Earlier this year, in the February issue to be precise, we looked into the prospects of enlivening the Cortina Mk. 3. Then, as now, there were two distinct approaches: insert a V6 engine, or increase the power output of the most powerful Cortina unit offered from the production line, the 98 b.h.p., 2-litre, single overhead camshaft engine often referred to as the Pinto, because the engine also powers the US compact of that name. At the time we commented that Janspeed were to develop a 2-litre Cortina (which they have now successfully completed) whilst Super Speed at Ilford were covered by a 3-litre version of the Mk. 3.
A few months ago the Super Speed premises, adjoining Youngs Garage in Ilford, a major Ford dealer, reverberated to the sound of a more powerful 2-litre Ford, the result of a four month “on the road” development period.
Work started on Super Speed’s version of the 2-litre shortly after the announcement, but there was little interest, so plans were temporarily shelved until customers actually started asking for kits. Judging from the performance figures, the Company was astonishingly successful in its development aims as well, providing at least an extra 30 b.h.p., which brings the Cortina very firmly into the old 3-litre Capri bracket. In fact the figures were nearly as good as the 3-litre Cortina which Super Speed loaned us for that February feature, suggesting that John Young’s dismissive “Well, we’ve done a little bit of headwork” falls well into the understatement department!
The head changes are centred around accurate balancing of combustion chamber volumes, both in head and piston, alteration to intake and exhaust porting for easy mixture travel, plus a number of modifications to the production valve gear to make those components lighter and more efficient in the passage of petrol/air mixture and burnt gases. Valve springs are stronger and we found that the 6,500 r.p.m. used for performance figures was easily in reach, with enough in hand to take one to 7,000 r.p.m., nearly 1,000 revs, above the official redline. The inlet manifolding and Weber twin choke carburetter are basically standard components with a good finish in the case of the manifold, and larger jets for the carburetter.
Sperex coating drew a spectator’s eyes quickly to the freshly fabricated steel exhaust manifolding, chromed rocker and cam drive belt covers complementing the elbow grease expended on the top half of the engine’s interior. The rest of the Cortina was as envisaged by Ford when they were first manufacturing the breed. It’s difficult to say whether Ford’s tamed PR work in Belgium at the initial launch covered all the original car’s blemishes, or if the cars for assessment in Belgium were totally different from Super Speed’s KEV 112J, whatever the reason—even bearing in mind the passage of 2 years, poor KEV summed up all the bad features of the original Mk. 3 Cortina. Even the extra power offered couldn’t persuade the Mk. 3 to do anything but understeer like a blancmange, all to the sound of smoking axle tramp and assorted bodywork moans. We have tried many Mk. 3 Cortinas since their introduction in the autumn of 1970, but we cannot recall one with such diabolical handling: in fact it is possible that KEV 112J went to Belgium with the other press demonstrators, so I can only assume that somebody did something very nasty to it, because the other cars we tried around the Belgian handling course all seemed a distinct improvement over the preceding model.
So, the Super Speed conversion got off on the wrong foot thanks to the motor car it was installed in, but we fared little better ourselves, for our original performance figures were taken using the 6,200 r.p.m. redline as the limit. The result was a set of runs that Super Speed didn’t like at all, so we called in our resident ace and ran another set with complete disregard for the mechanical future of KEV 112J. The drop in times throughout was enough, ranging from 9.4 secs. to 60 m.p.h. to the best part of 1 second!
Although the acceleration is really startling by the standards of bulky 2-litre saloon, as is the top speed genuinely exceeding 110 m.p.h., I don’t think that it will appeal to the same sort of people who would normally buy a saloon of these capabilities. The snag is a rather harsh noise level when accelerating hard: certainly you would not fool anyone that it was not a small (comparative term in this application) engine working honestly and hard for its living. The 50-70 m.p.h. figure in top gear of just over 9.5 secs. betrays the engine’s size as well, for a Capri 3-litre records 7½ seconds for the same exercise. In other words, if you are prepared to work the engine hard, this Super Speed conversion will repay you with a very high level of performance for the money expended.
It is not just the initial exchange price of £88 (plus £25 fitting, if required) that recommends the Super Speed kit as good value for money though. Fuel consumption is, if anything, slightly improved in overall use, while conscious restraint will actually bring with it a fuel consumption bonus. At high speed, or full throttle openings in the intermediate gears, there’s little difference between standard and Super Speed converted, but at a constant 70 m.p.h. the car will travel about 2½ miles farther on each gallon of fuel.
Customers who do not want to exchange parts when purchasing the kit can buy on an outright basis, when the total charge will be £168; a deposit of £40 is payable pending the return of the customer’s standard engine parts. As usual Super Speed offer a 12 month/12,000 mile guarantee.
With strong points in its favour such as the useful 80-90 m.p.h. light throttle cruising, good economy in operation and reasonable initial cost. Super Speed should gain yet more customers who like their conversions to be economically effective. — J. W.