THE Mk III CORTINA
During the period surrounding my marriage breakup in the winter of 1991/2, my wife was working as a cab driver for a local cab company. One day I had to go there to leave something - I can't remember what it was now and it's not important anyway.
Now the company was a well - known, well - respected firm, but as I looked around I remarked that their cars appeared even worse than the ones I used to have, and that was saying something. There were a couple of old Sierras at the back of the yard which they used from time to time, but one of them had a blown engine.
The boss took me over to see it to ask what I thought, and while we were there he pointed out an old Mark 3 Cortina behind it. The poor thing - the Cortina, that is. I mean, who cares about Sierras - was dirty, rusty, and generally in poor condition, but the boss explained that he'd bought it for the motor, to go in the Sierra.
So I went over to look at the Cortina and the first thing that hit me was that it was the colour. Someone had resprayed it really badly into a disgusting dark chocolatey - brown, yet even so, you couldn't mistake what it was, or, at least, what it used to be!, which was a 2000E.
It still had its white vinyl roof and traces of the original bronze paint showing through and, even more interestingly, it still had its original gold wheels. It was M - registered - TNY134M - which meant that it was one of the very first 2000E vehicles.
So me being me, I took it for a drive to see what it was like and noticed that the big ends were rattling away like nobody's business and that the engine smoked like a chimney. How the cab owner had missed it when he'd bought it I had no idea.
Mind you, judging by the rest of his cabs, this motor would go down very well here.
Less importantly, the whole car swung over to the right - hand side as if one of the springs on the subframe was broken.
On my return I told the owner what I thought it was like, but he was absolute in his denial of the car's condition. Especially as he had paid the enormous sum of £80 for it.
"Never mind", I replied. I would pay him the £80 for it. I liked Mark 3 Cortinas.
But he didn't bite, so I walked away and that was that.
A couple of weeks later it was my birthday, and I saw the lights of something being driven into my yard.
The noise of someone closing a badly - fitting car door made me go outside, and there was the wife. She threw a set of keys and an envelope at me, said "happy birthday", and walked out of the yard into her friend's car and drove away.
There, sitting in the corner was a disgusting dark brown poorly - resprayed 2000E, still with its white vinyl roof and traces of the original bronze paint showing through, still with its original gold wheels.
And in the envelope were the papers.
And frankly it was in bad condition. A good look around revealed
And that was just the body work. I took the car for another test drive which confirmed all my impressions of the engine and suspension. Hitting the offside spring with a hammer did in fact reveal a broken spring.
And in case you're wondering, well the question about the state of the void bushes needs no answer. After all, it is a Cortina.
What was in fact surprising was that the front door pillars and scuttle under the windscreen were totally intact, and looked like they'll remain intact for ever. Whilst it is always possible to replace them, nevertheless that's what I look for in a Cortina. If they're okay, the rest is worth doing.
The body would have to be done quickly. It was almost too far gone, and no time could be wasted. It was necessary to leave the car outside, as I had no longer any covered garage in which to work or store cars.
It was winter too, and the weather would soon get at it and finish it off.
So, what have I done at it so far?
Thanks to Paul Lynch of the Mark III Cortina Club we now have a set of rear wings too which will help considerably the restoration of the car. Many thanks, Paul. I'll have to fix these one day.
So I drove it around a bit but laid it up when I emigrated to Belgium. Once I sorted out a garage there, I a-framed it across, and when I moved to France, the car was trailered down.
It now lives in a garage in Montaigut-en-Combrailles with a Citröen Light 15 and the red Cortina estate for company as well as its original engine and gearbox for refurbishing, waiting for me to build a workshop on the farm.
But since writing the above there have been some new developments, like the arrival of a 2000E estate, which, quite frankly is in much better condition, and also has my personal guarantee to the previous owner that I'll restore it to the condition it was when he bought it.
And with there not being enough 2000E spare parts to go around for both restorations at the moment, it means that the saloon unfortunately isn't going to get them in the forseeable future, which is a shame.
One of these days I need to get all around the car and make an inventory of what parts are needed.
However, this is not going to be for some considerable time yet. I have other matters that need my attention right now such as a major health issue that forced me into hospital for 18 months.
It remains to be seen how this will affect the future. But at least the car is under cover and in the dry and it's not eating anything. And it's not been turned into baked bean tins either, which is always a positive.