Perfect Partners

The theme for this year’s Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show was Perfect Partners and we had 3 fantastic MkII Cortina on display to show how Jeff Uren, Basil Green, Colin Chapman, David McMullan and Jeff Smith became Perfect Partners with the Ford Motor Company.

Perfect Partners – Ford & Jeff Uren

Ex Ford works driver and John Wilment Racing Team manager Jeff Uren set up Race Proved Performance and Racing Equipment LTD to produce road going tuned versions of the Cortina. Customers could buy a brand new Sprint GT from him for £999 or he could tune your own car for £220.

Also, using the Essex engines that first appeared in the new MkIV Zephyr and Zodiacs earlier in 1966 he would go on to build the best known of the V6 conversions, the 3 litre Savage and the 2.5 litre Cheetah.

It wasn’t just simply about dropping a V6 into the engine bay though, many months of design and development work had been carried out using the (then current) MkI Cortina in an attempt to create the perfect package. However, before Jeff was ready to put the V6 conversion into production Ford had introduced the new MkII and his development work had to start all over again.

Car magazine later reported (in January 1968) 27 different suspension trials had been carried out with both springs and dampers uprated and a second anti roll bar added before Jeff was happy with the car’s handling.

VYP 16G is a November 1968 built 1600E that Jeff Uren sold brand new to a finance company in Putney, London in January 1969. It was delivered three months later in April after it had been given the Race Proved 3000E “Savage II” conversion. Its specification included the Zodiac overdrive gearbox, inertia front seatbelts, reflective number plates and a 3.5:1 limited slip differential.

The second owner, British Olympic Speed Skater John Tipper, used the car to travel long distances all over Europe to attend competitions so sent it back to Jeff Uren to have the long-range petrol tank fitted, another item on the Race Proved options list from the Ford Competitions Plus Performance catalogue.

By the late 1970s the Savage was looking rather sorry for itself so the third owner embarked on a major restoration. However, after fitting many new panels (including genuine Ford front and rear wings) he decided it needed too much work and sent it to be scrapped.

Thankfully, VYP 16G was saved and sold on (several times!) instead of being crushed but it wasn’t until Eddie Newman bought it in January 2012 that it was finally to get the restoration it deserved.

Perfect Partners – Ford & Basil Green

It was in 1967 when Basil Green first worked on the idea of dropping big engines into the spaces where smaller ones had been to create the long line of Perana high performance range of cars. Over the years, various Escorts, Capris and Granadas were converted in his workshops just outside Johannesburg, but it all started with the MkII Cortina.

Basil made modifications very similar to those of Jeff Uren in the UK by fitting the 3 litre V6 Zodiac engine (mated to the Lotus Cortina gearbox) in place of the original 4 cylinder Kent engine. The brakes and suspension were also upgraded, striping was added to the front end and with alloy wheels together with a whole host of optional extras it made for one of the fastest cars that had ever been built at the time in South Africa.

Based on the 4dr GT, production of Perana MkII Cortinas began in 1968 and were supplied with a full Ford warrantee by Grosvenor Motors, one of South Africa’s largest Ford dealers for around R2950 (approximately £1500). They were only available in red and silver initially but later metallic shades of green and blue became choices too.

A number of conversions based on 4dr XL models were built to be used as promotional vehicles for the Gunston cigarette company – who also took a few of them racing. These were delivered in the orange company colour but were repainted in other colours when Gunston had finished with them and moved on to newer models.

Alex Montgomery found Perana NPN 35506 advertised for sale on the internet in Durban, South Africa in 2019. When trying to find the history of the car he managed to contact a previous owner who suggested it was one of the Gunston fleet – this was confirmed when the paint was rubbed back in a few places to reveal the original orange colour underneath. But was it one of the reps cars or a race car?

When the Perana arrived, Alex found several modifications suggesting a race history. The strut tops holes had been elongated to make the front camber adjustable, wiring loom changes included an emergency cut off switch, and the throttle pedal had been cut and repositioned.

Further investigations revealed it had been used in drag racing and with the XL model chassis number is it one of the reps cars after all? Either way, Alex is collecting parts for the Perana’s restoration and hopes to get started on it as soon as he can.

Perfect Partners – Ford, Lotus, & Crayford

It wasn’t long after the launch of the original Cortina in 1962 when Ford’s Walter Hayes decided to use racing as a way to help raise the car’s profile and boost sales. Colin Chapman and his engineering team at Lotus were already working on a high power Twincam version of Ford’s Kent engine and it seemed obvious to Walter the Cortina should enjoy the upgraded engine too. The resulting “Cortina developed by Lotus” was built in house at Colin’s facility at Cheshunt and gave Walter Hayes and Ford the race winning car they wanted. The partnership between Ford and Lotus was to continue with the MkII Cortina. Arriving in March 1967, the Cortina Lotus (as Ford wanted us all to call it) was built on the main production lines at Dagenham and received great praise from the motoring press for being a much better car than its predecessor.

Just as Colin Chapman’s team at Lotus had worked on MkI Cortinas, so too had David McMullan and Jeff Smith over at Crayford Auto Developments LTD. They had made a name for themselves first making convertible versions of the Mini and Hornet before turning to Cortinas and Corsairs. They had developed some great contacts within Ford which allowed them to have their convertible version of the MkII Cortina ready to display at the Earls Court Motor Show when the range was announced by Ford on 18th October 1966. It is thought around 400 MkII Cortinas had their roofs cut off by the Crayford team in Westerham, Kent, with possibly as few as 20 being based on the Lotus Twincam model.

Dave Wright has owned LVM 818G for around 30 years now. He missed out on this very rare Lotus Crayford when it was first advertised in the Motoring News but got another chance when the expected sale fell through and it was readvertised. When Dave viewed it he found many of the special Crayford parts were missing. Deciding it was rather overpriced he walked away but a little later got a call from the vendor. Preferring to sell privately than to the trade, the vendor suggested if Dave would match the price a dealer had offered the Lotus Crayford could be his after all and a deal was finally done.

The advert had stated it was 99% completed but once Dave got it home he found the rare car to be a total wreck – in addition to the missing Crayford parts there were many poor repairs, bolts holding the engine in were only hand tight and the A post had about 5 layers of metal in it. It was 18 years before Dave had finished the restoration and was able to drive the car again.

All photos & video © Cortina MkII Owners Club LTD.