Simon Hoar’s been blowing minds at the shows with his latest rebuild — this Mk4 Cortina 2.3S.
Ever since Simon Hoar has turned up on the scene this summer in his eye-wateringly beautiful Cortina, show-goers have been swarming round it like bees round a honey pot… and that’s because Simon’s exceptional example of the Mk4, as well as looking stunning in its brand-new coat of Signal Amber, is also a Ming Dynasty honey pot in terms of rarity. Of the hundreds of thousands of Mk4 Cortinas built between 1976 and 1979 only a couple of thousand are thought to have been trimmed in the S-level of spec, as most Sport buyers went for the Escorts and Capri equivalents in the showrooms.
Of those, only a few hundred were ordered with the 2.3 V6 Cologne engine option over the cheaper Pinto versions. And unless there’s a 2.3S running round in stealth-mode that no-one in the Cortina community is aware of, then this Cortina is one of only a couple (and possibly the only) roadworthy, big-engined Mk4 Sport out there today (with an estimated 14 Pinto’d cars known of, too). Add the car’s originality to that rarity, and it’s no wonder Simon’s S a crowd-puller and already a multiple show-winner…
And we say Simon’s S, although that’s not entirely true, as the Cortina is equally as much owned by his Dad, Richard, due to Simon repaying a debt left over from his youth…
“I grew up sitting in the back seat of my Dad’s Mk4 Ghia, and loved everything about the car, especially the induction noise,” he explains. “At 17, I was allowed to drive the car too… and I rolled it. I wasn’t the flavour of the month, of course, but was forgiven. Dad was just glad I’d survived really. And although I moved on to own many classic Fords — mostly Capris — there was always a thought in my head that I’d like to get a Mk4 Cortina again one day, do it up and hand it over as a ‘sorry’ for wrecking his Ghia all those years ago.
“That day arrived last August, while I was browsing Facebook groups and spotted a Daytona Yellow Mk4 2.3S for sale reasonably local to me in Bedfordshire. At that point I wasn’t aware quite how rare the car was, but it looked a great project as the majority of any bodywork that was needed had already been done. The seller, Chris Bowditch, had also gathered together an extensive hoard of spares to go with the car and the Cadiz deckchair interior was in reasonable shape, too… although I’d find out later that getting an S-trimmed car back to perfect was a little harder than first thought.
“My first hurdle however, was to convince Chris that I was the right man for the car. He was concentrating on his own 2.3 Ghia Mk4 as it was an auto, but that didn’t mean he was letting the S go to the first buyer through his gates. We talked, I showed him pictures of my old cars, including a very nice 3.0S Capri I’d built and the deal breaker, I think, was my plan to surprise my Dad with the car. Once I’d proved my intentions were all good a deal was done.”
Back in the Simon’s garage, a pulling-apart session took place for assessment of what had been bought… and the results were mostly positive.
“The shell had already had new front wings, rear quarter sections and rear arches, plus outer sills and the work had been done to a good standard,” he reports. “All I needed to do was to tidy up a few old repairs underneath that I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with.”
“When new, in June 1978, the car was Roman Bronze, but had been painted Daytona Yellow later (which wasn’t a Mk4 option). The Daytona wasn’t in great condition, so a respray was definitely needed. I could have gone back to the original Roman but wanted something brighter to contrast with the black interior. Signal Amber was a genuine 1978 colour option and would have been one of just five shades that had the orange Cadiz seat trim, so that was the perfect choice. Many hours were spent scraping underseal off the Cortina’s underside, and I repainted that myself but luckily I have a good friend, Aidan, who is a professional classic car sprayer to help with the topcoats, and he’s done an incredible job.”
As a self-employed aircraft engineer, refreshing the V6, fitting unleaded heads, rebuilding the gearbox, rear axle and braking system plus polybushing all the suspension was easy enough for Simon. He’s even got the original Pierburg carburettor working well, which is miraculous, and is running original points-based ignition, a recored standard radiator and a Ford factory mild-steel exhaust. “That’s a bit muted for my liking,” he says, “so I won’t be too sad when it fails and I can get a stainless system on there with a bit more noise to it!”
Inside, the carpets, cards and dash (fitted with an original FM-option radio) came up well, though finding a replacement for the rear parcel shelf was a task.
“Some of the S trim is actually shared with just the base-model Cortinas only, like the plain screen rubbers and shelf,” says Simon, “so is incredibly hard to find. The rear shelf is made of a strange fibreboard and although I looked far and wide to get a new one, as some speaker holes had been made in mine, nothing appeared. In the end I grafted in some repair sections myself and it came out pretty well.”
“I also naively thought getting some new — or reproduction — Cadiz material to recover the seats wouldn’t be too hard,” he adds, “but Fred at A&R Pound trimmers, who I went to laughed quite loudly when I suggested it. However, after Fred had re-foamed the seats, retrimmed the vinyl sections and stretched the hard-scrubbed original Cadiz cloth into place, the results were stunning.”
Other rarities sourced were; a genuine Carello headlamp as one reflector had been rusty, a clear glass screen to replace the one that annoyingly cracked as it was being removed, a NOS grille that was found in Germany, and a set of small-logo mudflaps (three sets were bought to get a four good ones). The worth-their-weight spotlamps, fortunately came with the car, and Simon is running Mexico Sport steels for their extra dish but has the original Cortina chrome embellishers and black centre cap and nut covers on them.
There were a few tears-in-eyes on the day Simon surprised his Dad with the Cortina, and Simon also confesses that the first thing he did when the Cortina was ready was to sit in the back seat and relive his Cortina memories from eight-years old. And father and son have made the most of the car so far in 2018, attending many shows and walking away with a handful of awards including Best ’70s Car at the Retro Show at Santa Pod and Best In Class at Ragley Hall, too. Classic Ford Show attendees also noticed the S en-masse, and such a swarm descending on the Cortina has been typical wherever it travels.
“The Signa Amber, Cadiz trim, and that so few Mk4s seem to have survived, attract a lot of attention at first,” Simon reports, “and then the rarity of the 2.3-engine kicks in and I’m chatting all day with people. Another great reaction came when I took the car to Beaulieu to meet a friend, Frankie Hayes and his Dad — who was a previous owner of the car I’d tracked down. Frankie had been an invaluable source of info during the rebuild, so the first journey when the job was complete was a 370-mile round trip to meet him and his Dad… and the Cortina performed faultlessly the whole day.”
“I was in the right place at the right time, when the Cortina was advertised,” Simon concludes, “and hopefully justified Chris’s decision to sell it to me. I’m looking forward to showing it off for many more years to come.”
Words Marc Stretton
Photos Adrian Brannan
See more photos and read the full restoration story in the original feature on Simon’s Cortina 2.3S in the August 2018 issue
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