There is something enduring about the fascination the Ford Cortina V8 race cars continue to provide for modern day enthusiasts of Special Saloon racing. Forum threads prove there is a curiosity about them to those who didnt see them race. To many the first one of Doc Merfield is regarded as the first real Super Saloon and Merfield a real pioneer in the field. The second one by the 2 Terry`s ,Sanger and Drury followed and the third , the Pete Shelton car continued the idea well into the 70`s. Back in 1964 the practical choice for Saloon drivers was to go to Lotus and buy a race ready Lotus Cortina Twin Cam and you enter both the British Saloon Car Championship and either of the national `open` Saloon Car Championships . Afterall reigning Grand Prix World Champion Jim Clark was 3-wheeling his way to the BSCC title. Yet thankfully there were a few men who thought NO , I fancy doing something different and more challenging and maybe I might gain an advantage over the other drivers...
Little of these cars are well documented on the internet for easy reference so here goes...
MERFIELD / BOLTON V8
MERFIELD / BOLTON V8
Derek `Doc` Merfield was an Australian-born Dentist working in Britain who had caught the racing bug at the weekend. He had already won the BARC Cibie Cup for Saloons outright for 1961 + 62 with his yellow Ford Anglia when he aquired one of the very first Lotus Cortinas. He could be the very first man to have won a race in the car as it was homologated for Group 2 use in September 1963 in time for its debut in the British Saloon Car Championship round at Oulton Park. Sears and Taylor took 3rd + 4th but elsewhere on the same day ( the 21st ) Merfield won the BARC Spring Grove finale outright in his factory-fresh version. This car would serve as back-up for the new season.
Quite what kind of Epiphany moment caused Merfield to decide to fit a V8 into a Cortina isnt recorded , given he presumably knew more about Dentistry than mechanics. Anyway his project involved a Cortina GT and a Ford Windsor 289ci ( 4727cc ) which was a new unit used in Fairlanes but a genius choice in hindsight as it went to help make the Mustang such a success. Entered under the `Team Boomarang` banner and painted in light yellow the new car I believe made its debut at Brands Hatch , May 10th 1964 at the BRSCC Molyslip round taking 4th ( see description in Autosport right ). A week later at the BARC Whitsun race at Goodwood Autosport reported `Doc Merfield`s new bolide , a little seen Cortina GT with a V8 of 4.7 litres...despite all was not well with the V8 it went into the lead but next time around Merfield lost it at Madgewick and clouted the bank` causing retirement. Not an easy start and the car wasnt seen again until the Molyslip finale at Brands on October 4th finishing a creditable 3rd behind the class of the day , Norman Abbott ( Anglia ) + Boley Pittard ( Cortina ).The car had soon gained a reputation though and on september 19th was invited to be part of the first international `Dragfest` in the UK. The event at Blackbushe Airport near Camberley in Surrey is regarded as the birth of drag racing in this country and aswell as full dragsters from here and across the pond a selection of trackracers , Hillclimbers and Sprinters were invited including Merfield and the likes of Pete Westbury and Tony Marsh amoungst others.
For 1965+66 Merfield entered the car in selected events for himself and for Miss C.L.Newbold. A lack of results here leaves me with just a retirement at the Silverstone Britax Trophy race ( engine trouble ) in 1965. Another nice part to this story is that Miss Newbold ( Clare ) a fellow club racer in her own right with a 1.0 Anglia became Mrs Merfield around this time. The 2 both had timed runs in the V8 at the Brighton Speed Trials in 1965. 1966 has 2 known wins in the BARC Spring Grove Championship. At Oulton Park in June equalling the lap record for saloons at 1m55.0. It was noted in the Libre race after Merfield did a 1m53.0 but Libre times dont count towards records. The second win was in the Goodwood finale with a lap record average of 92.5 mph. The car was sold and Merfield began a second Cortina V8 project ( see below ).
The next phase of the cars racing life was its most succesful as the car passed on to Brian Bolton for the 1968 season , keeping it in BARC series now sponsored by Osram-GEC Bolton took 7 outright wins to win the overall championship ! The car had finally fulfilled its promise and finally reappearing again in 1971 with new owner Tony Hazelwood painted red with revised bodywork. Tony took 3rd in class in that year`s BRDC Triplex Championship. This gave Tony a taste for V8 power and he would soon be building the Daf-Oldsmobile super saloon. The last known part of the cars life is 1972 with it on a hillclimb in the hands of Bob Byrne , still looking as it did as a track car in Hazelwoods hands. This is well illustrated in one of Mike Hayward`s photos , see link :
What happened to car is unknown but it has gone down in modified saloon folklore as the first of great special saloon big bangers thats for sure.
`Although it streaked away along the straights it could not corner quite as fast as its rivals and consequently a struggling and irate queue developed at the twists`
Mike Kettlewell`s description of the Merfield V8 on its debut.
`It was exciting , very quick too but it did have shortcomings in the handling and braking departments. Nevertheless it gave me a taste for more powerful cars which led me to build my own special saloon `( the Daf ).
Off-White with centre stripe raced by Doc Merfield 1964-67 and Brian Bolton winning the 1968 BARC Saloon title outright. Track career complete by Tony Hazelwood 1971 in red with flared front arches.
Terry Drury is the creator of the next Fraud Cortina that appeared in 1966. It used a Jaguar gearbox and rear axle and as he revealed in Classic Ford it started out with a 289ci like the Merfield car , tried a big block 427ci ( 7-litres ) before settling for a 302ci ( 5-litres ). The styling was more brutal looking than the Merfield version with its wide front tyres . Drury raced it in `66 and was apparently speed-clocked by the Police at 166 mph at Snetterton.
Bearded driver Terry Sanger , who had raced his own Lotus Cortina twin cam in `66 took over the car and the combination proved a great success. Sanger won the big class of the BRSCC Redex saloons in 1967 with 9 class wins ( 8 of them outright ).
Drury had moved up nicley into GT racing by this time having bought a Ford GT40 ( Chassis 1005 ) for a busy 1967 season and had then bought chassis 1073 , one of the last made for 1968. Drury asked Sanger to co-drive on some of the most prestigeous races on the calender : Monza 1000 , Targa Florio , Nurburgring 1000 + Spa 1000.
The Cortina meanwhile its believed had gone to Lola entrant Sid Taylor who raced it once ( Silverstone March `68 ? ). Then the trail brings us the names of a new owner, Harry O`Brien and driver John Scott-Davies with the car now painted light blue for race outings in 1968. Thereafter the trail goes cold beyond guessing who had the car next , so any further information would be welcomed.
The Sanger 302ci engine did end up in the Mick Hill Boss Capri , the succesful 1971 car ( source Autosport ) which cost Hill some £450 ( source Kettlewell`s Directory ). When Hill sold this car, he kept the engine as spare to his new Capri but then fitted it to create the 2nd Boss Capri to win the `74 Super`loons series. Car and engine then went to Martin Birrane to race for 1975. Assuming this was the same Boss V8 all along it would make it one the winningest single engines in special saloon history.
`John Scott-Davies has at last tamed his ex-Terry Sanger Cortina V8 and driving with great confidence he rumbled past Ratcliffe on lap 9 to take second overall`
Autosport from Oulton Park - July 13th 1968
` The over 1300cc Saloon race looked like a runaway win for the barbiferous Terry Sanger and his 4.7 Cortina V8 but...bits of exhaust pipe started falling off.Out went the black flag , into the pits came Sanger , off came the offending pipe and Sanger broadsided back into 5th place. Pulling out every stop he could find Sanger hurled his beast round the circuit decidedly sideways at times...` ( he had to settle for 2nd with low oil pressure ) - Autosport ( Ian Titchmarsh ) from Oulton Park - May 26th 1967
ABOVE- Terry Sanger took the Cortina to 8 outright LEFT - 1968 one paint job later and new owner Harry O`Brien rumbles round Copse at Silverstone . He and co-driver John Scott-Davies continued to entertain the crowds to the end of the decade.
Photo Steve O`Brien
White with side stripes. First raced by Terry Sanger + Terry Drury 1966-67 , then Harry O`Brien and John Scott-Davies in blue. More aggressive styling than the Merfield car with distinctive rear brake cooling air-intakes.
Northamptonshire-based Pete Shelton is the 3rd featured car and was one of those legendary cars immortalised in the CCC Magazine `Big Bangers are back` feature in 1974. Pete had started with this car around 1968 and not suprisingly Silverstone was his regular track. Still in twin cam form Autosport wrote in 1971...`Peter Shelton`s tatty but very rapid Sheltune Cortina...driving into Woodcote in very spectacular manner , completely disregarding the marker cones which often were logged under his car`. It finished 4th in class in the BRDC Triplex Championship.The car was noted for its number plates `WOT 4` on the front and `2 WIN` on the rear.
By the 1974 Super Saloon article ( see right ) the Cortina had been fitted with a 400 bhp Weslake 5-litre V8 , Mustang `box and Capri suspension but retained all its original steel body panels. However it seems 1976 was its busiest year with its new blue livery and Bill Cox alternating the driving with Shelton having rested up his WRC Capri for a few rounds of the Super Saloon championship. Cox placed 6th at both Brands and Combe in the car.
Thereafter the cars history fades after continuing the mark 1s racing heritage nicely through the exciting mid-70s era.
Raced by Pete Shelton from 1968 but didnt go V8 until around 1973/74. White until respayed blue for 1976 Supersaloon races , Shelton joined by Bill Cox behind the wheel.
2 more V8 Cortinas existed in the second half of the 1960s and both built by Gerry Dobbins using Daimler V8 engines and dubbed `Damfraud Cortinas`.
The article by Piers Townsend in CCC Jan 1969 explained much of the challenges faced in the building of Damfraud 2. Dobbins had built a maroon Cortina 4-door with a Daimler V8 of 2548cc around 1966 nicknamed the `Damfraud`. The compact V8 was used in the SP250 `Dart `sports car giving around 140 bhp.
Damfraud 2 belonged to Townsend but was largely built by Dobbins and the 2 shared the driving. The CCC article related the many obsticles faced by fitting a bigger engine into a car designed for a 4 cylinder unit. This time the V8 used was the still compact for its capacity Daimler 4561cc and were used in the Daimler Majestic Limos of the 60s , 220 bhp, described as a honey of an engine by `Classic + Sportscar`. Built pre-season 1968 and debuted at Combe May 4th. The car showed good handling , helped by moving the engine and bulkhead further back.
John Kerman and Piers Townsend both raced Cortina V8`s in 1970 of 4235cc and 4500cc respectivly. Stuart Jackson listed on the Snetterton Hepolite Glacer entry June 1970 with 4235cc , same car as Kerman`s?
Doc Merfield built a Cortina Mark 2 with a unique V8. This being a Coventry Climax / Godiva FPE originally built by Andrew Getley and Paul Emery for the Shannon single seater 1966 British Grand Prix. It was a compact engine that used Jaguar pistons and gave around 325bhp in its bored out 3-litre form ( from 2.5 ). Its believed Merfield debuted this car at Silverstone August 1969 raced it about a dozen times before he retired from track racing circa 1971. This car does still exist and is seen at events in the hands of John Doubleday of Colchester now running a 5.0 unit and was part of the CSCC Mallory revival races in 2011.
John Burphy raced a Cortina-Rover V8 in the 1972 BARC-Y Championship and last but not least the Dave Taylor / Alistair Thompson Cortina Mk.3 with Chevy power in Super Saloons around 1977 . Taylor
Two others in related Ford Saloons worthy of mention would be Martin Maudling - Ford Corsair V8 in 1968 and Roy Yates` Ford Zodiac - Chevy , a special saloon regular in the 70s.
`It was a choice of converting a tired racing 850 Mini to a 1275 or striking out and building something interesting. Even if it didnt work , it is much more satisfying to try something new and know it is all your own`
Mark 2/3 Cortina V8s
John Doubleday in the Merfield Mark 2 Cortina V8 , not only still active but maybe the only surviving car of any mentioned on this page.
The Cortina Mark 3 V8 of Dave Taylor and Alistair Thompson raced in 1970s Supersaloons to keep the Cortina V8 history going. Today Taylor is the proud owner of the ex-Mick Hill VW Beetle-Chevy.Photo by David Vass.
Roy Yates raced this Ford Zodiac V8 for many years , pictured here in 1973.
The unique Ford Corsair V8 of Martin Maudling pictured at Aintree circa 1968