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What to do with the tuning parts left over from your previous project? For Danny Cleghorn the only option was to bolt them to this Spruce Green Mk1 Cortina four door.

Some of you may remember we took a look at the stunning Capri Laser of Danny Cleghorn complete with its expertly-carried-out ST170 transplant last year. And despite regularly taking that car to shows and on regular drives out, Danny’s been busy with another exciting project. Does this man ever sleep?

“I’d completed the Capri and was itching to start another project straight away,” Danny smiles. “I wanted to stick with a Ford as I already had a few parts lying around the workshop I could use, and I enjoy working on old Fords!”

This time around, Danny was keen to opt for a model that was a bit more unusual and would stand out at shows. “I started looking at Cortinas. I’d seen a few at various events that caught my eye, but I wanted to keep things basic and simple this time,” he explains. “This meant no shiny paintwork, minimal chrome and a functional rather than plush interior.”

After a few months of searching, Danny spotted the ideal candidate — a 1966 Mk1 Cortina Deluxe which had been off the road since 2007. 

“I saw it advertised and went to view it, bought the car and trailered it home all in the same day,” Danny smiles. “It did run and drive but only enough to put it on the trailer!” 

The bodywork was solid and presentable and with a few tweaks, the 1500 was able to make it to a few local shows. Danny had even managed to lower the ride height by 2 inches with lowering springs on the front and blocks on the rear before bolting on a set of 13 inch colour-coded Revolution alloys and removing the bumpers — all this within a day of bringing the car home, which instantly produced a far more aggressive look! In contrast, the interior was poor, the mis-matched seats had been torn and that 1500 lacked any usable power; something Danny had got used to driving around in his Capri. “I was struggling to keep up with my mates, driving to shows in convoy,” Danny laughs. “The lack of power became annoying and the steering bushes, track rod ends, and clutch master cylinder were all past it, too.” 

Now or never

As Danny had always intended to modify the Mk1, he decided this would be more beneficial to be done now rather than put it off until the winter and he wasn’t holding back. The worn interior was his first priority as it was really letting the side down at shows, though at least the asthmatic engine couldn’t be seen! 

mk1 cortina four door

“I stripped everything out including the seats and dash pad, just retaining the basic metal dash,” he explains. “I fabricated all four door cards and the parcel shelf from hardboard covered with black vinyl then installed a new headlining myself.” To add to the motorsport theme that Danny was now heading towards, he decided to bolt in a Safety Devices rear cage, resprayed to match the Cortina’s exterior of Spruce Green. A pair of period bucket seats supplied by Bad Boys Classics came next which now sit on adapted runners while a GPS speedo and three-spoke Mountney steering wheel all help to transform the spartan interior. At this stage the battery was relocated to the boot along with a Facet fuel pump which are both now housed in the bright green Lego box!

The Cortina could now hold its own at shows when parked up at least, but the driving part was still causing Danny some misery. 

“I decided to fit the 2-litre Pinto and Type-9 gearbox I’d removed from the Capri before its ST170 conversion,” he explains. “Though I had to change the sump on the Pinto to a front-bowl type to fit around the Cortina’s steering box and arms.” Unusually, Danny has decided to retain the original steering set-up instead of switching to rack-and-pinion, though polybushed steering bushes and new track rod ends have helped to improve the steering feel.

In readiness for the Pinto installation, Danny used the original engine mounting points but cleverly utilised Land Rover polybushed gearbox mounts instead which are more than up to the task. 

The five-speed gearbox now has an alloy bellhousing and uses a hydraulic clutch slave cylinder which saves having to convert the Cortina’s clutch pedal to accept a cable. Meanwhile, the original propshaft was found to be too short, so Danny had a new one fabricated by a specialist, mating the rear axle to the gearbox perfectly. 

mk1 cortina four door

Pinto power

The Pinto engine is, as you’d expect, far from standard. Danny’s mates who also happen to own some lairy old Fords don’t hang around travelling to shows, so somewhere around 150-200 bhp would be required just to keep up! The Pinto has been treated to a big-valve ported head, Burton Power high-lift cam, vernier pulley and the traditional choice of twin Weber 45 carbs. A Mk2 Escort heat-wrapped four-branch manifold and lightened flywheel also help out here, while the Capri’s previous Sportex exhaust was fabricated to fit with a few cuts and welds necessary. 

Effectively, Danny has swapped over as much as possible from his Capri’s previous set-up knowing it was a strong performer in that car and would work just as well in the Cortina. He was right too, with 175 bhp on tap there’s ample power to play with and it’s a real hoot to drive. 

With that extra grunt to play with, Danny also sensibly upgraded the brakes. Yet again, it would be the Capri’s previous braking system that would provide the solution with M16 callipers up front, while the original rear drums remain. 

Not everyone has the necessary parts needed lying around in their garage to transform their project as easily as it has been for Danny. You could even say that his previous Capri project has helped produce two stunning usable classics, as so many of the Cortina’s parts were sourced from that same car’s previous set-up. 

“I wanted to reach the stage the Cortina is now on a low budget and luckily most of the parts I already had,” Danny smiles. “This also meant I could also get things done quickly.” 

Project plans

Although he’s content with where things are right now Danny still has plans to fit an LSD along with anti-tramp bars to the rear axle while the brakes and suspension could be improved further. There’s also every chance an ST170 conversion could be carried out too after the success of his Capri. That’s if Danny hasn’t begun another totally different project already! 

Words and Photos Jon Cass

See more photos and get the full spec on Danny’s Mk1 Cortina four door in the February issue

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