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Phlex's 1968 Cortina MK2


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So I'm sitting at work one afternoon and get one of those generic "anyone keen to buy a..." text messages from a mate that come through from time to time and usually get ignored but today was different. His brother had picked up a 1968 cortina mk2 sedan a few years back and I had only ever seen it once and had completely forgotten he had it. Long story short he had gotten behind on some payments and needed some cash so they were trying to find a buyer for his cortina.

The car was built in Lower Hutt in '68 the only history we know is it had a fair bit of work done in around 2008 about a year before he picked it up. It had all the rust removed, a full respray in white and most importantly a full interior re trim. Aside from a crude under seal engine bay paint job the running gear wasn't touched. The guy I got it off drove it daily for about 12 months until the generator stopped generating and it wouldn't run. It was towed to the kerb outside his mums place which is where it's at for over a year and some awesome individual kicked the drivers door in and smashed the mirrors off it. While it was sitting here not running the engine siezed from not being turned over.

After a year of sitting in the weather it was moved to a dry storage unit where it was stripped down with the idea of giving everything a freshen up. He took 2 front doors and the boot down to bare steel, removed the interior, all trims, lights, wiring and pulled the head off the engine to start an engine rebuild. Due to lack of time and funds it sat in this state for another 12+ months until they decided it had to go.

My initial reaction when I saw the car all stripped and 50% of it in cardboard boxes was to walk away but after sleeping on it I decided I really didn't have much to lose as I could always part it out to recoup cost if it was too far gone.

Plan for the build was to keep it period and close to standard and make it so that anybody can hop in and drive it. I already have a race car and a couple of hot hatches so really just wanted something to cruise in. Plus I had never done a classic build but always admired them!

Here it is the day we got it back to my place

Ute tray load of parts

Retrimmed interior - really the selling point for me


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So fast forward a few weeks of mucking round, we managed to get the engine unseized and all back together with a $50 gasket kit and one late night with a crate of sleights on hand and with the help of my friend Chris who has little car knowledge but isn't afraid to get his hands dirty we managed to get it to fire up!


Next morning I set off on the maiden voyage down to repco to grab some more supplies. It drove surprisingly well for a car that had been chucked back together with very minimal skill



And back home safe after about a 10km round trip. Next drive was down to a workshop to let a mechanic have a look over it and let me know what would need doing for a warrant. In short: Brakes leaking, perished bushes, minor rust, number plate light to operate and missing 2 of the leaves in the rear. Nothing major at all!


Suspension and steering arms out, bushes removed and painted in hammerite black

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Managed to find all the bushes I needed by researching the nolathane / superpro numbers myself and heading round a few shops to see what was available. Cost about $200 to do the whole front end including paint so that's not bad!


Ripped the calipers off as one was dragging, master cylinder followed as that was weeping and sourced some seal kits and rear cylinders while I was there. Passed the calipers and master to a friend to rebuild as I haven't done anything that style before and I got busy re making steel brake lines as I noticed the old ones were a bit crusty. Got the brakes back and installed everything, bled it all up and was absolutely fine for about 2 weeks until the master started leaking again... More about that later!

managed to track down some leaf springs from a guy locally and he just happened to have a spare 711M 1600 engine they had pulled out of his dad's escort van. After a bit of negotiating we agreed on a price and they gave me all the info about it. It was a standard bore and had bearings and rings a few years back and they had put a cam in it and a few other goodies to bring it up to GT spec. Perfect upgrade!

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New engine on its way home in the boot of my golf...


At this point my build has out grown my single garage and I decided to rent a space in a friends workshop so I can spread out a bit and not worry about having to move it out of the garage every time my skyline needs something done.

Fast forward to the old engine coming back out, engine bay being stripped and this is the aftermath of 5 nights 6pm-10 with thinners and a rag removing the UNDERSEAL they had used to paint the engine bay...this doesn't take into the account the time Kyle spent in there while I wasn't there, there was some serious hours in the prep of the engine bay thanks to some idiot with a can of underseal sometime in the past 48 years!


And after a few more evenings of being sanded smooth, surface rust removed from under the leaking master cylinder and a spot prime


Nice painted engine bay. Originally wanted white but as I haven't 100% decided on exterior colour yet black would go with everything


After a couple of days to let the paint harden we had the brake lines back in and dropped the engine in with a fresh gasket kit and brand new clutch, filled it up with all the right fluids and had it running


I won't go into details of the celebratory burnout that left me with a very blown diff...

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Next job was rust. Spent a fair few evenings and weekends cutting out anything that looked infected and rust killing the lot and Kyle welded in some plates. (Il add photos of these later) Once the welding was done we sprayed cavity wax in anywhere we could and etched the bare steel before filling where needed and priming. The cortina got a bit neglected for a few months once we were finished with the rust as I got stuck into some house painting and improvements and ended up buying another house and then going to the states for 3 weeks which meant the Cortina sat neglected under a car cover for a total of about 4 months until I moved it to the new house where I finally managed to source a brake master cylinder off eBay and am that brings us up to present day.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been bending and flaring up some new brake lines to suit the cylinder, it's off a left hand drive so the pipes come out of the wrong side. No bigge there as I bought all the tools to make lines mid last year when I made the first lot up. Last night I managed to finish the lines and filled the system with fluid but noticed that the rear brake hose has gone a bit rotten so I will replace this next week and update and take some photos of the new lines.

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Managed to find some time to finish the rear brake pipe/hoses and just have one more hose to finish up front and the brake system will be ready to bleed up. Also managed to get the handbrake self adjusters to work properly and have finally got a handbrake! Hasn't had brakes for about 4 months so this is a big deal!  Hoping to have the last pipe done tonight and the system bled up and checked for leaks


For the whole time I have had the Cortina it has had a second ignition barrel screwed to the bottom of the dash as the original one had stopped working at some point. Months ago I went to swap the good ignition into the original spot on the dash but realised it was much bigger than the original so simply didn't fit.  I spent some time with a dremel tool making the hole bigger and after some slight modification to the ignition itself I have finally got it installed in the correct place!


Since I tested out the ignition and gave the car a bit of a run in the garage I thought it would be a good time to adjust the timing which has just been set by ear up until now and once this was done and it was humming along nicely I whipped the rocker cover off and adjusted the tappets to make sure everything is in order. Only one needed a slight adjustment and that's another job ticked off the list!




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As im waiting for a diff pinion seal to arrive from the UK I thought i would get stuck into the interior. I managed to somewhat resurrect the very tired rear view mirror for now while I wait for a reasonably priced mirror head to come up and I finally got around to getting the drivers seat bracket welded up as it had cracked at some stage. Gave the mounts all a fresh coat of black to keep everything tidy.




While the seat was out I decided to make up some 80x80x3 plates to sit up under the floor where the seats bolt down to give some more strength, Again painted all the hardware black.




Since I was waiting for the paint to dry I thought I would give the carpet a good vacuum and clean with upholstery cleaner. The drivers floor mat had soaked up some brake fluid when the master cylinder was leaking into the car so I ripped that up (glued down??) and gave it a proper wash in the laundry tub. Gave me a chance to thoroughly clean the floor underneath it. 




Final step for the night was to give the back seats a really good clean and they look brand new again!




Tonight's job is to put the seats back in with the new plates and give them a clean and then the interior is finished for now!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Got a bit of motivation on Saturday morning so climbed under the Cortina and got to work replacing the leaking diff pinion seal. Managed to get a couple of seals from a ford supplier on eBay and they came with very good instructions for replacing the seal without upsetting the backlash which was awesome. Took a while to smack the old seal out and I got a free oil shower when it finally came free. New seal fit perfectly and so far leak free!


Next step was to find out what was leaking oil around the engine. I had assumed rear main seal as Im used to working on RWD Nissans and these are always the culprit. In this instance I found a bone dry flywheel and clutch and the leak was in fact the input shaft on the gearbox. 7 bolts later I had the seal out and went in yesterday and luckily Pacific Seals had one on the shelf. Refitting the gearbox will be tonight's job and hopefully that will be the end of the puddles of oil on the garage floor!





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  • 3 weeks later...

Been a bit slack on the updates but the work has continued along when ive found the time.  


Decided it was time to start on the bodywork while I let the funds build back up as there is a few small bits still needing attention before I can go for a WOF check.  The previous owner had stripped the front doors and boot back to bare steel as part of doing a full bare steel respray but due to the fact that the car has already had most of the rust dealt with last time it was painted I have decided to focus on getting it as smooth and straight as possible and doing a fresh coat of paint over the whole car.  Sticking with white as I think it looks classy with the chrome bits and matches the interior nicely


Il let the photos tell the story here









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  • 2 months later...

Time for a well overdue update!


Cortina unfortunatley had to go onto the back burner for a couple of months while the focus was shifted onto my skyline race car which is now sporting a roll cage and some new seats and harnesses. Now that the Cortina is back in the workshop i'm hoping for some good progress


Got the top of the boot lid and underside of the bonnet cleaned up and painted. The boot had been taken back to bare metal and primed by the previous owner but it was no where near smooth or flat so took alot of prep work but i'm really happy with the finish and it was a good learning experience for me as its the first time I had attempted to spray 2K 






Major contrast between current white and the colour I have chosen for the respray 


This week I have spent a bit of time on the top of the bonnet and that is now ready to be sprayed (dont have a photo of it after final sand)



Next job is getting the passenger side doors stripped and primed. Both front doors were taken back to bare metal by the previous owner and I bombed them white when I got the car to prevent rust, I spent a bit of time today with some paint stripper and have got most of the front passengers door back to bare steel and its looking alot better already!


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Passenger door progress so far. Surprisingly good condition. 






For those wondering about why its etched in sections, I was helping a mate work on his car so etched as far as I had cleaned up to prevent rust overnight and then cleaned up the upper part only to find we were out of primer!

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  • 1 month later...

Wow 6 weeks between updates! 


Bonnet is all painted and looks bloody good considering I haven't had much experience in painting 2K. Chose not to remove the front trim as it has been attached with some pretty hefty rivets and I can see an old repair to the front edge I didn't want to agitate.


Made a start on the brand new old stock drivers door I scored. Spent about 3 hours sanding the stock primer off the door as it was powdery and brown so to avoid it coming through the top coat I went back to bare steel and etched the whole door, Even being brand new it required a small amount of filler in a few places from being knocked around.


Finally I tackled a job I've been holding off for ages and I swapped the internals of the carburettor into a new housing as the carb I was using had a hairline crack in it which was allowing fuel to leak. While I was in there I gave everything a thorough clean and its been sitting on the bench waiting to go back into the car for about 3 weeks.


I have a couple of weeks off in mid august so my plan is to get the unpainted parts of the car finished, replace front tyres and rear shocks and get in for a WOF check while I am on leave.


No photos this time as my work computer is blocking me from uploading them. Ill upload from home later! 



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  • 2 months later...

Very long time between updates as racing and snowboarding trips got in the way of progress. I managed to get a couple of weeks off work in August and spent one of the weeks doing bodywork and now have a car that's all one colour. We spent a good few days and nights blocking the whole car back and filling any imperfections and spot priming where needed.

Due to the previous rust repairs in the front valance being a bit rough we opted to use a paintable underseal at the line below the front and rear bumpers and also along the sills, this will provide some good protection against stone chips and looks quite cool too.


Painting went fairly well with the only issue being that the paint gun started playing up half way through so I left my friend Kyle to do what he could and I whipped down to super cheap to buy a better one, (I might add it had been on special until the day before so cost me an extra $30) Got a few small runs but nothing too bad. We painted the car with the doors bonnet and boot off and also no glass to ensure we got full even coverage. I am now working through the doors one at a time as they are taking a lot of prep due to this being about the 4th paint job since it left the factory!


After a full month sitting back in my garage at home to give the paint a fighting chance to harden properly I have wet sanded the runs and any other imperfection I could find and am now quite happy with our efforts. I plan to hit the shell with the buffer this week to get the shine back and will continue with the doors, scuttle panel and side vents.


As part of the reassembly process I have sourced brand new windscreen and door seals. I'm yet to buy the seals for the door windows but they are next on the list once the doors are all re fitted.  Couldn't help myself last night so re assembled the front end using the tidiest of the 4 pairs of headlight surrounds and about 12 indicators I have hoarded since I started the project. Plan is to sell off some of the spares once I have finished the car


Plan to have the car warranted before Christmas is fairly realistic at the moment if the motivation hangs around.










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  • 2 months later...

Well getting a wof by Christmas didn't go to plan. Came across lots of distractions and went another month without touching it. Toyed with the idea of selling it as is but after a couple of low ball offers and some yeah yeah nah's I decided i'm not willing to lose money so will keep moving forward as fast as time and other projects allow

Tracked down a replacement RR door which I have prepped and will paint over the weekend if time allows.

Before Christmas I managed to get the other 3 doors installed, painted and reinstalled the C pillar trims, fitted the headlights and chrome trims and fitted a replacement pair of leaf springs to the rear which means the car now sits even as the old ones were modified and stuffed.

I bit the bullet and purchased a replacement weber carb off trademe more suitable for the 711M 1600 GT because the one that was on it was causing me some issues and it turns out it was a 1300 GT carb.

If anybody has any Mk2 parts kicking around im looking for the chrome trims from the back above and below the tail lights and also a decent rear view mirror




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Bit of an update and hopefully some photos to come tomorrow. 

Got the inside of the replacement RR door painted earlier in  the week on one of the warmer nights and all going to plan I will have the outside painted by the end of the day tomorrow. 

I had been getting quite frustrated as the cortina would sometimes start easily and run well enough to drive on and off the trailer and into and out of the garage and other times it would run like a bag of shit and there was no real rhyme or reason to how it was going to run. I decided to bite the bullet and replace the 32DGV carb that came with the car originally for a larger carb more suited to the 1600GT engine its now got in it. A bit of a search on trademe and I managed to find a guy who had a few Weber 32/36DGAV carbs in various conditions. I did a deal and bought 2 carbs, one with the auto choke assembly and a spare one missing the choke but otherwise complete. I had absolutely no idea if these were even compatible but I could see plenty of listings stating the 32/36DGV DGAV and DGEV being used on the 711M 1600s so thought it was worth a punt

Installation was a prick. The fuel line goes into the other side so I needed to re route the hose, there is another port off the other side that I assume is fuel overflow which I have blanked off for now and the worst bit was the accelerator pedal linkage is totally different so I had to hori it up with some cable ties while I find / make the correct one. 

I got it all hooked up and plumbed in, forgetting about the auto choke hoses for now as Im not convinced it needs a choke, jammed the choke butterflies open and then proceeded to run the battery and then the first jump pack flat trying to get it to start and finally gave in and used some engine start spray and it reluctantly fired into life. It ran like absolute shit, probably worse than it ran on the 32DGV carb which is actually a 1300 carb. 

Disheartened I packed up and went inside, doing a bit of research and confirmed this was in fact the correct sized carb to be running on the engine I have so at least i felt better knowing I hadn't completely wasted $200 buying the carbs and that it was probably just in need of a service so thought i might just try the spare carb without the choke and see if that's any different tomorrow. 

After I had gone to bed i suddenly though that maybe it was a spark issue not a fuel issue as the last few times I tried to drive it on the old carb it was running like a bag of shit and I had put that down to the old carb being too small and not jetted for the 711M. So this morning I whipped out a spark plug and whaddayaknow it was caked with an oily substance and looked 30 years old. Quick trip to repco at lunch and got a brand new set.

Got home round about 5:15, chucked the spark plugs into the motor, jammed the butterflies open again (auto choke not hooked up), quick spray of engine start and it started first pop on the key but died as soon as I let off the gas. Quick fiddle with the idle screw and fired it straight back up, this time holding a smooth idle and no complaints. By 6:00 i had done a couple of laps of the block and a 2km trip down the bottom of the hill and back and was thoroughly impressed. I took my Gopro to film the experience but noticed half way down the road there was no SD card in it - whoops!!

Amazing how motivation is suddenly restored as soon as its drivable! Just ordered replacements for the perished tyres, going to finish the last door tomorrow, sort out the lights and mirrors and hopefully be in for a warrant one day next week!

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So after all of Monday evening tracing wires and pulling my hair out I took to the tech talk section and a couple of OS members gave me some ideas of things to check and it was the body to engine earth which had corroded away. I added another earth and everything works perfectly again.  

Having the ignition and wiring all dropped from under the dash lead to me discovering a few dodgy wires running around and also the park lights had been piggy backed off the circuit that runs the gauge lights so were on a separate switch and there was a few wires darting off in random directions replacing some of the factory stuff. Having had a dash loom smoke up in the past in another car, I spent most of the rest of the evening wiring in a universal fuse box and moving most of the wires off the ignition itself. This will also help with future problem solving as previously most of the electrics ran through the same main fuse at the battery which would make it difficult to isolate faults.

Once I was happy with the wiring setup I went for a drive around the block and was very happy with how it went. Brakes are still a bit spongy so I will give those another decent bleed up before its time to go for a WOF

Just a few small jobs left to do to complete phase 1 of the build. Front screen locking strip needs installing, wipers need aligning, "F" and "O" need to be attached to the boot, I need to modify the fuel filler slightly as the current tank in the car is a MK1 tank so the filler is smaller and on a slightly different angle so currently the car gets filled through the boot.

WOF check is booked for Tuesday as they are too busy for the rest of this week, gives me plenty of time to improve the brakes and give the car another once over. Current plan continues to have the car parked up at British Car day in Upper Hutt in a few weeks. I work better with a deadline!

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Few days of not achieving much unfortunately. I managed to get a wof booking for Saturday morning so on Wednesday night I decided to bleed the brakes again to try and improve the pedal feel and noticed no matter how much I pumped, the pedal always ended up going to the floor so I went looking for leaks and pretty quickly found the RR wheel cylinder had a small amount of fluid coming out the back of it.

I removed the leaky cylinder and went hunting for the spare I had put somewhere safe when I replaced both due to the left side leaking some 18 months ago but in typical form could not locate it anywhere so ended up heading round to a friends place and grabbing one off his MK1 which is a few months from road ready only to get home (10PM at this point) and find its slightly different and wont work. Since the car was parked in the middle of the garage I had to put the wheels back on and shimmy it back over to its side so I could put my race car away for the night.

Ordered a replacement cylinder from repco and got them to find me a couple of front hoses since I was going to have to bleed the whole lot again anyway and the front hoses are literally the only parts of the brake system that haven't been replaced since I have had the car. Went in this morning to collect the bits and find the brake cylinder is the correct one, but is dirty and has been fitted and removed. They gave me a really good deal on everything so here's hoping it was just the wrong part for the previous owner and not a faulty part!!

Wof is booked for 9am tomorrow. Ill be getting stuck straight back into the car when I get home from work at 5 and all going well should be road legal this time tomorrow. I will report back!

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So Saturday morning's wof booking had to be cancelled. Despite all our efforts of replacing the cylinder AND making a new brake like as the threads on the existing one were a bit chewy we couldn't get a better pedal feel. We noticed a hissing noise from the new old stock master cylinder like it was leaking but couldn't find any fluid anywhere. flagged the wof and started looking for a replacement cylinder (took 6 months to find the one currently in the car)

On Saturday evening with the bad weather I couldn't be bothered doing much so I grabbed out the old cylinder I had removed a year earlier and pulled it down to see what could potentially be making the hissing noise and found they have an internal seal under the resiviour that allowed fluid in and out at different times. This cylinder had been re kitted but had a score in the bore which kept leaking so all the seals in it were still new so I thought I would take a punt and swap that seal into the cylinder on the car (managed to do it in place - winning!) and presto it appeared to have fixed the issue, quick bleed up and a drive around the block and it was better but still not perfect but the pedal no longer went to the floor when pressure was held on it. This was a good sign.

Racing was called off early on Sunday due to rain so I left the racecar on the trailer outside and made the most of having the whole double garage and did a few small jobs on the Cortina including giving it another thorough bleed up. Brakes felt better but I thought better than to test drive in the storm so I called it a night.

To be continued...

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ok I've dragged the chain long enough!  

Monday evening after work I jumped in the Cortina and went for a drive round the block. brakes felt significantly better than before but I still wasn't happy. I got all 4 corners back up in the air and gave them another thorough bleed and it was night and day difference on the next test drive.  I drove to the bottom of the hill, turned around and came back up and had no issues. Absolute relief!

I was lucky to get booked in for a wof just before 5 on Tuesday so I snuck out of work early and took the car there, it drove without fault other than the very rotten front tyres but the replacements were sitting in the boot waiting to be fitted.  Once on the hoist it came back with only a few minor issues, one bulb out in the rear, bit of play in a bottom ball joint and one inner tie rod needing urgent replacement. Got the tyres fitted and went home to sort out the repairs and was back on Wednesday lunchtime for a recheck and all passed. Chucked on some rego online and headed home.

At this point I hadn't taken the Cortina on the motorway as its 50/70 the whole way from home to the workshop who did the wof so it was on the way home with a fresh wof I noticed a bit of a vibration at anything above 75ish km that gets worse and worse as you get closer to 100k... That's a totally different subject tho, back to the build..


I placed an order with an Australian company for some window rubbers so I could continue with the restoration. I have used this company twice before and their stuff seems quite good. ordered front and rear quarter window seals and also a set of channel seals for the winding windows. Once they arrived I got stuck into pulling the windows out one by one, tinting them and reinstalling with new rubbers,  LR went well but then got to the LF to find they had sent me coupe front seals instead of sedan so I sent them an email (Australia day by this point so wasn't expecting a reply) and moved onto the RR door since I had parts for that. I now notice they have only sent me enough of the channel rubber to do 2 doors, not the 4 I had asked for. Another email and finished what I was doing and then back into the garage as I was trying to avoid putting the LF door back together with the old seals.  3 unanswered emails later I get a response from the Australian company saying "Yea we don't stock them for 4 doors. send them back for a refund" which completely ignored the issue about the $60 freight I paid to send the wrong parts, the fact I was short changed 2 channel seals and the worse bit was that I bought the Rear quarter seals and asked them to do me a combo of the fronts and channel seals for my "4 door Mk2 Cortina" so it was totally their balls up!  After another week of not being replied to I did some googling and found another place based in Blenheim that was able to do the bailey channel rubbers by the meter so I put in an order for some of that and some external weather strips to finish the job but unfortunately had to re use the old front seals, fortunately both still in OK condition.





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  • PHLEX changed the title to Phlex's 1968 Cortina MK2

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