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Tina The Cortina

Cortina Dave, Bearings Editor

'Made in Dagenham' and 1st registered in November 1964, just one month after the launch of the 'Air Flow' face lift, and as such is a bit of a mongrel, with manufactured parts from both the early and later versions.

Purchased in 1985 and used as an everyday car for 5 or 6 years, until being relegated to the garage after failing an MOT.

In 2007 the wife gave me the ultimatum to get it done or get rid of it.

It was an easy decision to dip into my pockets and spend a few grand getting her fully refurbished over about 4 months.

It was the autumn of 1984 and I had been married to Pauline for nearly 10 years, with two small children, when I came up with (what I thought) would be an ideal present for my wife, that would cover Christmas’s and birthday’s for years to come.

The Christmas present for this year would be a provisional driving licence and a block of driving lessons, knowing that I could buy her another block for her birthday, the following April, and every Christmas and Birthday for the foreseeable future - sorted.

Driving lessons began in January and,

unfortunately (for me), by the late summer of ’85, the driving instructor decided to put Pauline in for her driving test, as good experience.

The test date was for November, and I promised (foolishly) that if she passed her test 1st time, I would buy her a car.

I was on a late shift at Fords on the day of the test and managed to phone home during our evening lunch break, all prepared to be fully sympathetic (and ready to order her a new block of lessons for her Christmas present).

“Hi Ya, What did they fail you on?” I asked

“Nothing, I passed” was the reply.

“You jammy cow, how did you do that?” I asked, as nobody passed first time in those days.

Evidently, anything that could go wrong during the test did go wrong, including turning the wrong way out of the Test Centre at the start of the test and clipping a curb during the reversing around a corner manoeuvre.

On the way back to the Test Centre, with the mind set of ’Oh well, I’ve failed’, the instructor asked Pauline to turn right at the next roundabout, which was of these painted spots in the middle of the road, during which Pauline had to slam the anchors on, and managed to stall the car because an idiot coming the other way decided that he was not going to stop.

Apply handbrake, take it out of gear and start her up again, indicate and carry on.

Back at the Test Centre questions on the Highway Code, included ‘what is the 1st thing that you should check if you have driven though a ford’, was received by a blank look.

“Let me put it another way” said the instructor, “ If you are on a bike and ride through a deep puddle what would you check?”

The only thing that Pauline could think of, that bikes and cars had in common, (after considering her shoes and the bell), was the brakes - the correct answer.  After scribbling some bits and pieces on his form, the instructor announced “You will be most surprised, but you have passed.

We are not looking for a perfect driver but, when it mattered, in an emergency situation, you were in control of the vehicle.”

So, after sending the pass sheet and the provisional license off to the DVLA, it was a short wait for the full licence to come though, before we could go and get the Mini or Fiesta that Pauline wanted.

Early January in 1986, with £400 in my pocket, we went looking for Pauline's very own car. (at least it would mean that I would not have to be the family taxi driver).

We had been to quite a few garages & car dealers around the area, looking for the car, with no success, until we pulled up onto a forecourt in Southend, and there she was.

“There’s your new car Paul” I said as we pulled up.

“I can’t drive that, it’s too big and it’s old” was the reply.

“I'm paying, and that’s what you are getting”, so that was when we acquired a Spruce Green, 2 door, 1964, Mk1 ‘Tina The Cortina’.

It didn’t take long to get used to driving her and pretty soon Pauline was running all over the local area in her ‘new’ car, although it did seem to have a little quirk, in as much as it appeared to not like leaving Basildon, especially on the A13.

Every time that we got as far as the One Tree Hill traffic lights, she would boil over, top up and carry we might reach the Red Lion Service Station or the Orsett Cock before she boiled over again, and then only as far as Daneholes, but if we topped up and returned home she was as good as gold, very strange!!

I even tried doubling up on the two blade fan but to of no avail.

After about five years I was now working for PW Electrical, in Dagenham, and i was given a company car, so Tina was retired to the garage, with the intention of getting her all done up, and Pauline was using my car.

Five or six years later, with absolutely no progress on the ’doing up’ plan, my eldest daughter, Kerry, was approaching her 18th birthday and of that age where she was taking driving lessons, and, when asked what sort of car she wanted when for her 18th, immediately answered ’the Mark 1 Cortina’.

Now I had to get her sorted out & back on the road, so I had a chat with a friendly neighbour, who was into cars, who tarted it up, put it through the MOT, so it was back on the road, and I was taking Kerry out in her (with L plates) while she was taking lessons and trying to pass her test.

Kerry passed her test in the summer of 1997, and was now mobile, and used Tina for a couple of years until it failed the MOT, needing a new exhaust and some welding, so Kerry found herself a little run-around and Tina was retired to the garage again.

I never did manage to find an exhaust, or get the welding done, so she sat there for the next 10 years slowly going rotten.


Let us now fast forward to the summer of 2008, we had just received a notification from Basildon council of a rent increase for the garage where Tina was sitting, all sad and forlorn, with stuff (and rubbish) stacked on and all around her.

Pauline gave me an ultimatum, "either get it done or get rid of it" which seemed to spur me into action.

The mortgage was finished, I had a good job and we had a few spare bob floating around.

I was having a moan about it with my then boss, Jeff Norman, at KGN Pillinger (where I now worked), and he told me of a friend and neighbour of his, named Paul Healy, who restores Mustangs in his spare time.

I asked Jeff if he could have a word with him, and see if he would be interested on having a go at restoring the Cortina for me.

Arrangements were made for Paul, under the title of Manor Autos, to pop round and have a look at the car, a week or so later.

After a full weekend of clearing rubbish and old stuff (that we would never use again), and many visits to the dump, you could now see the car sitting in the garage, tyres flat, dents in the roof and holes in the wings.

Paul came round when he was next in the area, and had a look over and under the car and agreed to give it a go, but I would need to get the tyres pumped up so that they could move it.

After rigging up a battery and a make-shift cigarette lighter socket and laying upside down on the bonnet to reach the far tyre, this was successfully achieved, and we arranged for my boss to come around, in October 2008, with his trailer, and carry the car to Lingfield, Surrey, where the restoration was to take place.

After a full inspection it was decided that the restoration would need to consist of a complete strip down, Glass, Bonnet, Boot, Doors, Seats, Engine compartment, fuel tank and all shiny stuff, and then start from the bottom and work the way up.

Out came the radiator, and, as she was totally clogged and showing its age, was sent off to be overhauled and re-cored.  The engine came out and was drained of all remaining fluids and cleaned.  The sump, rocker box, rockers, head, clutch housing and clutch assembly and all accessories were 

removed, inspected, de-sludged, cleaned, painted and new and replacement parts, where necessary, were ordered, and once received the engine was re-assembled.

Also removed were the gearbox and prop shaft, which were also cleaned inspected and painted, as was the fuel tank.

The vinyl covering on the front seats was dry, crumbling and splitting but Paul knew of a chap that he had previously use for his Mustang upholstery, who managed to produce new seat covers, using the same material and stitching pattern as the originals.

Once the plastic carpets came out from inside the car and the boot, it was evident that would need to be a few repair plates fitted, so other body parts were removed (doors, bonnet, boot & wings), so that the under wing plating could be done at the same time, and replacement steel wings could be ordered.

The dents in the roof and the bonnet were knocked out, as well as they could be, and filled and sanded smooth.

The bottom of the doors need the rusty sections removed and were plated before being filled and rubbed down, and plates were also fitted on the inner wings, rear wheel arches, door posts, floor and boot sections where she had been attacked by the dreaded 'Rust Worm', and rear quarter repair panels were fitted.

With all these repairs now done, sealed filled and rubbed down, and all the surface rust in the foot well and boot areas attacked with a good wire brushing and rust treatment, and the underneath was coated with under seal..

The new front wings were undercoated as were the bonnet, boot & doors prior to being re-fitted to the body shell, which was also treated to a couple of coats of undercoat and the first of a few top coats of paint, including the engine compartment and boot area, and then it was time to start thinking about the re-assembly.

After a couple more top coats of paint, the engine, complete with a new fuel pump, clutch c/w thrust race and pressure plate, clutch slave cylinder, timing chain & water pump thermostat housing (and stat), hoses and an alternator conversion (-ve earth to replace the old +ve earth dynamo) were attached to the gearbox, were dropped back into place, together with the prop-shaft and fuel tank, and a new exhaust system.

New master cylinders, brake cylinders assemblies & shoes and copper brake pipes were installed and the wiring was sorted out to suit the new -ve earth system, and the completely refurbished radiator were now fitted and the doors, bonnet & boot could then be attached.

Now it was time to start sorting out the other bits and pieces.

Rear seats & door cards cleaned, glass cleaned and polished before re-fitting with new rubbers (where necessary), new shiny window trims, replacement light fittings c/w chrome bezels, and chromed trims & fittings, door handles (in & out) and window winders, and re-upholstered front seats fitted.

I didn't want holes drilled in the wings, so I purchased door mirrors and fitted them instead of the original wing mirrors.

The chrome radiator grill was polished and the front bumper refitted, the rear one had a big bend in it (the shape of a post), and a replacement would need to be sourced from somewhere.

During the re-build Paul had the chance of a full set of brand new 'Superlite' wheels c/w tyres at cost price, so I had to have them.

A new battery and a gallon of fuel and she was ready for a test run and an MOT, which see passed with flying colours. 

It was now early January in 2009 and Tina The Cortina was now ready to be collected, from Lingfield, some 40 miles away AND around the dreaded M25!!!

I made arrangements with Paul Healy and managed (quite easily actually) to persuade my brother Tony to give me a lift to pick her up on the Saturday, and fortunately the weather was very good to us, and it was a bright, sunny winters day when we pulled onto his driveway and saw the motor, looking beautiful and cleaned and polished gleaming in the sunshine.

I climbed on board and very nervously, having not driven this car for at least 15 years, pulled out of his drive, closely followed by my brother, onto the quite lanes of Surrey.

First stop was to fill her with fuel (including lead replacement additives) and then head for home.

She seemed to run OK but appeared to missing and holding back a little bit, especially when we got onto the motorway, along which drove at a steady 50 MPH, and had a lot of other cars slowing down to have a look (and give a thumbs up), but we made it home.

One of my first aims with her was to join our little group of friends who drove their classics to the Le Mans 24 hour race in the beautiful Loire Valley in France.

After lots of little tweaks and adjustments and investigation as to why she was holding back I found that the adjuster screws on a couple of the rockers were allowing the tappet setting to move, so I pulled out another old, complete rocker shaft, from my garage, and completely stripped it down and 'de-gunked' it prior to reassembly and fitting it to the car and resetting the tappets.

This seemed to do the job, so I booked Tina The Cortina for the Le Mans trip.

We all met up at one of the lads houses in Reading, with me as driver and brother Tony as co-driver, to admiring looks, from the other team members and comments, after years of telling them that I had an old Cortina and that I would bring it one day, like 'you said you would do it, but I didn't think you would'.

We had a good run down and lined up for the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre, with all manner of classic & sports cars, including Astons, Porches & Ferraris, all heading for the same destination, but guess which car got the most interest, my little old Cortina.

We took a nice slow poodle through France, with plenty of comfort breaks, preferring to use the D roads (equivalent to our A roads) instead of their A roads (our M roads), mainly because of my reluctance to thrash my fully loaded (because of her boot size), 45 year old classic, along the motorways of France.

Even over there my car seemed to a bit of a magnet for the public to have a look at, but we made it OK and set up camp for the week.

The Journey home was not so uneventful though, after packing up and leaving camp, in rainy weather she seemed to be running 'like a pig', missing (again) and trying to stall, so we had an early stop for breakfast at a MacDonald's, about 30 miles outside camp, where some said to me that I was leaking fluids under the car.

After a quick look (and grope around) underneath, it was obvious that the cause of the missing & stalling and the fluid leak 

was due to the fact that, with the car fully loaded, and down on her rear springs, a small loop in the plastic fuel pipe had been rubbing on the prop shaft and had finally worn through, leaking fuel and drawing in air to the engine.

With no spare fuel pipe and no way of making a repair I had let the others carry on to catch the ferry while I contacted the RAC International Rescue team, to arrange recovery to a local garage for repairs.

Of course, the locals (probably knowing that they would earn more by recovery to Le Havre than doing a repair to the fuel pipe) said that they couldn't get the parts and made arrangement to carry my strucken car to the ferry port, where we had to arrange to transfer our tickets to the later ferry and sort out a tow on - tow off at each end.

We had the overnight ferry back to Portsmouth where we were met by the RAC recovery truck that brought us all the way home.

Once home and after unloading the car and having a kip, I lifted the car up and went to a local spares shop and bought a metre of fuel hose and a couple of Jubilee clips and repaired the fuel line myself, we were back on the road.

A couple of weeks after this Kerry came round to lunch, one Sunday and said that there was loads of old motors driving into Basildon town centre, so we all jumped into Tina to go and have look and see what was happening.

We was absolutely 'gob smacked' at all of the wonderful, shiny motors, of all types, makes, models and ages, displayed in our town centre.

 It turns out that there was a local Classic Car Club doing their annual London to Southend run, with a stop off at Basildon, so I felt that I needed to find out more about this club, and, upon enquiring, was directed to the chairman, who invited me to attend one of the future meetings at the Belvedere Pub in Crays Hill, so along I went to the October meeting and joined up straight away.

The next fuel problem that I had was a seeping from the tank, and even though I had tried the special putty that is supposed to permanently repair holes, it only worked as a temporary stop gap, so looking on ebay, I found a guy up Colchester way who was selling off the stock of brand new tanks that his late father had imported from the Far East, so I went up there and purchased one.

The problem was that the sender unit on the new tank was slightly different to the one that I had, which meant that I had to take the pipe, float and sender unit out of my old sender unit and get it braised into the new sender plate, but we managed to do it successfully.

Unfortunately, on the way back from Colchester, the gearbox began to develop a whine.

I had a spare gearbox in my garage, (from a Cortina that I had stripped down way back in the late 80s), so it was off to Thames transmissions on Canvey to get the spare overhauled, and once complete I took Tina to the works where they swapped the gearboxes over and I got them to overhaul the whining one, so that I had a good spare.

I did the same with the spare engine that I had, using Smiths Engines in Basildon, to completely overhaul the engine, including new pistons, rings and big & small ends and valve seat inserts (so that I could use unleaded petrol), and again swap out the existing lump and overhaul that one as a spare.

When the engine was replaced they noticed that there was excessive play on my distributor main shaft, causing erratic sparking and suggested that for the sake of £60 they would supply and fit and electronic distributor (basically using a magnetic pick up instead of the points and condenser).

Once this was done she ran like a dream.

Since then I have also replaced the plastic fuel pipe with a new copper one, and had all the brake pipes renewed, and last year decided to try and get something done about the back leaf springs, as, because of the way she sat and due to the lack of springiness left in the rear  many people had said to me 'You shouldn't of had it lowered at the back'.

We investigated new Leaf Springs but they were far too expensive, then I remembered that you used to be able to get 'Spring Assistors' , designed for when you are towing a caravan of the like, but these were unavailable for my car, so we opted for new rear shock absorbers, but the pneumatic type where you can pump them up, using an air compressor, to whatever height you want and these work perfect.

Bringing us right up to date, and finally, we are currently in the process of sorting out a leaking front suspension leg and the anti-roll bar bushes, and a little bit of welding for this years MOT. 

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