1979 Ford Cortina

“Low and Slow”

By: Jared Govender

Edition 70

The Ford Cortina Mk4 and Mk5 from the late 70s/early 80s has firmly cemented a place amongst the greats to emerge from the Ford stable over the decades, being one of the best-selling cars in South Africa and abroad during its tenure as an affordable mid-sized saloon car. While the Mk5 incarnation was largely considered as merely a facelift of the Mk4 version, the most popular and sought-after model today is undoubtedly the XR6 interceptor that was released as a homologation special (only 200 made) to make up numbers so that Ford could compete in production car racing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we cannot stop for a minute to appreciate some of the other, less powerful models from that range. 

This 1979 1.6L Cortina, owned by Dean Naidoo, recently caught our eye and it just proves that you don’t need to have a fire breathing V8 under the hood to get recognition. Too many people get carried away when customizing their cars. Sometimes the best thing is to just enhance what is already there, rather than a complete redesign. This is one of those times. Dean had the option of upgrading to a larger powerplant when he began work on his Cortina, after receiving it as a gift from his dad. But instead, he decided to retain the 1600 Kent motor as he felt this was the beating heart of a faithful family friend that had served them for all those years, never missing a beat. 

The 1600 Crossflow engine was well known for its sporty, reliable nature and as the reputation for being pretty much bulletproof if maintained properly. More importantly they were relatively inexpensive to repair if things did go wrong. With the Ford being his first car, this made Dean’s choice of keeping the motor a no-brainer. But, as we all know, stock is for the weak and feeble, so some modifications were a given. A new 38 Weber unit replaced the tired old carb and a full Primaforce exhaust system was installed with the branch even colour coded white to compliment the exterior that had also just received fresh paint. 

Dean knew that the right wheel would either make or break the look he was after, so he bided his time in finding something unique and perfect. Eventually he located a set of Hartge replicas in the correct PCD and wasted no time in purchasing it. But making a 10J rear wheel fit with custom lowered springs he installed involved quite a lot of work and Dean, along with his friend Kishan, spent many late nights making sure that the stance of the Cortina was on point. 

With everything else sorted, Dean turned his focus onto the interior of the Ford. The old front perches were a bit long in the tooth, so they were chucked in favour of a brace Recaro bucket racing seats. Victor Pillay at Vintage Custom Interiors reupholstered the new seats along with the old rear bench and door cards in tan leather and dark grey suede in a Ferrari-inspired design that adds a touch of new school to the interior but doesn’t look out of place. The final addition was a wood grain Momo steering wheel that brings out the dashboard inserts beautifully. No doubt there are faster, more powerful Ford Cortina’s out there. But as a daily driver that is stylish and reliable without being overdone, this car deserves its place in the spotlight. This is the definition of a low and slow street cruiser.