed, the doors had until the stripping of paint had in my mind been an easy solution.

Strip, prime, paint, fit and home in time for tea and cake!

What actually happened:

Strip, find bodgery, swear, walk away, swear more, look at replacement doors, swear, have a cup of tea, put on a pair of big boy pants and get to work.

I'll apologise now for the sporadic photos - they we all roughly the same in bodgery and repairs so it's a miss mash of photos.

A previous owner had decided that instead of fixing these doors they would hammer the rust in, apply filler by the trowel and paint over as if nothing ever happened!

The worst offender however was the near side rear door which had also been in the wars and was sporting a rather large dent

Having looked at replacement doors I concluded that I'd probably end up with 8 doors all of which needed welding! Replacement doorskins are available but I had plenty of sheet steel and that I couldn't make the doors any worse than they are now and if I did I'd replace the skin.

With all 4 welded up I game them a healthy coat of expoy primer both outside and in.

These then went into storage in our smallest spare room much to the dismay of Mrs. Retro Jim. This was because I had written into my wedding vows that I wouldn't fill our house with car parts - genuinely vowed it! In my defence however Mrs. Jim vowed to help and support me with the Cortina which using a box room for panel storage is her way of helping me!

With the doors stored in the house I figured that Mrs. Jim can't get any more upset so I prepped the bonnet and boot to join them.

I remember that it was a hot day when I applied that paint stripper, it must have gee'd it up because I could hear the reaction - it was like listening to rice crispies!

With the doors, bonnet and boot primed and placed in a warm dry environment I went back to sorting the body work.

The front wings are genuine ford but were replaced not long after I bought the Cortina in 2005 because the originals were in a poor way. I hadn't noticed till I started the body work that the fit between the wing and the sill was off. The guys who did this work weren't body shop guys and did it as. favour for my Dad, I'm not angry or upset as it got me out of a hole but over the years the lower welded edge had dissolved and needed work.

These wings are 50 years old, they were pitted but again I figured work with what I have and if there's an issue I'll replace them. As I've said before the Cortina will be driven so I'm expecting stone chips etc so the body work will no doubt be freshend up from time to time.

This was measured about 5 times and cut with me holding my breath! The cut is below that of a repair section so if it went south the wing wouldn't be affected in the end. Whilst off I made a new lip - just a simple 90 degree fold in the vice.

It was then seem welded and dressed back

The Nearside had a better fit but was 'crispier'

The pitting was wire brushed out, I used a dremmel engraver to ensure the metal was clean before I lead loaded. After this the wings were given a coat of rust treatment and epoxy primer.


I couldn't agree more Bob.

With the front wings now having been repairs and reattached I carried on my battle against old paint when I came across this beauty.

Which then grew into this

The steel was primed before the top piece was welded on. I believe this is the last of the welding repair I made for the Cortina, I don't miss it but I was surprised about how quickly I did that repair, if I recall it was a morning from discovery to wrapping up which was a lot quicker than how I worked on previous repairs.

To celebrate I went back to filling and sanding!

Generally the wings were in a decent state, I went to this trouble to sort small dings and ensure they looked right in the case of the front wings get the headlight gaps finely tuned.

This little tool was £2 from B&Q and its great for jobs like this, I even used it to tidy the gaps between the welded wings

It was about 12 months ago when I was doing this and as luck would have it my wife was sent on a course in London for 6 days spread over 6 weeks so I was tasked with getting her to Nottingham train station for 6 am. I don't mind getting up early but my current job starts at 9am and it takes 25 mins approx to get there so I figured once I got home from dropping Mrs. Jim off I had a bit of free time. Given that body work prep is primarily time over money and making a batch of filler or hand sanding panels - yes I did all this prep work by hand! was a perfect way to catch up on time lost.

I have enjoyed it so much that every morning I'm in the garage at about 6 till 7 which roughly equates to the average time I'd spend on a Saturday, as a bonus this is the same time Mrs. Jim fires up her jet powered hairdryer so she's awake already and I get garage time without neglecting our marriage to spend time on the car!

I was finally at a point I was happy with the exterior wings I decided to sort the engine bay because of 2 reasons:

1 - Classic car buffs including myself love a good engine bay
2 -I want it to look pretty when it breaks down and the AA are having a look at what I've broken!

It was around this time Mrs. Jim took pity on me one Saturday and bought me a cup of tea - this doesn't happen often as the odds of a spider jumping out on her in the garage is too high for her to warrant plus it was very dusty in there given the work I was doing but she did take this photo of me which is Instagram worthy!

At the time I found that the Aldi compressor I was borrowing from my father whilst doing a decent job of supplying air for small priming jobs it was struggling to provide for larger areas, this compressor turned up on eBay rather cheaply but was sold as a repair job. Usually the pressure relief switch goes on compressors and they're cheap to fix so I put a bid on for £45 as I figured if it's that knackerd I'd put it back on. As it turns out it just needed a 13 amp fuse!

In an unbelievable twist of fate I managed to get back into Mrs. Jim's good books by removing the offending doors back into the garage so that they could be tidied up, the repairs I had made were functional - but they didn't follow the curved profile of the original skin, I had to use filler - I'm not a fan of using filler this way but I believe that the maximum depth of the filler is 3mm and there is less filler on the doors than before.

All this sanding generated a huge amount of dust in the garage.

All of this dust was collected up in Harry who has never quite been the same after consuming all this suspicious looking white powder!

To totally get rid of the dust and try and prepare the garage for more primer and eventually paint I had to get as clinical as I could. Everything was kicked out of the garage, I then hosed the garage down but there was so much dust on the cement floor that the water was sitting on top of the dust - we had to get wash it twice to get it all off. I then slowly cleaned everything before I was allowed to be placed back in the garage. Mrs Jim took pity on me again and helped out which but even then it took 12 hours all in to sort!


When the Cortina was built the radio was an optional extra which wasn't ticked, I had driven the car for 2 years without one and sometimes missed it. This was mainly on longer trips especially when motorway driving was involved as the loud droning sound got a bit much.

There are a few firms offering classic radios with modern internals boasting bluetooth, digital radio and hot/cold running water but they're quite expensive. I'm not begrudging spending £500 on the Cortina but a radio won't put it back on the road! After trawling eBay I came across this:

It's a DIN head unit that's retro styled, it has bluetooth, handsfree calling, radio and USB input - whilst the look is shiny plastic it's worth the £15 I paid for it, looking at how it's made I could draw a new facia and knobs that are reminiscent of a Motorola radio of the time and have them 3D printed and apply a chrome effect wrap to the outer edge to give it some shine.

The only downside was the dashboard itself which needed the radio hole cutting to remove the radio support plate and opening out marginally to allow the fitment of a DIN radio - I did this gingerly so that if I needed to weld that plate back in it could be done easily.

I'm not expecting big things or thumping bass and crystal clear quality but it's better than a poke in the eye!

Plus it gave me something to do between spraying primer!

I found the photos of the garage clean up just to show that I wasn't over emphasising the dust problem

Even bag puss had to be hosed off [insert wet pussy comment here]


He thought he was being waterboarded!

The high build primer was a lot easier to use than I thought, the epoxy base I started with was thick and even after thinning it was

These were taken just after spraying so they look a lot better but I was happy with the results

To get the outside of the body in high build came with a new challenge, to date I had been spraying the odd panel or side at most. As you can see in previous posts the Cortina's fit is "snug" in the garage even with my toolbox wheeled outside I can only just get around it if it's positioned correctly.

An out of the box or extension of the box itself came in the form of an awning I'd purchased years ago for the ladies to use whilst we watched Le Mans at home. Conveniently as wide as the garage and tall enough to avoid the up and over door - it even has 3 sides so sealing it to the garage was easier. It looks ramshackle and it was but with the tarpaulin applied correctly it was resistant to wind, rain, outside contaminants and overspray from inside. Plus it looked like a police investigation tent was on our driveway which distracted the neighbours!

This did however create some issues I hadn't considered, the frames I'd made had been designed to the height of the Cortina when its on axle stands at their base setting making spraying the sills easier then made spraying the roof harder because the up and over door restricted head height by 200mm which lead to runs. Then the width of the garage at the door created a bottle neck that I caught the hose on the sill and also got to close when spraying making runs.

The point of this was to learn - the only failure from this would be not to learn fro my mistakes, the benefit is that it's only primer. It just needed more flatting.

There is something therapeutic about flatting primer, I'd put some music on and just wet sand a panel - before you know it you're an album down and the panel looks amazing!


Thank you Bob, it mainly comes down to spending 6 years in Yorkshire - sometimes I only breathe in!

I had missed a few photos after the doors were all filled and tidied - I seem sealed which isn't overly exciting it again is a therapeutic job.

In the midst of wet sanding I decided to have a break and spray the dash, A and B pillars. They're the only black parts other than running gear and I figured that it's easier to mask these off than everything else once I'd applied the Ermine white.

Granted there's some peel which happens but the dash once flattened to 1500 and polished came it nicely

Timewise we're the back end of June 2019, Mrs. Jim and I were off to New York for a week at the beginning of July and I thought it would be a great excuse to apply some paint to the interior and let it cure for a week in the garage which becomes an oven in the summer.

A gratuitous shot of the 1st batch of Ermine White I made for spraying - it was a big day!

A gratuitous shot of me then spilling half of said cup because I didn't tighten the cap on the gun correctly - I had to get my breath back as I was rushing which is a stupid thing to do given the job I was doing...

but the results...

I was amazed, the finish was much better than I expected and to be honest a shame to put carpet on it but I needed something to practice with before doing areas that people will see. I struggled with the back panel in the boot because of access and turbulence in the air but it wasn't that bad and easily fixed.

After a great time in NYC albeit sweaty because it was 38 degrees with no breeze and woeful tea making facilities I thought it would be time to make the engine bay look as good as the interior.

It looks good doesn't it?

Good wasn't great, and it'll do wouldn't do for me. It was ok from a distance but in reality I could see orange peel and the odd run - both common and even the professionals have these but I wanted it better so I set about flatting the paint which improved things vastly.

This is where the story takes one of its many turns...

Knowing I'd want a glossy finish with the depth of the Mariana Trench I purchased a polisher from eBay I didn't do my research which has bitten my in the arse as even on the lowest speed setting its a brute and isn't dual action so I burnt the paint

Bugger - I downed tools and walked away, a bit of time to regroup, read a bit more about what I'm trying to do and come back a better person!

Thank you LimeyBoy, you're welcome. I'm hoping that some of this serves as a cautionary tale but also that not only is it ok to make mistakes it's worth having a go.

This leads me into the next steps with the Cortina; with the inner wing paint needing repairs I flattened the paint, masked it off and the rest of the shell and figured whilst I was mixing paint I'll might as well do the rest of the shell.

I had problems with the finish with this, I found the first patches I sprayed were ok but then seemed to be rather thick - I had always mixed the paint at 10% which was correct but when this happened I removed the paint, stirred it and added another 5% approx to get a decent spray. It worked and I continued and from the pictures above it on the whole looked great. I was constantly moving the shell to ensure I wasn't too close as per the primer spraying issues and it seemed to work but christ was I sore!

With everything cleaned and packed away I called it a day, I went back into the garage the next day to asses the work and was treated by this horror show!

It looked like it was melting!

I had over thinned the paint, instead of stopping and potentially losing 500ml of paint I'd wasted 2L approximately all because I made a bad call. My only excuse for this is my want to get the Cortina back on the road.

Because of the over thinned paint it wouldn't cure fully - especially the outer coat (1 applied 3 coats in that session 30 mins between which at the temperature in the garage was more than enough for the previous coat to flash off.) So when I went to sort the runs the paint peeled off.

I spoke to some people on another forum who confirmed my errors and so I was tasked with brush painting the areas of paint that had peeled and wet sanding the entire body back to 400 - putting me back to square 1.

This took longer to do than primer as the paint would bind up the sanding pads - here begineth the lesson!

A month later I had sorted the paint issue and gone to a level of detail that was above and beyond necessary but this is all down to prep. I tried again.

I had tried my best when cleaning the gun after spraying sessions and between paint batches but I must have missed something and as I found out gun wash exists for a reason, I believe that the reason I struggled before was because of a blockage or reduced flow through the gun due to a build up of primer, black paint and now ermine white. This meant the latest spray whilst only have the 1 run looked like artex!

I was annoyed, at myself admittedly I'd now used up 5L which should have sorted the whole car!

I was also annoyed because it beat me, I didn't want to gamble £5-600 on materials for a 3rd spray that given my last 2 attempts could be awful. I called in a professional - he was very kind to me, he was surprised what I'd achieved in my garage using DIY tools and offered to teach me some skills (which I should take him up on.) I decided to concede and let him do the work as I was offered a full spray job, flattened and polished and the spraying could be done within a fortnight. It was September by this time so I knew I'd lost the weather so if I sanded the body to 400 they'd sort the rest. I'd also have to prep the doors, bonnet and boot to high build which was straight forward and I used a new gun which proved that the last one was a write off.

Then I had a disaster! Yes another!...

When taking the NS rear door off the hanger I lost my grip and dropped it.

I knew it was bad because whilst venting my frustration like John Cleese at his Austin 1100 in Fawlty Towers my wife came out because she thought I had injured myself!

The door skin wasn't worth saving - this was the one with a crease across it, so I ordered a new skin - it only arrived this week! I was told it would be 6 weeks not 4 months!

The bodyshop have been great and have said they'll sort the skin and the spraying of the door as part of the original quote. so it'll be going back soon.

However - the rest of the car has been painted and I'm much happier with the finish and I'm also terrified of getting too close to the paint when in the garage!

A happy ending (not like that!) but now the posts are about me fitting stuff to the Cortina!


Hi Cotty - you beat me by 1 post! I was about to come onto the Youtube thing! Your super looked lovely, I do like the Lotus steels but what crossflow did you have? Was is a 681F or a 711M and what engine mounts did you use?

Whilst the shell was away I had room to start getting some parts out of my various hiding places with the intention. of tidying them up and then fitting them to the Cortina for the last time, one of my hiding places was the shed which was only lightly frowned upon by Mrs. Jim because the spiders congregate at the back of the shed so parts can go there too!

As it turns out the work I did to the fuel tank did not go to plan and the sealant inside the tank hadn't adhered to the the metal, I followed the instructions but I don't know when the chap who supplied the kit with the tanks had purchased it so I believe that it might have been passed it prime - bugger

There's no point crying over it and I'll use my original tank albeit after some fabrication work but I'm procrastingating on that job with an intention of actually getting the rest of the car built to the point I actually need a vessel that can hold fuel!

When the Cortina went to the body shop the front frame worked fine but the rear shat the bed basically - it was only designed to go forwards and backwards 9ft and was not trailer friendly so given that I would have to send the Cortina back in what I was lead to believe 6 weeks I'd start with the rear end and then the front.

Not long after I bought the Cortina the rear struts were replaced with Spax dampers as the originals had lost their oil and were looking a bit dogeared so these were cleaned and rebushed, back in 2009 when I was trying to get the Cortina road legal for Le Mans I was working at VWR in Milton Keynes building and tuning mk5 Golf GTI's. We used to order bushes from superflex and when making a bulk order I asked if the did bushes for the Mk1 - they did and because we were putting though such a larger order anyway I was given a 10% discount and free postage! I did fit these back in 2009 but the hammerite I used on the arms had fallen off so this was quickly rectified.

Whilst tidying these parts up I had a realisation; How was I going to fit these parts if I didn't have any fasteners???

A bit of research in my genuine ford Mk1 Cortina parts manual gave me the exact fasteners I needed and a few orders later this lot arrived.

An evening of sorting had the lot kitted out and ready to fit - Mrs. Jim was unaware I had the potential to be this organised!

The time had come for the shell to be dropped off (the door inners were being finished at the body shop)

Whilst the temptation to start fitting the axle was unbearable I needed to keep the shell rolling for when the panels were delivered so I could fit them as I didn't want to store them somewhere where they could be damaged.

So I made a start on the leaf springs, I had done my research on these and I checked them for cracks and signs of sagging which I'm pleased to say they had neither so I refurbished them myself. Keeping one leaf assembled as a reference I eased the shackles open enough to release the leafs and finish crack inspection and start tidying them.

The anti squeal shims had bitten the dust, they were heavily compressed and they pretty much disintegrated in my hand so I have some replacements made out of Nylon 6 which has a shore hardness similar to the Polybushes that had been fitted, the rubber for the shackles is the same as mk1 escorts though.

Now it's a case of rinse and repeat for the other leaf.

With the panels returned I spun the shell around 180 because the majority of the work I'll be doing is at the front and drivers side and that also meant I could start fitting the rear axle.

It was at this time I had decided to try something new and start recording my exploits for Youtube. I like restorations, cars and videos but I find some videos to be reliant on a plethora of tools and cash thrown at a car is the only way these things get finished. My intentions are to show that these cars can be built using basic tools, and a modest budget at home.

I'll apologise now because I don't have a face for film, I'm still not used to talking on camera and I'm learning as I go!

With that shameless plug out of the way I'll get bak to the axle

And for then back on it's wheels which aren't staying, these and just to keep the Cortina rolling - I have a set of original Dunlop D1's that'll I'll refurb ready for

Now I had to make the front match the rear! Again going back to 2009 when looking at the original struts I found that the spring cup was rusted and the damper stanchion had been gouged by something so not safe for road use - so I had to get the converted to adjustable coilovers for safety....

So on with the photos!

The steering arms are a bugger to adjust because the threads get pinched at the ends and they let road filth in so to make adjusting them easier I bored out an M18 nut and welded it in place - after fitting I'm finding the threads are very tight so I think I'll make some new steering arms using hex bar - I believe they're 9/16" UNF thread so not to difficult to make with 1 LH thread and the other RH.

The steering box was inspected and because it was well within ford's tolerance for float I opted to leave it as it was because these are difficult to strip at home and can actually cause more harm than good.

I put the pedal box on because the column mounts to it and it's better to get the pedals in first but I'll come back to that.

Some eagle eyed of you will notice that I'd put the struts on the wrong way round - the callipers should be at the back not the front!


No worries Cotty, I had read on a forum that the 2 crossflow blocks have different width mounts - but that could be an old wives tale!

I'm in no rush to start building the supercharged engine and the more I look at issues like fuelling and ignition I'd forgo some headaches later on and try to build a fuel injection system and mapped ignition for it.

I digress...

The Cortina was back on 4 wheels and rolling just in time for new year, so naturally I decided to take the wheels off and start working on the brakes.

The rear drums proved to be problematic as all the manuals I have are for 63-mid 65 and in late 65 the drum design was changed to a self adjusting system and I had removed the back plates without making where they should go! A bit of head scratching and a few cups of tea later it was all together.

As a side note - I found the photos I took before I stripped the axle down many moons ago when sorting photos for the thread!

The fronts needed a bit more work, in my infinite wisdom I sold my callipers years ago with the intention of fitting larger discs etc when I was going to fit the zetec which I changed my mind on - this was stupid in all honesty but easily remedied. A few auctions on eBay I managed to source these P16's which are the correct type for the 66 Cortina.

The seals looked a little tired but as luck would have it the previous owner had used stainless steel pistons which saved me the hassle of replacing them.

I have filmed this if anyone is looking to do the same with their callipers it can be found online. I had the green stuff pads for the Cortina since it was on the road - I never got a chance to fit them!

I removed the master cylinder as it had been stored since 2009 and not only was the piston a little slow to react the aluminium had light corrosion so I cleaned it up and gave it a coat of high temp silver so it should keep its clean look till I pour brake fluid over it!

With these parts in place I made up the brake lines, I had bought a kit of pre made lengths for a mk1 Cortina that as it turns out only 50% was correct! the lines that were too long were easily shortened but the engine bay ones were too short. I would understand that short by a few mm is down to me making incorrect radius bends but we were talking 30-60mm approx which is a supplier issue. These have been sat on a shelf for years so pointless getting upset about it and I could borrow a decent flaring tool from one of the chaps at work.

The brown marks under the car is cavity wax, whilst doing the chassis legs I sprayed areas that are known water and road filth traps such as the suspension mounts and the fuel and brake line supports.

The inner wings is from when I tried to wet and dry the engine bay - easily fixed.

All I need to do now is bleed the brakes but I'm a tad concerned about leaving them too long before they're used. I'm hoping to have the car MOT ready later this year but will the brakes be ok as long as they're bled and pumped a few times every week??

Also has anyone used the brake fluid that's meant to be nicer to paintwork?


That's the stuff - I remember seeing it advertised but I hadn't paid that much attention! Seeing as I have a dry system and all new components I'm in a decent position to try new fluid as opposed to flushing out existing stuff and cross contaminating.

Last week to postpone doing wiring as I loathe it I stripped the wiper system down as it's lathargic and needing some love. Somebody had tried to do something with it as one of the bolts that hold the motor together was sheared, this was easily removed but hard to replace as it was an 8-32 thread and 85mm long which would mean I'd have to make a new bolt and quite frankly not worth doing.

Fortunately the drill size is just under that of an M5 so I carefully drilled the hole and tapped it M5 - great!

Once stripped it was clear that the armature has had a life, the brushes were surprisingly in good order so a quick clean up and recut the grooves was all it needed.

Everything else was cleaned and painted before reassembly

The speed has increased and seems smoother in it's operation I just need to order some gaskets for the bulkhead. I had made a video of this if you're looking to do the same which can be found on Youtube and as an added bonus I don't actually talk on it!

This is the point my posts will slow down as we're up to date! I will endeavour to post as frequently as possible. I've been taping the loom this morning so most of it can be fitted soon.


I'll firstly apologise for my absence, with what's happening in the world I have been fortunate to keep working albeit from home so I have spent most of my days on the computer so I haven't had the motivation to spend the evenings on it too.

This hasn't stopped me working on the Cortina - if anything I have a good excuse to use working in the garage as a break from work and doomsday news reports!

After finishing the wipers they were mounted under the dash which gave me enough reason to pull the loom out of storage and give it a full test and inspection before wrapping and fitting. I had assumed it would go in easily enough but had earthing issues which lead me to pull the loom all together and mount it as I had after I set it on fire.

Mrs. Jim was rather cordial and allowed the loom to be rigged up inside so my office also became a workshop extension!

This worked in my favour as I could hardwire the stereo in along with hazard warning lights - let's face it, it'll need them more than most cars on the road!

I spent about a fortnight on the loom mainly waiting for parts to arrive but once I was satisfied with the work I'd done it was quickly taken back into the garage and wrapped

This was back in early April when we had some amazing weather so I decided to treat myself and fit the loom outside - the simple joys of lockdown!

Whilst the loom was being finished indoors I pulled my gearboxes out as this was going to need some planning and ordering of parts which I wanted to have them ready so I didn't lose any small parts!

If anyone has driven an original GT they'll understand what I mean by this but basically the gearbox is a weak point, not for taking torque but because it's got rubbish ratios. 2nd gear isn't right.

1st is a standard 1st gear driven normally you'll use it to get to 15 - 20mph

2nd is a really short ratio and will get you to 30mph when driven in the same way

3rd is a little longer than usual 3rd gears so you when going through the gears to get to 70mph you have to rinse 2nd to not lose all momentum when you go into 3rd - it's engineered turbo lag!

To get around this you can change the gearing from a 2000e gearbox but use the original housings so that you keep the remote selector and negate having to cut another hole in the floor as the later 2000e gearboxes have the selector at the rest or the tail housing.

This is an original 1500 box that I bought for the selector arms as I had sold the original box back when I was going to fit a zetec as I figured I would use a type 9 and have 5 gears.

This is the gears from a mk1 Lotus (I did check it several times). These gears are from different gearboxes as I bought 1 which had a stripped layshaft but the main shaft was ok and I can't remember where I acquired the layshaft from but essentially it took 3.5 gearboxes to build my 1 gearbox! The photo about is after the whole lot was washed, stripped, cleaned again, inspected, cleaned then rebuilt and then cleaned.

It was filthy but in a surprisingly good condition.

My record vice came in handy for holding the casing whilst I threw this lot back in as it's a fidly job that requires you to lift the layshaft with string up to the main shaft whilst driving the layshaft shaft through the casing without moving the needle bearings inside the layshaft and having a nervous breakdown!

This wasn't the first time of doing one of these gearboxes as I had to replace the syncros when the Cortina was on the road but that time it took 2hrs. As I was still scarred by that experience I cut an original layshaft shaft down so it would hold the needle bearings in place and be driven out by the new shaft - it worked and the whole process took 20 mins.

to test that everything was as it should be I threw the tail housing on along with the shifting rods etc and spun the gearbox by hand and checked it all shifted

All was good with the gearbox so I made a start on the selector. The main parts for these are made from plastic and had seen better days, the cups are a pain to get hold of and the MK1 OC don't carry them anymore but they are the same part as the ones used on the Elan's so I treated myself to a shiny aluminium one.

The other bushes have been replaced with nylon equivalents and the original linkage was cleaned and inspected.

I left the gearbox unpainted for the time being because I wanted to get the engine prepped and ready to fit along with the gearbox as 1 unit. I knew I'd have to work around it so figured I'd paint it the once a day or 2 before I was to fit it.


Thank you for the kind words.

After all the crawling around on the floor it was rather nice to sit at my bench and build the gearbox whilst drinking tea and listening to music!

I discovered the Elan 5 speed gearbox after getting the bits via an elan specialist, I've looked at photos of the box and it bolts directly to the engine which means it'll fit to mine. after that it should be an elan clutch and figure out the prop but worth thinking about. When I come to build the supercharged engine I had considered MX5 gearboxes as they're 10 a penny.

I have been tripping over the engine for the last year, it was strapped to a wooden board with some caster screwed to it so I could move it out of the way when I needed space but now was the time to sort it out!

The engine had run before I removed it but I hand't done a great job of the sump gasket and using the garage as a body shop plus moving the engine around had taken its toll - it looked rough. I have an engine stand and even now I can't work out how I lifted the engine onto it, on my own at 6:30am without making a sound or having a hernia!

My video on the engine

but I'll share some parts that weren't filmed

This was after I stripped everything off and masked off the mating faces.

The sump has a front bowl which is great for bashing against high kerbs or squirrels that haven't ducked in time!

It's not structural and it's not visible once fitted but knowing I could have fixed it and didn't would annoy me no end. With some heat, a percussion adjustment tool and colourful language the dent was significantly reduced.

When the Cortina was crafted in Dagenham the engines were painted green and from what I could see the paint suppliers debate of what shade that is so I had a bit of artistic licence and went with British racing green. I've kept the aluminium parts silver but used satin high temp paint to keep a consistent finish and the exhaust is painted in anthracite high temp paint to give the illusion it's not rusty.

I'll admit that I was impressed with what I had achieved - something I don't usually say about my work.

Things went rather quickly from here, I was fortunate enough to borrow an engine crane from work so not wanting to take liberties the engine was dropped back onto the ground so I could fit the flywheel and clutch, the gearbox was painted to match the engine and the next day they were mated. This was the saturday when Borris said we could visit people so long we kept our distance so I managed to do a socially distanced engine fit with the help of my father and Mrs. Jim making tea.

It was a fairly quick job but physically draining given the area and maintaining distance but communication was good. I was elated - I still am 3 weeks later I haven't had a functional engine and gearbox in the Cortina since Cadillac arrest in 2006.


Thank you Rob, I'm glad it made you smile - it usually cures my wife's insomnia when I talk about the intricacies or the weber 28/36 DCD or UNC vs UNF threads. smileHaving seen the engine built up on the stand it was a rinse and repeat process of throwing it all back on, I did however catch the rocket cover when lifitng the engine in so that needed to be repainted - I tried wrinkle paint as I'd nailed orange peel and runs I thought I'd take on a real challenge and go for a consistent finish.

I made a miss calculation in my painting abilities and ended with smooth and the sides and rough up top - it's the rocker cover equivalent to a mullet! I'll wait for a rainy day to take this one on again!

To move away from painting woes I went back to making brackets to fit things and the new challenge was to find a home for the fuel pressure regulator, I went with a glass bowl because the look cool and the original fuel pump had a glass top to it and a diagphram that's prone to splitting and filling the sump with petrol altering the internal combustion from inside the cylinder to the block!

I was fine with making the bracket right up to the point I had to mount it as this meant I had to drill the freshly painted bulk head - It's a good job I used my steady hand otherwise that would have been a disaster. All in all I think it fits in the bay nicely and almost like it should be there.

When doing the dry build many, many moons ago I initially ran the Cortina without an exhaust because it won't be that loud surely?!

This is another example of me being very wrong and unfortunately won't be the last time as Mrs. Jim was rather upset when it fired up and spooked her, our cat, some chickens next door and who know's what else! To avoid being forced to socially distance in the garage for a few days (that punishment wouldn't prevent me reoffending!) I figured as I had made an exhaust I better fit it.

There was enough fitted to make the engine run so I figured why not!

I actually drove it for the first time since 2006 last week - it was a bit of a saga in all honesty which I'll come on to.

The body shop I used have decided that they don't want to reskin the door even though they were paid to do it (not worth pursuing) so I think I have found someone who can help me, so many restorers who want the work but never get back to me is astounding.

With all 4 doors I can get on and put the seals and glass etc in,

Sort the interior and fit it.

Full mechanical overview and sort, I have little niggles as all builds do that I'd like to hit before going to MOT and seeing as we're at the cold end of the year I might as well spend winter and get the majority. Once I believe the Cortina will behave and is safe I'll use the MOT to become legitimate or use it as a to do list.

Once I had the engine running albeit without coolant and a small fuel can I wanted to make a concerted push towards actual motion, I couldn't order anything from the owners club for 6 weeks because they were overhauling the website - trying to find specific coolant hoses became an ordeal in itself!

So I started with the easy bits - the clutch system hasn't been altered from standard apart from the clutch and pressure plate which are AP units for fast road because they're cheaper than standard units and contain a lot less asbestos.

The prop has also escaped being messed with so it was treated to a set of UJ's and some paint.

All mounted I finally had the coolant hoses sorted.

Then things took a turn...

The core plug between the block and gearbox was leaking - when it rains...

This meant all that work was undone, prop, clutch slave, gearbox, starter, clutch and flywheel had to come off. On my back with now lifting equipment - a tall order, the gearbox knocked the wind out of me when it landed on me. The last time I had something that hefty on top of me was the result of poor night club lighting!

I had a spare coreplug that should have been switched out but when reviewing the clutch I found that the release bearing wasn't reaching the pressure plate so this would have had to come out regardless. The clutch mentioned above isn't as tall as the original which protrudes into the gearbox by some way, after speaking to Burton Power I was informed I needed a bearing extension but that clutch is no longer manufactured (that's a problem for future me).

It's a little hard to see the difference but the bearing is now extended by 20mm

All put back in - which was much easier than anticipated.

The fuel tank...

I may have shown my fuel tanks were both corroded and beyond help, I was waiting for the Retro ford units to go back into manufacture when I saw a classified add on the owners club page on facebook (the only thing I look at on there). It even came with a new sender - a deal was made and this is what I recieved.

I just wanted a safe option than the one I had at the time

The inside had surface rust and I found a few pinholes that I soldered and then applied a chemical seal before painting and the spraying black with UPOL raptor top and bottom as the tank forms part of the boot floor.

But after all that I got to drive the Cortina, granted it's out of the garage and reverse back in but it's further than it's been driven in a long time!


Thank you Rob, I'm going for subtlety in what I'm changing. I took a few extra photos of what I have done, firstly the bracket you get with the filter king is rubbish as it's just a flat plate and I have seen it used but they don't look great.

This is the design I used

this was made from 1.2mm steel, folded in my vice then I welded 2 M6 nuts underneath as I knew space would be tight to fit the regulator once it's mounted on the bulkhead.

The 2 side pieces had their seam welded up and flattened back before painting black. the bulkhead was then drilled and riv nutted.

Thank you, I knew when the engine went I wanted to get it sorted and have it looking how I thought it would look (minus the rose tinted specs!) and if I sold it I wouldn't be able to afford another.

I stumbled across this period correct Timavo air filter on eBay, I had been looking at air filters for the 28/36 but most of them were a bit too modern or too shiny (yes, that is a thing) granted the filter itself is too big and had a life it was about the top and bottom pieces as I haven't seen these before.

The paint was hammerite and felt soft on touch - the silver looked a bit drab so gave it a few coats of heat resistant wrinkle paint and after watching some videos on how to actually use the product wafted some heat over it, it's come out much better than I expected.

I obviously had to ensure people knew who made the filter so gave it a little careful sanding!


I was rather satisfied with having a car that actually drove but a few days later I found it hard to concentrate on what to do next, there are so many parts and jobs that need to be done I needed to figure out what I have to do - so I wrote a list.


Picking the easiest stuff is a little bit slack on my part but I wanted to feel like I'm achieving something and knocking some stuff of the list.

Starting with boot wiring originally there was only 1 wire for the fuel tank level sender which I replaced when I went over the wiring loom a few months ago. I had also added the feed to the fuel pump into the original loom as I had stripped all this back anyway, up until recently the fuel pump was crudely wired so I could get it working as I wanted the fuel tank in position before cutting cables to length.

Whilst routing the cable I thought back to what the original wire was like - awful was the answer! It was just loose under the car and covered in underseal to the point it could have been stuck to the chassis and nobody would have noticed! I used a 5mm P clip to secure the wiring and even though it'll not be seen it makes me very happy!

The door handles have been cleaned and polished as best as they can be, the chrome isn't pitted but has crazing but will get chromed next year but for now I just want to focus on getting the Cortina back on the road and put some miles on it. I'm happy with the gaskets I may trim them so they aren't as visible but the have been put on temporarily so I can get the car over to the body shop for final polishing soon.

The door latches have just been cleaned, I was going to polish them but I quite like the clean factory look

I finally have a reskinned door after being let down by the previous bodyshop, this is just the initial fit. The Cortina will go to the new guys shop for final fit, paint and door seals fitting along with fixing some of the chips and paint damage I've cause putting the car together. 

As all 4 doors were in place I needed to fit some bitumen sound deadening behind the skins to reduce the resonance, I'm amazed by the difference in sound (you'll see it in the video)

I gave the boot seal fitting a go, I think I need to try a different adhesive and get the panel alignment right but I have to slam the boot to get it to shut which is something I'd like to avoid. I never had to do this before but I'll get a second opinion from the bodyshop.

I have a lot more easy stuff to get on with but I'm happy I've knocked a few things off the list!


Great work mate! Loved the taillights and fins on these cortinas. Remind me of the old type 34 VWs.

Posted by MPower on 10/31/20 @ 3:15:41 AM

Thank you! I had never made that connection before, you're right!

Posted by Jim_builds on 11/16/20 @ 2:29:18 PM

Thank you Steve I appreciate the support, it feels like a lifetime since I did a lot of the work! Hopefully I'll be back on the road early next year so I can finally put some miles on her.

Posted by Jim_builds on 10/26/20 @ 12:08:47 PM

Beautiful Cortina! Looks like a lot of work but you did a bang up job! Glad you saved this one!

Posted by stevegolf on 10/22/20 @ 11:06:39 PM