With its gorgeous custom widebody, 700rwhp turbo six and manual gearbox, this epic Mk1 Cortina practically screams ‘race car’. But don’t be fooled; it’s a proper street beast.
First published in Street Machine’s 2022 Yearbook
Darwin bloke Mark stumbled across this Corty about 15 years ago. “I’d always wanted a Mk1 Cortina because I like the shape of them, but the only things I could find back then were Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts,” Mark says. “I was doing a job for a customer and saw there was something under a cover, and I asked, ‘Is that a Mk1 Cortina?’ He couldn’t believe I knew what the silhouette was, and it just went from there.”
That base-model ‘jailbar’ 220 car came home with Mark, becoming his second serious project after his widebody Mk1 Esky. “I got some rough skills from that Escort, but this one was kind of off-again, on-again,” he says. The end result represents Mark’s ideal hot streeter. “All cars are a compromise in one way or another, and this one isn’t perfect,” he says. “But it’s allowed me to combine the most desirable attributes I want in a car.”
Chief among those attributes was a wild custom widebody. With the level of modification involved in this and many other aspects of the car, Mark was braced for an uphill battle with the powers that be, but was pleasantly surprised by the NT’s rego rules. “I thought the whole approval and engineering process was going to be my biggest hurdle,” he says. “But as it turns out, Darwin isn’t a bad place for enthusiasts to build a car the way they want it.”
Mark eventually nabbed a German Mk3 Capri after some wheeling and dealing. “Some people weren’t happy with me buying a donor vehicle for the front end and chopping it up, even though they let the thing rot to pieces anyway,” he says with a laugh. The Capri donated its front chassis rails, crossmember, MacPherson strut suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering.
The chassis and body were in dire need of bracing, so Mark ran 45mm steel tubing from the rear end to the front struts, cleverly hidden in the sills. “There’s a tube that goes under the dash and joins the struts together, and then I actually cut the corners out of the roof and put tubing around the sides and top of the windscreen,” he explains. “It’s like a pseudo-rollcage; essentially an internal spaceframe.” The result is top-notch rigidity during hard cornering. “I can jack it up anywhere and there’s no flex in it,” Mark says. “A normal Cortina will flex and lift the front wheel on corners, but this thing is a rock.”
Outwardly, the most obvious change is the custom steel widebody, which sees the front guards moved out about 90mm per side, and an impressive 120mm in the rear. The aluminium bonnet is also hand-made and runs a pair of Supra catches, while Mark also deleted the drip rails. He made a point of doing as much of this work as possible on his own, even heading back to uni for some welding courses and certification. “A lot of custom bits and pieces were made from different materials, as well as being made a few times over just to get a decent result,” he says.
Mark then set about pillaging a Mk4 Supra for a driveline. The Supra’s 2JZ was one of the few parts of the build that Mark outsourced, with Goleby’s Parts transforming it into a tough turbo six. The Cortina’s firewall was shifted 200mm rearward to accommodate this new powerplant, which uses a new 2JZ-GTE crank hooked to Spool H-beam rods and Carrillo pistons for 10:1 compression.
The head is also a new non-VVT-i unit, featuring 272-degree Camtech bumpsticks and Crower valves. Air is drawn in through a custom 4.5-litre pre-chamber intake manifold, which Mark describes as similar to what Audi runs on its R8 Le Mans racer. A Bosch 82mm electronic throttlebody and 2000cc injectors manage air and fuel, controlled by a Haltech 2500 ECU. Boost comes from a Garrett GTX3584RS snail on a custom high-mount steampipe manifold.
An a/c compressor chills about 20 litres of water in a reservoir behind the front seats, feeding a PWR barrel water-to-air intercooler. “It keeps intake air temps low, provided I can get good airflow across the condenser,” Mark says.
Up front is a double-pass radiator built around a custom-order PWR core, bolted to four eight-inch Davies Craig thermo fans, while a 16-row Setrab oil cooler is plumbed to a Mocal thermostat sandwich plate. Initially set up for premium unleaded, the car now runs E85 via a Kinsler mechanical pump.
The remainder of the exhaust is a four-inch system, with a muffler tucked vertically above the side exhaust outlet. It features a removable bypass plate to improve flow on track days, though Mark points out it’s an extremely loud proposition.
“It makes an easy 700rwhp, but it doesn’t stick to the dyno too well,” Mark says. “When it starts hauling, it just spins and the dyno can’t hold it no matter how much you strap it down. It would do 620 to 630hp and the dyno graph would go insane as the wheels broke loose with the hard, shitty rubber.
There was 3000rpm left, but it’s in the meaty part of the turbo. It’s happy there and it just runs perfectly, so I don’t really care about the figure to be honest.”
Mark stuck with the Supra’s Getrag V160 manual, with an OS Giken R3C triple-disc clutch and B&M billet short-shifter. Most of the rear end was pulled from a Nissan 300ZX, including the rear chassis and cradle. The R230 diff had its HICAS rear steering deleted, and packs 4.11 Richmond gears and a Quaife ATB helical LSD.
The CV half-shafts are machined from F100 axles with R33 GTR outer bearing hubs and 300ZX brakes. A Hoppers Stoppers kit up front uses 297mm AU Falcon discs and calipers, all helped along by a Subaru master cylinder and VE Commodore remote electronic vacuum pump.
The interior is another neat melding of classic Ford kit and Toyota goodies, using the Capri’s vintage Recaro seats and Supra dash, the latter installed over the top of its original Cortina counterpart. The 300km/h gauge cluster and collapsible steering column are also Supra items, and Mark retrimmed the rest himself in Cordova Ultra black vinyl.
While the super-rigid chassis, killer widebody, beefy coolers and sweet suspension might suggest a track beast, Mark’s keen to point out that the Cortina wasn’t built for competitive motorsport, as proven by the lap belts inside.
The car has earned a few solid accolades since hitting the street about five years ago, including People’s Choice, Best Custom Engineered, Best Small Ford and President’s Choice across Darwin’s two most recent All Ford Days.
And Mark’s not quite done yet. “I’ve got plenty of stuff left to do, like put it on a diet with painted carbonfibre doors, bonnet and bootlid, and maybe fit a Holinger sequential six-speed for flat-shifting, or even a DCT from a BMW,” he says. “A lot of quality-of-life adjustments could be made to it as well, but money, time and motivation aren’t always that easy to come by.”
Good thing the car’s already such a ball-tearer, then!
1965 FORD CORTINA
|Protec Ice White
|Toyota 2JZ six-cylinder
|Custom 4.5L manifold, interchiller
|Haltech Elite 2500
|Camtech 272-degree, 9.5mm lift
|Walbro 460 lift pump, Kinsler 500 mechanical fuel pump
|Custom radiator with PWR core, four 8in fans
|Custom 4in system
|Getrag V160 six-speed manual
|OS Giken triple-disc
|Nissan R230, 4.11:1 helical LSD
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|Rack-and-pinion steering, MacPherson struts, King Springs
|IRS, Whiteline control arms, BC Racing coil-overs
|AU Falcon (f), Nissan 300ZX (r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Minilite replica; 15×8 (f), 15×10 (r)
|Toyo Proxes R888R 225/50R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/50R15 (r)
Rick and the crew at CB Racing for all the help and going out of their way to see this fever dream of mine get on the road again; Goleby’s Parts for the engine build; my long-term sponsor Darwin Lock & Key.