Mid­night Ex­press

Fin­ished in rare Jet Black, this Aussie GT has sur­vived the race track and a bush­fire, and is now re­born as a Lo­tus­pow­ered, af­ter-hours street ma­chine.

Classic Ford - - MK1 CORTINA - Words Ja­son O’Halloran Pho­tos Andrey Mois­seyev

T here has al­ways been some­thing spe­cial about a fac­tory black car with chrome bumpers. Back in the ’60s and ’70s they were spe­cial order, and usu­ally it was the lo­cal funeral di­rec­tor do­ing the or­der­ing. Some were for the Plod, you know the ones, the spe­cial de­tec­tive un­der­cover branch. A few cars were for politi­cians, but very few were made for the pub­lic.

Spe­cial order meant just that, you needed to con­vince the sales­man, who needed to con­vince the dealer prin­ci­pal, who needed to con­vince Ford to make one. This was usu­ally fol­lowed by a large Dol­lar fig­ure, and in most cases, it had to be paid up front. Even af­ter all this, you still needed to cross all your fin­gers and hope your black steed would ar­rive.

Down un­der in Ade­laide, South Aus­tralia lives a spe­cial one-off black Mk1 Cortina GT. This is a car that has so much mys­tery sur­round­ing it, that the deep jet-black paint is kind of ironic. Current cus­to­dian, Jamie Corn­wall knows he has the keys to a very unique car, a car that has seen speed, flames, and now boots around with one heck of a pow­er­plant up front.

“I saw an ad­vert for an old Cortina race car for sale,” ex­plains Jamie. “I rang the guy and it was in a sub­urb one over from me, so I raced over to take a look and sure enough it was a real-deal, fac­tory black Mk1 GT.” Best de­scribed as a rolling shell at the time, the Cortina was de­void of ev­ery­thing. When we say ev­ery­thing, apart from the side mould­ings, ID tag and pan­els, there was very lit­tle at­tached.

Mys­tery ma­chine

Jamie dragged it home, and started dig­ging into the car’s past. The ru­mours started swirling that this car is the old Pete Goe­he­gan rac­ing promo Cortina. That car is a uni­corn, and was first seen back in the ’60s at a launch event for the Aussie rac­ing leg­end’s Bathurst at­tempt. A black 1964 Mk1 Cortina GT four-door was seen in the promo pho­tos, and from what Jamie can work out, this car was badly dam­aged in the ’60s and scrapped, which adds to the mys­tery of his ma­chine.

More re­search also showed that an­other Aussie rac­ing leg­end, Les Walm­s­ley cam­paigned this par­tic­u­lar car in the his­toric cat­e­gories of Ap­pen­dix J and later Group C. With a hot Cross­flow, wide Su­per­lites and strik­ing black paint with classy ma­roon cen­tre stripe, this four-door more than earned its never-say-die rep­u­ta­tion amongst the Mus­tangs and Monaros on Aus­tralia’s best race tracks.

Back in the garage, and Jamie’s jour­ney with the GT be­gan with a to­tal bare metal strip down. De­spite years at the race­track, the GT was quite sound. The car was re­tired from rac­ing be­cause it had a mild roll over, so the roof was care­fully re­moved and ev­ery­thing straight­ened. All four quar­ters were re­placed, and sur­pris­ingly the rest of the car was rel­a­tively rust-free thanks to the warm Aus­tralian weather. On went the fac­tory coded Jet Black paint, fol­lowed by lay­ers of clear to deepen the look.

All of the rare fac­tory stain­less steel side mould­ings were hand straight­ened, pol­ished and re­fit­ted. Rechromed bumpers, and ev­ery­thing needed to make the GT look sen­sa­tional were primped and preened be­fore be­ing put back on.

Un­der the front arches a set of ad­justable, low­ered and re­built struts were matched to re­built GT cal­lipers and discs. As­sist­ing the

brakes are a set of hand­made al­loy replica Cortina GT500 brake ducts that scream race car from the front. Down the back are a pair of low­ered, re­set springs teamed with Bil­stein dampers and re­built 9 inch drums.

It’s twins

Me­chan­i­cally, Jamie had made the de­ci­sion early in the build to give his unique GT a heart that was just as rare and unique — a mighty Lo­tus twin-cam. How­ever, get­ting an en­gine and as­so­ci­ated parts was go­ing to be like find­ing a nee­dle in a haystack. Jamie called on lo­cal Ade­laide twin-cam en­gine guru, Kerry Saran­dis to do the build, and things started fall­ing into place right away. Kerry built the bot­tom end to race grade, and in­stalled a set of his own per­sonal pis­tons to make sure it was all su­per-tough and re­li­able.

The elu­sive link in the chain was the twin-cam head. Af­ter a chance en­counter with Garry Saun­der­son, one of the fore­most au­thor­i­ties of rare Mk1 Corti­nas in Aus­tralia, he men­tioned he had a num­ber of twin-cam heads back home some 1300 miles away in Queens­land. A deal

was done, money ex­changed hands, and a clean twin-cam head was now mak­ing the very long jour­ney south.

“I had the me­chan­i­cal ba­sics to­gether, but the search for the pe­riod cor­rect ac­ces­sories was a night­mare,” ex­plains Jamie. “Find­ing the right brack­ets, clips, small stuff, let alone a set of match­ing sid­e­draught We­bers of the cor­rect vin­tage for a Lo­tus en­gine in us­able con­di­tion is be­com­ing harder and harder.” Af­ter years of search­ing, he fi­nally had the en­gine re­built and run­ning, and hooked to a beefed-up Mk2 Cortina close-ra­tio four-speed.

In­side, Jamie was work­ing with a blank can­vas, as there was noth­ing left. A few flashes of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial showed the Mk1 had a deep ma­roon trim colour from fac­tory, but Jamie wanted it to be black-on-black. He started with a full trim kit sourced from Aldridge in the UK, and it came com­plete with ev­ery­thing from seat trim, door cards, roof lin­ing and car­pet. The roof had at one stage had its dead­ener re­moved, so the ex­pen­sive re­fit with Dy­na­mat was un­der­taken. The dash was painstak­ingly re­built, with only the very best parts and gauges cho­sen. It took Jamie years to put the GT puz­zle back to­gether, mak­ing sure only the best, most pre­mium parts were used through­out.


Just af­ter the car was com­pleted, dis­as­ter struck Jamie in the most hor­ri­ble way. It was early Jan­uary in 2015, and his lo­cal area of Gumer­acha in the Ade­laide hills suf­fered one of the worst bush­fire out­breaks ever seen. Fire rav­aged the sun-dried land like never be­fore. The en­tire com­mu­nity was wiped out, with houses, live­stock and lives ru­ined.

“I was in­ter­state at the time, and I knew our farm was un­der se­ri­ous threat,” ex­plains Jamie. “I had a few mates race up to the house as I had the black GT, a ’65 GT, a Charger and a ’63 GT in my garage. The fire was nearly on top of the prop­erty when they ar­rived, but they fought hard to get to the cars, and saved the black GT and ’65 GT by driv­ing them off the prop­erty. I lost the ’63 GT and the Charger, plus thou­sands of small Ford parts. The fire was so in­tense that

the two cars we lost had col­lapsed al­most flat with the ground, and their al­loy parts were noth­ing more than pools of molten metal when we re­turned. It was scary how fierce the fire must have been.”

The dev­as­tat­ing loss took a toll on the lo­cal com­mu­nity, but Jamie stayed true to his fo­cus with the GT, and con­tin­ued to add in pe­riod cor­rect up­grades. It’s now fin­ished to the point he en­vis­aged, and is a sub­lime ma­chine that is truly a one-off. The fac­tory black paint gives the Mk1 in­cred­i­ble pres­ence, telling you it’s no or­di­nary Cortina. It rum­bles with pur­pose, and show­cases the bril­liance the Ford de­sign team had back in the ’60s.

With one GT in the garage, Jamie is work­ing on yet an­other cool project in the shape of a su­per-rare, gen­uine Bathurst-model GT500. A suit­able sta­ble­mate to the black ma­chine, no doubt. With a steely de­ter­mi­na­tion to beat all the chal­lenges he’s faced dur­ing the black GT build, we ex­pect Jamie’s GT500 to be an equally spe­cial. You just can’t keep a good clas­sic Ford owner down.

The 6x13 inch Globe wheels are rare, even in Aus­tralia.

The chrome side trims were care­fully re­moved and straight­ened by hand be­fore Jamie re­fit­ted them.

As-found, the GT was in a race-bat­tered but solid state.

Not put off by the task of bring­ing the GT back from the dead, Jamie’s now crack­ing on with a GT500 re­build.

In­te­rior re­stored to per­fec­tion us­ing trim kit sourced from the UK.

Bathurst-style air scoops were hand­made. ’Plate is great...

Jamie had to track down many miss­ing trim items, like the GT’s hard-to-find cen­tre con­sole.

The Lo­tus was built by Aussie twin-cam guru, Kerry Saran­dis and is a fit­ting choice for the re­vamped GT.

Match­ing We­bers are fed by a gen­uine Lo­tus air­box.

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