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You voted, we counted and Richard Barker and Graham Ellis’ Cortina Crusader Estate is your Classic Ford Of The Year 2021! If you missed the original feature from the August 2021 issue, here it is.

Carrying out a comprehensive restoration of a rare classic often involves the purchase of a donor car — always quite handy for those hard to find parts. When good friends Richard Barker and Graham Ellis bought a 1982 Mk5 Cortina Crusader estate to salvage parts from for their saloon resto, they soon realised the estate was far too good for such a role. After weighing up their options and considering the rarity of the Crusader estate, one restoration soon became two! 

“It started around seven years ago when my dad, Roy mentioned to Graham he had a Cortina saloon buried away in his garage,” Richard recalls, “Graham has a vast mechanical and engineering background and he offered to return Roy’s Cortina back to the road.” As Richard also had a sentimental connection to his dad’s old family car, he was eager to help Graham with the restoration process, “Like Graham, I have a keen interest in classic cars, especially Cortinas so the idea of us working together all made sense,” Richard smiles, “it was the start of a great friendship, too.”

As the saloon project progressed, Richard made a contact in the Midlands who became a useful source of parts. “They told me about this Crusader estate which was a rolling shell at the time with no engine,” Richard explains. “It also came with boxes of parts, so it seemed logical to buy the whole lot to help us with the saloon restoration.” On delivery of the estate, both Graham and Richard soon realised their acquisition to be in far better condition than they expected. “It had originally been an automatic, but had been converted to a manual and came with a reconditioned Type-9 gearbox,” Richard tells us. “Rust was evident, though the shell itself was solid, and it also had an almost-immaculate interior.” 

classic ford of the year 2021

Quick tidy

As the Mk5 saloon resto continued, Graham and Richard attempted to use as few parts as possible from the estate donor car. “We took the decision to just tidy the estate up, reinstall a suitable engine and offer it back for sale,” Richard recalls. “Once we began working on it, we discovered it was quite a rare version with factory-fitted power steering and tilt-and-slide sunroof and we felt it deserved better than a rush repair.” The quick tidy up job soon escalated into a full restoration, though by now the pair had become very familiar with working on Mk5 Cortinas and had a good idea what would be involved! 

Sadly, Roy was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2014, passing away in 2016 shortly before his old Cortina saloon restoration had been completed, but the pair continued to return his car to its former glory just as Roy had wished. Then unbelievably, early in the restoration of the estate in 2017, Richard was given the bombshell news that he also had the same condition. “Restoring these cars has been an absolute blessing and a lifeline for me,” Richard smiles, “they’ve been a way for me to focus my anger, frustration and fears away from my own cancer diagnosis — a perfection distraction to keep my mind occupied.” 

And there’s no better way to keep your mind focused than to strip a shell ready to inspect it for rust and rot! “Once we’d made a start by removing the front wings, doors and lifting the carpets to assess the floor, the ball had really started rolling and I was loving every minute of it,” Richard recalls. Graham soon got to grips with the straightforward welding and fabrication while friend, Liam was brought in to carry out the trickier aspects, fabricating various hard-to-find or obsolete parts from sheet metal. These included the A-pillar, front valance, rear window inner panel along with various repairs to the inner sills.

“Graham also fitted brand new front wings, rear outer top and bottom valances,” Richard adds. “Meanwhile, I was busy removing surface rust and cavity-proofed the shell including the underside and wheelarches.” Once all the welding and prep work had been completed, the shell was then dispatched to Ultimate Accident Repair in Rotherham to be repainted in its original and highly attractive Titan Blue and Strato Silver colour combination. 

Tighten up

The chassis and brakes remain standard though all components have been renewed as you’d expect. “We decided to fit polybushes all round along with uprated rear springs combined with standard dampers,” Richard adds. “This all helped tighten up the ride and handling.” 

Attention then moved on to the engine bay, which had been devoid of any sign of an engine since Graham and Richard first acquired the car! “This left us with a blank canvas, but as we already had the reconditioned gearbox and wanted to keep the car relatively stock, it had to be a Pinto,” Richard tells us. “Luckily, I have a friend with a breaker’s yard and he happened to have two Pintos in stock.” As there was no guarantee either would run, Richard wisely decided to take both engines enabling the skilful Graham to rebuild the better of the two once they’d been stripped and inspected.

The 205 block now benefits from a +20 rebore, reground crank, unleaded injection cylinder head along with new oil pump, seals, gaskets and core plugs. A fresh 32/36 Weber carburettor and standard exhaust have been added too, while Graham also fitted a twin-bolt pulley for the power steering system. Once the electrics had been sorted, the 1982 Crusader was now running sweetly once again for the first time in many years. 

classic ford of the year 2021

Inside counts

As we pointed out, the almost immaculate original interior was one of this car’s strong points and helped persuade the pair to spare it from its fate as a donor. “We removed the seats to clean the interior thoroughly and it all came up like new,” Richard smiles, “we’ve even retained the original Ford stereo.” 

The original Crusader wheels were thankfully also salvageable and after sandblasting and painting they also manage to look factory fresh — incidentally that dartboard effect was painted by hand. “We needed the Crusader stripe decals to complete that authentic look and we’re grateful to Tony Mathews for supplying a perfect replica kit,” Richard adds, “the genuine Ford tow bar was the final finishing touch the car needed.” 

As you’d expect, Graham and Richard’s Cortina will be heading to classic car shows, but there’s a bigger challenge for the freshly restored estate on the horizon too. “When we completed the saloon we drove the car to Cortina D’Ampezzo in Italy in memory of my Dad and raised almost £7000 for Yorkshire Cancer Centre at St James hospital in Leeds,” Richard continues, “we intend to take both cars on further fund raising events including a long-distance driving challenge of some kind.” 

A restoration of this scale is a challenge to anyone but considering Richard’s constant battle with cancer throughout this involving process, reaching the finishing line is an impressive achievement for sure. And it doesn’t look like the pair will be slowing down either as restorations continue at pace on a Triumph Stag, Mk2 Golf GTi and a Mini 30, though Graham is always on the look out for another Cortina!

Words and Photos Jon Cass

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