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With the body turning out to be pleasingly pretty solid, Ben takes the plunge and gets a roll cage made up for his classic Ford Cortina in readiness for the planned power hike.

ford cortina

Argh! Its been a funny old month in my workshop this month. After getting all excited stripping the car to a rolling shell, it was time to spend a little time on it for once. And assess the shell properly.

ford cortina

Having being open to the elements for five years, I was worried the state it may be in, however, she’s held up well! The majority of the rust appears to be in the front floorpans and outriggers — these had been poorly-repaired in the past, and were now well past their sell by date!

That said, a thorough clean up of the floor left me pleasantly surprised, and a couple of hours checking and cleaning the underside of the shell revealed the only areas needed were the floors and a pair of sills.

The one thing I did notice, is unlike an Escort, a lack of front to rear chassis means these cars certainly aren’t very strong! And definitely not at the power level I’m aiming for!

After seeking advice from Mk1 Cortina guru, Dave Colledge and chassis and suspension expert, Gary Martin, I knew the car was going to need a serious roll cage. So full of enthusiasm, I ordered a couple of sheets of steel, some discs, put the car level on a stand and cut out the front floors and gearbox tunnel.

Then bosh! My welder quite spectacularly packed in after 10 years’ hard work! As usual, these things happen when you need them most.

ford cortina

This prompted some frantic research and advice from like-minded mates, and I was put into contact with Rtech welding equipment, who were awesome and advised me further — 36 hours later a very excited me took delivery of a brand new MIG set-up, and then we were cooking on gas…

Cage fight

This didn’t leave me with much time before the car had to be at Arc Autosport for her roll cage slot, and after dropping her off looking a little sorry for itself I had a lengthy chat with Sam, the guy doing the cage. I left it there feeling all nervous. Some 10 days of anticipation, and the call came to say it was ready to collect.

ford cortina

To say I was made up is an understatement! Sam had delivered perfectly and I had a full weld-in, race car cage, tied into all the suspension loading points with a few tweaks to make it more practical and usable for the road, so I’m happy the 55-year-old family car has a whole load of strength in her now!

In typical me fashion I didn’t rest while the car was away and sourced a clean, low-mileage chunk of Japanese reliability, so this, along with its gearbox will be finding it’s way in between the inner wings in the coming months.

The next big part to make decisions on is the rear axle, as there are a few options. It does however need to put up with a whole load of power, as the original English axle’s crownwheel and pinion is a notorious weak point north of 200 bhp.

mk1 cortina

All in all its been a productive, if very expensive month, with plenty of progress made, but as is always the way plenty still to do!

This article on Ben’s classic Ford Cortina first appeared in the January 2020 issue of Classic Ford

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