Belfast Telegraph

A long drive 'home' for Armagh family's 1964 Ford

Rebuilt car in 3,350-mile from Armagh to Cortina

The family with their restored 1964 Mark I Ford Cortina
The family with their restored 1964 Mark I Ford Cortina
Taking in just one of many scenic roads on their trip across Europe to Cortina
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

An Armagh family have completed a four-year labour of love by driving their restored 1964 Ford Cortina through Europe to the town in Italy the car was named after and back again.

When Mandy Leyburn's father Robert arrived home with the shell of the old Mark I Cortina in 2014 she joked it would be lovely to drive it "home" some time in the future, not expecting to be taken literally.

Mandy (27) said she's amazed at the reaction her 54-year-old car got during its trip through 13 European countries over two summer weeks to arrive in the Italian town of Cortina - and even more amazed that the car survived. "It really was just a shell when my dad brought it home. He's always tinkered and restored cars and I wanted to help him. I guess this was my apprenticeship," said the 26-year-old nurse from Middletown.

Mandy and her dad spent weekend after weekend lovingly restoring the car over the past four years.

"We just started it as a weekend project. We both work full-time, so it was a hobby for both of us," she said.

"My dad has always tinkered with cars but we took on quite a lot with this one. However, looking at it now, there's no way I'd ever part with it. It has a lot of sentimental value."

The Cortina caused quite a stir as Mandy, husband Justin Gormley, Robert and mum Jessica made their way through the Continent on the 3,350-mile road trip.

The family spent a lot of their spare time posing for photographs.

The Cortina was even commandeered for a photoshoot by a model agency in Paris.

"The whole experience made us feel pretty cool," added Mandy.

"Once the Cortina got through the MoT in June we decided we'd go for it. We turned it into our family holiday, though we had to load the boot up with a lot of spare parts just in case, as we weren't really sure if our work on the car would last the pace.

"We thought about driving straight to Cortina and back again, but it was too good an opportunity to waste, so we planned the trip to take in a lot of the sights all of us wanted to see around Europe. It all went so well and we might plan another one."

Apart from the UK, the car passed through the Republic, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Monaco.

"We've been through the Black Forest, driven across the Millau Viaduct in southern France, the highest bridge in the world, and around the famous Stelvio Pass in the north of Italy with its 49 hairpin bends," said Mandy.

"When we arrived in Cortina D'Ampezzo in Italy the locals were amazed to see the car.

"There are not that many of them still around, and even fewer managed to make it back to the town they were named after."

Back in 1964 a new Ford Cortina would have completed around 32 miles to the gallon, but Mandy said she wanted to make the car as economical as possible.

"You could say I had a trip like this in the back of my mind when we put a diesel engine in it, and in the end we were getting up to 62mpg, so that was well worth it considering how far we've managed to travel in it."

Belfast Telegraph


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