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With a track record of finishing project cars that’s less than exemplary, Simon waits four years to introduce the newest one — a 1963 Mk1 Cortina.

1963 mk1 cortina

First a confession: I’ve owned this car for over four years, yet this is the first time it’s appeared in the magazine. Why? Because with my track record, I knew only too well that not much was going to happen to it… With this first instalment kicking things off though, I’m hoping there’s going to be some Mk1-based movement in 2019.

Back in the autumn of 2014, when I knew my previous Corsair project wasn’t going to get finished (at least in my ownership), I began to look around for something needing less work and cash, and sure enough, Retro Ford’s Dave Colledge had just such the thing.

Dave owns more Mk1 Cortinas than anyone I know of, but at that point even he realised he might have a few too many, so knowing my particular penchant for the early ones (not just pre-Aeroflow, but the strip speedo versions), he suggested I might like to buy his Ermine White 1963 Mk1 Cortina Deluxe off him.

Despite being a right-hand-drive Dagenham-built car, it appeared to have spent most of its life in The Netherlands, Belgium, France and even Spain, and the bodywork had survived remarkably well — as too had the brightwork and even some of the hard-to-replace stuff like the original floormats.

Baby elephant

Now the elephant in the room: when Dave bought the car, the 1200 engine was seized, and not having another one lying around (and let’s be honest, who does?), he dropped in a late 997 Anglia engine instead, that just happened to be gathering dust in the corner of his unit.

1963 mk1 cortina

So yes, I own probably the world’s only 1-litre Mk1 Cortina. I’d love to be able to tell you how utterly gutless it is to drive, and how exiting every seemingly-clear junction induces heart-stopping moments as a 7.5-tonner looms ever closer to the rear bumper… Only I can’t because, I’ve never driven it.

After staying in Dave’s unit for a further two-and-a-half years, the car was dropped off outside my lock-up, I pushed it inside and that’s where it’s remained for the last 18 months.

1963 mk1 cortina

At some point down the line, the 1700 Crossflow I’d sidelined for the stillborn Corsair project will be going in, along with a host of other parts I seem to have collected over the years including a 2000E ’box, disc brake front struts, Lotus steels, some old lowback Corbeaus to replace the knackered originals until I can afford to get them recovered.

Even an early GT column-mounted rev counter that I’d completely forgotten I had until a box fell on my head while moving stuff around, and lo and behold, there it was.

1963 mk1 cortina

Before that though, I want to get the Cortina running and MoT’d with the 997, not just because I’m curious to experience just how slow it will be, but also because I have an idea for a roadtrip. One where only ninehundredandninetyseven cubic centimetres will do.

Thanks to: Retro Dave for selling me the car, Dusty at Lohrspeed for always-awesome car transportation services (07502 292116), and Pete Fitzpatrick for supplying the Corbeaus

This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of the magazine.

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