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  • Writer's pictureKingsley James

Mk3 Ford Cortina Customer resto

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Gorgeous Miami blue mk3 cortina in for the KJ classics treatment

This nice looking mk3 ford cortina was brought into the workshop for rather a lot of bodywork issues ranging from panel gaps to microblistered paint to full on rotten panels. The brief was quite simply in the customers own words “make it look the bollocks” Seemed fare enough to me so let’s get into it.

Rust, rust and more rust. Not a problem for us

First let’s take a look at some of the problems it came in with.

Rusted and dented sides to be repaired

More rust and dings on the front and rear to smooth out and repair

In the pictures above we can see lots of rust bubbling up from under the paint. Dents, exposed previous repairs, panel gaps that are huge along with gaps that are non existent. Unfortunately the obvious problems hear turned out to be the tip of the iceberg.

Starting on the hinges to get panel gaps right

The best starting point from what I could see was to get the panel gaps right and go from there. The hinge pins were also replaced at this point having mostly rotted away. Having spend hours trying to adjust the doors into line there just wasn’t enough movement to get the gaps right so I opted to make the bolt holes bigger to gain more movement. Ultimately this didn’t have the affect i was looking for.

At this point the only sure way to get the door gaps I wanted was to weld a shim of metal into the ends of the doors where needed to close the gap.

The drivers side rear door was where the real problems started for this build. What looked on the surface like a simple repair patch turned into the entire bottom of the door being rotten.

Lower door re-fabrication

These were definitely not simple repair patches. The inner bottom door skin was cut away and replace with one piece of steel folded and curved to match the contour of the door. This also had to follow the line of the sill that runs underneath it while keeping an acceptable gap between the two. The outer skin was also cut out and I new piece was made with the ends folded over. This is so the new outer skin can slot over the inner skin without the need to weld it at the bottom while retaining a factory like finish.

Drivers front door was much better than the rear and all that was needed was shim welded to the rear edge to make up the panel gap and a small corner piece on the front.

Tons of old poor quality bodyfiller hiding up problems underneath

The drivers front wing was a huge problem. Again on the surface it didn’t look to bad just one or two bubbles in the paint but once I hit it with the angle grinder it turned out to be half an inch think with filler. What was under the filler wasn’t much better. Rotting previous repairs.

This picture shows just how out of shape the top of the wing was and why so much filler was used to bring it into line with the bonnet.

I opted to repair the wing in 3 sections. This plate iv made will be the top section of the wing.

Top section tacked in place

Middle section tacked into place.

Bottom of the wing as it was with the filler removed then with the rot cut out and finally a comparison of the old rotten section and the newly made section.

Bottom section tacked in place. The plates that I weld into exterior panels are only ever tacked. This is because the welding process builds up a huge amount of heat which can very easily warp a panel out of shape. It’s for that reason the panel is left to cool after 4or 5 tacks. Eventually this method will creat a continuous bead of weld it just takes a long time.

The front of the wing wasn’t much better. Not only was it just a rotten as the back but it didn’t actually butt up to the front valence like it was suppose to. A new section was made with the flange moved roughly half an inch forward to meet the front valence as it should.

With the front section rebuilt the wing now lines up with the valence as it should.

Not that lining up the wing and valence was particularly important at this stage as the valence it’s self as well as the area underneath and around the head light also needed to be replaced.

The valence was cut off at the end just past the mounting point on the inner wing. The mounting flange was also cut off and replaced as can been seen in the top 2 pictures. The bottom 2 are of the new valence section being made using the old one as a template.

Front section repaired.

Passenger side is the same and will be repaired in the same manner although this side had already been subject to a previous repairs as can be seen by the exposed welds.

As with the driver side a new mounting flange is fitted to the inner wing and the new valence end is welded to that through plug weld holes on the outside. A new top section of the valence is also made to tidy up the previous repair.

Front valence metalwork finished.

On to the passenger front wing. This time the top of the wing was ok. The bottom however was completely rotten and had been previously repaired with nothing but filler. This all had to be cut away and replaced. The plate it’s self looks simple to make however with two different angled flanges and a mild curve across the hole plate it would be very difficult to make without the use of a metal shrinking tool. The mounting bracket that holds the wing onto the car was also repaired at this point.

Passenger front door was more of the same. Cutting, making plates, welding them in. At this point I think I could have repaired this door in my sleep.

Passenger rear door was pretty bad with the bottom completely rotten inside and out.

The customer had requested the passenger rear door be repaired as the handle had stopped working. Over 40 something years the mechanism had warn to the point where the travel on the door handle wasn’t enough to disengage the door latch. The easiest way I could see to fix this was to make a shorter lever bar from an old nail as can be seen in the bottom right picture. The effect this has is to bring the door latch closer to the point of disengaging before the door handle is even pulled.

Rear wheel arch was bubbling all the way along so a new one was made using the metal stretching tool to achieve the curve needed.

last bit of metal work so on the rear quarter. With the filler stripped off some mild accident damage was revealed that had been partially pulled out. The metal shrinking tool was once again used to achieve the domed shape of the quarter panel.

All welds were seam sealed and undersealed to prevent future water ingress and preserve the car for years to come.

The rear end of the car has heavily microblistered. The only option was to sand it down to bare metal and chemically treated the metal surface to prevent rust before priming.

On to the bodywork stage. This is the correct use for body filler. Thin layers to hide ground back welds and minor dents. Not filling huge rotten holes.

The roof was challenging as it looked like someone had been tap dancing all over. Initially I sanded the paint back with a long block to reveal the low spots. We can see hear all the low spots are left shiny where the long block wasn’t able to reach them.

There was just to many dents to in the roof to try and remove them all so I opted to use a very fine very runny self levelling filler. I should stress this is a very thin coat of filler and once sanded back the only filler lift is in the low dented spots.

Once the bodywork is finished the car is coated in a sandable filler primer. The primer is then prayed with black paint in a random pattern. This is called a guide coat. The idea is to sand this down with a finer grade of sand paper than used in the bodywork stage. This will show up any scratches caused by the corse grade used to sand the filler down.

Hear we can the scratches revealed be the guide coat. These will be sanded with progressively finer grades of sand paper until they are gone leaving a smooth surface.

Finally time for paint. Inside the door shuts and areas that will be covered up when the car is together are painted a day in advance before the body Of the car.

Once the car is painted it will be left to sit for a couple of days before it will be wet sanded with 1200, 1500 and 3000 before being buffed. This is to remove any imperfections in the paint.

while the paint drys the wheels also needed a freshen up. All that’s left to do after this is put the car back together and call it a day.

The welding, bodywork and paint on this car took 430 hours over the space of 11 weeks.

Although at a standard hourly rate the bill would be much larger for a big project like this you could expect to spend somewhere between £6500 and £8000 for a similar size vehicle baring in mind no structural repairs or mechanical repairs were made. The above statement is correct at the time of publishing and may be subject to change.

Finally a special thanks to the owner for bringing this awesome car to the workshop and being extremely relaxed throughout the project while I cut his car to pieces. And also for not chasing it up every minute of the day and not getting in the way……to much.

Also thanks to the owner of the silver capri ( also on this site) for sending the customer my way.

Cheers guys!

Some time after the body restoration was completed the cortina was back in the workshop with a rather violent vibration coming from the engine. Running the engine with the rocker-cam cover removed revealed 2 problems. 1 was a broken valve spring (arrowed above) and 2 was an oil spray bar that was not spraying oil onto the cam.

Upon removing the oil spray bar for replacement a 3rd problem was found. The rear cam carrier had cracked all the way through (arrowed above). There was no fix for this and unfortunately ment the needed a complete new cylinder head.

With the engine significantly stripped down I decided to investigate the cause of the blocked oil spray bar. This ment removing the sump to see if it was clean or full of debris. After spending what felt like all day trying to remove the sump from under the car it became obvious there just wasn't enough clearance with the crossmember and steering column in the way to get it out from underneath. This ment removing the engine from the car.

My suspicions were confirmed upon removing the sump and as such the sump, oil strainer, and pump were all thoroughly cleaned out before refitting.

With the block back in the car it was time to turn my attention to the new head. This was treated to new valve springs, valve stem oil seals, a new camshaft oil seal, re-cut valves and was then refaced.

With the head refitted with a new spray bar the cortina is now back to running as smoothly as it ever was.

If you have a classic that needs some TLC to get back to its former glory contact us. here

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