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As told to
Wednesday 15th June 2017
Wednesday 5th April:
Bill wanted to get the new Dashboard mounting finished today. I had ordered the Dzus plates and springs from Mark at Hauser Racing on Monday and they arrived the next day. So Bill got cracking on that, meanwhile I got stuck into framing the front windscreen ready for the screen to be mounted.
The best way I have found is making a wood frame that you use to bring the level that the screen sits on flush with the roof, pillars and scuttle. Because a screen is usually held in by rubber, when using lexan you have to bring the height up so as you donít get a sunken in screen. This will also aid the aero on the frontal area. But itís very time consuming and with the shape of the screen you have to bend and shape the wood. I used 15mm x 12mm battening from B&Q, plus you have to use saw cuts to be able to allow the wood to bend into shape. Then you need to bolt it into place and paint the wood. Once in place you then may have to shave it down in places to get the right recess for the lexan to drop into.
What I have just described took 6 hours to do so allow time and be patient. And yes this is not the first one I have done, so take your time and buy lots on wood for when it snaps when youíre trying to get the shape.
I used stainless countersunk M4 screws and nylocks to fit it all in place. The screens will be the very last job as I donít want them damaged by welding or cutting. Plus, with no screens, the access to everything is excellent, with the screen fitted jobs like the dashboard would take twice as long.
We also looked at remounting the front wings and bonnet assembly, being as the front used to be a flip front so as you could gain access without removing the front and wings (one piece front, but all in steel). I did not need that and much preferred just taking it off when needed.
Some of the door gaps etc were bigger than needed and the way the front wings were kicked out behind the wheels needed sorting. In the end, we cut the lower mounts off and remade them, and moved the front wings back a little to close up the door gaps, making sure the door could still open without catching the wing, which had been a problem before.
Wednesday 19th April:
We lost a week working on the Cortina on account of racing at Easterís Festival of Power at Santa Pod Raceway. But now were now back on the Cortina, and as usual it took a while to get back into the swing of things.
I still wanted to finish off doing the front wing on the passenger side and moved the wing out a little more to line up with the bodyline better. This actually worked, and with that done, we carried on. Bill finished the fitting of the dash last week, but now the end pieces and the underside returns needed making. Luckily the bead roller and the folder came in very handy for making these small pieces - they are perfect. Again, you start by making it with cardboard and once your happy with that you remake in ally.
As you can see from the pics, the steering wheel and extension looks real nice and is very practical when it comes to getting in and out of the car. I decided that I would work on the interior and tackle remounting the panel that the launch control, boost control and data ports are mounted to. This, for now, will go back where it used to be; luckily we did not cut those out just in case.
With North Weald now just 3 weeks away, the clock is really ticking. The Data Logger panel went back in really nice and using countersunk bolts the floor piece on that side goes right over it and keeps it nice and neatish!
I also then refitted the trans tunnel which is original but powder coated. I had already mounted the new shifter on it and made sure the shifter cable fitted, which it did. This highlighted that we still need to fabricate the mounts for the trans tunnel. I also started working out all the cable runs and routes on the passenger side with the floor panels fitted and secured them.
The next job was the steering wheel and where all the controls were going to go. I have a line lock, transbrake and bump box button to install. Before the line lock and the transbrake button were on the shifter, I didnít want that, plus there is a lot of cable running down the driverís side of the car. I have seen this before, and is usually because American wiring looms are made for LHD cars so the lionís share of wiring runs down the passenger side Ė but the Cortina is RHD.
I decided to mount the transbrake and bump button on the steering wheel so that I can control the staging process with both hands on the steering wheel; I just prefer it that way. But I mounted them on an ally plate above the wheel itself so that itís less likely to hit anything when just holding the steering wheel. The line lock I left mounted in the shifter area. I then spent time picking out the wiring I needed out of the loom and added curly cables so that when I remove the steering wheel to exit the car, there is enough slack on the cable to move the wheel.
The last job was remove the steering rack, which was when Bill and I checked the steering and brakes. Bill noticed play in the rack, a quick call to Jon Hollingworth confirmed it had been on the car all the time he owned it, so it was probably due some TLC.
Meanwhile, Bill was busy fabricating a front screen support, this stops the screen from flexing and buckling at speed. Again itís a fairly small piece but itís a time consuming fabrication. Naturally we used the lightest, thinnest tubing we could find and designed it as a double triangle to give it strength.
The last job of the day for me was to reconnect everything back up electronically and fire her up and put her through a heat cycle. It had been at least a month since she had been started and a lot of work had been done. Everything was reconnected and there was enough charge in the battery so we pre oiled her from the Accusump, switched on the ignition and she fired up straight away no problem whatsoever. That was real nice, I can tell you, and it warmed up quicker due to the warmer weather and there were no leaks from anything. A very nice reassuring way to finish the day.
Sunday 23rd April:
Just to keep it rolling along, I reassembled and refitted the powder coated rear wing today and re attached it to the boot. Again a time consuming fiddly job done!
Thursday 27th April:
This was the first day back on the Cortina proper, due to the Festival of Power and Paul Marstonís Drag Race School teaching at Santa Pod Raceway which went very successfully. Other than the Monza being on alcohol in cold weather, they do have a tendency to spit back when starting from cold. It did so and broke two ring gear teeth clean off whilst teaching so that had to be fixed as well. Not trying to make excuses but there are only so many hours in a day!
Okay, Iím on my own today, elephant in the room time, its dashboard day. First off, I had to finish the assembly of the dash as the driverís side pieces were made but not fitted. Then I needed to get the dash cut with holes for all the gauges so that it can go with the other small parts that still need colour. It was a time consuming and delicate job, and if I make a mistake and ruin it, a lot of work goes down the toilet.
So I measured it twice or three times, was patient and got it done. I sat myself in the Cortina a good few times to make sure I knew where to put them. It was either off to one side or directly in front. Now I had the steering wheel and column in place, I could easily see the gauges when they were in front, and my hands on the steering wheel still donít obscure the gauges so thatís where they went.
I did speak to Bill and he suggested that the bottom of the dash looked unfinished and said that rolling the bottom edge under the picture frame tubing around the transmission would make it look finished. I could see what he meant, so I figured letís have a go. The trick with metal is to avoid stretching it too much and so as to get the fold I wanted, I went over it three times, folding it a little more each time so that it was not stretched in a direction I didnít want. I hope that makes sense.
Once I had done that, it really made a difference to the look of it and at last I could see it working. Then with lots of measuring and checking, I cut the holes and checked they were the right size, they were - just. Itís always useful to have a gallon of panel wipe to take off the marker lines so as to have a clean surface for powder coating. When all that was finished, I decided to tackle prepping all the other colouring parts, accelerator and brake pedals plus some more covers and pieces etc. With that all done, it was time to work out the button layout, as it needed sorting out.
As the steering wheel was now removable, it was final decision time. Any buttons mounted on the steering wheel had to have curly cables with stretchability built in. I decided to go ahead and mount both the transbrake button and the bump box button for staging with the turbos spooled up on the steering wheel.
I mounted the line lock on the shifter, as that keeps the wheel a little less cluttered. This meant extending and reducing some wiring, so I cut out anything with a join in it and installed it fresh. I also avoided using spade connectors and preferred soldering and then heat shrinking insulation on all joints to ensure good contact. Again it was a time consuming job, but you only want to do this once. I also had to tidy up and re-run some of the cable paths as there is a lot of cabling on the passenger side, so the tidier you can get it the better for the driver. After this it was simply a case of running all the powder coated pieces down to the powder coaters.
Tuesday 2nd May:
With the deadline date fast approaching, Bill and I agreed that, weather permitting, the Cortina would make the opening event at North Weald. Itís next Sunday and thereís still a shedload to do. Still no windows in her, no wheels on her, no braking system to speak of, no steering rack, the list goes on and on. Will we make it? Well itís still the same as itís ever been, it just needs hours of work put into it, lots of hours. To help this along and give it our best shot, I decided to take the rest of the week off from work. As long as Bill gets his bits done, I figure I will try to get everything else sorted and will need plenty of time to do it. This has been a six month project, so I will do my best to make it happen.
I collected all the powder coating, bought it back and installed the gauges, so now itsí starting to take shape. The powder coating really made a difference, it now looks the part. The first job was paint and laquer the roof panel; Bill and I had spent hours on this and trying to work out what to do with it. Gary Springford at DRE came up with a great idea, but there is not yet the time to do it. So, for now, itís painted as is and will be fitted.
The next job was reinstall the parachute lever and chute cable, running it through the boot. The cabling in the boot also needed tidying and the wiring for the water injection had to be reconnected. Luckily the pictures I took when we stripped it all out was a godsend as it gave me a visual record of what went where. Next I needed to fabricate a piece of bar to secure the battery to comply with MSA safety rules. I used a piece of bar from the Cortinaís removed parts bin to recycle it. Gary Springford did a great job with the steering rack, it was actually internally adjustable on the ball and socket joints and just needed a little play adjusting out. Once that was done it was like brand new, I just had to detail it, clean up the mounts etc and reinstall it.
On the front, last job was to align all the bonnet pins and make sure that all six were right and held the bonnet nice and snug, also the boot needed the same work, this was quite time consuming but needs to be right. All that took ten hours.
Wednesday 3rd May:
Today was purely on the dashboard. I wanted to take my time as there was a lot or wiring to pick out from the old dash and understand, some of which was now redundant. Like the high beam, indicators, etc, but the ignition light and the oil lights were still needed, so I had to ensure I knew what everything did before I removed the loom from the old dash and the clocks.
So the long process of marking everything as you removed it started. You also have to ensure you know what is earthing through what, so it all works once you have removed it. There were also the two quick releases for the turbo boost gauge and the oil pressure pipes. Removal and marking took about two hours or so.
I had spent about an hour previously working out where I could place everything on the new dash so that it was within easy view when sitting in the car. Everyone has their own ideas about this, mine were, I wanted a much bigger low oil pressure light in my eyeline and I still wanted the shift light on the dash, despite the new to install rev counter having its own shift light capacity. This thing accelerates so fast, I figured two shift lights might be worth trying, as it means you can set one a little lower rpm wise so you have a chance of catching it, especially in first gear.
Then came the job of reinstalling everything into the new dash, the three gauges, the ignition light, the mount for the quick release pipes and the oil and shift light pods. All in all about five hours, but I am pleased to say for once it all worked first time. Also it looked real good.
I also replaced the rev counter and moved it further up the cage, this helped with the removal and reinstall of the dash and itís easier for the driver to see it. I did however need to go online and download the wiring diagrams for both rev counters, as the wires were different colours. Autometerís website is very useful for that. I fired the motor up a couple of times to make sure everything worked, the last time to make sure the rev counter worked which thankfully it did, having previously lived in Gary Springfordís Hulk Shogun. Lastly I reinstalled the last of the coloured panels that I had collected from the powder coaters with the customary black rivets.
Thursday 4th May:
Bill is in today, itís the only day he could spare away from Comanche Racecars and we both knew this would be make or break day. I had earlier that morning picked up the four corner scales from Gary at DRE, the plan being that once we finish for the day then we scale it, well that was the plan anyway!
Bill had two major jobs to do today and lots of small ones. The first one we tackled was to fit the roof panel. Bill was really happy with how the dashboard looked and that I had got plenty done. Once fitted, it moved one step closer to being a useable car.
We removed the bonnet and one piece front for better access to the brakes etc. Bill and I had to tackle the fitting of the transmission tunnel and the remaining removable floor piece that the tunnel was attached to. Once we agreed how it was going to go in and where it attached, Bill got cracking on that. I decided that tackling the windows kept me out of Billís way best, so I started on the rear quarters.
Like most of these jobs, although I had got the windows to where I thought they were ready to fit, there was still a lot of fine tuning to get the perfect fit. Also Bill finally won the argument and I blacked out all the window frame area. I wanted to keep as much of the bodycolour as possible but Bill said that it would look horrible. After relenting and painting I must admit he was right! I used a real nice soft brush and didnít spray it, there are simply too many painted surfaces to spray now and the brush finish looks real nice.
Using a soft pad on a 4 inch grinder I shaved it down the edges carefully and eased the window in. There is a contour for the rear quarter window, it doesnít sit flat so as you bend it a little. It inevitably changes shape, which you have to allow for. So I riveted it direct to the frame in one corner, then worked out rivet spacing (very important) and worked my way along until the window was fully fitted. I used a compressed air blower to keep as little swarf trapped in between the window and frame as possible.
Then I tackled the rear window, which on a Mk5 Cortina is a real tricky piece to do. There is a really tight radius in each corner at the bottom and a rising radius. I guess this is just one of those jobs that by accident I am good at, as Bill reckoned I was a lot more patient than he could be with it. I used big black rivets to spread the load on the increasingly tight corner angles which worked a treat. I was genuinely concerned it might crack but it didnít.
This back window took a lot of time and patience and I created a lot of mess easing it in and shaving it down. Itís by no means perfect, like most things you can always pick fault, but I am very happy with it. The back screen took the time to 5.00pm. Meanwhile Bill had fitted the interior transmission tunnel and the driverís side powder coated floor piece. Bill and I also went back and forth on the window net fitting and finally decided on how it would fit. It needed to allow a small gap for the driver to be able to open the door from the inside and still fit to comply with MSA standards; we did manage to achieve this but we also had to ensure that it did not interfere with the driver so had to be quite taut. We eventually got there.
We stopped for a bite to eat so as Bill didnít fall down, you have to keep him fed! Then, with the flood lights on, we tackled the brakes. It soon became apparent that the brake bias was not going on tonight, whether we need it or not. It has American pipe fittings which, despite tipping out all the brake pipe fittings boxes at Local Motor Factors Kenlees in Romford, I could not match, so instead I bought all the fittings we needed to connect up the pipes to the brake master cylinder on the Cortina, which at 7.00pm at night ainít bad going.
Once I returned, Bill and I got to plumbing in the brakes. Once that was done, we could not bleed the brakes through and get a brake pedal that would stop it. This took a while as there are six bleeds to go through. The brake was there, but not perfect, but it was enough to move on though. So on with the wheels, this is where I realised there was no useable trolley jack (The Allyjack had finally said no) so I stole the one under the PT Bruiser. It was small but works, then with only 10 wheel nuts that fitted, it was a case of getting the wheels on as best we could, as it was now clearly dark.
The Cortina had lived on axle stands for nearly six months now, but neither of us were going to give up. If we didnít get this done and weighed, Bill would not be able to redraw the Cortina out and put a chassis tune into it for its new weight. Prior to fitting the wheels, I got underneath and tidied up and refitted all the cabling that had been disturbed during the build.
Slowly, we fought it and got the wheels on and pumped the tyres up to the correct pressures for the track, did the usual dance for the rears where you have to let all the pressure out and squash the tyre to get it back in the arch then re-inflate it. Then we got it on the ground. It had been a while since it was on all four paws. We refitted the front and the bonnet, refilled with fuel, put in the seat and harness and fitted the front screen with four screws so as everything it as it should be. We put the parachute assembly on the rear wing and we were ready to roll her out and scale it.
Luckily, none of the brakes were binding and we pushed her out into the road and got the scales out, powered them up and placed the Cortina on the scales. Without driver, she weighs 2838lbs which means that we did achieve our target of removing virtually dead on 400lbs, thatís with the Cortina still on gasoline so massive front radiator and all the water to air charge cooler and the charge cooler radiators, pumps and fans etc. You always want to think you would get more, but 400lbs is fine by me it was at the very top of my realistic expectations, fantastic result. The corner weights need verifying as we did it quick and the road was cambered but the weight loss is genuine, oh and we finished at 11.00pm, so that was a 15 hour day for both of us!!
Friday 5th May:
After a very lengthy tidy up from the night before and a cleaning of the Cortina, I got straight back on the front screen fitting. This one needed a painted edge, so I masked and painted that, there were still a lot of small jobs to do. I fitted the driverís seat properly, only to find the one I had kept nice and clean would not fit and the one that had lived in the car during the build would have to be used so I spent half an hour cleaning it up! I then fitted it and the belts. The ignition inhibitor also needed incorporating properly to the new shifter and the line lock button had to be attached.
With the border paint on the screen dry, I then went through the same process fitting this; unfortunately the stainless bolts I had were too short. So it was off to Firstline Fastners to find something fast! Eventually I found a suitable replacement that worked out perfect and spent the next three hours massaging the front screen till I was happy; I must say it looked real nice.
Then I happened to test the brakes as Bill had suggested to see if they were okay; the brake pedal did not return and stayed down. That was not good as it was now Friday afternoon. I figured the master cylinder had jammed so I rang Gary at DRE who agreed and said bring it over in the morning and I will sort it for you. Meanwhile I made up the parachute mount and attached the new chute bag to the framing and refitted it. Then it was just odds and ends, tidying cable runs on the passengers side, another clean up and setting the rear wing support struts. Donít sound much but took another ten hours.
Saturday 6th May:
I was at it 7.00am again, to remove the master cylinder which came off nicely, only to discover I had to cut out part of the floor that was spot welded in to get it out. So dealt with that and off to DRE.
Gary Springford is one of those guys who can fix just about anything and within a hour had it working better than new, thanks mate. Joe, one of our PMR crew, stopped by to help, I refitted the master cylinder and bled the brakes. Joe then sorted the remaining wheel nuts for me and helped pack the chute, while I charged the battery for the final time and sorted out the race fuel, race tools, gennie, race suit, funny car over boots and gloves. I gave the Cortina one last clean, checked all the fluid levels and set the tyre pressures. I then got the trailer, loaded the Cortina into the trailer and were ready for North Weald. I can honestly say I was kind of shocked that we had actually made it and had a race car that was finished enough to take. Considering all we had been through, to have it done on time was quite something.
Sunday 7th May:
North Weald is a ex WW2 airfield and Tony Huck and Maitland Racing run a Test ní Tune, this being the first event of the year. Itís always very busy, so we were up at 5.00am and on the road by 5.30am to pick up the rig and head over. Arriving there to join the queue at 6.45am, the gates opened about 7.20am so by the time we got in and pitted up it was around 8.00am. You have to go early to guarantee a run ticket, then sign on. The plan for today was quite simple really, a soft run to ensure it steers and brakes okay. A full check of the Cortina, then another pass, more of the same and lastly, if all works perfectly, a run with grip juice burnout and a proper launch with trans brake and bump box staging.
Before any of this, however, I needed to do the valve lash as we simply did not have time prior, remember we had barely made it this far. So me and the Crew Chief, Funsize, Aaron Springford, and Joe, along with Bill and Luke from Comanche watched me check the lash and anything else we could think of. To be fair there was not much to check, Bill and I were now so familiar with her it was no real drama, just the lash, which was perfect, no broken springs etc.
By now the track had opened, the day had started a little cold with some misty rain in the air but it was PACKED SOLID. So we prepared for the first pass, before that I had an amusing time with the Crew Chief as she tried to put the funny car gloves on me and the HANS device. Once we had worked that out, we were good to go. So I drove the Cortina round to the startline, the steering was okay with the small steering wheel, as long as you were moving, and the vision out was excellent.
Once we got there I got out and the crew asked when we could run. I had already put on the funny car overboots, but once youíre wearing them you canít walk far as there is no sole, they are not for walking about in, just for protecting you from fire. Then the Crew Chief dressed me, gloves first then HANS and helmet which goes on from the back. Then itís into the car, never easy to do with a crash helmet on but itís the only way. Again, the crew strap you in, as by now with the five layer gloves you would never do it. Now youíre ready. I can tell you it takes some getting used to, wearing overboots on your feet and big thick gloves and then you have to drive, but even at North Weald if we had a fuel line fail, you will burn just the same, so getting used to this stuff is just as important as the car working properly.
I got the signal so fired up, no problem, pulled round, selected the right gear (2nd for a burnout) got spotted in the water and did a small burnout. Up to the line, checked all the gauges, put the pre stage and stage lights on and drove down the track using all three gears and came back - no major drama at all.
Straight back to the pit space, got out of the gear and turned the Cortina round for the next pass, refuelled and let the heat cycle go through; turbo motors get hot fast. But no leaks, no dramas, no steering or braking issues, although the line lock/brakes will need looking at as the line lock was not holding.
About 12.00 we went out for our second pass, and repeated the same process, suited up. I was helped to get in the Cortina so that I didnít clatter the crash helmet, etc. The motor fired up fine, I went up to the water, did a bigger burnout, took it up to the line, did a footbrake launch and went through all three gears again. I then drove back to the pits again through the packed crowd with no dramas.
This time we took the bonnet off and just went over her to do a visual check that nothing was wrong, leaking or had fell off. All was good, I put the battery on charge and waited until after lunch for out third pass. So far all the boxes were ticked, so for the last pass I decided to go for a start line grip juice burnout and launch off of the transbrake, using the bump box to stage.
So we ran just after lunch and by now I was more comfortable wearing the funny car overboots and the five layer gloves. So round we went, into the juice and started the burnout, I went further out than I wanted on the rolling burnout but itís all a learning curve. Got into prestage hit the transbrake, built up a little manifold boost pressure then bumped her in. As you would expect there was not a lot of grip but it was not that bad, I made the pass, got all three gears and feathered it. We ran a 12.1 at 100+MPH. I got back and we were done for the day.
The Cortina had done everything we asked it to do, so now we were ready for Santa Pod. Just waiting on the chrome moly we ordered from Chris Isaacs for the wheelie bar to come in, once fabricated, we are ready to go to Classic Ford at Santa Pod and their Face Off Heads Up Competition.
Wednesday 17th May 2017
Tuesday 7th March: Before I go into what got done today, I must mention this, as it's important for anyone building a car who is grinding and cutting. One bit of very practical advice. Whenever you cut, grind or work on anything that creates small metal filings, as soon as possible, clean them off, as they will eat into any surface you leave them on. Painted or not, they eat in and ruin stuff quicker than you could imagine, so unless you want to make more work for yourself, make sure you do this.
Right - on to the progress today. Bill today was on the front brakes; we needed to make brackets for the calipers so as they were a perfect fit for the discs geometry-wise. The original brakes were overkill for the thinner front tyres and wheels. The easiest way to do this is to make the brackets out of cardboard and then transfer the design into metal. We used T6 Aluminium plate ľĒ thick for strength and lightness. A recess also had to be cut into the bracket to mount the caliper how we needed it. Although it looked like it would line up perfectly, you always seem to need engineers' washers to get it exact. It looks right but never is, just like you always need bits of wood to load a car in a trailer.
It did take quite a while to fabricate the brackets and then line up the calipers and clock it all in so that it was right. It's another real small job thatís very time consuming; if you donít have patience, find someone who has - this job took nearly all day. Other than that, Bill finished the steering with a small bracket that he also fabricated from T6 Aluminium plate to guide the steering shaft; once fitted the steering is now virtually finished.
Meanwhile I wanted to stay out of Bill's way, so I worked around him. I did get one job done that was long overdue. I wanted to connect everything back up and fire up the motor and do a full systems check and put her through a heat cycle. This was again to ensure that we had not broken anything or cut any wiring. So I reconnected all the wiring loom to the FAST ECU, whenever you weld its always good practice to disconnect anything that has sophisticated electronics in it, just to be on the safe side. The manufacturers always say its okay but...
So Bill and I did our usual checks for fuel leaks once the system had been reconnected, battery fitted, etc. The motor fired up perfectly and ran for a minute or so, then we shut her off and I filled the tank, initially I always just put half a gallon in just in case it all has to be taken out again. So once it was topped up, I fired it up again, all good, no issues and so ran through a heat cycle and then shut her off.
Then I was on the front again, fabricating the small thin ally pieces, putting a bead in them, painting and fitting in the front panel. The front of the Cortina is designed for road use and as such it has a lot of vent holes as it needs cooling for constant use. But with a top speed that will eventually be approaching, maybe exceeding, 200mph, the aero becomes a more important feature. So with all the openings at the front, numbering about 12 without the grille, it was time to fill some. All the openings make the front of the car dirty from an aero point of view, the cleaner I make it by filling in the openings the more downforce I create. I have to be mindful that downforce at the front makes the back lighter, so its kind of a balancing act. I filled in just the lower four vents nearest the front splitter to make it more effective. Once we start running the Cortina at Santa Pod at speed we can then see how it handles and go from there. I should be able to feel if it's loose at the back which would mean we probably need more rear wing!
I also fitted the Headlamp fittings and the headlamp decals along with the front indicators, which really made it come alive. Before Bill and I finished, we tackled the dash design, which, after four different ideas, led to a decision being made.
Tuesday 14th March: One of the brake hubs was giving us some trouble as it was going on fine but when you added the brake disc, there was a wobble. This is the first time we have had this kind of problem and in this case cannot be ignored. If left it would cause the pedal to bounce up and down upon hard braking and affect the efficiency as well. At first I called Chris Isaacs who confirmed that I had the last pair of hubs, which I already knew, Chris quite rightly suggested that I need to check that the outer bearing races were in right and not being held by a burr of aluminium left when I pressed them in. So I took it to Charlie at CTM Performance and Machine to get the hub checked for this, and also check if the machining was off when it was made. It came back with the bearing seats being okay at the front but a question mark on the rear one, so I will keep you posted on that one. As you can imagine this has taken up a fair amount of time, these things happen. I also travelled down to my metal folders again down in Rainham and got them to fold the dash panel as Bill and I had agreed, as usual they did this while I waited which was very kind of them.
Tuesday 21st March: Bill and I back on the Cortina for a full day, starting with the front brakes, to ensure I had not numptied myself and then moving on. Bill tackled the dash fitting, this was the first time Bill had seen it and was happy with the result. We removed both doors to gain easy access, which is pretty straight forward. Bills first job was to cut the dash down to a more manageable size so that we could actually get it near the car. You always have to make these things too big, but you need to also make sure you donít cut it down too small. These small details make a lot of sense when you are actually doing it yourself!
Bill also had to fabricate the landing panel which is what the dash sits on when it's in the Cortina around the windscreen. The dash will fasten with butterfly Dzusís as they are the only ones that will work easy in a confined space. With the rake of the screen, a Dzus driver would be a pain.
Whilst Bill was on that, I worked out how to attach the front bumper and the quarter bumpers back on the one piece front. I wanted it as flush fitting as I could, to aid the aerodynamics, it needed to be secure too, so I bolted it in place as neatly as possible for strength. Once this was done I then did the same to the rear bumper. This really had to be secure as the rear wing strut supports mount on it so there is a fair loading on it at speed. I managed to get it quite flush again and bolt it, so I was pretty happy with that. It's more and more of the small jobs now that need doing.
Bill had got the dash down to a size now that actually fitted inside the Cortina, so now it was thinking and working out how to fix it in. This involved a lot of discussion and looking at the options, you donít want to screw this up and have to start again. So after the wrangling Bill and I went over the options and agreed on the shape, size and what it mounted to. A real plus was that PMR car chief Sefton Whitlock had made a superb job of the removable steering column extension. With this fitted and the dash in place, the drivers position was working out real well, you can see over the steering wheel easily to view the gauges and the dash is not too high to obstruct the drivers view. All these things are important to get right, you only get this opportunity to get it right once.
Sunday 26th March: Small job day today so the new volt meter was fitted in the back panel. I always like to have a way of telling what charge the battery is taking and also a way of checking that the alternator is charging correctly. I also refitted the front end and started re-attaching the bonnet pin posts etc.
Tuesday 28th March: Bill and I worked on the Cortina all day today; Bill fitted the fuel flap which I had powdercoated earlier. Itís a real nice piece that Corky Markwart does at ART in Clearwater, Florida. Itís a bit fiddly and has 100% more fasteners than it needs but as I said itís a nice piece!!
Bill and I also finished installing the new powdercoated grey boot floor panels which up till now had just been placed in. Again we used black rivets to keep the black thyme goin. Also the Fuel pump was final fixed and the Panel around the pump was cut in half and fitted to make access easier. All the panels went in real nice, it really helped having an assorted box of black rivets as they were very handy. The water injection tank needed a home and the pump for the water/methanol injection also needed refitting. The pump went back basically where it was before but instead of being fitted to a nasty piece of leftover inner panel it went straight onto the single skin rear wing. With the bracketing fabricated in ally and the bolts hidden behind the rear quarter bumper itís a real neat job with only one braided hose having to be made to connect it up. The tank was mounted next to the fuel cell, we were trying to centre as many parts and pieces inside the chassis rails for weight distribution, but the pump needed to be lower that the tank so it gravity fed it. Then we made up another braided hose to remount the catch can for the fuel cell. The catch can is underneath the boot floor for safety and positioned so as not be in the way when we eventually design and fit a rear diffuser. Lastly, the problematical front brake hub was mounted and clocked in to ensure that everything was now happy, so the whole front brake assembly can now be fitted finally.
Sunday 2nd April: It was time to final fit the time-consuming front brake assembly. This involved removing the disc from the hub, removing the bearings, cleaning out all the grease. Fitting the wheel studs and locking them in place. Stud locking the bolts, fitting the locking tabs to ensure that the brake discs cannot get loose on the hubs. Then applying the Red Line Oils super slippery ultra temp grease to the bearings, refitting the rear oil seal and refitting to the stub axles, making sure that the bearings are preloaded just right. Then clocking in the front brake caliper assembly and making sure nothing binds up and that, once fully assembled, the brake disc rotates nicely. Once thatís done, fit the wheel and bolt it up. with the powdercoated wheelnuts. Inflate tyre and see what it looks like, then repeat complete process on the other side!! It doesn't sound much but it took us all afternoon to do; this was a time consuming job but it must be right.
Tuesday 4th April 2017
Tuesday 14th February: Both Bill and I worked on the Cortina today, it kinda seems like we are near the end of fabrication and should be able to start the final assembly soon. With only seven weeks until the MSA Sportsman Drag Racing National Championship season starts (Easter at Santa Pod), time never stands still. As previously mentioned, the Cortina is not meant for any of the National Event Classes, its more a Top Sportsman, No Prep, Grudge car. But PMR do compete in the National series, so free time will diminish, the closer we get to the racing season.
There is still plenty to do; today Bill replaced and fabricated a floor piece which the tunnel attaches to, saving 3 lb. On the passenger's side we made the floor removable. On the driver's side you can't do that, it's in the rules the floor has to be steel and solid.
After Bill finished that, we then spent quite a bit of time with me sat in the Cortina so as we could work out where the steering/steering column needed to go. This is one of those jobs where a little driver experience is useful. You want the steering wheel where its comfortable and where it makes ergonomic sense. By this I mean that it doesnít hit your knees and is easy to use, taking into account the fact that you are strapped in with a five point harness and there is a funny car cage around you and a window net. As a driver, you are working in quite a confined space and as such anything that can make your life easier, now is the time to include it. Personally I donít like the steering wheel too high, this is because with your hands on it, you cannot see the gauges easy as the view is blocked. I also use a smaller steering wheel, again to save space. I like the steering wheel so it's quite close and you donít have to stretch to reach it. With European cars, this is not easy as the cars are quite small inside, especially one from the 1980ís. To make my life easier, I will have around 10Ē of the steering shaft removable using the quick release so as the steering wheel and the first 10Ē of shaft come off as one. I can get in and out of the Cortina much easier with that removed. Over the years, I have driven a lot of different cars, so each time you see a good idea, you remember it and each time you drive a really badly laid out car you try to improve it or remember to avoid making the same mistake.
I was always impressed with how Jon Webster built my PT Bruiser, I wanted the car to be built by Jon, who was at the time working for Hauser Racecars. Because he has built so many, Jon incorporates all his learned experience into each new build. Jon may not be cheap pro rata, but you always get a quality well laid out Racecar. It's worth checking out his build thread on his new Pro Mod Mustang.
Going back to the Cortina, we worked out what was my ideal steering position and it looks like there is a very good chance that it maybe achieveable. This very rarely happens, especially with a turbo car as under the hood is very busy, but Bill is reasonably confident we can get close, so after bush fabrication and shaft assembled we can then install and make sure the angles all work to get to the rack.
Moving on, Bill decided to remove the doors, which was a very simple affair on the Cortina, once removed I could feel that there still was a little more weight in the door that I thought there would be, the strength I had left around the hinge area was not needed so it got removed. Bill then finished off the welding on the window frames and I discíd the welds to smooth them down. The weight removal most probably took a couple of pounds out of each door, it sure made a difference when I was carrying them about. I then masked and painted the frames, again in black satin then laquered to protect the paint.
The pedal box area also got tackled, having big feet (size 12) plus wearing the funnycar boots, I wanted as much room as I could get, Bill and I both knew that there was space to be gained. Once that was exploited then the brake pedal could be moved over to the left. It currently was angled right a little, which made the pedals closer than they needed to be. With the extra space gained by rounding off the right angles in the pedal box area metalwork. This gave us all the space we needed, your only talking a couple of inches but this allowed us to move the brake pedal over, plus by rotating the angle of the brake pedal contact pad it made it a perfect fit for me. Added to that I can now see the pedals a lot easier as Bill and I raised the steering shaft from below and in the pedal box area to above the picture frame tubing which again helps. Anything that means the driver can do something without thinking is a real plus, especially in the braking department. We also checked the pedal ratio which is 7-1, perfect, just what I expected from Jon Sleath Racecars. The hydraulic handbrake was also removed which again makes the drivers compartment a little more roomy.
Lastly the underside of the Bonnet was put into paint and laquered for protection, which made it look 100% better cosmetically.
Wednesday 15th February: I took a trip over to see UK Top Sportsman competitor Dave Gadney. Dave has been selling off some parts recently, so I took a trip over to Sutton, Surrey. I bought the steering wheel and shaft assembly, just in case it was useful along with other parts and pieces. I also got to collect all the powder coated interior parts from the proprietor of KK Chrome in Romford, Mick, all of which looks real nice and adds such a professional finish to a Racecar, along with making them a lot more practical from a housekeeping point of view. There are more parts to take over there but we have to make them first. If you need any powder coating doing you need to talk to Mick, the service is great and he is not expensive.
The parts pile to put back on the Cortina is growing!
Friday 17th February: The last paint job to be done, the only part of the interior that could not be removed for powder coating was the rear wheel tubs. Having made a couple of sets of tubs before for the Monza and fitted them, itís a long delicate job, plus you glue them in with sicaflex, so the chances of removing them without damaging them is very small. Now I have the interior panels back from the powder coaters, I can get some paint matched to the powdercoating. I got that done and grey primer filler, satin paint and satin laquer. So I started off with just sanding a key into the tubs with some Scotchbrite. Then once thatís done, removing the remaining rivets and ensuring there is nothing on them that I didnít want.
Lastly, it's time to mask up the Cortina, itís a time consuming job and you need plenty of newspaper and masking tape. You kinda have to use common sense to work out what needs masking up as, when you spray, you have to work out where the overspray will land and cover it up. You donít want to spend as much time repairing mistakes as you do painting and masking up in the first place. With the roof and the cage and the floor already in paint, this is the last paint job. So this is the one where you have to be the most careful. It took about four hours to mask it all up and then its time to paint, I used cellulose primer filler and cellulose paint, this is what the paintshop recommended so thatís what I used. Following on with laquer in a matt finish. Not an easy job, but I was determined not to cock it up and ruin what had already been done, so I took my time. I was happy with the end result and as it was a warm day the paint went on real nice. I had to wait till Saturday to pull the masking off as I was loosing the light and wanted to make sure I had not missed anything before demasking the Cortina. I checked it on Saturday, nothing had been missed, so off it all came.
Sunday 19th February: With all the parts I had now collected for the steering shaft assembly, today was the day for Bill from Comanche Racecars, my partner in crime on this build, and me to tackle the steering fabrication and assembly. Previously, on Wednesday, Bill and I had worked out how much tubing we needed for the steering shaft and the tubing it fits in. It soon became apparent why the original steering dived down and had a more vertical angle to it. With all the header tubing for the turbos so high up and compact, there was not much room to run the steering. With the use of the industry standard ĺĒ chromoly steering shaft size and the real small ujís, Bill figured there was a good possibility that we could pick a route through the headers. So Bill brought back with him the nylon bushes that he had machined for the steering shaft housing and this was our starting point.
Now it was a case of me sitting in the Cortina as I would when driving, with the correct position of body and good access to the throttle and newly modified brake pedal, etc. Bill tacked the steering shaft housing in place temporarily whilst I held it where it was comfortable. This needed to be done before we could work out if and where the steering shaft would then disappear through the stainless headers to attempt to reach the steering rack. On the first attempt, it looked like the steering wheel would have to be a little to the right of the driver, not much just a little but with a funny car cage around you it meant that your right wrist was a little over centre when moving the steering wheel. Also the angle could be better for the first uj. So Bill cut it all off and we tried again.
This time to help my right hand wrist, I set the steering wheel about three inches higher; by doing this, it meant it helped the angle at the other end to get through the headers and meant the wheel was dead straight. This gave me a lot better dexterity with the wheel, although Bill had to remake all the mounts as they needed to be longer. This meant that the angles for the ujís worked out better and we could hit the rack. Once this was done, we had to make sure that you could still get the rocker cover off without having to remove the steering shaft Ė yep, that was no problem. So Bill spent the rest of the day fabricating all the shaft lengths and fitting the ujís properly and the final uj to go on the steering rack. Bill also used the quick release and a uj joint to hold the steering shaft in position with the bushes, which will be glued in upon final fit. So in total we had to use three ujís, this gives is a perfect steering wheel position for the driver. We will also have PMR crew member Sefton Whitlock make up the steering extension which will be 9 Ĺ inches long. This will make entering and exiting the Cortina really easy, without this it would be a mission.
Whilst Bill was on the steering I finished off prepping and painting the inside of the front bodywork in the steering/dash/pedal box area. I had put a very quick coat of paint on it to prevent the bare metal from rusting but it had to be done properly. It was masked up and then painted. Along with this, I went over all the other paintwork and touched in all the bits that were marked with 'in' and 'out', plus all the little bits of overspray. I also had to repaint part of the boot area as it just needed a tidy before all the panels were reinstalled. Then I painted all the new steering column and bracketry and finally cleaned up all the dusty areas looking for more areas to touch in and to prepare the Cortina for what would be the final fit of the interior and boot panels.
Tuesday 21st February: I decided to get a real full day on the Cortina today, so an 8.00am start. Today I just want to give her a good clean, finish any small paint repairs and prep ready for the reinstallation of the powdercoated panels. There are simply too many parts lying around that need to be reassembled. I did want to wait until all the fabricating was done but I canít wait till then, I need some space back!
The first job was to reassemble the doors, so I re-hung them and gave the inside of the door a final clean then fitted the powder coated ally door panel. I had all the grey interior panels finished in satin as a contrast and to keep the understated theme going. Another nice touch that Bill suggested was to use black rivets instead of the usual ally finish on the interior panels. They are easy to find on Ebay.
Once the doors panels were fitted, then it was the ally strip that holds the lexan in place, lastly the lexan itself. It was just as well all this had been pre-fitted before, as it was a mission to get it all back together and lined up properly. Once one was done, it was a repeat process for the other door. Bill's idea of riveting the lexan straight to the tubing worked really well and using black rivets meant they blended in perfectly.
I then started in the boot floor area with the battery tray also needing to be reinstalled. Then I remounted the fuel tank and the fuel pump. After a little headscratching, I worked out where everything went and only had to look back at pictures once!
The Cortina has not been started for a few weeks now so I am keen to get all of this back together again so I can run a systems check and put her through a heat cycle. So I also ran all the fuel lines and connected it all up.
The interior panels were next, I reinstalled the largest floor panel between the tubs, this bolts in. I then went on to the one piece front, I prepped it and then gave the inside a coat of laquer to seal it and hopefully keep it cleaner. I also removed the dzus fasteners that secure the base of the wings, as they are partially obscured by the cow horns and are real tricky to reach. I replaced them with four powdercoated black (naturally) dzusís with the butterfly tabs built in, so you can undo and do them up by hand, well thatís the plan anyway. Then I refitted the front splitter assembly that was painted and it now powdercoated. I also refitted the bonnet catches and the boot catches with the original ones that have now been, yep you guessed it, powder coated black. All time consuming but needed to be done, still plenty to finish off but certainly made a dent in it.
Monday 28th February: It was the first time Bill had seen the doors in one piece finished; he was impressed with the look and finish. Sometimes, itís the little detailed parts coming together that give you more enthusiasm with the project. Bill had machined the rest of the parts for the steering column bushes and welded up the steering column quick release, etc. So that was all assembled and then finally fitted. Once that was done, then I removed the other wheel assembly on the passenger's side front and put the front of the car on axle stands so that we could run the steering rack freely from lock to lock. As Bill suspected, a support will be needed just as a guide, other than that, once the nylon bushes were glued in, the steering was done.
Next Bill fabricated a panel for the driver's footwell position. After a lot of discussion, we decided that being able to remove the panel as a whole was favoured. Previously, there was a small access panel to remove the starter motor. By having the whole panel removable, it made that job a whole lot easier. As usual, Bill made a real nice job of an awkward to fabricate piece, first making it in card then in metal and putting some nice beads in it for looks and strength.
I was firstly on a couple of small panel pieces that missed the powdercoaters. Prior to paint, Bill wanted to detail them a little, so we ran beads into both pieces. The paint mixed up for me was the exact same colour as the powdercoating, this meant that in the future repairing the inevitable dings and scratches would be a whole lot easier. Once these were etch primered, painted and dried, I could start on the refitting on the interior tinwork. I started with the boot floor and the rear parcel shelf area. Now, as I said before, we were using black rivets to keep the amount of colours used to a minimum. If you are going to do this yourself, which I was, you must be very careful to ensure that you piece it back together in the right order. Remember this is the finished article, so no scratches or getting it wedged, bent or buckled, so plan what you do. As is usual, upon refitting these, we came across some packaging issues, where the pop rivet gun or the drill was tight.
There are also issues to plan for, like if one rivet will be holding two panels and the access is hard and on top of that the one single biggest problem is...the fact that when drilling tube, you have to be dead centre on the tube, otherwise the drill will slip and you will break the drill bit as it gets trapped, then the remainder of the drill bit scrawls a nice pattern on your nice new powdercoated panel. So before you start on this, triple check what you are about to do, making sure as much as you can. You are drilling into the top of the tube and that the panel is in the right place and it is aligned with the panels around it nicely. Did I break a drill? Of course I did, everyone does, but I got away with it being in a area where you can't see it. It takes a lot of patience and time to do it nicely, plus make sure you have a real good selection of rivet sizes and a good rivet gun. When you are mixing old panels with new, you will get some panels with bigger holes that will need a bigger rivet body or head. As long as you have these to hand, it does not stop the job.
All of the work done today was in between the rain that was pretty constant most of the day. This made painting quite difficult, but not impossible. Lastly we finished on the petrol flap fitting; in the end it was a quite simple solution and it looks cool. Now with most of the grey tinwork done, it's beginning to look more like a race car. We also spent quite a bit of time discussing how we were going to tackle the dash, so now we have moved from plan A to plan B with the dash. Next time, we will probably be on the dash fabrication.
Sunday 5th March: Swap Meet Day - Myself, Mick Pusey (Gearhead Garage Head Honcho), Gary Springford (DRE Head Honcho), plus his sons Arron and Tyler made our usual insane early 5.00am Sunday start to sit in the queue for the NSRA Southern Swap meet. Weather was not helpful (heavy rain and wind) virtually as soon as we had our stall set up. I went to sell previously loved parts and a shopping list of parts I wanted for the Cortina and got most of them. They were more of a wish list really as you never know what or who will show up. I picked up a reverse pattern TH400 Cheetah Shifter as a spare, a very useful (read essential) 8 way Red Alert EGT system. If you loose an injector for any reason or have a fuel pump going away, this just might save your engine. Also an Advance Control Devices, three speed rpm activated shift system with override facility. These are rare as hens teeth over here, with first gear being so short, this will leave the driver free to focus on driving and not manually shifting as well.
Then just small parts, new parachute bag, Brake Bias valve, Wheel studs, spare starter motor, etc. Itís the only Swap Meet really worth going to, people travel from all over Europe to attend this one and it's only once a year.
Wednesday 8th March 2017
Sunday 15th January: It never got above zero today, but needs must! The season comes round real quick and cars donít build themselves. I was recently looking on the Jerry Bickel web site and was quite shocked regarding how much they charge for Lexan window kits. Itís an expensive part to go and buy, I like making things, which is just as well, being as itís a Cortina, you will not be buying a kit for it.
Bill and I had drawn around the original glass as a template, but the screen is too small once you take the rubbers into account. Our Lexan screen will also sit higher so as to be more flush and not disturb the air as it flows over the car. Well thatís the plan anyway. If you want to attempt this job yourself, you will need patience; its one of those jobs that you must take your time with. If you make a mistake, then you have to start all over again. Also, donít go and buy clear plastic sheet from B&Q, been there, done that, its not bad but it does have a tendency to crack if you catch it. So you will be making it more than once. The best thing is to buy a sheet from any of the chassis shops, Direct Plastics or Jack Brewster, who runs the Just Mustard Pontiac Firebird in Super Pro, who I use. It's more expensive, but it lasts and does not break easy and is fairly scratch resistant. These people pick the stuff that works best in this application, use their knowledge. Also this usually comes in 8' x 4' sheet, so you have to work out what sizes you need as sending an 8' x 4' sheet by courier does not work. When measuring up your screen, make sure you allow enough for the curves and the fact that they are never the shape you think they are. Some cars are easy, some are not, the Cortina was not, the shape was deceiving, in particular the rear screen.
So I added the extra allowance all round that I needed and drew it out, then it was time to cut it out. Some people use jigsaws, I use a 1mm cutting disc and a 4 ĹĒ grinder, the cut lines are better and there is less chance of it catching and cracking the material. You do have to be careful that the Lexan is the only thing you cut and not yourself. The cutting disc is also a lot quicker. Once I have the shape cut out, then it's on to the Cortina to make sure that itís the right size. Inevitably, it's going to be too big, itís a complex shape and you donít do this every day so its much easier to take more material off rather than be too small. Then you start the process of smoothing it down to fit the framework that the screen fits into. I also pack out the frame so as it fits at the right height, flush in this case. The rear quarter windows also got cut out. I left the front and rear screens virtually ready to go in, but will leave the final fit until I have the window frames packed out and I am ready to bolt them in. That way I have a better chance of not taking too much material out.
The other job was to remove all the panels that need colouring at the powder coaters. This includes the front splitter and rear spoiler, wheels, all the interior panels that we have made, plus all the small parts that also need colour. All the panels that we made need to be fettled to make sure that its all nice and smooth with no sharp edges.
The last job today was remove the front, which still weighs a ton incidentally, you can just about pick it up on your own! We should be tackling the weight of that over the next week or so. Meanwhile all the panels that are going to be black were delivered to the powder coaters. I also took a lot of small items like wheelnuts and the bonnet catches that were chrome or ally finish and got all of those coated black so as to maintain the beige or black colours on the outside of the Cortina.
Tuesday 31st January: Today it was Bill and I, so we both tackled different jobs. I had an idea for the door openers on the inside of the Cortina, I wanted something that was simple, not too elaborate or heavy. Plus as a driver I wanted something that I could get to with the window net still up preferably, itís a bit of ĎPlan you escape just in case you need to get out fast!í I suspected that I could attach an opener linkage to the same linkage that opened the door from the outside, and pop the opener out of the same hole the door lock knob uses. With a little fabrication, we made that part, and it worked really well and is easily accessible from the driver's perspective. Plus I used very little material so added no weight to speak of. All I had to do was go through the huge pile of parts removed from the Cortina to find the door lock knobs and linkage.
Bill finished the fabrication of the boot panels, which are always a lot more fiddly than they first appear and are rarely seen, but still need to fit properly. Originally, Bill was going to make them in one piece for each side. But the shape was too complicated with too many curves, so they got remade as two pieces each side, no they won't be seen much, but it's attention to detail that makes a car. Nearly all the panels that we have made were folded using a really cheap and handy folder that you can buy from Machine Mart, its under £100 and allows you to make a lot of panels, with folds and edges, etc. The bead roller is a more expensive piece, but you see used ones for £200-£300 and are well worth it; you need formers for the beads and drops and, if you practice, you can become pretty good, but do allow extra material for mistakes!
I moved on to the one piece front that I must say I had been itching to get started on again. I got a fair but of weight out of it the first time round when I removed all the factory underseal and some metalwork, which took about 10-12lbs out, and added the front splitter. This time round I was after more weight reduction, starting with the headlamps. Both weigh 6 lbs each, so they were leaving. Then itís a case of removing what you can around the headlight surround and indicator mounts. The rear of the wings lost a little, there was also extra weight to lose from the framework that tied it all together. Being a road car, it had a flip front for ease of access, but once we fitted the front splitter, it could only be removable to gain access. No problem for a racecar, so the extra support could now leave as well. Then it was just bits and bobs, but in total I got another 20lbs out of it, which I was comfortable with. There was also the opportunity to streamline the front a little. After removing the headlamps, I used some ally sheet to fabricate a nice snug fitting piece to fill the gap left by the headlights, but also I made sure it was a flush fit to make it virtually airtight. This would mean that the air would hopefully flow more smoothly over the wings and front of the bonnet and less turbulence would be created, more downforce and less drag. It took some doing, tucking the top just under the bonnet leading edge, but the end result looks like it will work quite nicely.
Our last major job to tackle on the Cortina had kind of been the Elephant in the Room. Bill and I cut out the dash a while back, so as we could gain better access to the motor for servicing it. As I said before, it was the only extra job that we added to the project, but it was a big one. Because along with that, we were also going to move the steering and remake the pedal box area around the driver. The seat position in the Cortina is fine, no problem, but the pedal box area is really small; I have quite big feet (size 12) which meant it was quite drivable, but could be made more roomier by moving the steering shaft higher. By doing this, it also meant that the steering wheel could be moved closer to the driver as the rake would be more shallow. Initially Bill and I had avoided this job as the plan was to do it at the Comanche Racecars workshop, but like most chassis shops, the quiet time in January never happened so getting it in there was becoming a problem.
So the decision was made to at least look at it at now. The other really hard part was how in hell to design a dash for it. You see, the problem is, all American fibreglass dashboards for any car are LHD and the Cortina is not LHD. So no help there, we would have to design one from scratch. Plus, with the motor being mounted so far back, there was a lot of dash area to cover. Add to that the fact that being a European car, it's quite small inside, and you still want to put some gauges where the driver can easily see them. So as a packaging issue its quite a challenge, and it has to be removable for serviceability.
Naturally it took a little while to work out how to do this; initially it looked like we were going to have to remove the whole 'picture frame' (a style of popular transmission mid mount that ties into the chassis very strongly) along with the corresponding chassis bars and move it all up around 8-10 inches. This was to allow more leg room and improve motor accessability. But when we looked more closely with me in the Cortina, it soon became apparent that we could possibly leave the picture frame and chassis bars alone and just move the steering and remake the firewall around the driver's pedal box, and thus achieve the results we were looking for. The design for the dash then started to take shape; with the frame staying, we knew where the dash had to land as nothing was moving. With this job now being potentially a lot simpler, it meant that Bill was a lot happier with tackling this job away from Comanche Racecars, as it now would involve nothing structural. So we agreed that this plan was best, as there was absolutely no reason to cut the chassis. There was still enough time in the day, so I gave Bill a new cutting disc for his favourite piece of equipment, the 4 ĹĒ grinder. Within 30 mins, the steering shaft, steering wheel, etc was gone and all the extra room in the pedal box area was there with the firewall reshaped. Great news really, as this means that we are now into the last major fabricating job of the project. There is still plenty to do but once this job is finished, all the remaining jobs are mainly the reassembly and some more colouring.
Thursday 2nd February: Today saw me collect the black powdercoating from KK Chroming and Coating (call Mick on 01708 749255), there was plenty of it, but powdercoating does not come off so, with the wheels, spoiler, front splitter, wheelnuts, fastners, etc, so there was a lot. Then it was off to see an old friend, ex Super Comp National Champion Paul Knight, Paul had some pieces that I really wanted. With the Cortina, you have the very latest technology in Drag Racing, the race car with a serious power adder, in this case Twin 88MM Turbos. With this kind of car there is a lot more hot exhaust pipe under the hood, plus it has an EFI fuel injected motor. Drag racing cars are subjected to a lot of violence, which can take a toll on parts. Every time I drive any race car I accept before I get in one of these that I can crash, and I have to accept that it's possible that it will happen. If you cannot accept that then donít get in one. I am quite comfortable with the way these doorslammers are built, I know if I crash I will survive pretty well. Having wrecked twice and walked away from two pretty nasty ones, I know these chassis do their jobs. Oh and donít think your driving skills will save you and it won't happen to you, it plain just donít work like that.
In my opinion, one of the new areas of danger is the use of EFI on these motors, in particular boosted combos. There has always been a risk of fire in any race car, which is why the sport has rules and regs for firesuits, crash helmets, gloves, race boots, etc. Personally I feel that if I had a fire in an EFI car it will always be a bad one due to how much pressure the fuel injection works with and how fast the fuel will spray out if a fuel line gets damaged. This is a personal choice, but I will be wearing a pair of Funny Car boots and gloves and will be getting a Dash 15/20 Race Suit, plus I will be wearing a full face crash helmet with a fresh air supply feature. You donít have to do this, but do remember that the safety regs state the minimum that you should wear. The reasoning is simple, this level of protection is exactly what my good friend and new 2017 shoe for the Shockwave Funny Car Steve Ashdown will be wearing and if it will keep Steve safe, then it will keep me safe.
Sunday 5th February: I got my hands on the one piece front for the final lightening. With the Headlamps removed and the indicator surround gone, I focused on whatever else could leave. Its all small stuff now, nothing big, I also trimmed some material from the front lower mount assembly by half mooning the tubing and trimmed some more off of the front wings, then got rid of the last of the rubberised underseal in the hard to reach areas. Bill had pointed out that there was some underseal on the underside of the hood and there was some framework that could also go. So that was taken care of, the hood weighed 6 lb less and the front had lost in total now about 25lb. That is most probably it for the weight loss part of the project. So once the Cortina is finished, we can see what the results have been. If we achieve a weight of around 2750lb without driver, that will be pretty respectable for a Twin Turbo car that started out at over 3200lb, considering that around 100lb has been added with the extra tubing for the 7.50 tag, the anti roll bar and support tube, plus the wheelie bar.
Friday 9th February: Bill gave me a list of parts that we needed to fabricate the new steering shaft. I called Chris Isaccs to ensure he had the pieces we needed, usually you use ĺ inch tube for the shaft, that makes it real easy to weld on the quick release spline for the steering wheel to attach to. Also we needed the outer tubing and some nylon to make the bearings/bushes. Chris had what I needed in stock tubewise, so a quick drive down to Basildon and I had the tubing, I elected to use chromoly as its lighter, a little more expensive but worth it. I also picked up a sheel of 8' x 4' ally to fabricate the new dash from Alco Sheet Metals also in 'Bas Vegas'. I managed to track down the nylon bar at Senor Engineering in Romford, really nice and helpful engineering company who can make or cast virtually anything.
Sunday 19th February 2017
Wednesday 21st December: It's been a week since we last touched the Cortina, and so had to get back into the swing of things again. Bill and I had a very important job to do today, which was putting everything back together and seeing if we could get the Cortina started up and running. One of the most important things to be monitored during the whole build is to ensure the ECU, EFI injection, fuel pumps, ignition etc still all function and nothing has been damaged. The Cortina had been apart and not running for quite some time now; I really wanted to get it running again to make sure that all was still well. The whole of the boot area had been removed along with the fuel tank and all the pump mounts, plus all the grinding and cutting. You always do your best to protect stuff but you just never know.
The fuel lines had to be extended to reach the smaller tank with new fittings and fresh pipe, (I always make a point of using new stuff, old is always bad news with perished pipe or bad seals on fittings). Then I remade the battery fittings and pump mounting brackets, cleaned them off and reconnected all the EFI stuff. This was after a thorough clean of the interior first, paint dust, no matter how well you protect things, gets everywhere. Lastly I cleaned out the fuel tank and fitted the battery. I am very pleased to say that once we had fuel in the tank and checked for leaks and there were not any. The motor fired up first time absolutely no problem or drama. I could not run for too long just a few minutes as there was not a huge amount of fuel in it, just a gallon. But it did what we wanted it to do, which to be honest was a cracking result. If it didnít fire up a huge amount of time would be lost on the project finding the problem - time that could be spent finishing it off. It did not look like there was too much more to do but when you list it all out, it was still a lot of time required to get where we wanted it to be. We repaired the rear tubs as well, and fitted the charge posts to the rear of the car.
Wednesday 28th December: It was a little cold and foggy, so Bill and I decided that the door frame and Lexan Window fitting was the job for today. When Bill said it would take all day to do this, I thought he was joking but as it turned out he wasnít! To save weight, the whole window frame had been removed. No a lot of chassis shops do this, they simply replace the doorglass with lexan. That is a pretty straightforward job, just use the existing glass as a template and cut round it. But to really get the weight out, the window frame has to go, so that's what we did. This makes the window job a lot harder and a lot more time consuming. You have to work out where you want the top of the window to land getting the door shut. Also the doors always have shape in the frame and you have to replicate that, plus you need to support the frame and where the lexan is positioned. As you may have guessed, it looks simple but to make it look right and work, thatís a whole new ballgame. I wanted to tuck the window in as far as I could, so the wind had less chance of getting underneath it and ripping it off.
Yes it did take all day, part of it fabricating and part of it going through different ideas on how to make it look right and function. Well after seven hours of two of us on it, plus fetching small parts and pieces, we were both happy with the result. If you look at the pictures (this is not the finished car as it will have to be picked apart and coloured before its final fit) you will notice that we used a tube that we could rivet the lexan directly to, this meant that we did not have to fabricate loads of tabs to fit the lexan to. To do that, double the time we had already spent Ė no thanks. We were more than happy with the end result, but still have to work out the door opening catch from the inside.
Friday 6th January: A lovely winter's day, time to tackle the front brakes; the Cosworth ventilated discs and Willwood 4- pot calipers on a four stud front axle needed to go. I got a pair of Chris Isaccs Racecars Ally 5 stud Hubs, which are a straight bolt on to the Gaz double adjustable front shocks, plus a pair of lightened Capri solid discs that bolt virtually straight to the hub from Burton Power Products just down the road. I will also fit a pair of ultra light Wilwood two piston calipers, again from Burtons. These are a brand new product from Wilwood, very similar to the Strange ones. All of this will mount on a 3 Ĺ x 15 inch Centerline Warrior wheel and a Frontrunner tyre.
The weight saving is quite impressive. Wheel and tyre 6lb, hub 4lb, disc 5 lb, caliper 4 lb totalling 19lb per side. Not bad, plus the four pot calipers would have locked up the front runners really easily, so would need to go. The two pots will be a lot more gentle, comparing the Cortina to the PT Bruiser. The Cortina has a little more weight, but the PT Bruiser has no problem stoping, I brake from nearly 170mph with no chute at Santa Pod. The Cortina always uses a chute as well, and so should be easy to stop. So those are the parts we will be using; there will be more later on fabricating the mounts and making it all work.
Sunday 8th January: The rear chassis in the boot area needed repainting, it was the second to last piece of painting to be done on the main body and with the air temp warm enough, it was the job for today. I decided to strip off all the paint so as to get a good finish. If you try to paint over the existing surface, you always can see the lines.
Prior to that I fired up the Cortina again and got her up to temperature. For me, it's important to fire it up every now and again to ensure everything still works fine. It also helps you monitor how much fuel it uses in a warm up. I decided to use a clear fuel cell so it is very easy to see how much fuel you have and how much you use. That way, when you are stuck in the staging lanes for a while, you can calculate if you still have enough fuel for the warm up and the run. At the moment it looks like it uses around a gallon from stone cold to up to temp, this is with gasoline. The Cortina will only carry the fuel it needs to warm up and make one pass. I have also noticed that when it gets warm and comes off the cold start fuel programme in the ECU, it runs a bit woolly and rich, then once it's up to its running temp tune, it clears. I also ran it so that I didnít have to drain so much fuel from the tank.
As I was going to paint the rear chassis, the battery, pump and tank had to be removed. It took the remainder of the day to finish rubbing down, masking and painting. But now it's done, I can see it was one of those jobs that needed doing and it looks 100% better for it.
Tuesday 10th January: We finished the passenger side door window frame and fitted a Lexan window. There was also some work to remove the door locking system too. I always like to do this, so as you cannot get accidentally get locked in! It also removes more weight.
Bill and I had to bend the tubing so as it matched the other window and then fit it. Itís a long job as it's fiddly, but you want to do it right and not make a mess of it and then have to do it twice. Plus you have to ensure that they are both the same so it looks right aesthetically. Using the original glass windows, we marked out the cut lines for the new Lexan front and rear screens. There was no chance of me doing it on my own, itís a two man or two pairs of hands job.
Monday 23rd January 2017
Thursday 24th November: Bill and I spent the day on the Cortina, today was focusing on remounting the battery, fuel pump, water injection pump, remaking the floor panels in the boot centre. While Bill was on that I got cracking on finishing off lightening the battery tray and making it look right. Then went thru the same lightening process with the passengers side door and finishing off the drivers side. Then for good measure I removed the sunroof, which even shocked me, the total weight of the sunroof and assembly was 15 lbs!!
Sunday 27th November: With no Bill today I could finish off the boot, remove the rest of the double skin and anything else that needed to go. This is a long process and you have to be careful, 4 inch grinders with cutting discs take no prisioners, particularly when you have to remove the guard so as you can get in the tight spots. Once that was done and the whole area was smoothed out and prepped. I treated it to a coat of primer filler, paint and laquer to seal it. In total another 16 lbs were removed and just to finish I hollowed out the rear light assemblies.
Tuesday 29th November: Time for all the remaining windows to leave, so front and rear screens were removed. This weighed in at 50 lb. Bilk and I also took the decision to make the passengers side floor removable for ease of access. The boot area had the new floor fabricated, also Bill fabricated the door panels, then we bead rolled them to add pattern and strength.
Sunday 4th December: With the screens now removed it was time to paint a border on the screen surround, so a day spent rubbing down and cleaning the screen frame ready for paint. Time consuming but we had decided to keep the original paint so it was important to be careful to keep it tidy. A lot of masking up to deal with the overspray, then 3 coats and lacquer to seal it. Took all day but I was happy with the result. I also prepped and painted the doorcaps on each door in Cordoba Beige as Bill and I decided to ally panel the door panel not the whole door. Again a time consuming process as I was not going to remove the door so a lot of masking up.
Tuesday 6th December: Fabricated the passengers side floor panels, fitted the Dzus tabs and fitted the Dzus. A quite long job but well worth the effort. With the windows removed I could now remove the last of the interior that was not needed. This amounted to another 15 lb removed. This is where you could say the crying started!! Well not really, but remember I said donít deviate from the plan, well we did. But just a little.
Both Bill and myself decided that although it would require a lot of extra work, the dash would be replaced and a new one fabricated. The reasoning was simple, it was built in such a way as it was a road car, now being a pure race car, by remaking it, we could save weight but also make access to the motor a lot easier. With no windscreen wiper required it changed everything, so it all left!!! It just made too much sense to replace it now, before changing the plugs was real hard work and so was doing the valve lash as the front of the dash stayed put, now it would all come out in one piece.
Sunday 11th December: Removed the last of the interior pieces that were double skin, it most probably took another 15 lb out of the Cortina. Now there was virtually no more cutting and grinding to do so I can now colour the interior. This is another real time consuming job, but it always makes a lot more of a difference to the car than you would first think. A lot of people donít do this as its fiddly and laborious. The way I tackled it was this. Firstly I sprayed all the rollcage, I used Satin Black and as all the glass and the sunroof is still out I could get to all the bits that had never been painted. This is common as it is so difficult to hit everything with paint from the inside, some areas you just cant get to. But you can with no windows and the sunroof out. This is relatively easy to do and does not need a huge amount of masking, its all close range stuff and black satin goes on quite easy. Just make sure itís a reasonably warm day as paint donít like cold, remember I am doing this outside.
Once this was done then it was time to work out what would be painted on the interior and start to mask it up. I decided to do the whole roof, windscreen posts, and inside of both rear quarters and the rear roof posts in Cordoba Beige. So as to give a real contrast to the Satin Black roll cage. As I said this is a real labour intensive job. I spent 3 hours masking up the rollcage and did not get it all done.
Tuesday 13th December: A lot more masking to be done, the remainder of the roll cage, then the interior and the floor. After I had finished that, the entire outside of the car, with paint which I am far from an expert, its just what I have learnt along the way. I am a rattlecan painter!!! I got the local paintshop to match up the body colour, mix me up a litre and then I just have them make me up some cans from that paint, with an activator in it so it goes off quite quickly.
Where I had removed double skin metalwork from the interior it leaves very sharp edges. So I rubbed down all the surfaces and used 120 grit paper to take all the sharp edges off after using a sanding 4½" disc in a grinder to take off the worst. You simply cannot spend too much time on prepping the job before you paint. So another 4Ė5 hours later and I am just about ready to paint. I can tell you now this is a real labour of love by now, it just takes so long to get to this stage and then trying to paint and hit everything is real difficult.
First of all I put on a coat of etch/primer to ensure that the paint stays on there. I used a beige etch so as it kept the interior nice and bright. Once you have that on and have worked out the right distance so as not to get runs etc. Its time to let it dry and then go for top coat, once thatís on and you have been over it a couple of times to make sure its got every bit you wanted to get, which means painting inside and upside down and backwards and forwards, outside and from above etc, I am sure you get the picture!! Lastly hit it again with lacquer to seal it and give it a bit of protection and shine going thru the inside upside etc routine again.
Then as soon as its able to, start taking off all the masking as soon as possible so as not to pull the paint when its dried. All in all a very long day of hard
work but the results speak for themselves. Well worth all the effort.
Wednesday 28th December 2016
The Santa Pod testing had been very successful, in fact better that we expected. We were only looking for 60ft and 330 ft times and with 60ft times on a RWYB track of 1.25 and then a 1.28 with less grip, its smashed the Cortinas PB into next week. So very pleased with the result.
November 18th the carnage begins!!!
So with all our goals completed, its time for the next stage... weight loss!!!!!!!
Having already built a few doorslammers, now I know that weight is not your friend. This is something that a lot of people don't realise but the day I see a 25 stone man outrun Hussain Bolt over 100 metres I will eat the Cortina!!!
You see so many race cars get built and little or no attention is paid to the weight of the parts being fitted, it astounds me. When I bought the Cortina it weighed just over 3200lb, now some weight has already been removed with the loss of the full exhaust system and some housekeeping in the front end, the passengers seat, etc. But that's it, then we added weight with, the front splitter, the Anti Rollbar, the chassis tubing to upgrade the chassis to 7.50 spec, Wheelie Bar etc. So the net loss was only about 100lb.
Firstly I spent a lot of time just looking at it, you have to have a plan and the way my mind works I have to look deep into it, devise a plan and stick to it. I got Bill Felstead to pass by so as I could run my plan by him as I needed his opinion as to if I could do what I had in mind. My plan weight loss plan was pretty ambitious and I wanted to ensure that I would not compromise the structural integrity of the shell. Remember a race car is built with a full tube chassis, everything is mounted on the chassis, it is the load bearing part of the car. ALL the bodywork needs to do is give the chassis shape. Which means that the rules that applied when the car was manufactured by Ford no longer apply as the strength is in the chassis. The body just needs to supply shape.
What you want is a single skin race car, so anything that can leave, leaves as long as the body has enough strength to not collapse, in
particular at speeds approaching 200mph. I don't mind telling you that this is my most ambitious project yet. But just take a moment to
think about the rewards.
I am seriously going to take as near 400lbs out of this Cortina, along with the 200lbs I have already removed. So that means the net total weight reduction will be 500lbs or in new money 230kg.
As we all know the rule of thumb is 100 lbs equals 1/10th faster ET. So if I use that rule and reduce 500lbs, that makes the Cortina 0.5 seconds faster. Think about that for a moment, how much more horsepower would you need to make a 8.60 second race car an 8.10 second race car. Well the answer is nearly 200 - 300hp, not just that, but everything else in the car has a much easier life and is subjected to less strain as the amount of weight it needs to move is so much less.
So how do we do this?
I must say Bill was amazed in what things weight, to the extent he had to get on the scales and then I handed him the part so he could see just how much weight we were removing.
We started with Bill removing the Fuel Tank, this was leaving as it was a 15 gallon rectangle Jaz plastic tank. Due to its design you
had to always have it half full to ensure the pump would not run dry under hard acelleration, so you carried 5 gallons that did nothing.
By changing that for a 3 gallon upright tank you saved the weight of the tank vrs the smaller one Ė saving 10 lb, plus the 5 gallons of fuel
37.5lb. Removing the tank mount was substantial, a saving of 6lb, plus the battery which was huge for street use could now be downsized for
race only to a diesel transit type, saving 26lb. If we go for an Ion one we can knock off another 30lb.
Whilst Bill was still trying to get over how much weight came off so easily, I started on the doors. Now you do have to be a bit careful with doors as you have to make sure you don't ruin them and you pick them apart carefully. This is a very rare two door model and I would not want to have to find another pair. That said with what I had in mind there wouldn't be much left!! Okay this is what ended up on the floor. Window Glass, winding mech, door panel, interior opening mech, all the metal behind the door pad and lastly the window frame as I wanted to fit one piece Mylon frameless ones. There is quite a bit of work involved but the end result looks really cool. Also with what needs to go back in the doors will weigh at least 25lb less each which is a 50lb saving just there.
So in just finishing what we started today we will take 130-160lb off depending on battery choice. All in all a good start.
Sunday 20th November 2016
I needed to get the boot area done so as Bill could start remounting the fuel pump, new fuel tank, water injection tank and pump and
the battery tray and battery. I needed to get all the weight out first which involves a lot of cutting and grinding, so best I get started.
Just as well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would. You don't get second chances so I had to be careful not to damage the exterior
paintwork if possible. Also not cut any of my fingers off which is also possible!!
The Bumper was going to be remade in Aluminium but I managed to thin it down enough to get 6lb out of it and still retain a stock appearance, so I was happy with that, it now weighs 4 lb. I was also mindful that the bumper supports the rear wing so it needed some strength to sustain the pressure developed by the wing at speed.
The boot area had some double skin in places so that was what was leaving, I got half of it done and got 14lb out of it, so with the rest and the light assemblies it should be 30 to 35lb weight reduction in total. I was also impressed that I lost none of the bodyshell integrity, quite often when you remove so much the body sags a little and you have to add supports to get it back. On the Cortina no sign whatsoever, its still solid. So total weight removed today once the boot is finished is another 40lb. That makes the running total 170-200lb.
Monday 5th December 2016
Okay just a quick bit of background on this project before we get started. I have always wanted one of these cars, a Twin Turbo big block Doorslammer race car that is, I was looking at this being the kinda car that I would have to import from the States. But when Jon Hollingworths Twin Turbo Cortina came up for sale, it just ticked too many boxes not to at least go look at it. So my good friend and his son Gary and Aaron Springford (Drag Race Engineering) and I went to have a look at it. It was primarily used by Jon who had owned it for 20 plus years as a street car. Yes it had a 8.50 chassis tag and had run in Street Eliminator for quite some time. Well after some research and talking to Jon Sleath at Jon Sleath race cars who has built the car and maintained it for all its life really. I decided to buy it and a deal was done.
The plus points were, the engineering on it was all Jon Sleath, (you can check out Jon's own web site to see the Cortina in its early days and the build up) so I know it is sound and practical, which to be honest suits me perfect, I simply could not justify tying up the thick end of 100K ukp in a race car that you only get to use at a max of 10 times a year, the value for money is just not there.
So this came in on budget, but would require quite a lot of work as it's a street car primarily with an mot and taxed.
My plan was to see just how fast we could get it to run as a pure race car. So no street tyres, instead, slicks, wheelie bar, race gas and a diet and make it look like a race car put some urgently needed Aero on it).
I can honestly say that like most of you, drag race turbo cars are a dark art to me. I know them to look at but why and how they have evolved I had no clue. So what you will see in this blog is how we got on with understanding how these things work. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as we will.
This is exactly how it looked when I collected it, note its got that sleeper look about it.
This is the spec:
Ford Cortina Mk5 2 Door
Mid Mounted (virtually) 510ci SVO Block Big Block Ford, Trick Flow Heads and Intake. Roller Camshaft, Roller Rockers, Forged Crank, Rods, etc, etc. All the parts you need to be able to live with 1600hp on pump gas.
Fuel Injected with a FAST management system (ECU) One set of 8 Race Injectors.
2 x 88mm Hybrid Turbos Jon Sleath design.
Water to air cooler system with pumps and radiator.
Stainless Headers and mountings Ė Whole system designed, constructed, installed and mapped at Jon Sleath Race Cars.
MSD Launch Control.
Fast Data Logger that WORKS PROPERLY.
Transmission Ė JW Pro Mod Spec TH-400 with reverse patt shift.
Convertor Ė JW Turbo Spec custom converter.
Chassis Full Tube 8.50 (will go 7.50 with one additional bar).
Suspension Ė Gaz all round double adjustable.
Axle Ford Nine Inch with strange Iron Center Section.
Wheels Ė Centerline Warrior 6 x 15 front, 15 x15 Rear.
Weight 3400+ lbs with driver.
Performance Fastest to date 8.58 seconds, 172 mph.
Why Beige? Jon Hollingworth or Moose to anyone who knows him actually painted it that colour, not my favourite colour. But I kinda figure it might be cause Jon Sleath simply hates the colour. As they have been very good friends for about as long as Moose owned the car, it's a guy thing.
At this point I must say that this is all Bill Felstead's (Comanche Race Cars') fault, as I bought the Cortina and was just content to look at it and decide what I was going to do and when. But Bill was round one Sunday in July and said "Okay let's just spend a day bullshitting the car and see where we get to". I can tell you now, its been 100% on the Cortina for both of us ever since, when ever we have spare time.
I have always admired Bill's eye when it comes to making things look right and we bounced ideas off of one another. So this is what happened. We first of all worked out what simply had to be done before it went to the track. We weighed it. Without driver it's 3200 lbs, which is heavy by most race car standards, but looking at it prior to buying it I knew that there was weight that could come off. I also knew that this was a real step into the dark. Turbo cars work so different that you really have to learn and understand them before you can get started on it. So I have been reading books and learning from everyone I can.
Let's go racing!
First thing that you must always do with these kinda projects is MAKE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT. If you don't do that it never gets finished, costs too much, plan runs out of time etc, etc. There are workshops all over the country with those kinda cars, not this one. So this is what we did, with the plan being to make Shakespeare County Raceway's Open Sport Nationals.
The Cortina was built around Mickey T's Street Tyre, the block tread type. So it soon became apparent that fitting slicks would not be straightforward. After some measuring and checking, we found a slick that would fit and would also take the weight of the Cortina. As you can see above you can hardly tell the arch has been altered.
The front was already removable but was a little complicated, so we simplified this by replacing the hinge mech at the front with quick release pit pins. Then I ground out all the factory underseal from the front wings, primed it and painted. This saved 6 lb in weight with a couple of other bits I got 10 lbs out of this piece.
The fabrication of the front splitter took quite some time, but was desperately needed.
To fit slicks instead of road tyres, this was not easy as the car was built around a block tread Mickey T. We could have gone the Drag Radial route, but having competed and attended radial tyre events in the states, ie No Mercy and Lights Out at SGMP, over here slicks are the way to go. The rear arches needed a little work to make the slicks fit, we are using a 32 x 14 x 15 Goodyear with a stiff sidewall.
The brakes also received an overhaul and were detailed.
Next was dump the full exhaust system which is heavy and not needed anymore. Instead we designed a set of ĎCowhorns' which has the exhaust exiting as quick as possible, back pressure of any kind in a Turbo car is a bad thing, particularly with twin 88s.
We lowered the Cortina as much as we could, 1Ē at the front and 7/8ths at the back. I also cleaned off and removed all the factory underseal from the front wings, then primered and painted it all. As previously mentioned, this took a couple of days but it took 10 lbs off of the weight of the front clip. Plus made it look a lot tidier. Also the windscreen wipers, motor and the horn were removed.
Having already been involved with Aero work with my PT Bruiser, which we discovered had 400 lbs of lift on the rear when in the wind tunnel at MIRA, I knew in
advance that the Cortina was in trouble. The main problem was air underneath the car causing the whole car to raise itself at speed. With terminal speeds in excess
of 170 mph in its previous set-up and no aero on it at all I knew what to do to start with. Front splitter and rear spoiler were designed by Bill and myself. Once you
know what you need it's a case of building and fitting it and then fine tuning at the track. Having a lot of experience of what they should and should not feel like, it's
a logical process.
This will be an ongoing job, but to start with it was simple things like removing the passengers seat, removing all the factory underseal from the front clip. Full exhaust system, passenger side seat belt, etc. Just by doing these simple things we took 100+lb out of the car and more as the parts we were fitting eg, front and rear splitter and spoiler and wheelie bar were adding weight.
After a lot of thinking, although I personally hate black interiors, I decided that it would involve so much work to change the colour. I would have to strip the car down to virtually a bare shell. If I wanted the car out this year then the black needed a lot of tidying up but it was worth trying. Then after even more thinking I eventually decided that for now at least the exterior colour would stay Cordoba Beige. My thoughts behind that were, the more it looked a race car the less the colour would annoy me!!!!
To be honest it's never going to look like the PT so I went for a North Carolina Grudge/Quick 8 kinda look, with the Mk5 Cortinas having virtually no chrome on them I decided to take that further and black out everything and make it look mean. This is how it looked at SCR.
I refurbed the chassis, the wheel tubs, the whole interior and the engine bay. The front brakes were also given the treatment as was the boot lid that was single skinned
which saved and additional 20 lbs.
The début August 2016
Well even after we finally got the Cortina finished enough to get to Shakespeare there still were a few jobs to be done prior to getting onto the track. The first being sorting out the front geometry and tracking. As we had lowered the car the camber was now all wrong and needed doing again along with the tracking.
There were also the travel limiters to fabricate Ė Let me just take a little time to explain. Originally running in Street Eliminator, as most of you know is a street class, you run pump gas (real hard to do safely and reliably which is why most Eliminator cars nowadays run turbos). Plus you must run road legal tyres, which don't work very well on a drag strip with a heavy car and little grip. To help this the 4 link is set up to help the car as much as it can. When Bill and I looked at the current set-up, you could immediately tell that the guys who set this up Jon Sleath and Jon Hollingworth were no fools and the setup was optimal for what they were doing. On race cars you can work out the IC instant center and the squatline. From this you can set the car up to do what you think it needs to do which in the case of Eliminator cars is usually squat and transfer as much weight to the back tyres to help them hook on the start line. Think slow and soft.
Now by fitting slicks which will provide a lot more grip which means that we can go at it faster and harder, now moving the 4-link to hit faster and harder with the intersection point above the antisquat line as opposed to below. I hope you followed that.
Now that its hitting harder thats why you need travel limiters on the front suspension so as it makes the whole car react faster as it stops the rotation that helped the car when it was slow and soft, the travel limiters make it faster at reacting and so help promote it moving forward and driving off of the startline. What you want is to get it moving and up on its tyres as soon as you can, that way it covers more distance early on the run and reduces ET and builds speed quicker.
Throughout all of this work one think I must say was utterly faultless was the motor and trans, even after having a lot of bits off and on again. The motor always fired up first thing and the trans also never gave us any trouble. The weird part of it was the way it started. Anyone who has had a race car will tell you drag race motors can be temperamental, but not a fuel injected motor. You hit the starter and it bursts into life no drama then just sits there idling away without a care in the world. In the past we have broken starters, broken ring gear teeth, even burnt off people's eyebrows (Gary Springford) but not with one of these.
I must also say that for the sake of fairness and to give us something to measure against, the tune in the motor is unchanged. This is how Moose ran it, our first objective is to see just how fast an Eliminator spec car can run as a race car, i.e. slicks, wheelie bar and race gas for added safety. The launch rpm, boost etc all remain the same.
SCR had had some good weather leading up to the event so the track was awesome right from the get go. On the first run all I was looking for was a 60 ft and top of first gear really. Burnout was good, a lot of smoke in the car but got that out okay. My plan was to run solo and go into full stage (Super Pro so Sportsman Tree) then build up the boost and ping it. With a turbo car you have to build up boost whilst on the trans brake, so in I go hit the trans brake release the footbrake and it just rolls thru stage Ė no transbrake. So I reverse up and reposition the shifter until I have first and the transbrake. Now I wait to see if the starter will give me another chance, but he is not interested so I stage wind it up a little and ping it. It hooks right a little so I am off it quite quick. With the steering wheel nearly upside down I really have no idea where straight is, so I complete the run and drive back to the pits.
Next pass after the burnout, I stop and check that I have the rather unpredictable shifter in first and the transbrake works before arming the data logger. Do it the same go into full stage, transbrake it, spool up the turbos, then ping it. This time again it seems to like right, but I manage to control it but on the shift it doesn't, so I have to double hit it to get second and click it just before the eighth mile. This time once back in the pits we have data to download. Jon Hollingworth the previous owner very kindly gave me all the previous data in his very well kept log books plus the laptop with all the previous data logged files so as I can compare the new runs with previous.
So upon downloading, all looks good but although I spooled the turbos up, it was not nearly enough as I only had .9 lb of boost off the line. Everything else checked out so we
turned the Cortina around again and went down for Q3.
This time I was starting to get a little more comfortable with driving the Cortina so decided to pre-stage it, then spool it up and use the bump box to stage it like you are supposed to. Burnout was good, selected first , checked that I had the TB as well, then armed the logger. Pre staged, then spooled up the turbos, bumped in and then they run the tree. I noticed it sounded a lot more angry and with the gates popping and banging away and with 5 lb on the boost gauge, I knew we were ready. I also noticed out of the corner of my eye flames coming out of the cowhorns. So I pinged it, got about a foot and the rear UJ failed, I shut it down immediately, no one was hurt, the chassis did its job of protecting the driver.
I did kinda think we would break something before the weekend started, I just didn't know what, now we know.
The propshaft is history, the axle yoke was also damaged, I called Eric at JWs who confirmed that the sprag in first gear is almost certainly damaged, the track locator for the rear axle is also trashed. But unlike the Monza axle explosion in UK Top Sportsman 2015 and on U-Tube with over 3 million hits now, the tinwork has survived!
Tuesday 31st August: On the phone and placed wanted adds for the parts list, ordered the Transmission parts from Eric at JW Transmissions in Rockledge Florida.
Sunday 4th September: Tore the Cortina apart with me Bill Felstead and Sefton Whitlock so as repairs could be taken care of, sent the transmission to Terry Robbins of Robbins Race Cars.
Sunday 18th September: With Customs taking 10 days to clear and deliver our transmission parts the Test Day this Friday is not looking promising. It's the final piece in the puzzle. I had been busy during the week, having picked up a spare set of 3.40 Pro gears from Ray Tucker along with an ally pinion support. Bill Felstead at Comanche located a 31 spline spool so as we don't have to refit the locker which saves a lot of unnessasary work. Plus a Webster made propshaft was donated to the cause again by Bill at Commanche for shortening. Chris Isaccs at CIRC sourced the heavy duty propshaft end required, along with the moly tube to remake the wishbone track locator and the C-Clips and the heavy duty UJ.
Sunday Bill and Luke Felstead and PMR Car Chief Sefton Whitlock convened for the day on the Cortina. Sefton and I go on with housekeeping, some of the pipes and cables. Plus
I made a master cylinder cover, Bill warned me that small stuff takes far too long to make and he was dead right. Plus I remade the rear wing supports as the steel struts weighed
nearly a pound each, the ones I remade with ally tubing weigh 3 oz each!
Big thank you to the Floridian department of PMR Tony Morris who carried over a Pro Series anti roll bar for the Cortina. Tony passed by with another very good friend Jon Dewey to go through a couple of old stock alcohol carbs.
I bought the rollbar from Corky Markqart at ART, I have known Corky for about fifteen years now and I trust his judgement. Corky advised using the stronger Pro Series one due to the weight of the car.
Then it was time to collect the third member from Gary at Drag Race Engineering, Gary always does my third members, I wouldn't use anyone else. Got some spacer shims from Russ at Customville so as we could build the ally pinion support, Pro Gears and 31 spline spool into the Strange third member casing. It's all small pinion, but its what it came with and should be strong enough. If its not and breaks then we will upgrade and build it stronger. As I said before this is all new territory for us, so we are learning as we go.
Wed 29th September: Collected the TH-400 from Terry Robbins at Robbins Race Cars, all done and ready to go back in.
Sunday 2nd October: Bill Felstead, Luke and I got cracking on putting the transmission back in the Cortina, to be honest with the small removable floor panel parts, it was not as difficult a job as Bill and I envisaged. Although it did involve using an engine crane to lower the transmission in. Both Bill and I like our fingers just the way they are and did not want to lose any. Yes a TH400 Trans is very heavy and everything is pretty tight in there. With all this done, the following Friday it then was time to fit the propshaft, unfortunately the propshaft was faulty. This put paid to us attending the Saturday Night special at Santa Pod and the Sunday RWYB. So we had the propshaft remade and managed to finally get the Cortina to the very last RWYB of the season at Santa Pod.
Sunday 30th October: Santa Pod Raceway RWYB
Weather was a little cold and the RWYB was busy so we only got two hits. All I wanted to do was ensure it all worked and nothing broke!
First hit it went right off of the startline, which is what it was trying to do at SCR. We had paid special attention to make sure it was dead straight. So we now knew
it was in the chassis. Bill Felstead took one flat out of the Preload and then back out for the second hit.
Got it out to 330ft and second gear, then it started skating real bad so I clicked it. It didn't feel too bad inside the car, but the crew on the startline were shouting at me to lift!! It had still gone a little right on the hit, but no so much and I pulled it back without too much drama.
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