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Fire in the hole! Well, there will be when the new powerplant is installed and running in the unsuspecting engine bay of Ben’s Mk1 Cortina.

The Cortina is home once more, and sat up on axle stands level awaiting its new powerplant.

After some deliberation, I’ve gone for a Honda F20C engine – these are found in the S2000; mine being from the earlier, more powerful AP1 version from 2001 and chosen for a few reasons: I’ve enjoyed loads of success with these engines in both normally-aspirated and boosted form in a previous cars, and I feel it’s well suited to the Mk1 Cortina race car idea I have in my head.

These engines are all-alloy in design with a steel crank and rods, and forged pistons from the factory. They deliver 240 bhp in standard unstressed form, and I know they love a bit of forced induction with very little work. A massive bonus is they come with a beautiful all-alloy (albeit tall) six-speed gearbox. All that’s left then is to make the engine go in the hole!

I’ve fitted one before in a previous build, so I knew there are some heavy sump surgery to be done, to allow the engine to sit as low and as far back as possible in the Cortina’s surprisingly spacious engine bay, so as seems to be the norm recently, out came the grinder!

Mounting Pressure

Nothing is available off the shelf in the way of a chassis mount kit for a Mk1 Cortina, so I set about fabricating some, first ordering a tube and bush kit, then simply fabricating the rest up using heavy gauge steel plate.

This always feels like a huge milestone in a car build, getting an alien engine to fit nice and on its mounts, but once this was in, offering up the gearbox soon showed me that getting the propshaft down under the tunnel, and back up again was going to be very tight. This is down to the sheer height of the Honda gearbox, and the fact the axle is so high up in the car due to its low ride height. So after bolting the gearbox up and supporting the rear of it with an axle stand, once again out came the grinder and in true Gary Martin fashion the car was cut from the bulkhead to the boot floor right down the middle.

mk1 cortina

This seems quite excessive, but it will allow me to raise the entire tunnel to make room for the taller gearbox, the larger and higher propshaft, and the incoming larger diff/axle set-up and in a way that it will be shaped to keep it sympathetic to the lines and shape of the Cortina.

Out came the sheets of steel, and I set about fabricating and shaping up a set of new tunnels. After playing around and experimenting for a few hours I was left with a new gearbox, propshaft and diff tunnel with the same shape and curved radius as the Cortina originally had – just much more accommodating. Time to fire up the welder, and start closing up some of the holes in the old girl!

Another busy month, but it’s moving in the right direction, and next time I’ll aim for all the tunnel to be welded in, the gearbox mount fabricated, I’ll decide on an axle and start thinking about what seats – as I’m not sure the 50 year old ones are going to hold me in too well!

This article first appeared in the March 2020 issue of Classic Ford.

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