Ford Cortina MkIII

Left for dead in a muddy field, the fu­ture looked bleak for this MkIII. Step for­ward Pete Cromp­ton, who couldn't let such a rare beast per­ish.

Classics Monthly - - Contents - Wor ds by Mar­tyn Mor­gan -Jones photo graphy by Gez Hughes

Rare 2000 GXL, dragged from a muddy field and brought back to life.

With five dif­fer­ent it­er­a­tions ap­pear­ing dur­ing a twenty-year pro­duc­tion run, Ford en­sured that the oft-up­cy­cled and seem­ingly om­nipresent Cortina gen­er­ated plenty of show­room traf­fic. Con­se­quently, this fleet and fam­ily favourite reg­u­larly topped the best­seller charts.

There's much to like about the Cortina, in all of its forms, and I'll con­fess to hav­ing a soft spot for both the rak­ish MkI and the 'kicked-up' MkIII. Con­cern­ing soft spots, prior to its restora­tion, the fea­tured MkIII that would gar­ner the nick­name 'Swampy', spent twenty-four years in an ex­tremely soft spot – a wa­ter­logged field.

Field of dreams

It would un­doubt­edly have con­tin­ued to dis­solve into its sod­den sur­round­ings, had fate – and Pete Cromp­ton – not in­ter­vened. "I've long had a pas­sion for MkIII Corti­nas," en­thuses Pete. "I've owned my 1973 2000GXL since 1992 and love the Amer­i­can styling cues, artis­tic flair, and chrome.

Nev­er­the­less, I wasn't in­tend­ing to get another. But, in 2011, I was sent a pic­ture of a MkII that some­one had spot­ted in a field in Es­sex."

In­trigued, Pete de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate. "I man­aged to track down the pho­tog­ra­pher," he con­tin­ues. "Un­for­tu­nately, he only had a vague rec­ol­lec­tion of where the car was. Even­tu­ally, hav­ing scru­ti­nised Google Earth for ages, I found the Cortina and worked out its ex­act lo­ca­tion."

Pete wasted lit­tle time in driv­ing to Es­sex, although he wasn't quite sure what to ex­pect – or what to do when he got there. "A resto wasn't re­ally part of my plans," he ex­plains. "But, after squelch­ing across the field, scrab­bling through an over­grown copse, and see­ing the Cortina in the flesh and re­al­is­ing it was a 2000GXL, I knew I had to save it. Of course, be­fore I could do this, I had to find the owner."


Sadly, Pete dis­cov­ered that the owner had passed away, although his brother was still alive. "He filled me in on the his­tory," men­tions Pete." Be­fore his brother bought the Cortina, it had been owned by the Ford Mo­tor Company. We chat­ted more and, hav­ing come to ap­pre­ci­ate how en­thu­si­as­tic I was, he agreed to sell. A friend and I re­turned some weeks later, dragged the Cortina out, and took it home. I couldn't wait to in­spect it prop­erly."

The in­spec­tion proved to be a re­al­ity check. "It was so rot­ten, a

I felt drawn to this car and had a burn­ing

de­sire to bring it back to life

restora­tion wasn't re­ally vi­able," ad­mits Pete. "But, I love to chan­nel my cre­ativ­ity. My ethos is to find a project most would con­sider not worth do­ing, and then do it. I felt drawn to this car and had a burn­ing de­sire to bring it back to life – even though I ap­pre­ci­ated I'd have to put just about ev­ery­thing else on hold. I'd done a par­tial restora­tion on my MkIII, so felt I had the abil­ity, but I wasn't blind to the huge task I was about to take on."

Ground up

Pete set a bud­get, drew up a de­tailed ac­tion plan, com­plete with a timescale, and got stuck in. His goal was the 2014 Cortina Day.

"To cre­ate a good base to build upon, lit­er­ally, I started by in­stalling new floor­pans and sills," elab­o­rates Pete. "If th­ese aren't sound, and prop­erly fit­ted, you are on a hid­ing to noth­ing. They are the ref­er­ence points for the rest of the build. I worked re­ally hard to achieve a fac­tory fin­ish, know­ing this would give me the in­spi­ra­tion to work to the same stan­dard through­out. From the start, I re­verse-en­gi­neered the Cortina, un­picked each spot-weld, mea­sured da­tum points, looked at man­u­als and build de­tails, took dig­i­tal pho­tos, and also recorded ev­ery­thing on video.

Shared in­ter­est

Pete's video di­aries, reg­u­larly posted on YouTube, re­ceived thou­sands and thou­sands of views – and one of those view­ers, was a fel­low Cortina fan who wishes to re­main an­nony­mous. We'll call him Bob.

"I was six months into the project and had got as far as the roof," re­calls Pete. "It was beyond re­pair, so I re­sorted to cut­ting one from another MkIII to trans­plant. The donor car had a DVLA Cer­tifi­cate of De­struc­tion. I wouldn't have taken the roof oth­er­wise.

'Bob', who was also restor­ing a MkIII, saw the video of me over­cut­ting, trim­ming, and fit­ting the roof. He ap­pre­ci­ated what I was do­ing with the project and of­fered to help, for free."

Un­der­stand­ably, this was an of­fer Pete gladly ac­cepted. Bob spent six months of evenings and week­ends help­ing out, shar­ing the load, but also men­tor­ing Pete. "Bob is very fo­cused and supremely tal­ented," Pete re­veals. "He helped im­prove my skills and sped up the project. I'll al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate what he did."

To­gether, the pair con­tin­ued the bodyshell restora­tion, craft­ing ev­ery­thing to per­fec­tion, mock-fit­ting pan­els and sub-as­sem­blies first. Not one sec­tion, how­ever small, was over­looked. "We did ev­ery­thing," in­forms Pete. "The only thing we didn't tackle was the paint­work. This was done after the shell had been dipped and treated."

Run­ning man

As with the body, the me­chan­i­cal re­build was metic­u­lously ex­e­cuted and im­pec­ca­bly de­tailed. "Parts were ei­ther pow­der coated or gal­vanised, even those you'll never see," em­pha­sises Pete. "I bought a kit and did it my­self; ev­ery bush, bear­ing and nut was re­newed. My com­mit­ment to this car, and its qual­ity, was one hun­dred per­cent."

That com­mit­ment ex­tended to sal­vaging as much of the orig­i­nal run­ning gear as pos­si­ble, even the long-dor­mant en­gine. "The en­gine

was seized, but I man­aged to strip it," says Pete. "Then, after hav­ing it pro­fes­sion­ally re­built, I ran it in on a home-made jig be­fore in­stalling it. The gear­box and axle were also pro­fes­sion­ally re­built."

Fin­ish­ing touches

While the me­chan­i­cal items were be­ing re­built, Pete sourced trim, re­stored other parts, and car­ried on with the build. "There was no down­time," says Pete, smil­ing. "I re­built the seat frames, and sourced the very rare seat ma­te­rial – known as 'bas­ket' weave – from Amer­ica. To make the Cortina more lux­u­ri­ous, I in­stalled acres of sound­proof­ing and sound dead­en­ing ma­te­rial. Qual­ity, as well as re­li­a­bil­ity, was paramount. I mocked up the dash­board on a spe­cial jig, test­ing ev­ery con­nec­tor, re­plac­ing where nec­es­sary. I also con­verted the ra­dio to MP3 and fit­ted hid­den speak­ers.

The fi­nal part of the bodyshell build in­volved fit­ting the lights, glass, rub­bers and ex­ter­nal trim. "The head­lamps were in a right state," tells Pete. "Un­for­tu­nately, the con­cave glass, marked with the word 'Halo­gen' and spe­cific to the GXL, is un­ob­tain­able. How­ever, I

I ran in the re­built en­gine on a home-made jig be­fore in­stalling it

man­aged to re­store the orig­i­nals and mate them to new re­flec­tors. The alu­minium trim was re-an­odised and the chrome buffed. Fi­nally, a friend, Gary, gave me his spare, brand new, rear panel in­sert. In fact, the hu­man as­pect of this restora­tion has been the best part. Peo­ple have been so sup­port­ive. With their help, I was able to com­plete PNO 922K in time for Cortina Day."

Orig­i­nal Pinto en­gine was un­seized and nursed back to health.

In­te­rior is a riot of colour, with sev­eral shades of blue to draw your eye! Cosy bucket seats are ideal

for long-dis­tance trips. 'Coke bot­tle' styling has a

sim­ply time­less ap­peal. AM-FM unit is beau­ti­ful

in its simplicity.

Pete can jus­ti­fi­ably be proud of

the fruits of his labour.

De­spite the work in­volved in sav­ing it, Cortina is used on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Rar­ity of the 2000GXL model con­vinced Pete to save the car.

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