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No stranger to the feature car pages of Classic Ford, prolific project car builder, Ben Szanto and his pre-Aeroflow Mk1 Cortina join the Classic Ford fleet.

mk1 cortina

Some of you may know this car already — it appeared on the front cover of this very magazine back in the Summer 2016 issue. It was the car a bunch of mates and myself built up for my good mate Darren in a rushed but epic four-day build for the Classic Ford Show the same year. The Mk1 was a nice and tidy Zetec-powered car back then, but by the time it was offered to me last year, it was looking a little tired.

In fact, it had never actually turned a wheel in anger since that initial build, as Darren changed direction with it multiple times but never managed to get it on the road, and then eventually lost heart with it.

mk1 cortina

It was understandable, so I rescued the Cortina out of Darren’s garden after it spent two years sitting under a tree. It was then dragged to my workshop where it was pressure-washed, so that I could see what I was looking at again properly — which at that point was just a bare shell with glass and a rear axle in place. This was just six weeks before the 2019 Classic Ford Show.

To be honest, I mainly saved the car because I felt attached to it. After all, to us lot as mates building it at the time, we had a good laugh together and we all grafted to get it roadworthy in the first place. Also, the car still looked hard as nails in my eyes!

A quick one

At this point, I’d never actually driven a Mk1 Cortina in anger… I’m usually strictly an Escort man, so I was worried about turning it into a build that would take years to complete (as they often do) only to find out that I didn’t like how it felt compared to what I’m used to.

mk1 cortina

With that in mind, I decided to build the car up quickly, just as it was originally. But this time round I chose to use a complete front end set up from Dave at Retro Ford. It was simple to fit and good quality, so for the running gear to match, I bought a cheap Mazda MX-5 donor car for the complete rear-drive engine set-up and running gear, along with a set of decent split-rims that I scabbed off a mate.

It all went together quite easily and at the same time I added a basic turbo set-up to increase the fun factor. And after all my worries, it turned out I absolutely loved the way the car drove.

mk1 cortina

Although the Mazda engine worked hard and felt great, 200 bhp simply isn’t enough in an old Ford for me. So after a summer of fun, I think it’s time to pull the car apart and show it some proper love. After all the years laying around neglected, plus two rushed builds, it’s showing signs of rust in places, plus I managed to smash the sump last time out, although the engine didn’t suffer as I caught it in time.

But I am looking elsewhere for a big-power, four-cylinder alternative now, and I’ll be fitting a sump guard of some type this time as I like my cars low. And from my previous project cars, I think I know exactly where to look for some four-pot turbo power…

This article first appeared in the November 2019 issue of the magazine – why not take out a subscription to make sure you don’t miss out? Subscribe to Classic Ford magazine this Christmas and get 13 issues for just £39.99! Check out our Christmas subscription offers here: