After almost a decade, Racin’ Jason is back behind the wheel of a Mk2 Cortina — only this one is being shared with his son, TJ.
I can’t believe it’s been nearly 10 years since I had a classic Ford in the family garage! All of that has now just changed very quickly. During my hiatus away, many new car paths have been explored, but recently one led me back here. Back to one very dejected, and unloved 1969 Mk2 Cortina 440 saloon.
This time, the classic Ford dance for me includes an offsider, a side kick, a partner in greasy crime — my 13-year old son, Tomas, or TJ as he likes to be known. He’s a car-kid, armed with all manner of car knowledge learnt from Xbox Forza Horizon, car magazines, YouTube and asking me more car-related questions than any of you can fathom.
The reality of this build is that the Cortina we now have is his car not mine, and I am here to oversee and educate TJ as we build it. The two of us have talked a lot about a project car for him, and he and I had been secretly building a considerable cash stash for the right occasion. We have been hitting swapmeets and buying parts and flipping them over, and recently sold on some scrap ’60s Mazdas for a tidy profit to help the car fund along. The time to buy was right.
We spotted a Mk2 Cortina by chance about an hour out of Adelaide, South Australia in a rural town called Murray Bridge. The owner told us it had been in a barn for over 15 years and was roof to sump covered in bush dust and dirt. An old goat had been sleeping on the bonnet, and had headbutted the front ’screen after getting spooked by its own reflection! It was complete, needed a lot of work, but the price was too good to ignore.
We cannonballed up for a look, cash in hand, and wild build plans soon started flying around the family car. Once there, it was apparent the car was very solid, with only surface rust and a whole lot of weathering. It was a genuine 440, 1600, long stick four-speed car that had what appeared to be a genuine 83,000 km (51,500 miles) on the clock. Everything was there, except the front ’screen, but at the same time it all needed a whole lot of love.
The exterior was peppered with gusto by Mother Nature, but the patina is perfect because it’s only reserved to the surface. Inside the seats were shot, but the dash is all there, and the structure is sound. Suspension and brakes need a full going over, but it’s all there to work with.
Under the bonnet, the old 1600 looked tired. Funny thing is, it also looks as if it would run with quick slurp of fuel, and that four-speed ’box is swapping cogs cleanly which is a good sign. There is a ton of work to do, but it’s complete, and that is always a great place to start.
TJ circled the car like a pro, stopping to touch and inspect as he moved. He opened the door, and copped a big whiff of old crusty goat smell and retreated quickly. It was fascinating to watch this young kid absorb this dejected old car before him. He swiped the surface rust like a panel beater, poked the seats like a trimmer, and rubbed his face while looking at the engine bay like a seasoned mechanic. Very little escaped his ever-exploring gaze.
Finally, after much silence, he took me aside and enthusiastically said ‘It’s pretty cool, Dad! Let’s leave the outside like it is, and build a street rat rod that way we don’t have to paint it!’. A small tear of pride leaked out. TJ had made the transition to car enthusiast. He could see through the grease and grime of the 49-year old car, and see the potential that many his age would overlook.
We did the deal on the spot, and loaded up the Mk2 for the long-haul home.
Our budget is modest, and we will do some scrounging and hard work to get the parts and money we need. It’s going to be an exercise as much about reviving the car as it is teaching TJ about recycling, repurposing and being entrepreneurial to reach the goals with the car. We are aiming to build a street-driven rat rod. Our intention is to create a car that is fun, reliable and allows us to spend more time together cruising and having a laugh.
I can’t believe I have another Cortina back in the O’Halloran family driveway. 2018 is a great time to be a classic Ford enthusiast, and what better way to share it than with my son, Tomas. I hope you like what we create!
This article first appeared in the June issue of Classic Ford