460-cube big-block Mk1 Cortina

Check out John Willaton’s Mark 1 Cortina and you'll never poke fun at cute little pink cars again


First published in the Jul-Aug 1989 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Mark Bean

John Willaton has a bit of a problem with his Mark 1 Cortina. Whenever he trundles it on to the streets of his hometown, Werribee, the air turns blue. More specifically, the air, the ground, the trees and the road turns blue; dark blue with big boots and short hair.

Cops, you see, have a magnetic attraction to anything this radical, and that’s the root of the problem. At least the wall to wall blue contrasts nicely with the Corty’s Strike-Me-Pink paintwork.

So John did the smart thing — pay attention would-be builders — and frundled the car around for an
engineer’s report as soon as he bought it (less motor and gearbox). Most things were up to scratch but the three-quarter chassis needed some work to make it roadworthy. When he bought it, the chassis didn’t run quite as far as it does these days — now there’s box section steel running from the rear bumper to the front crossmember. Mr Blue, in Melbourne’s Bayswater, was responsible for the re-jig and at the same time mcide up all the adaptor plates and mounts for the engine as well as boxing in the front frame rails.

John already had a 429 Super Cobra Jet with all the right bits at home so it was a cinch for the
engine to find a new home. An offset 460 Ford crank spins inside the 429 block with a set of custom forged pistons doing the work. The conrods are an interesting match, in this case Chrysler items forming the vital link between crank and slug. And John’s keeping mum on just what variety of Chrysler rods they might be just in case anybody wants to copy. Cromoly TRW rings encircle the pistons, while the cam at the moment is a small grind Sig Erson hydraulic.

Manley pushrods take the hint from Iskenderian lifters and then pass it all on to a set of Crane roller rockers. The humungous intake and exhaust valves are custom made and do their stuff within Cobra Jet big port heads. The focal point of the engine is, of course, that huge tunnel ram and twin Predator carbs. The manifold is an Offenhauser Turbo Thrust and the whole lot is fed through braided lines and twin Holley Blue pumps. Custom-made extractors get rid of the bad breath while on Accel coil lights the fire in the first place.

Obviously, with such an engine, you need a tranny that can live with big grunt. That’s why John went for a C6 which he tricked out with a manual valve body, a Dominator 3500 rpm stall convertor and extra clutches. A B&M Megashifter is the link between driver and gearbox.

The last leg of the trifecta is a braced and shortened nine inch rear end with 31 spline Summers Brothers axles and a Detroit Locker centre. Heavy stuff. That’s all hung from re-set Cortina springs with an extra leaf added and Pedder’s 90/10 shocks.

Brakes are interesting too – 11-inch discs from an XB Falcon at the front and Volvo discs and calipers at the rear. That’s further complicated by a Valiant master cylinder with a proportioning valve and line locks.

Body mods are surprisingly few and amount to raised rear wheel arches and shaved rear door handles. Then again, with a Cobra Jet sticking through the bonnet, you don’t really need a rear spoiler to pull looks. The flawless pink paint was applied by Mick Duck with graphics by Spray Chief Panels.

The Cortina’s not going to win any beauty contests inside but it’s functional. Alloy trim is the name of the game along with Stewart Warner gauges, a Rainsford harness, alloy cage and racing buckets.

So far the car has cost somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 but John reckons he has genuinely lost count. Yeah, along with people like David Ailey, the folks at Pulford Racing Engines, and his mum and dad, John would like to thank his bank manager..

John’s still sorting the car at the moment. For the record, though, he’s run 12.1 seconds at 100 mph dead at Canberra and topped that with an 11.7 second pass at 112 mph at Calder. Not bad at all considering the small cam limits the engine to about 5000 rpm.

Look out for bigger and better things when the bumpstick riddle is finally solved.

Eventually, the tunnel ram will be flung in favour of a set-up that will enable the bonnet to close without the contents of a small speed shop poking through. That should get the law off his back – and make anyone with a small block guess again at the traffic lights…

John Willaton
1964 Cortina

Capacity:Ford 460
Induction:Twin Predators
Intake Man.:Offenhauser Turbo Thrust
Heads:Super Cobra Jet
Cam:Isky solid
Pistons:Ross Custom forged
Crank:Offset 460
Exhaust:Custom three inch
Trans.:Ford C6
Diff:Detroit Locker nine inch
Springs:Lotus Cortina
Front brakes:XB Ford discs
Rear brakes:Volvo discs
Front tyres:Firestone
Front wheels:Center Line
Rear tyres:McCreary
Rear wheels:Center Line
Build time:Two years