Lotus Cortina Done

Published on 3 March 2024 at 08:58

I can't reasonably take much credit for this one, my efforts have been very much a supporting role with Russell being responsible for the vast  majority of it and what a job he has done! Kenny helped out with the paintwork but Russ did all the prep and priming, polish  Pete came in and worked his magic, it was a team effort with Malcolm getting the paint brush out and signing the cheques.

it's taken a year with all the other things going on, Malc had purchased it  as a project, it came from the estate of Dave Sutton, a well known and respected Lotus man. It didn't need any engine work, all the mechanicals were in pretty good order but the chassis and body needed plenty. The car was totally stripped so Russ could work his magic, I learnt loads from this one.

To be honest we had very  few problems - a few electrical gremlins needed to be sorted and the throttle linkage gave us  some headaches but for the size of project it was pretty plain sailing. The clutch slave cylinder turned out to be less than useful so that had to be changed and we had a bit of a mare getting the brakes bled and adjusted but we persevered and got there in the end.

In fact it was the brakes being naughty that allowed me to have a test drive. Russ had taken it round  the block but wasn't sure the brakes felt right so he rang  me and asked for me to pop round. We got it on the lift and re-bled it, some air came out but the rears were not working as they should - drum brakes are fitted to this car. We adjusted them up, they needed to go quite a long way but we got them working quite well in the end.

It was then that Malcolm dropped a massive bomb shell - a very welcome and pleasant one. He asked me to take it for a test drive and announced that he had added me to his insurance so that I could drive any of his cars. Wow. Now that's not to say that I can borrow the  group b integrale any time I like but it shows an incredible level of trust. There  are only 6 people named on the policy, Malcolm and his family, Russell and now me. Anyway, he tossed me the keys and off I went.

Now I will stress that we have not done a full tune on this yet, I can't find my carb  balancer so it's just set up by ear at the moment  and I don't think it is perfect. My last opportunity to drive one of these was in 1982, I missed out on that because the insurance was too expensive. I had been offered a car for 350 quid, which was within budget but my apprentice wages just would not stretch to make it legal.

Back in the day these cars were considered to be serious performance cars but with just over 100 bhp they look weak on paper by modern standards, yet driving one is so different, the experience is difficult to describe. Maybe nostalgia plays a big part, maybe the induction from the twin delorto DHLA carbs combined with the slightly vocal exhaust invoked dim and distant memories. The car drove beautifully, far better than it should have done given the lack of tuning and  the fact it hasn't had the tracking done properly yet. The brakes were now working quite well, I suspect they will get much better when properly bedded in.

To me cars are about how they make you feel. My JCW Mini makes me smile because it's 220 plus bhp makes it stupidly fast and it handles like a go kart. The Jag makes me smile because it makes me feel cosseted, it's luxury that an oik like me should not be able to afford. The Lotus made me feel privileged - all that history and heritage, they are truly a very special car. It stirred ancient memories of changing carbs on my 1969 capri and the endless days spent with my old mate Paul where engines would be changed and parts would be harvested from scrap yards where the week's wages would be invested in the next mad cap upgrade.

I guess this made 60 year old Dave the 16 year old Dave again, it was an absolute pleasure working with Russ  he's a calming influence to my chaotic mind. He's really, really good at what he does and he's just a seriously top bloke all at the same time.

it was great fun working with Malc too, the 3 of us together is like an edition of Last of the Summer Wine on acid.

We still need to find a front bumper for it, the Ford letters need to be applied to the bonnet and I need to connect up the window washer. We will look for a bumper come the spring, the auto jumbles all start soon so it's just a matter of time until one turns up. The tracking needs doing, if Malcolm needs somebody to drive it there I will be happy to volunteer as Russell will be locked in a cupboard and unable to assist.

Now we have to have a look at the errant gearbox in a Broadspeed Anglia - a very rare beast, if the information I found last night is correct only 3 of these were built with the Fiat twin cam engine. Weighing in at just 800 kilos thanks to it's space frame chassis and fibre glass body work it's 175 BHP should move it along really nicely. Russ drained the oil in the box last night and a spring came out. That might help to explain things.......  

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