What do you do if you’ve just bought an 105E with the structural rigidity of a box of cornflakes? If you’re anything like Ben Beattie then you get stuck in, perfect your bodywork skills and turn out a minter of an Anglia 1500GT.
We’ve all done it and, despite what we might tell ourselves as we’re lying under a car swearing furiously as bits of rust fall into our eyes, we’ll all doubtless do it again. I’m talking about buying an old Ford that looks a lot better than it actually is.
There are many, many reasons why even hardened Ford buyers get suckered into buying a bit of a lemon, but often it’s a case of simply being swept up in the moment and letting enthusiasm get the better of you, and before you know it, you’re spending the winter pulling decades of poorly applied filler from the inner wings of one of Dagenham’s finest.
We are nothing if not a stubborn bunch though, and as we’ve said before, most of us aren’t put off in the slightest by the prospect of a long, challenging, ground-up restoration, even if it pushes you to verge of insanity.
However, practice makes perfect so all of this becomes easier once you’ve got a few projects under your belt, yet it’s hard to deny that a full-on restoration can be daunting thing to take on. Which brings us neatly to the Anglia you see here, owned by Ben Beattie, a 21-year-old who actually bought the car when he was just 17, though by his own admission calling it a ‘car’ back then would’ve been very charitable indeed.
“I probably paid over the odds for what turned out to be a shell that was really only fit for the breakers’ yard,” recalls Ben. “In fact there were no A-pillars, floors or sills, and I spent a long time knocking filler out of what was left of the shell.
Of course, most 17 year olds don’t set their hearts on bringing 1960s-vintage Fords back from the brink, and Ben has the influence of both his granddad (a serial classic car restorer) and his friend, or rather his friend’s model Anglia, to thank for this. “I loved the shape and colour of the model,” says Ben, “and that’s what really inspired me to build the car in this way.”
Making the transition from rotten shell to immaculate show-winner involved countless hours of hard graft, not to mention painstaking hunting out of new panels. The whole front end is actually from another 105E, the rear arches and sills are new-old stock panels, while everything else has been salvaged and made good. The doors were especially troublesome, Ben tells us. “I probably would’ve hunted out a better pair if I’d known how rotten they were inside. I ended up putting a huge amount of fresh metal into both of them just to make them structurally sound again.”
All this welding took place over one long, frantic summer, though that was followed by almost two years of inactivity as Ben amassed the auto paintwork skills necessary to do the Anglia justice, and devoted more resources to building up the car’s powerplant. Despite being relatively young, there was no way that Ben was going to be satisfied with the Anglia’s 997cc engine, though prohibitive insurance hikes ruled out anything as exotic as a modern twin-cam unit. In the end Ben collected a 1500 Pre-Crossflow from a Cortina GT.
These engines really are a gift to home tuners, and within weeks the engine had been rebuilt with an A2 cam, a free-flowing exhaust system, some twin 40s and, best of all, a +90 thou overbore, ensuring that it was very nearly a 1.6-litre capacity. “I got the parts from Burton Power and built the engine alongside the bodywork,” says Ben. “We painted the bay, fitted the Pre-Crossflow, and that spurred me on to tackle the rest of the paintwork and get it done for a local show just a few weeks away.”
The looming deadline kicked the whole project into overdrive, and saw Ben select a shade of grey that bore a resemblance to the grey on his friend’s model Anglia, then deploy a tactical anti-precipitation device (or an Argos gazebo as it’s more commonly known) to undertake the paintwork. Remember that although he was more than handy with a MIG welder, paintwork and body prep were still something of an unknown area for Ben, so the damned near perfect coat the Anglia now sports is deeply impressive. Even more impressive, the car actually made it to the show under its own steam, though Ben’s since tidied up various aspects of the build.
The old springs, dampers and rear leaf springs have all been relegated to the bin, and Ben now runs Gaz coil-overs at both ends, plus a Milton five-link kit, a fully adjustable Rose-jointed front end, and uprated callipers and discs at the front. The tired factory steels were always living on borrowed time, and Ben eventually opted to swap them for these 7×13-inch Superlights, which took some careful planning and suspension tweaking to pull off, especially as he wasn’t keen on rolling his freshly painted arches!
“They fit now and don’t rub, but there’s only about 1.5 inches of suspension travel now, so it’s a bit bumpy,” chuckles Ben.
Inside it’s all very sparse, with acres of exposed and perfectly painted steel. Creature comforts a limited to say the least, with just three Cobra bucket seats with multi-point harnesses dominating things (we can’t imagine sitting in that single rear seat is all that comfortable though), plus a mid-mounted roll bar for added structural rigidity.
So what does Ben consider to have been the toughest part of the build? He ponders his answer for a minute before settling on the bodywork, specifically putting all that fresh steel into both doors. But he also has a refreshingly honest way of looking at the whole process, something that really could act as a mantra for anyone who’s ever bought an old Ford with more rot than they bargained for.
“It was challenging at times, but you’ve just got to get your head round each individual task and get stuck in.” Simple, huh?
Words Jamie Arkle
Photos Jon Cass
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