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If anyone asked me about my dream car, then without doubt it would be a Pinto-engined Mark III Cortina (and I groan when I think of the dozens I cut up in the 1980s), preferably a 2-litre. If it were a 2000E, even better (but let's not be greedy, I already own one of them thanks to Nerina!). And if it were a 2000E estate, that would be a dream come true!

But let's be realistic! The chances of finding a Cortina Mark III estate of any description today are about nil if not even less. They haven't been made since 1976.

 

Consequently when eBay announced an auction for a 2000E estate in need of restoration, there was absolutely no question about it. It was mine.

I daren't tell you the maximum bid I placed on it, or how much I paid (you'll all think I'm totally crazy, and rightly so!) but who cares. There'll never be another one like this for sale ever again.

So after a nervous night sweating over a red-hot auction, it was finally knocked down to me, and we were in business. Next time I was in the UK I came home via Swindon, and Paul and I (with a very friendly previous owner - thanks Alan) pulled it out of its home for the past 8 years.


Having replacing the doors that had been taken off and blowing up the tyres, we winched it onto the dolly (and blew up the tyres on the dolly!) and off I set in the general direction of Dover docks!

The LDV wasn't too happy at all about the load it was pulling (whose idea was it to put Perkins Prima engines in LDVs?) but nevertheless it pulled it 282 miles back to Brussels without mishap so I can't complain too much, I suppose. Mind you, I was glad the LDV was running on colza - it would have been a VERY long night if I had been running on pump diesel!


At Clackett Lake services, for the want of anything better to do, we coupled up a battery, took the air filter off, poured petrol down the inlet manifold, cleaned the points, electrocuted Paul with the HT cable, poured more petrol down the inlet manifold, took out the flooded plugs, sprayed petrol from the combustion chambers all over the car park, put new plugs in (amazing what you find in your toolbox) poured more petrol down the inlet manifold, and badger me if it didn't fire up! So, with 4 litres of fuel in the tank, and a bit more for good luck down the inlet manifold, it fired up and ticked over! Smoke everywhere and a bit "cammy", but never mind! It was running!

Paul thus went home and I set off for Dover Docks and the Norfolk Line ferry at 01:45 to Dunkerque. After a short wait, I made my way across the Channel and set off for the final lap to Brussels.

A flaming enormous traffic queue on the E40 near Alost meant I didn't get back to Brussels until 07:30, about 24 hours after I'd woken up, and nearly 21 hours on the road. I was absolutely shattered.


But no worries. Now that we had had the engine was running, all I needed to do was to drive it off the dolly. That was going to be an easy way to unload it. But how do you drive it off the dolly when the clutch is seized? Well, you put it in reverse and turn the engine over on the ignition key.

After about ten seconds, a loud clunk meant the clutch was free but now the wheels were stuck solid in the dolly. So trolley jack underneath to raise up the front end, and off we went and it drove down the ramps.

This was when I discovered that the brakes didn't work! But of course this is why God invented handbrakes and ignition switches, and after all I'd done for the last 17 hours, driving 200 yards without brakes wasn't going to defeat me, and by the time 09:00 rolled around, the car and the towing dolly were in the garage, the LDV was parked up, and I was in bed!

Interestingly, after a good 10 minutes tickover, the engine was no longer smoking. The idea I had at Clackett's Lake of using the Cortina to tow the dolly with the LDV aboard maybe wasn't so crazy after all! But if you remember the 2000cc engine and 5-speed box I took out of the gas-powered Granada - no prizes now for guessing where that's going to go!

There are some more photos of the 2000E.

TO BE CONTINUED


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