CORTINA 2.3 DURATEC
Classic Mk2 given Resto Mod treatment.
The spectre of the Resto Mod walks tall in modern car culture. As much as there’s a relentless focus on new car development, particularly with manufacturers clamouring to produce the most desirable and interesting electric vehicles and hybrids, so there’s an increasing keenness to celebrate their heritage, as new versions of old cars are big business. Jaguar are at it, and so are Aston Martin, along with countless others, while the aftermarket positively buzzes with Resto Mod firms, and this is backed up by myriad TV shows extolling the virtues of re-imagining old cars with modern mechanicals. From Gas Monkey to GoblinWorks, this stuff really coins it in.
But this isn’t a tale of money or business acumen. This is the story of a Cortina, spanning three generations of the same family, being refracted through a modern filter by enthusiasts with rose-tints over their forward-facing view.
“This wasn’t inspired by any other Resto Mod, it’s just a fulfilment of my own vision really,” proud owner, Elfed tells us, casting a fond eye over his magnificent creation. “I’ve always been a fan of standard-looking cars with very subtle exterior modifications; it’s what’s under the skin that has always interested me in terms of power, ride, and handling. I wanted to build a relatively standard-looking Cortina with modern running gear.”
So it’s as much about being a sleeper as it is a Resto Mod — the difference here is that this sleeper has been finished with Singer-like levels of engineering perfection and fit-and-finish, a true credit to the work of all involved and an appropriate tribute to its generations of related curators.
“As a family, we’re very much into cars,” Elfed elaborates. “My father, who owned this Cortina before me, always liked performance cars, and my son, Gwyn is very much into fast French cars, owning a 205 GTi-6 and 306 Rallye. I’ve always had an interest in cars, which
started from my days competing in road rallies during the late ’70s. Back then I rallied a Hillman Imp and have since had a range of performance cars, it’s very much a passion.”
The Cortina has been in the family since it was three years old and, supplied by Red Garage, Llangefni, it’s always been on Anglesey with a local ‘JC’ number. After many years of family GT motoring, the Mk2 was passed to Elfed in the late-1980s, at which point he set about restoring it with a full respray… and couldn’t resist modifying it a little, too. You can see where the seeds of all this were sown, can’t you? John Hardman Engineering was roped in to aid with the addition of a 711M-block 1600 Crossflow, twin Weber 40s and a Type-9 conversion, and the car was used and enjoyed before being laid up in 1993.
The period after this is what we can imagine as the Cortina’s contemplation phase, languishing in the shadows and pondering the nature of existence, before finally being exhumed in late 2016. And what did Elfed find after this near-quarter-century hiatus? Rust. Quite a lot of rust.
“The car’s been extensively restored, with a lot of fresh steel welded in,” he explains. “The goal initially was to get it ready for 2017 in time for its 50th birthday — and I wanted the car ready for my Dad, who’d bought it all those years ago, to have a drive in. So the first step was to restore the body, and this task was assigned to Ian Rogers Bodyshop based in Hawarden, Chester. The shell was stripped, any rot cut out and repaired, and it was then fully resprayed inside and out in Venetian Red. The underside was coated in Raptor sealant, also in red. Ian has done a fantastic job on the paintwork, it really is a credit to him, and all new door seals, rubbers and so on were sourced and fitted, too.
Naturally this sort of process always throws up a few hurdles; the front quarter window rubbers, for example, had to be tracked down from Australia, and the quarter bumpers presented their own unique challenge. “We wanted to keep the exterior standard-looking, with only the 8 inch Minilites and front quarter bumpers giving a hint at the car being modified,” says Elfed. “Unlike the Mk1 Cortina, there are no off-theshelf quarter bumpers for the Mk2, so they were fabricated and shaped by John Hardman.”
Yes, that old name was brought back into this car’s story to neatly bookend the saga of its restorations, and when it came to the mechanicals, John was as deeply involved as ever. Starting by fabricating a custom front crossmember to mount the engine and converting the old Mk2 steering box to a rack, he also added Corsa electric power steering (integrated with the Cortina cowling and adjustable for weighting). The front suspension is all Group 4 Mk2 Escort, with adjustable Bilstein coil-overs, eccentric top mounts, Rose-jointed bottom arms and Rose-jointed compression kit. And, of course, there’s that engine swap.
“The original plan was to complete the tried-and-tested Zetec conversion,” Elfed recalls. “However, discussing it with John he suggested the all-alloy Duratec engine, due to its potential for making great power from relatively subtle
upgrades, its reliability, and its lightweight construction. It was also something different from the Zetec conversion.” So John fully rebuilt a Duratec motor, mildly working the head and fitting Newman cams, high-comp pistons and ARP rod bolts. On one side is a pair of Weber 48s and on the other you’ll spot an Ashley exhaust, with that trusty Type-9 hanging off the back, and it’s all overseen by a DTA ECU. The rolling road proves its prowess: 228 bhp, and 218 lb.ft. “A custom propshaft was manufactured to mate to the Atlas axle, and John narrowed the rear axle and fitted Group 4 shafts,” says Elfed. “This was to accommodate the 8 inch-wide rear wheels. An LSD is fitted along with a rear disc brake conversion using 2wd Cosworth parts, and the axle is fitted with anti-tramp bars, Lotus Cortina leaf springs and Bilstein coil-overs.” A formidable set-up indeed, and it’s the care and precision with which it’s all been fitted and finished which pushes this build into the realms of high-end restomod perfection; it’s been built for hard use, but it’s micron-perfect in every detail.
“This is a fast road toy which also gets used for the occasional show,” he confirms. “It gets a lot of positive reactions, with many people surprised by the subtle looks but modern performance.” And that is the essence of the Resto Mod in a nutshell. Keep your Singers and your millionpound Eagles — this remixed Cortina has been built with heart and passion rather than to generate revenue, and it’s more than happy to show the big boys how things are done.
Underneath it’s classic hot Escort, with a braced Atlas and coil-overs, though Elfed’s kept the leaf springs. Like all good Resto Mods, the interior looks distinctly factory. Elfed’s added the early GT dash and some Classic buckets. Front suspension has been swapped for largely Escort items including a rack and World Cup crossmember. Elfed and son, Gwyn put everything into this build, and it shows.
The later shade of Venetian Red doesn’t distract from the Mk2’s very classic-looking exterior. Just how it should be. Genuine 8x13 Minilites really look the part.
Built by John Hardman, the 2.3-litre Duratec puts out a more than useful 213 bhp. Carbs keep it classic but Elfed is switching to throttle bodies. Even the boot area is beautifully finished — note the neat infill panel for the redundant hole from the original fuel tank, now that a Group 4-style Escort one is being used. An Ashley mild-steel Escort manifold’s been adapted to suit the Cortina’s engine bay.