Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
If you're thinking 'I recognise that bright orange engine bay...', that could be because you've seen this car as a rolling shell in the opening credits to For the Love of Cars. Indeed, the Channel 4 show's Ant Anstead is chummy with the builders of this particular project, Skull & Pistons Garage, and his team have had a keen eye on this uniquely styled Cortina.
What you're seeing here, then, is the official launch of Skull & Pistons at the Ace Café - an opportunity for them to showcase their debut project among like-minded petrolheads. That orange bay is more significant than you might think, as S&P have been very fastidious in mapping out the stylistic touchpoints of their future builds; rather than simply being just another custom shop, they're keen to craft and preserve a specific brand identity. Skull & Pistons builds will always have orange engine bays, along with a refined choice of graphite grey or a couple of other approved shades - so if you brief them on a project, you know you'll be getting a recognisable S&P car within their own unique parameters. It makes a lot of sense.
This car, as you've undoubtedly spotted, is most noticable for its roof chop. Custom rodders across the globe will tell you what a spectacular pain in the bum it is to chop a four-door car - it just increases the number of cuts that have to be atomically precise - but the guys have tenaciously ploughed through and removed 4" from the roof height, with splendid results. For me, however, the most alluring element of the car is the rear end treatment: copious smoothing coupled with those one-off teeny tail-lights, replacing the vast original items, along with the it-shouldn't-look-right-but-it-really-does rally reversing lamp creates a truly succulent and delicious rump.
They've been careful to maintain the spirit of the donor car too - that 1600GT motor you see is the car's original, which has been rebored and treated to modern ignition and juicy Webers. There's a lot of the original metal in the car, so you can't accuse it of being a customiser's Trigger's broom.
Will this car ruffle feathers and irritate a few purists? Yes, almost certainly. But that's all part of the fun. And with the garage founders having a background in design and marketing, they're keen to showcase every step of their future projects in real-time on social media, which dovetails rather neatly with the modern enthusiasm for build threads - it's a lesson taken from the Gas Monkey school of customising; do something polarising, and take everyone along for the ride.
The eagle-eyed will have noted, of course, that the car isn't finished. But it's tantalisingly close - they're beavering away as we speak, ready to showcase the final product at the Herts Auto Show on May 17th. And after this is complete, they'll be moving on to a MkIII Cortina Bakkie, a 'Tina estate on air-ride... and that's just for starters. Keep an eye on them - this is a garage you need to know about.
You can follow Skull & Pistons Garage on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.