In­cred­i­ble GT all the way from the USA.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS - Words Marc Stretton Pho­tos Matt Jones

Jerry Peters was born to be a petrol­head… lit­er­ally. He en­tered the world in June 1949 — the same week the first ever NASCAR ‘Strictly Stock’ rac­ers bat­tled round Char­lotte Speed­way, North Carolina and his God­mother, Joyce Clark, was the first NASCAR tim­ing and scor­ing of­fi­cial. By age four, Jerry was a reg­u­lar at­tendee at his lo­cal race­track in Jack­sonville, Florida, and dreamed of be­ing a rac­ing driver — an am­bi­tion he would achieve years later as a keen am­a­teur af­ter a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in busi­ness al­lowed him to foster his love of fast cars.

To­day, Jerry has a man-cave chocked full of the most in­cred­i­ble ma­chin­ery from the States and Europe, in­clud­ing an im­pres­sive line-up of Porsches. But there’s one car among the realms of ex­ot­ica that he rates as his favourite… and that’s an im­mac­u­late and unas­sum­ing Mk1 Cortina GT.

This is no or­di­nary Old English White Sun­day driver though, as un­der the skin Jerry’s sub­tle GT packs a 508 bhp V8 pow­er­plant, run­ning through a six-speed box to a hy­brid Jaguar/Ford 9 inch rear end. This car isn’t just a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing, it’s a pack of them!

Lo­tus ef­fect

The story starts back in 1965, when a young Jerry wit­nessed a piece of ma­chin­ery that would change his view on UK cars for­ever.

“I was a de­liv­ery boy mak­ing my rounds in Jack­sonville,” Jerry be­gins, “and was walk­ing a se­ries of bends we called Dead Man’s Curves when a Pon­tiac GTO came rac­ing down the road, quickly fol­lowed by a car I’d never seen be­fore. It looked like a shrunken Fal­con and I thought ‘what the hell?’ as it over­took the GTO and sped off into the dis­tance show­ing me a glimpse of those crazy ‘ban the bomb’ tail lamps.”

“I headed off in the di­rec­tion the mys­tery car had gone and at the lo­cal teen hang­out, near where I worked, there it was. One of the rich kids from school owned what I then learned was a Mk1 Lo­tus Cortina from the UK. And my amaze­ment in­ten­si­fied as he lifted the hood to re­veal a four-cylin­der mo­tor. I’d imag­ined the car had to have had a 289 V8 or some­thing sim­i­lar to the Sun­beam Alpine Tigers that were com­ing in to the USA at the time.

“Right there I promised my­self I’d own one of these Corti­nas one day,” Jerry notes “and I fig­ured I’d make mine the way it should have been done by the fac­tory… with a V8, of course. It was a dis­tant dream for a 16-year-old whose cur­rent wheels were a Model A Ford ca­pa­ble of about 50 mph flat out…”

That dream would take over four decades to be­come re­al­ity.

“I ended up with a Mk2 Lo­tus Cortina,” Jerry says, “but that model just wasn’t right. I wanted the curves, the fins and those rear lamps. Then a mint 23,000-mile Mk1 GT, that had come in to the USA from Canada turned up on the hori­zon

and my heart was set on own­ing it… although that would take sev­eral years of chas­ing the GT round the coun­try and through sev­eral own­ers. In 2011, I tracked the car down to Santa Bar­bara and did a swap in­volv­ing a Bent­ley that had once been owned by Vanna White — the long-run­ning host­ess on the USA’s ver­sion of Wheel Of For­tune. Fi­nally, the car was mine and I en­joyed a cou­ple of years of stock mo­tor­ing, col­lect­ing up parts along the way, be­fore my V8 dreams just had to be­come re­al­ity!”

“And the Cortina was as good as it promised,” Jerry re­ports. “So good, I nearly made some en­e­mies. Hav­ing joined the Mk1 club, I told them I in­tended rad­i­cally mod­i­fy­ing the car. One mem­ber wanted me black-balled from the club, but I made amends by of­fer­ing all the low-mileage run­ning gear from the Cortina at a very cheap price to a UK en­thu­si­ast.”


Jerry’s plan was car­ried out by a good friend and renowned Mus­tang race and drag car builder, Johnny Rid­dling. The Cortina was stripped to a bare shell, and me­dia blast­ing re­vealed zero… none… zilch, rust any­where. As it was go­ing to be a se­ri­ously pow­er­ful car, Johnny then got on with build­ing a be­spoke run­ning gear that would han­dle the horse­power.

One well-trod­den path in the cus­tom world is to mod­ify a Mus­tang front-end, for the steer­ing, cross­mem­ber and sus­pen­sion, so this was car­ried out, but get­ting it to all fit in to this UK shell was a mas­sive chal­lenge. The rear end was no eas­ier as the cho­sen Ford 9 inch axle is around 6 inches too wide. The axle was chopped, welded, braced and linked by tun­ing firm Hei­dts with a Jaguar in­board cal­liper set-up us­ing Wil­wood four pots to com­ple­ment the Wil­wood six-pot set-up at the front.

Other fab­ri­ca­tion tasked in­cluded weld­ing in a roll cage which links front and rear un­der the car, rout­ing for a twin ex­haust side-exit sys­tem, link boxes for the rad­i­cal Jag-style rear end and stretch­ing the rear arches slightly to get the 7 and 8 inch-wide cus­tom-made wheels and tyres to fit. With the met­al­work com­plete, fresh coats of Old English White paint were re­laid on the GT and



fit­ting up could be­gin… the main fea­ture of which was of course, the al­ways-promised V8, which would be mated to a Mag­num T56 six-speed trans­mis­sion which, amaz­ingly, fit­ted in the orig­i­nal tun­nel per­fectly.

“The first thought was for a 289, as I’d al­ways planned,” Jerry says, “but then we re­alised that a 347 stro­ker en­gine would fit. With Inglése fuel in­jec­tion and cus­tom ex­hausts the power out­put has been dyno’d at 508 bhp, which in a car weigh­ing less than 2000 lb (around 900 kg) is plenty! The en­gine does sound in­cred­i­ble too, and I have no idea how fast the Cortina re­ally will be… but I’ve done 120 mph and had two gears left to use. I’ll set­tle for wicked fast!”

In­side de­tails

Fin­ish­ing off the car the trim is as clean and per­fect as the rest of the build. In­side the orig­i­nal GT seats were stripped and re­built with bol­sters, and the speedo is a GPS unit with a 200 mph face, while the gauges are ’60s F1 and GT40 repli­cas to give the Cortina a pe­riod racer feel.

Out­side, re­tain­ing all the chrome­work, and run­ning the GT cus­tom-made Lo­tus style 7 and 8 inch rims with dished chrome hub­caps is all part of the truth-hid­ing il­lu­sion that Jerry and Johnny have pulled off with this Cortina. It’s be­cause the car looks so sub­tle un­til you look un­der the skin, that has made it an in­stant hit with show crowds dur­ing 2016. And the big boys have been tak­ing no­tice too, as Ford is hop­ing to get Jerry and his GT to the SEMA Show in Las Ve­gas in 2017… and if you’re an Amer­i­can car nut, there’s no greater place to be than that, even if you’ve waited 50 years for it!

Af­ter be­ing in­spired by the an­tics of a Mk1 Lo­tus in the ’60s, Jerry’s fi­nally re­alised his dream early Cortina.

Jerry’s clev­erly kept the over­all feel and look of the clas­sic GT in­te­rior, but al­most ev­ery­thing has been up­graded. By pure fluke, the shifter for the T56 ’box ex­its through the orig­i­nal aper­ture.

Re-bol­stered GT seats wear Bri­tish Wil­lans har­nesses.

GT dash now has more mod­ern, clas­sic look gauges.

Frostie drinks chiller nes­tles be­tween two spare wheels where the back seat would have been.

The stro­ker Ford V8 (just) nes­tles within the in­ner wings — un­derneath which now sits Mus­tang sus­pen­sion.

Jerry’s GT is a def­i­nite sleeper, even with the roll cage on show, which is ac­tu­ally linked to the front and rear sus­pen­sion.

Cus­tom-made steels fol­low the clas­sic Lo­tus style but are 8x15 on the rear.

Ex­hausts exit on both sides and sound in­cred­i­ble!

Jag-style rear end is based around a much-short­ened Ford 9 inch axle and in­cludes in­board disc brakes!

Cool flip-top filler cap hides an elec­tri­cal take-off.

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