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First started at the turn of the century, Mike Binning’s two-door’d, Mk5 Cortina Estate V8 has finally hit the streets, and thanks to some clever homebrewed tricks, is more than worth the wait.

mk5 cortina estate

Unless you’re heavily into your Canadian soft rock scene or have an OAP-style car insurance policy, then the word ‘saga’ will probably bring to mind a heroic tale of hard graft, struggle, suffering and sacrifice over a long period of time, along with ultimate victory… And that’s what we have here, with pictures of Mike Binning’s two-door converted, V8-engined, re-chassis’d Mk5 Cortina Estate, which after the grand total of 17 years is finally finished and featuring in its full glory in these pages. To put this in perspective, when Mike bought his Cortina, he was in his mid-20s and had no children… and now his eldest of two daughters, Becky, is old enough to drive a car herself. 

Mike also holds the accolade of being the only owner to have had two Grafters’ features in the mag on the same car…

mk5 cortina estate

To be fair to Mike, building this crazy and complicated piece of classic Ford engineering was always going to take a long time with a job to hold down and a family to bring up, and he never really set himself any deadlines to hit (or miss) either. But most importantly of all, over all those years he never gave up on the project.

The journey begins further back than 2001 too, as Mike was inspired to build this car after his first Cortina Estate, bought and modified from 1992 onwards, had died a rusty death. Several cars later, and with encouragement from his wife Helen, Mike would put in place a plan to relive his youth — but with bells on. 

Fresh challenge

“I’d been a mad-keen car builder and modifier from an early age,” Mike says, “but was sort-of getting ready to settle down with Helen, get on with a family and not have any major projects on the go… but she knew that wasn’t really me and I needed challenges, so when I mentioned getting another Estate, I was shoved straight in that direction. Without her encouragement this car would never have happened.”

The base for the build, a tidy four-door Mk5 Estate came into Mike’s life in 2001 from an elderly owner who had given up driving. The basic plan was always to pop a V8 under the bonnet and create a road-legal dragstrip car, and once the mega cost of a well-tuned Rover motor was compared to the low-price deals to be had on small-block Yank motors, keeping it Ford was easy. A partially seized Windsor 351cu.in V8 was duly sourced, ready for a full strip and rebuild at a later date.

Despite the Estate being a solid starting point, there was also going to be a fair bit of metal chopping and fabrication work involved to fit the Windsor, a big auto ’box and a huge Yank 9 inch narrowed rear axle — a task that would later develop further in to major reworking of the rear chassis and floor of the car to clear all the running gear and allow for the exhaust to sit up high for extra ground clearance. Tubbing the rear end was decided upon early on too, as Mike figured he’d rather fit the axle and some super-wide Revolution alloys within the car’s standard width than have to attempt bodywork mods to create wide arches.

As modest as he is when describing his bodyworking skills (which so far had been far excess of what 99.99% of the car builders could manage) as “not brilliant”, Mike’s next idea would prove any such claims to be total rubbish. “Having seen a couple of Mk3 Cortina Estates converted to two-doors, I thought I’d like to have a go at that,” he says, “mainly just for the aesthetics.”

So over the first few years, and with trial and error playing its part to the full, a pair of Mk4 two-door doors (the Estate version of the Mk5 having the low roofline of the earlier cars) and some body sections from a saloon were grafted in to place, along with some very fancy metal fab to make it look like Ford had decided to do a lesser-door version of the Mk5 wagon all along. In the words of Eric Morecambe, ‘you can’t see the join!’ where the repositioned B-pillars and long rear quarters have been put in place.

mk5 cortina estate

United eight

Check out the Tech Spec section for a full run down on the major mechanical upgrades Mike’s Cortina has gone through, but the mildly tuned Windsor (Holley four-barrel carb, ported and polished heads, custom exhaust to put it very succinctly) is pushing near to 300 bhp, which is fed through the C5 autobox and custom prop to the narrowed and five-linked 9 inch axle. The suspension is based around some AVO coil-overs, custom mounted at the rear, with a 24 mm Granada front arb conversion at the front and a completely bespoke arb set up at the rear.

Braking is massively improved with Wilwood Dynalite callipers gripping 298 mm vented discs at the front and Citroen BX front callipers have been converted for the rear axle, which grab Mercedes 420SE solid discs. A Land Rover master cylinder is aided by a new Girling servo and the system is biased by a Wilwood adjuster valve, while the rear end can be spun up easily by activating the Biondo Racing line lock solenoid.

For an in-depth run-down on the entire build, check out Mike’s website www.Mk5cortinaestate.co.uk, but allow a few hours to digest the full extent of the work that’s gone in to this radically modified long-roofer. Getting to grips with the complex chassis work is a great read, and just realising how many subtle tweaks and innovations he’s carried out is pretty awesome.

mk5 cortina estate

Snagging sessions

As with any build, especially one of this timescale, there have been a few teething problems since the Cortina hit the road in anger… Clearance for the steering linkage, a leaking diff (in four places), an annoying clonk from the custom rear anti-roll bar and some 17-year old ‘new’ tyres trying to pull themselves apart where the radial bands had broken up, are just some of the gremlins that have been encountered. All these will be sorted before Mike finally gets to test the Mk5’s full potential during the race/show season.

“As a road car, it drives extremely well,” he reports, “in fact, far better than I was expecting. But the real test will be on the strip. Weighing in at less than 1300 kg, I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t do a low 12-second run straight off, and then we’ll see where we go from there. I just can’t wait to Christen the car at the Pod!”

The saga ends. 

Words Marc Stretton

Photos Gerard Hughes

See more photos and get the full spec on Mike’s Mk5 Cortina Estate in the March 2018 issue

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