GRAFTERS: Mk3 Cortina
Your projects: James’ Cortina is more Big Cat than Blue Oval, the Mk3 being saved from the scrapper thanks to a healthy dose of Jaguar XKR space, pace and grace.
Ford on top, Jaguar underneath.
“SIMPLE IS NOT A WORD TO DESCRIBE THIS PROJECT, AS THE PLANNING, FABRICATION AND REWORKING IS FAR BEYOND MOST PEOPLES’ IMAGINATIONS”
Approaching James’s Mk3 Cortina, you’d not see too much more than a solid looking Mk3 project well under way. Open the bonnet and the first question asked would be… how did you fit that Jaguar supercharger on a Ford V6? But despite the Cosworth badges on the engine that’s no BOA, it’s the whole V8 engine from a big cat XKR, as is the chassis, floorpan, suspension, brakes, and transmission. Yes, in simple terms this build is a Mk3 Cortina body grafted (no pun intended) on to the platform of the 400 bhp supercharged Jag’s platform. ‘Simple’ however is possibly the most incorrect word to describe this car, as the, planning, fabrication and complex reworking of the car is far beyond most peoples’ imaginations and capabilities, with the only metalwork on the Cortina unaltered in some way being the roof panel.
All four wings are stretched to fit the Jag’s width, the floorpan and chassis was shortened to fit the Ford’s length and the front end had to be radically stretched to fit in not one, but four, radiators and two oil coolers. Then there’s the electronics and electrics to figure out, and the details of the final finish to plot, source parts for and put together.
And somehow James has got to this stage of the build in less than 12 months so far with his completion time intention being a run down Santa Pod’s strip come the Classic Ford Show on June 4. We can’t wait to see that!
How did you even come to think of this project?
It wasn’t planned like this! My initial thoughts were to see how easy it would be to get the complete Jag engine into a Cortina, with thoughts of replacing the Cossie in one of my other Mk3s… and things just went from there.
So why the Jag engine?
A friend who is in the recovery business pulled in the donor XKR, which had been hit in the back, then smashed into the car in front and had a whack in the side for good measure. The car was wrecked but then 400 bhp engine was undamaged, so it seemed like a good idea to see what could be done with it.
Where did the green 1600XL come in to the story?
I’d owned the car for many years, having bought it as a spares source for my other Cortina. It was very far gone, but I couldn’t bring myself to scrap it. The plan was merely to use this as a mule to work out if a V8 engine transplant was possible. When the idea for using the complete Jag base came in, it made sense to use the green car rather than chopping about a solid Mk3.
And just how do you go about grafting a Cortina body onto a Jaguar platform?
As far as the fabrication goes, I used the Jaguar’s front end complete, but shortened it. The main floorpan is Jag too, with some complex metalwork to tie it in to the Cortina sills. The boot floor is completely new metal with some trailer arches made in to wheel tubs.
No, not by a long way... The Jaguar rear axle is 8 inches wider than the Cortina, so the rear doors, arches and quarter panels have been pulled out 4 inches each side, by cutting, pulling and infilling strips of new metal. The front wings needed to be stretched out 2 inches each side too, and are mounted on massively reworked inner wings.
Then there’s the wheelbase, which luckily isn’t too far away from the Cortina’s, and fits through slight extension and reshaping of the wheelarch profiles.
So the running gear is all Jaguar?
Yes, all the suspension, power steering, the automatic gearbox, right through to the rear axle. And that means I’ve kept all the electronics too, so it’ll have all the modern driver aids like ABS and traction control. The wiring loom is the Jag one too, with an additional handmade loom added in for the lighting circuit.
And you’ve kept the engine standard?
Internally yes, but I have played with the management, induction, and exhaust systems, then changed the supercharger pulley and added a bigger intercooler. I’m hoping that will add 20-25 percent, so maybe 500 bhp?
“THE HARDEST PART HAS BEEN KEEPING THE SHELL LOOKING AS STANDARD AS POSSIBLE I DON’T WANT TO LOSE THE WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING LOOK”
Talking of cooling, what’s with the number of radiators?
There’s the normal water cooling radiator, plus ones for the auto gearbox, the supercharger and the power steering! Add to that two oil coolers and it gets a bit tight under the front. I didn’t want to lengthen the front wings, but the lower valance is extended forward 4 inches to create a bit more room.
How will the final external look be?
The front-end is already sorted with a front-hinged bonnet and lots of holes and mesh to allow more airflow through the engine bay. I’m going for a Fern Green respray, and a standard look with the chrome and the single headlamps so the car will surprise a few people. One nice touch is that the wing badges light up orange as side repeaters… this was done for a trick look, but also to extinguish an annoying dashboard warning that came up without them!
The wheels look good too. What are they?
They’re some late steels banded to 10 inches at the front and 11 inches at the rear with Toyo Proxes tyres all round.
And on the inside?
The idea is to get the Jag clocks and other instrumentation into the original Cortina sloping dash. There’s a lot of space issues though, solved partly by moving the heater system to behind the rear seats — which are fakes now with the Cortina’s rear covers on board to look the part. The front seats are from a Mercedes CLK and the cabin will be fully carpeted.
Stupid question, but what has been the hardest part so far?
Probably getting the wings to stretch so far, while trying to keep the shell looking as original as possible. I don’t want the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing idea to be given away by an obvious wide-body look.
What do you see the Cortina being used for?
I’ll be out in it quite a bit rather than just on special occasions, and all being well it should drive as well as the original Jag would have. And then there’s Crail dragstrip up here in Scotland and Santa Pod to have some fun at.
And you definitely aim on being at the 2017 Classic Ford Show?
Oh yes, that really shouldn’t be a problem. The plan was initialised about 12 months ago, but the real work only began after Classic Ford Show 2016, and most of the hard graft is finished, so watch this space!
Anyone you’d like to thank so far?
Yes, George Barclay (aka Moustache) for much help, James Balmain for the help and allowing me to use his excellent workshop, and last but not least, Rab Norrie from RAB Recovery for supplying the XKR donor car (07752 572309)
Name: James Drummond Age: 52 Job: Motor mechanic Location: Fife
Car: Mk3 Cortina 1600XL Start condition: Rusted-out spares car Condition now: Solid body having had major reconstruction with all running gear in Time taken so far: 12 months Estimated date of completion: Classic Ford Show 2017
Nifty steels with trim rings will help keep the sleeper look.
James originally planned to see if the XKR’s supercharged V8 would fit,. It did, but then he got carried away...
Jag clocks will be mounted in the Mk3’s distinctive dash — he couldn’t really get rid of that now, could he? The rear seat covers are staying, but you can’t sit on them — the cooling system is now hidden behind!
Boot floor is now flat. Note the much bigger tubs to accommodate the 11 inch-wide steel wheels.
Cortina’s Atlas rear end has been swapped for the full Jaguar set-up.
Powered by Cosworth (with some help from Ford and Jaguar).
Mesh numberplate aids cooling.