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A bigger engine, gearbox and axle mean lots of extra work for Ben and his Mk1 Cortina project, but he can finally see the end of the main fabrication work in sight.

Well, it’s still bloody cold— I really must build myself a workshop heater! Another month’s progress, and overall I’m dead chuffed with how I’m getting on, although I’m getting through some sheet steel!

Following on from my last update, where I fabricated up the gearbox tunnel, I soon discovered that I needed to raise the entire tunnel (centre of the car) to accommodate a tall gearbox, a chunky axle, and a super low ride height.


So after folding up and tack welding in the larger gearbox tunnel I soon had a diff tunnel made in the same style. Once I’d trimmed and tacked this in, the propshaft tunnel became self explanatory, so I set about fabricating this to finish the raise. This proved a little tricky as I wanted to retain the original handbrake mechanism, both for day-to-day practically and MoT purposes.

mk1 cortina project

So after cutting out the old section I unpicked, cleaned, converted the threads to metric and finally reused the handbrake mounting brackets. This was time consuming and fiddly but it all helps towards the sympathetic style/look I’m aiming toward for the car’s metalwork. Once happy the new fabricated sections would give me the room I need, even at full bump on the suspension, the three tunnels were final-trimmed and stitch-welded into position.

Feeling relieved the car was now free of huge holes, I then fabricated a gearbox mount much in the same way as last month’s engine mounts.

Another huge milestone reached! This was the last of the big holes/heavy fabrication work (or so I thought). It also meant that the various braces, supports and axle stands could come out, and the car could go down on its own weight again. Strong and at ride height!

This is important during a big project, as it allows a proper tidy up, helps with morale, and gives a good chance to check clearances… or as is often the case with low cars, lack of!

Once on the ground, I started to add some strength to the cage, further tying it into the shell in the A and B-pillars. Hand-formed, these not only add strength and help hold things where they should be, they also look pretty once welded in and painted!

More decisions

After much deliberation, and a few chats over a cuppa to friend and expert axle builder, Andy at Arrow Engineering it was decided I’d use an Atlas axle albeit heavily reworked and strengthened.

10 minutes online found me a grubby and fairly rusty donor axle from a Mk3 Capri with my preferred 3.44-ratio crownwheel and pinion, chosen for its healthy cruising ability. It was soon collected and dropped of at Arrow Engineering, and a plan was hatched.

A call a short while after and Andy had worked his magic, with the diff stripped out and carefully stored awaiting the rebuild. Andy supplied me a much healthier-looking, thick-tubed, double-pinned and heavy-duty axle casing, at my choice of length ready for yet more fabrication to get it under the car. I’m made up with it.

Rear support

The last real big decision to make for the car is what to do with the axle, as the predicted power output is maybe going to be a bit much for 55 year-old leaf springs! With so many options available from single leaf springs with anti-tramp bars to four, five or six-link set-ups, I feel I need further advice from chassis guru, Gary Martin, so a call to him is in order, as although as the Cortina is predominantly a road car, I’d like to futureproof it. And it would be nice from time to time to actually put some of the predicated power to the Tarmac!

This article on Ben’s Mk1 Cortina project first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue.

Catch up with more updates on Ben’s Mk1 Cortina and all the Classic Ford project cars here

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