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.
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.
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.
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.