THE SUPREME CORT

Street Machine - - Contents - STORY BORIS VISKOVIC PHO­TOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

David Xuereb has built the world’s sweet­est Cortina, and the pub­lic agrees

IS THIS THE BEST TC CORTINA IN THE WORLD? WE DON’T RE­MEM­BER SEE­ING ONE BET­TER, AND PLENTY OF SHOW JUDGES SEEM TO AGREE

I THOUGHT I MIGHT JUST TUB IT AND GET SOME BIG­GER WHEELS UN­DER IT. THEN WE STARTED FIX­ING RUST...

I’M GO­ING to let you in on a lit­tle se­cret: my first car was a TC Cortina, a 2.0-litre/four-speed ver­sion that I pur­chased for $1500 – the sum to­tal of my hard­earned cash from work­ing at my par­ents’ car wash over the sum­mer hol­i­days. It had a brown in­te­rior and a bit of rust in the quar­ters, but what sold me was the graphic equaliser. Fancy! The stun­ning ma­chine you see here started life in a sim­i­lar fash­ion, the first car David Xuereb ever pur­chased, as a 14-year-old from a car yard on Syd­ney’s Par­ra­matta Road.

“I drove it home be­hind the old man, who was in the truck,” David re­calls. “It was a 250 XL that was a tan colour, but we used to call it some­thing else: baby-poo brown. I drove it around with the stan­dard mo­tor for a while when I didn’t have a li­cence. I used to drive it to work some­times when it rained; my dad wanted me to ride the push­bike, but I thought: ‘Bug­ger that!’”

It wasn’t long be­fore David slapped on a coat of Monza Red – as did a lot of peo­ple in the 80s – and put a hot 250 in it. Then around 1987 things started to get se­ri­ous: “I got big ideas of putting GT run­ning gear in the Cortina, so I did that. I ac­tu­ally had a Boss mo­tor in it – a 302 Wind­sor with Cleve­land heads, Top Loader and a nine-inch and I used to take it to the drags at Oran Park.”

Through the 90s, David took a bit of time off from cars while he did all the grown-up stuff like get­ting mar­ried, buy­ing a house, and hav­ing kids. But he never got rid of the Cortina; it just sat in the cor­ner un­der a cover wait­ing for its time to come. Af­ter around five years, David started cruis­ing it around ev­ery now and then.

Fast-for­ward 10 years or so to 2006, and a few more ideas came into David’s head.

“I thought I might just tub it and get some big­ger wheels un­der it,” he says. “Then we started fix­ing rust, and I was never happy with the dash, so I thought: ‘I’m go­ing to cut this out.’ My cousin Paul was with me and he had some big ideas too, but once we pulled the dash out, it was sort of all over then – it got stripped right back to a shell.”

It was ac­tu­ally while help­ing out a neigh­bour with the re­build of a ’57 Chev that David got in­spired to take the Cortina to the next level.

“I was away from cars for a while, just con­cen­trat­ing on work and fam­ily, but the Chev made me think: ‘I can do this.’”

I PUT THE CAR TO­GETHER IN GREY PRIMER, DROVE IT AROUND THE BLOCK, MADE SURE IT ALL WORKED, THEN PULLED IT APART

The orig­i­nal plans for a set of tubs and putting it back on the street got way­laid with the de­ci­sion to paint the car red un­der­neath as well.

“I’d al­ways wanted to do some­thing real, real nice,” David says. “Half the prob­lem was, I’d met the likes of Paul Sant from Proflo and Rod Cord­ing­ley the painter – they’re artists. They just do a fan­tas­tic job; it can’t be just nor­mal, it was turn­ing out too good, so I thought: ‘Let’s keep go­ing.’”

As David wanted to start with a blank can­vas, ev­ery sin­gle hole in the car was welded up; if a hole was needed, they drilled a new one. Be­fore lay­ing on the paint, it was nec­es­sary to make sure they’d got ev­ery­thing right and wouldn’t need to drill any more holes, which meant ef­fec­tively build­ing the car twice.

“I put the car to­gether in grey primer, drove it around the block, made sure it all worked, then pulled it apart – which was pretty hard – then painted it and put it back to­gether.”

Per­haps the great­est in­di­ca­tor of the level of ded­i­ca­tion that went into the build is the paint fin­ish on the un­der­car­riage. Ev­ery part that’s not pol­ished stain­less is painted in the same lus­cious red tin­ter as the rest of the car. All the fac­tory-pressed sus­pen­sion arms and cross­mem­bers have been high-filled, sanded and prepped as nicely as the ex­ter­nal body­work on the car, as have the en­gine block and heads.

The en­gine not only looks pretty, it goes pretty hard as well, thanks to the boys at C&B Per­for­mance. The Dart 302 block has been stroked and bored out to 364ci and filled with Scat ro­tat­ing gear and a set of JE pis­tons. An Edel­brock Per­former Air-gap in­take and De­mon 750 dou­ble-pumper feed the beast through AFR heads. All up, she’s good for 560hp at the crank, and ev­ery one of them can be heard through the twin three-inch ex­haust.

While there’s plenty of per­for­mance in the en­gine bay,

WHILE THERE’S PLENTY OF PER­FOR­MANCE IN THE BAY, THE IN­TE­RIOR IS ALL ABOUT COM­FORT AND CLASS

the in­te­rior is all about com­fort and class, and is way more up­mar­ket than I re­mem­ber my old Cortina be­ing! There isn’t a sin­gle piece that hasn’t been touched, with flat floors, a fab­ri­cated dash­board filled with Ste­wart Warner gauges, and four seats – the whole lot swathed in gor­geous sad­dle-brown leather and more of that mile-deep red paint.

“Louie from In­gle­burn came out and got all the board work done in 2015, made the con­sole and then came back af­ter it was painted to put the in­te­rior to­gether,” David says. “The front seats are from a Lexus, and Louie fab­ri­cated the rear ones to match.”

It’s not too hard to fig­ure out why the car turned out so nice when you look at the math­e­mat­ics of it, David reck­ons. “Me, my cousin Paul and my brother Mark did most of the work. Mark panel-beated it to prob­a­bly 85 per cent, then Rod did an­other 50 per cent on top of that, be­cause it ain’t 100 per cent, it’s more than that!” he laughs.

The show judges tend to agree, with the Cortina pick­ing up over a dozen tro­phies at its first two shows, in­clud­ing Peo­ple’s Choice at Summernats 31 and the Coolest Ride Award at the Vic­to­rian Hot Rod & Cool Rides Show. I’m pretty sure that 14-year-old sneak­ily driv­ing home from the car yard all those years ago never imag­ined he’d have one of the best cars in the coun­try one day.

FIN­ISH: You’d be hard-pressed to find a bet­ter Mk3 Cortina any­where in the world. The straight red tin­ter paint and flaw­less body­work make the car an ab­so­lute stand­out

WHEELS: The Schott Tom­a­hawk rims mea­sure up at 19x8 and 20x10, wear 215/35 and 255/35 rub­ber, and are pretty mas­sive for car this small, but David has avoided the Hot Wheels look by get­ting the stance nice and low

UN­DER­NEATH: If you’re won­der­ing where all the red paint went, here’s your an­swer. The straight red tin­ter from Pro­tec cov­ers ev­ery un­der­car­riage part, in­clud­ing the springs, shocks and sus­pen­sion arms. Rod Cord­ing­ley from Rod’s Cus­tom Restora­tion is a per­fec­tion­ist; many of the parts were painted sev­eral times un­til he was happy with the fin­ish. Check out the coil springs and brake calipers – it’s not easy get­ting them look­ing that good!

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