What’s cooler than a Mk1 Cortina from the year England won the World Cup? An incredibly low, ‘South London look’ Mk1 Cortina from the year England won the World Cup, that’s what. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then read on.
The genesis of this build can actually be traced to the Alfa Romeo GT Junior, a car we built for the owner of this Cortina and along a similar design brief. Indeed the original plan for the pretty little Italian coupe was to make it a fast, fun, everyday classic, and while the resultant car undoubtedly fulfils the opening two portions of the brief with ease, the addition of a barking Millington and Sadev sequential means that it’s ever so slightly too hardcore to be driven daily.
So, in essence the Cortina has become the car the Alfa Romeo was originally intended to be, namely something which oozes old school cool while still being reliable enough to be used in all seasons. The owner also commutes into central London on a regular basis, and so Cortina-based excursions to the capital were on the cards from the very beginning.
Much of our initial time and effort was spent in thoroughly ridding the shell of rot, as well as rectifying the countless parking ‘dings’ and panel dents which littered the car. We also re-skinned the doors and invested in an array of replacement bodywork pieces from Expressed Panels, chiefly the sills, floor pans, lower rear-quarters, boot floor and spare wheel well and front valance.
Other fabrication tasks were centred upon making the completed car turn on a dime and stop on a sixpence (other currencies are available), which is how it came to have Escort type front suspension and associated geometry. This required us to extend the inner wings and top-mounts inwards, towards the engine. This has in turn allowed us to run the Escort type Bilstein struts and control arms at the correct, Escort camber, while a modified World Cup style crossmember means rack and pinion steering instead of the standard steering box arrangement.
As standard the Cortina’s chassis layout leaves much to be desired, with a large, chassis leg-free space between the back of the front seats and the rear bulkhead being the primary area of weakness. We’ve addressed this by adding sectons of punched and flared box section, with sections both inside and underneath the car. These effectively form a single, unbroken chassis leg running from the front of the car to the rear, which, when twinned with the fully seam-welded shell, makes for a seriously stiff shell indeed.
We were keen to retain the essential ‘feel’ of a hot Cortina despite our wholescale alterations which is what convinced us to retain its live axle configuration, albeit in a modified form. In practice this entailed placing an additional brace bar running the length of the original English axle as well as diagonal reinforcers triangulating the inner three-quarters and boot, which gives a setup very similar to those used on competition Lotus Cortinas in period.
Power comes from a 2.3l Cosworth Duratec, an engine originally intended for a high-spec Caterham CSR build but since ‘liberated’ for Cortina propulsion duties. Roller-barrel throttle bodies and MBE management, not to mention a gorgeous twin-box custom exhaust system (with removable centre section for additional noise at a later date) and manifold. Power is approximately 250bhp, which is plenty given that the whole car weighs the square route of naff all!
Presentation and aesthetic perfection have long been Retropower calling cards and the Cortina delivers on both. The interior was inspired by classic café racers and features low-back carbon bucket seats, carefully applied swathes of leather patterned to pay homage to the Cortina originals, and much else besides. Click the link below this page to view our Cortina video for a full, detailed rundown of our changes.
Alfa Romeo Juniper Grey dominates the exterior, a hue chosen for its ability to best foreground the Mk1 Cortina’s timeless lines, less is more styling and hard-as-nails stance. Oh, and old school deep-dish steel wheels complete the look, the owner having specified them in black and with elongated studs and contrasting gold nuts. The devil, as they say, lies in the detail, and we’re on first name terms.