By on March 29, 2015


Last week’s Hillman Husky/Miata swap provided the example for what I view as the best of both worlds – old European car with an entirely new drivetrain. Here’s a half-way finished example that could be turned into a real firecracker – provided you have the patience of Mother Teresa.

“Never buy someone’s project car – it’s like buying a half finished Science Fair experiment” were the immortal words of a relative, who has managed to keep his 2002 WRX free from modifications, theft or general abuse. It may be the last of its kind in such good condition. I’ve kept that mantra in my head for some time, but I could be tempted to stray for this.

This 1965 Ford Cortina is very much a work in progress, save for an already swapped in 1.8L Ford Zetec motor. My first inclination for a project like this would be for a Miata swap. But let’s face it, the B6 is underpowered and the later BP engines are miserable, torqueless boat anchors. I’ve had two of them already, and I hope that I avoid it on my next Miata. At the very least, the Zetec has a bit more charm than the BP.

Unfortunately, the rest of the car needs work. Suspension, brakes and if possible, the steering would be upgraded to modern spec. You’re already $9,500 in the hole for the car, and all of that could easily double it. On the other hand, you’ve got a modern day Lotus Cortina so good that even Jim Clark couldn’t have dreamed of it.


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15 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: Tabula Rasa...”

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    So if you put $20,000 into this car and replace all the mechanicals with ones from a more modern vehicle, you will have a car that is not authentic and is worth half of what you put into it. What is the point?

  • avatar

    This seems like a very, minimalist, project to me.

  • avatar

    Aluminum block LS, 9 inch Ford rear, FTW.

    At least then you’ve got something that will terrorize the neighborhood.

  • avatar

    Not bad. Looks very clean, and the next step up from a Zetec is the Duratec, which is technically a Mazda L-engine, so not so far from a Miata after all. I allready have the Duratec in my Mondeo, and it’s a pretty decent engine, even if my fate now lies compeltely in the hands of the previous owners attention to maintenance. (which tbh, doesn’t make me very optimistic so far)

  • avatar

    Somewhere in New England, probably Mass, there is a company that does this sort of modernization professionally. Sorry, can’t remember the name.

    My dream classic car is the Peugeot 404 wagon, 1965 or later, four on the tree, and I would probably want it with OEM or as close as possible.

    • 0 avatar

      Plenty of cars I’d like to do something similar. I think the Cortina is a good one to start. I like those small, square, Euro sedans from the 60s and 70s. In that way I would like the first gen Mustang, too. But the 404s are very sweet. Everything from the BMW New Class to the Volvos and passing on that 75 Brazilian Corcel I recently wrote about would be so fun.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand this hatred for the BP engines. I had 2 Miatas with them – a ’94 and a ’95. With lighter wheels and in good condition it was quite adequate for the task with enough low end torque. Not saying it couldn’t have used more power but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Derek paints it.

  • avatar

    Cortina mk 1 woz a Protestant, english pop’s fedora with a boil on the back of the ear.

  • avatar

    Just because I love bad decisions Derek, that car is just around 3 hours from me. You could fly into Atlanta and I will give you a lift.

    Whats the worst that could happen?

  • avatar

    My brother owned a Lotus Cortina and ended up selling it an another shell as an unfinished restoration. He’d already done all the panel replacement, I wonder if it was ever finished.

    It’s only because real Lotus Cortinas have gotten so expensive (~$40K for a nice one) that people consider such projects. The LC’s had trick suspension and steering parts and I don’t know how easy they are to find. Some of the interior bits would be about impossible to find without repros.

    I love everything Lotus produced in the 1960s and I’m very fond of the Lotus Cortina, but for $20K I’d buy a late model Fiesta ST instead.

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