A South African-born 3.0 S is a rare sight, although in this colour you're unlikely to miss it go by…
By John Howell / Monday, 6 February 2023 / Loading comments
It’s 1977, and you’re in the market for a new car. Your choices include the ever-beige Morris Marina, the slant-nosed but slightly dowdy Vauxhall Cavalier, and the workaday Volkswagen Passat. But you have a little more budget because you’ve met your sales targets and reaped the rewards, with your boss telling you to, “Live a little.” You can’t go mad; there’s a hierarchy to adhere to, and that means the big Carlton is out of your league – but then you’re a Ford man anyway. So there you are, in a Perrys emporium, and over in the corner something catches your eye. It’s so vibrant it’s like bioluminescent algae washed up on moonless shoreline, and probably almost as ethereal. A MkIV Ford Cortina in eye-widening Signal Green.
This advert begins with ‘Once in a blue moon a special vehicle comes along that simply blows us away.’ A bold statement but, to be fair, an accurate one. This car is something else, don’t you think? Whether it would’ve originally been so effervescent as to fit my misty-eyed scene from the past, I don’t know. It’s been the subject of a full restoration with a few modifications along the way, so I suspect the colour wasn’t so in your face to begin with. It is in your face, though, and all the better for it. Regardless, it turns out the car was originally from South Africa, not the UK, so there’s more than a little writer’s licence in the opening paragraph, but why let the facts get in the way of a good story?
Its native country came to light after a bit of internet digging, along with the fact that Wayne Champion spent two years restoring this car in his shed. Classic stuff. And by all accounts, he’s done a fine job, because the car looks A1. Apparently, it was stripped back to a bare shell before being sent off for a professional respray, then refitted with seats from a Capri retrimmed in Carla check, which chimes perfectly with the exterior.
If you know your Cortinas, the other tell-tale sign that this isn’t a UK car is the great lump of 3.0-litre Essex V6 under the bonnet. That engine, along with the 1.6-litre Kent engine, was a South African-market choice when the MkIV first appeared, while over here the biggest engine was the 2.3-litre Cologne V6. The Cologne unit was more efficient, and therefore better able to meet the increasingly stringent emissions regulations in European markets. As with the rest of the car, the V6 was also stripped, rebuilt, and painted, which includes the two blue rocker covers that finish things off in style under the hood.
The look of this car mirrors the UK 2.3 S, which also had black bumpers, black sills, black door handles, black rear panel and two black stripes running along the sides of the car. You also got twin halogen driving lamps and ‘sports road wheels,’ but this car takes the sporty look even further with front chin spoiler, rear boot spoiler and slatted rear sunscreen. The MkIV Cortina wasn’t a mechanical revolution over what went before. It was launched a year before this car was made, in 1976, with much of the MkIII’s running gear carried over but in a modernised package thanks to the squarer bodywork designed by Uwe Bahnsen.
The 3.0-litre Essex engine produced 138hp, and with a kerbweight of 1,155kg to shove along this 3.0 S should be pokey. And thanks to a decent slug of torque and a live rear axle it’ll probably still be an enjoyable and easy car to get dancing around roundabouts. This one should have slightly tighter body control, thanks to a set of GAZ dampers, but the lack of power steering might give you a bit of a workout. The iron-block Essex engine was no lightweight – at 170kg it’s about 25kg heavier than the all-aluminium Rover V8. Still, as workouts go, a Sunday morning blast in this is going to be a lot more fun than a Sunday morning gym session.
Specification | Ford Cortina 3.0 S (MkIV)
Engine: 2,994cc, V6, naturally aspirated
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 138 @ 5,00rpm
Torque (lb ft): 173 @ 3,000rpm
Recorded mileage: 48,000
Year registered: 1977
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £21,995
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