Katie Hollingsworth is determined to get her temperamental Ford Cortina running reliably; they’ve yet to complete a journey from A to B. Here, she tells Charlotte Vowden why she’s utterly besotted despite having to have roadside recovery on speed dial.
The Ford Cortina was wildly successful in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s that car that helped Ford become a bestselling car brand. Over a two-decade spell, 2.8 million were sold in Britain, but Katie Hollingsworth’s beautiful Olympic blue model has been a little feistier than expected…
“I like Japanese street fashion which is all about looking cute and wearing pastels which means a lot of the time I’m dressed to match my Cortina, Bubbles. She’s such a dreamy colour, it’s called Olympic blue, and it really makes her stand out. When I first saw her it was December and she was parked up in a dark garage. I couldn’t believe my eyes, she just lit up the room; I was like, is this for real? I had to have her.
Although she’s gorgeous, she’s always breaking down, it’s happened every time my partner Tom and I have driven her. Until 2021, the car had been stored in a lock-up by an old fella whose wife had told him to sell it. He’d daily driven it for years, the last MOT was issued in 2011, but he didn’t sell it, he kept it without her knowing.
Essentially, the Cortina was a Christmas present from Tom; he’s the one who sent me the Facebook advert and I couldn’t pass it up. He paid four grand, which is cheap compared to some you see for the same price with massive holes in, but I definitely felt spoilt! We did go and check it out before putting a deposit down because I’m not that brave but it was dark and they do say never buy a car in the dark.
The guy who had owned it since 1975 [when it was built] had run it on a bit of a shoestring budget so we took a magnet and ran it across the car to see if any rust had been patched up with newspaper but to be honest the floor could have fell through and I’d have wanted her. When I’ve got my heart set on something I can’t say no. She did run, but she was very temperamental.
We went to pick her up on the 23rd December and had planned to drive home across the Peak District to Sheffield but as soon as we transferred the money Bubbles decided she didn’t want to start. I was like, is this a sign have I made some stupid decision?
We managed to get her running but on our way to a garage Tom noticed the steering wheel, which is slightly oval, was on the wrong way, the [brake] calliper was sticking badly too and the Michelin tyres were bubbling out so badly I’m surprised they could still move. There was a lot of drama on that journey, we had to call out the AA twice, and Bubbles ended up on a recovery truck. We should have known better than to try and push a car that had been sat for so long but I also feel like it happened for a reason; it wasn’t safe to drive and we could have died testing our luck.
We’ve since replaced the ignition coil, the alternator, the battery, the carb with a Weber one, the calliper and fitted braided brake hoses. When we flushed the coolant what came out was disgusting and I think we’ve bled the brakes about ten times. I’m not the most hands on person but I’m trying with the Cortina. Tom started learning how to fix cars on a 2.0-litre Fiat Coupé and he’s teaching me things as we go along. We do work quite well as a team and I feel like owning the car has helped us with our communication.
Sometimes, like most people, he can be a bit grumpy, but when I’m experiencing that moment of pure stress when something has gone wrong I panic and feel like the world is ending. I sobbed when we broke down an A road at night with no hard shoulder, I thought I was going to lose Bubbles because so many cars came close to hitting her; it was traumatising.
Bubbles is a 1.6-litre Pinto and it’s trim level is an L, that’s second from the base model. From what I’ve seen there’s not many left because a lot of people put posher stuff in them and turn them into GXLs but I like mine as it is. Her colour really draws you in, but the interior wasn’t masked off when it was sprayed so there’s paint all over the seat belts and door cards, which have shrunk and warped. It’s a little bit scruffy, it needs some TLC, but that’s what happens when a car is used a lot. There’s a bench seat in the back and separate seats in the front which have been re-upholstered from vinyl to fabric so when it’s hot you don’t stick to them.
At first, we had to put her in storage – where someone tried to hot wire her – but she’s garaged at home now. I’d got to a point when she’d just become a bill because I couldn’t see her very often whereas now I’m like oh wow, I can look at her when I want. Honestly, people are enamoured by her, even the pizza delivery guy was stunned.
The Cortina is not a car you put your foot down and fly in because if you stop too fast you’ve haven’t got a headrest, but there’s something about driving it that just makes you feel like you’re a movie star or a celebrity – you sit really low to the ground and can see everyone checking it out.
I named her Bubbles after one of the Powerpuff Girls [a 1990s superhero cartoon] because I feel like if she was a person she’d be like her character which is quite bubbly, silly and ditzy, which is also a bit like me. Some people might think I’d look better against a JDM [Japanese domestic market] car, probably a Mazda MX-5 Mk1 in pink, but when you mix two quirky hobbies together it opens both of those worlds up to more people. Loads of people who share the same fashion sense as me have said they never wanted a classic car until they saw (and fell in love with) mine, which is amazing.
Bubbles hasn’t really made it far enough to have a proper cruise, she really does not drive for long until something else breaks but I’m determined to get her running consistently. I want to make at least one trip where the AA doesn’t have to help us!
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