Amateur car restorers from Castleford win coveted Classic Ford of the Year title

A couple of car enthusiasts  from Castleford have been crowned the winners of the Classic Ford of the Year 2021 competition for their meticulous restoration of a 1982 MkV Cortina Crusader Estate.

Richard Barker and Graham Ellis bought the car seven years ago to act as a donor vehicle for the Cortina Saloon they were restoring.

They were absolutely thrilled when they found out they had taken spot in the hotly contested competition.

Richard said: ""Thanks to everyone for their support it means a great deal, we are just two friends with a love for car restoration. Receiving this accolade is beyond anything we could have even contemplated when this all began over seven years ago.

"When the article was first published in the Express about the competition we had lots of messages from well wishes and people promising to vote.

"People shared nostalgic stories of Cortinas owned or remembered in years gone by. It's amazing how the car invokes memories and discussions with complete strangers. Most often at the filling pumps at the petrol station.

The saloon had been bought new in 1982 by Richard's dad Roy from the Ford dealership in Oxford Street and had acted as the family car for many years - Richard and his twin brother Christopher both learning to drive in it - but had been put away in the garage and almost forgotten about.

When the time came for Roy to retire, Richard and Graham decided to get the Cortina back on the road so he could enjoy driving it once again.

Sadly, before the project was completed, Roy was diagnosed with kidney cancer and died soon after, aged 67.

"The restoration of the car became an homage to dad", said Richard.

"When we finished it, we took it to Cortina in Italy to raise money for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre where dad was treated and we take it to classic car shows to raise funds for cancer charities."

Although the Estate had been bought specifically to be broken up for parts, Richard and Graham felt it was too good to scrap so set out restoring that to the same standard as the Saloon.

"Richard said: "Although Cortinas were made in their millions there are very few examples left. Especially estates as they were used in banger racing and destroyed.

"The Crusader is even more rare of a rarity as it came fully specced up with power-steering and an automatic gearbox with a two-litre engine."

The pair set about a sympathetic ground-up restoration back to factory specification, but just as they started Richard was also diagnosed with kidney cancer and had an operation to remove one of his kidneys.

Graham did the majority of the work while Richard recuperated.

Lockdown gave them the chance to finish off the restoration and it soon attracted attention from other Cortina enthusiasts.

It was featured in Classic Ford magazine and was one of the star exhibits on the Ford stand at the Classic car show in Silverstone earlier this year.

Richard added: "It's a been an incredible journey, started out by our own personal journey, dedicating the restoration of my dad's old Ford Cortina. We both could never have considered that after his death our passion for restoration would continue restoring the parts car for that original project.

"Then that leading to a nomination for Classic Ford of the Year 2021, never mind winning!

"What an amazing year we've had, we have other projects on the go so we won't be giving up our passion anytime soon. In fact I think we might need to find some more storage space shortly."