Looking cute and innocent is just a very small part of this supercharged 302-powered Cortina’s bag of tricks
There’s no doubt Simon Peryer’s 1963 Cortina is a great-looking car. With its green over white paint job and Minilight-style wheels, it looks for all the world like a classic rally machine. What it doesn’t look like is one of the best-fabricated vehicles to have ever graced the pages of NZV8. But appearances are deceptive. No part of the car has gone untouched, yet even if you take a close look at it, chances are you won’t notice the majority of its subtle modifications.
Some years back, as a student, Simon had a Cortina that he’d fitted with a V6. That car was never completed due to a lack of funds. So in early 2007, when he found himself in a situation where he could build a project car, a Cortina was what he chose.
Some time between the original Cortina and the more recently purchased one featured here, Simon also developed a love for superchargers. So the plan was to build a supercharged, V8-powered Cortina that looked as much like a rare Lotus Cortina as possible.
From Plan To Action
Simon was sick of looking at former race cars that had no straight panels, or cars with straight panels and a lot of rust, before friend Matthew Walters led him to the ideal shell on which to base the build.
“The firewall had already been knocked back as the guy was planning on fitting a Cosworth motor into it, so it wasn’t as dear as some of the other shells, yet was more suitable for what I was after,” Simon says. It also didn’t hurt that the shell had already been painted in the famous Lotus colours, even though it’s a paint job that perfectionist Simon says is far from perfect. However, the less-than-mint paint allows Simon to drive the car hard without fearing stone chips, and lets him park it where it may get dinged or dirty.
Because he’s confined to an office from nine to five, Simon knew he’d be better off to enlist the help of trained professionals to carry out the build, rather than struggle on it himself after hours. It wasn’t long before he settled on West Auckland’s RaceFX to take the project from a concept to a turn-key work of art. “The advantage of RaceFX was that they could do the whole job; from sourcing parts to custom fabrication to getting it road legal, they could do the lot,” Simon says.
Although the original firewall had been replaced before the vehicle was purchased, the RaceFX team rebuilt it again complete with factory-looking swage lines. It’s the small touches throughout the build ” such as making the firewall look original ” that sets it apart from the rest. This clever and detailed engineering no doubt took a lot of time and money, but the final result is well worth the complications and costs involved.
Eight Cylinders And A Blower
Between the strut towers and the recessed firewall now sits a 302 Windsor crate motor that on its own is good for around 400hp. The motor itself wasn’t a huge issue to fit in the engine bay ” unlike the massive Procharger and associated piping that now hangs off the side of it.
Purchased as a kit complete with front-mount intercooler, the Procharger is self-contained when it comes to lubrication and cooling. Fitting the intercooler, custom alloy radiator and fans behind the grille and far enough off the engine required some tricky fabrication, but as with the rest of the vehicle, the workmanship is flawless.
Sitting above the motor and Edelbrock intake manifold are custom fuel rails, with injectors monitored by a New Zealand-made Link ECU. The rest of the fuel system kicks off with a custom alloy fuel tank that sits low in the boot, and a submergible Bosch fuel pump.
As well as plenty of street use, the build plan outlined the fact the car would also be used for track days and perhaps even for the Dunlop Targa at some stage in future. Rather than find and fix weak links after the build, Simon briefed RaceFX to do it right the first time. With this in mind the driveline includes a Tremec TK0600 five-speed close-ratio gearbox and a late-model Mustang 8.75-inch diff. Due to the Cortina’s compact size the diff has been significantly narrow
All That Looks Normal
Only the trained eye would be able to pick that the car has been very slightly mini-tubbed in order to fit eight-inch-wide rear wheels. The Performance Superlight rims give the look many track and rally specced Cortinas have had over the years, a look that is part of the car’s original appeal.
Sitting the body of the car down low enough over the semi-slick Dunlop rubber wasn’t an easy task, especially as Simon demanded it also handles far better than the factory ever intended. A custom four-link with Watts linkage has been fitted to the rear end, the leading arms of which required the rear seat to be raised slightly ” although again, only the trained eye would pick it.
QA1 adjustable coil-overs have been used all round, and up front they are paired with Mustang struts and hubs along with custom arms. The five-stud hubs allow for easy fitment of Alcon four-pot front callipers and Mustang rotors, which balance braking proportion perfectly with the late-model Mustang rear brakes.
Hanging off the front of the roll cage is a Wilwood pedal box, which, along with the relocated firewall, meant the driver seat had to be moved rearwards around 130mm. To keep the driving position looking factory a long custom steering wheel boss was added to the factory column.
The seat itself is a period-styled Corbeau item that, again, thanks to the Lotus racing pedigree doesn’t look out of place.
On the other side of the enlarged trans tunnel is a seat modified to fit in the small space, and retrimmed in Lotus Cortina style.
The highlights of the interior are not the items you see but the things you don’t, such as the way the roll cage runs along the floor hard up against the sills to strengthen the body, and the late-model gauge mechanicals that have been added to the factory gauge faces. The stock-looking steering wheel is actually from a Triumph, while the badge adorning its centre is the original rear guard badge off a genuine Lotus-spec car. Similarly, Simon thought outside the square when he fitted the Lotus keyring that came with the car to the gear lever, giving a genuine look.
Fooling The Experts
There is so much attention to detail on the vehicle, both to make it look like a genuine Lotus-spec Cortina and to make it look as factory as possible, that even the experts are easily fooled. Of course, as soon as the car fires up and the almost unmuffled side pipe fills with the rumble of a V8, the game is up. The expressions on people’s faces during our photoshoot was a good indication of the looks the car gets on the streets. It’s obvious a lot of the older generation recognise and appreciate the car as a desirable Lotus model, or at least a good replica. Younger people seem to concentrate on the thought of a V8, let alone a supercharger in such a small car.
Once Simon has got the hang of driving the short-wheelbase powerhouse, the plan is to open the motor up, drop the compression ratio and raise the boost. Even as it sits, with just 4psi pushed through the motor, the car can only be described as brutal. With more power, you can just imagine the fun Simon will have behind the wheel.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Cortinas or not, the workmanship and thought that have gone into the build has to be appreciated. It truly is a work of art, and a vehicle many of us can learn a thing or two from.
Rather than call it subtle, I would describe it as sheer genius.
Simon Peryer – Owner Profile
Age: 40 or so
Occupation: Sit at a desk and gaze out the window
OTHER CARS CURRENTLY owned: 1965 Mustang fastback — manual, 289 A code 1972 Bolwell Nagari coupe
Build time: Just over one year
Length of ownership: Just over one year
Dream car: De Tomaso Pantera (exotic supercar with a Ford V8¦ how much better does it get than that?)
Why the Cortina: “I had a MkI Cortina with a V6 in bits when I was a student, but lack of funds meant it was never finished. I love the look of the two-door Cortina, combined with the power of a small block Ford. And I always wanted a supercharger.”
SIMON thanks: “Andy and the guys at Race FX have done a great job keeping to the concept, which was to keep the car looking as close to an original period race Lotus as possible, with only the sound to give it away. Nothing through the bonnet, single exhaust only, no drop tank, no huge wheels, and standard-looking interior. It takes a lot of effort to make it look so ordinary. Thanks to Matthew Walters for helping me find a good project car, and Clyde Walters for supplying the hard-to-get Cortina bits. And, of course, thanks to my wife for putting up with endless car stuff.”
1963 Ford Cortina two-door – Specifications
Engine: 302ci (4949cc) Windsor crate motor, 9.6:1 compression, alloy GT40 heads, custom injection, MSD throttle body, modified Edelbrock manifold, Procharger D1SC intercooled supercharger, RaceFX fuel system, custom aluminium fuel tank, MSD ignition, custom fabricated four-into-one HPC coated headers, three-inch pipe, side exit, custom radiator, header tank and overflow tank, Setrab oil cooler, Link computer, firewall recessed 356mm
Driveline: Tremec TKO600 five-speed, close ratio, overdrive fifth, narrowed 2000 Mustang 8.75-inch diff, custom driveshaft
Suspension: Custom four-link with Watts linkage, QA1 adjustable coil-overs, Mustang struts, Subaru Forester power steering rack mounted forward of the cross—member
Brakes: Alcon four-pot front callipers, Ford discs, Ford Mustang rears
Wheels/Tyres: 15×7 and 15×8-inch Performance Superlight rims, 205/55R15 and 225/55R15 Dunlop Formula R semi-slick tyres
Exterior: Subtle mini tubbing, pumped rear guards, reshaped front guards, Lotus-style paintwork
Interior: Rear—mounted seat position, Wilwood pedal box, extended steering column, Corbeau driver’s race seat, customised passenger seat, Triumph steering wheel, Smiths instruments water/oil and fuel gauges, rear half cage
Performance: Detuned to 500hp-plus (373kW-plus) at the wheels
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Dan Wakelin