I had wanted a white Ford Cortina MkI estate for a long time, then out of the blue my wish finally came true when a friend told me of one for sale on the South Coast – but I was warned I should be prepared for a challenge. We drove from Sunderland to Hastings to have a look at the car. It was a 1965 MkI Ford Cortina 1500 DeLuxe that only had one owner from new and just 51,000 on the clock. I didn’t know what I expected to find, but I knew I was not going to let it go no matter how bad it was…. but when I saw the car I thought “What the hell am I doing buying this?”
The car had not been on the road for over 20 years and was going to take a lot of work to get into shape, but I could not stop myself from buying it. I was so exited about getting her home and getting the work started. The owners however were devastated! After 46 years and with a very heavy heart, they finally faced up to the fact they would never be able to complete the restoration themselves. They were desperate for someone to look after their much loved Cortina and bring her back to life – not just to be used for spares. This was a condition of the sale, that I had to agree to lovingly restore the car, so how could I let them down? I had a feeling they never thought they would ever see their beloved Cortina ever again. I felt totally devastated for them and guilty for taking their car from them, so I promised I would cherish her and love her as much as they had for all those years. After 6 months of opening the garage door, looking at it and walking back out, I finally sent it away to a local garage for the work to start.
The garage did all of the welding and bodywork, while I started sourcing spare parts. Of course eBay was a good source, but an even better one was the MkI Cortina Owners’ Club. The club has a wealth of spares available, often much cheaper than any on eBay and I would recommend that anyone restoring a MkI Cortina join. The club proved to have a wealth of information about the cars and other research was done with the aid of Google and YouTube. The rest of the restoration, including the respray, was carried out by a couple of good friends, with my help of course! Progress was very slow but gradually it started to emerge and look like there was hope after all. Eighteen months later, and with the Mk1 Cortina Owners’ Club National Rally fast approaching, I was determined it was going to be ready for the show.
Work on the interior was started, the engine was fully rebuilt and everything was put back together. My joy at what I was seeing and feeling is something I will never forget! My local Ford Main Dealers, Bristol Street Motors in Durham, heard about the car and requested to have it on display in their showroom for a month. As word got round, people came from all over the north to see her, hoping she was for sale. I eventually had to put a sign in the window stating that she wasn’t!
I had always promised the couple who we bought the car off that when it was finished, I would drive it back down to Hastings for them to see. On the first of September 2012 I turned up at their door and their faces said it all. I presented them with a photo album of the full restoration of every single thing that had been done to her. There were lots of tears, but tears of joy that they got to see their beloved car once again. I took them for a ride in it and they were so grateful for everything we had done and could not get over the fact that we had taken the car all the way back down to Hastings, for them to see. This was something I always felt I had to do for them, given that they had trusted me with their car.