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It might look standard, but this Mk5 Cortina packs a potent Cosworth V6 punch and a sorted chassis!

There’s a lot to be said for understated performance, not boasting about your car’s true performance potential and letting actions speak louder than words. Even better if the car in question looks fairly stock and was far from an automotive barnstormer from the factory. It makes leaving modern cars at the traffic lights all the more satisfying. Old Fords have long been prime candidates for this kind of treatment, mainly as Ford kindly (and with an eye firmly on saving money) opted to build their vehicles as massive Meccano kits, with large parts carry-over from previous models. This means that modern engines can, with a bit of work and supporting chassis tweaks, be made to work in decidedly old-school cars.

David Frost’s Mk5 Cortina probably embodies this understated approach better than most, as under the immaculate (and stock, naturally) bodywork lurks a thumping 24-valve Cosworth BOA engine. 

Of course, it wasn’t always there, and the ’82 car actually left the factory with a 2-litre Pinto and all the Ghia trimmings. This was still present and correct when David found the car seven years ago. 

“It was very, very clean, but someone had welded over the sunroof. You could see it on the inside but not from outside”, chuckles David.

Bargain find

His time served as a car dealer must’ve come to the fore, as David eventually haggled the price right down to £400, an absolute steal considering how solid the bodywork was. The car was brought back and immediately pressed into active service, covering thousands of miles a year. In that time a number of mild tweaks were made, including induction and exhaust mods, and before long it’d evolved into a fast road spec. Fast-forward to 2009 and David decided that more power was needed, and though he thought about tuning the Pinto, a need for useable, unstressed grunt eventually came to the fore. 

cosworth v6

“It had to be a fast, reliable cruiser, able to get me to shows all over the country, so the BOA was the obvious choice”, explains David.

A dead Scorpio donated its engine and David entrusted the swap to a Ford specialist, dropping the car off later that year. The swap was painless enough, though it took longer than expected. The set-up eventually comprised of that BOA and mounts, the Type-9 with quickshift from a V6 Capri and the Scorpio power steering rack and pump arrangement. Fuelling was also overhauled, David fitting an uprated pump, filter and swirl pot in the boot.

Obviously the Cortina’s original cooling system would’ve thrown in the towel at the first sight of the V6, so David installed an electric fan and had the radiator fitted with a new twin core. Power is roughly 200 bhp now, which is a massive jump over the Pinto. Perhaps surprisingly, David’s opted to retain the Cortina’s standard rear end, so that new-found grunt is pushed through an open diff, though an LSD is on the cards for next year.

This build is firmly anchored in reality, so while David undoubtedly relished the car’s newfound performance, it was a full 12 months before he could allocate the funds to perfecting the Cortina’s body and paintwork. That’s not to say that it was rotting away — far from it — and the  previous owners’ judicious use of Waxoyl had ensured that the original sills, arches and floors were in very good condition. A desire to perfect it eventually saw the car driven up to Manny Galea’s in Preston for new front wings and some welding to the rear panel. This done, the car was wheeled over to Stuart Pike who gave it a flawless respray in its original shade of Crystal Green. The results speak for themselves, and four years on it still looks fresh. 

“I remember being overwhelmed when I went to pick it up, as the car had evolved over a long period of time as and when money allowed, and it was finally done”, recalls David.

Suspension and brakes were never exactly Mk5 Cortina strong points, so it should come as no surprise that both have been revised on David’s car. The Cortina now sits on uprated springs and dampers at the rear, and V6 ones at the front, plus a full set of polybushes to tighten things up even further. 

“I actually had it 2 inches lower at the front, but it was just too hard for comfortable daily use,” David explains.

The Cortinas stopping capabilities are now vastly improved, with four-pot Wilwood calipers clamping down on the 2-litre discs at the front. While the rear drums remain in place, they’ve been treated new shoes and braided lines. It all means the car can stop on a penny, though David’s still not completely satisfied. “I’m going to swap for 2.8i discs next year.”

cosworth v6

Original equipment

Those 15 inch wheels fit with the OE-theme David’s stuck to throughout, and anyone with a passing interest in ’80s Fords should be able to identify them as Sierra Cosworth three-door rims right away. We can’t argue with his choice either; 15 inch wheels are just small enough to work on the Mk5, and they allow him to run larger brakes in future. 

cosworth v6

It’s a real hero of a car this, one that’s never really stopped dong what it was designed and built to do week after week, month after month and year after year. Now, over three decades on from when it was first bolted together, it continues to deliver, taking David and brother, Roy, to shows all over the UK. 

The only thing that’s really changed in that period is the engine, and the Cosworth V6 makes perfect sense here; a big, torquey lump with lots in reserve, a comparatively modern design and enough power to really surprise anyone that mistakes this for ‘just another
old Cortina.’ 

Words Jamie Arkle

Photos Jon Hill

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