all classic Fords smoke their tyres to the blue oval heat. It'll cause
a few frowns, but right now Vauxhall XE power makes good, cost effective
sense. Here's how to fit one in a Mk1 Cortina.
and photos: Jon Hill
a strong argument for keeping your classic Ford in an all-Ford state
of tune, but ignoring the rest of the pack and denying the wealth of
other powerplants out there, is sheer folly. That's because you could
easily get your doors blown off by something that was cheaper to fit
than yours. Now, we're not dismissing the mighty Cosworth YB, not the
Zetec and Duratec I-4 but there really is a very, very strong case for
fitting a twin cam from the land of the Griffin. For a start, the Vauxhall
XE's deed cheap right now, plus, get the right engine and they're not
difficult to wring cost-effective power from either - particularly when
you compare the price of converting a YB to normally-aspirated form.
of that, the XE is basically a Cosworth engine anyway. Those with narrow
minds might take the piss but all you have to do is ask them what a
Cosworth KBA is and they'll shut up quicker than welding their lips
closed with a blowtorch. In effect, all that matters is producing a
car that's quick, handles right and sound awesome - in essence who care
what the badge says on the rocker cover? Even if it is Vauxhall!
its fame for making rear-wheel-drive Zetecs, and lately Duratec installations
so easy that even Dale Winton could do it, Dave Colledge at Retro Ford
knows a bargain when he sees one. So this is how we came to follow along
as Dave fitted an XE into a customer's Mk1 Cortina. Here it is in complete
details so that the less blinkered can also scream to the Vauxhall beat.
Retro Ford Ltd 07813 436514
Old Ford Auto Services 01344 422731
SB Developments 020 8391 0121
XE means more power, leaving your Mk1's steering box in trouble.
So while the engine's out, it's time to up rate to rack-and-pinion.
1. If it's in top condition, a steering box can be a pain
- not only does the box need keeping on top of, but the drag links
and rod ends too. Upgrading to a nice, tight rack-and-pinion set-up's
the way to go.
2. The nearest suitable Ford set-up is from an Escort MkI/II
but this also means swapping all the struts and TCAs since the
Cortina ones can't be mated with the Escort crossmember.
3. In standard form, the Escort crossmember bolts to the
underside of the Escort's chassis rails, which are parallel. However,
since that car has different dimensions to the Cortina, which
has tapered chassis rails, it isn't a simple swap. You could use
an Old Ford Auto Services crossmember system but Dave wanted to
move it form its ideal, meaning modification, so decided to start
4. So, the crossmember needs to be modified to fit, which
means aligning it about the original datum points of the MkI's
front suspension; then temporarily fixing it in place while mounts
5. Dave's removed the original Escort fitting from the
crossmember ends and fabricated new mounts from L-section sheet
steel and welded them in place. Note the triangulated bracing
adding strength plus the design means the crossmember can still
be bolted in place.
6. Further boxing on the back of the brackets is added
for more strength and to close the box sections too.
|7. To couple up the steering, Dave's used universal joints
from Old Ford, connected with hexagonal steel bar section. This
mates to the Escort steering column's end, converted to take Cortina
8. You can fit Escort struts to a MkI using alloy eccentric
top mounts to sort the discrepancy in strut alignment. Ours needed
replacing anyway, so Dave cut the strut tops out, replacing them
with ones similar to Escort. This brings them in closer together
since the strut inclination angle's different between Escort and
Cortina and better restores geometry. Note too that Dave's fitted
his own flush-mounted ally roller top mounts - very neat and very
it's intended for front-wheel-drive use, the Astra GTE's sump
isn't really suitable, which means swapping to something that
is. The problem we have is that the MkI Cortina uses a steering
box and a front-bowl sump. This can be retained but it means fabricating
a similar format sump for the XE from scratch. Doing this, though
means you've still got a vague steering box, which isn't ideal.
better way is to convert to rack-and pinion, which Dave did by
swapping to an Escort system at the front (see above). This means
that you can then take advantage of rear-drive Opel Manta parts.
This car has a block essentially identical to the XE's and uses
a big-wing cast-alloy sump, with he bowl at the back, making it
ideal for use with an Escort crossmember.
XE - THE BASICS
standard form, the XE is of course s front-wheel-drive engine
and the ideal plant is an Astra GTE unit, which carries a Coscast
head and is less prone to porosity problems. These are common
to the psot-1992 engines, when GM downgraded the material and
cast the heads itself.
means just that - when it's turned round the 'right' way the distributor
is mounted at the back of the head. This of course means it will
clout the bulkhead and needs converting, ideally to distributorless
operation. Later engines have this done, but they don't have the
Coscast head nor the GTE's pistons, meaning that to get the ideal
combination you'll have to mix and match.
the distributor is driven by the exhaust cam, which is longer,
it needs shortening and the back of the cam box sealing up. Plenty
lop the end of the cam off and plug the resulting hole shut with
Loctite, plus a bung. However the easiest way is to buy an aftermarket
cam kit, which already has it done for you. Distributor drives
can be rigged up but plenty use the later GM trigger wheel (the
steel type) and fit carbs and managed ignition, of full engine
management along with throttle bodies, which is the system our
A Cortina's standard Kent engine is located on rubber mounts,
which are an integral part of the front crossmember. Standard
XE mounting practise is to remove the mounts - in our case from
a modified Escort crossmember we've used in place of the Cortina's
- and chassis mount the engine using an SB Developments kit.
2. The SBD kit is very competitively priced and contains
everything you need. The actual block mounts are the only bits
that need fabricating, although the chassis mount sections are
already made up (3).
4. These simply fit over the top of the rails and are trimmed
and welded in place.
5. Before Dave starts welding though, the engine position
needs to be determined. With the front crossmember fitted, the
engine and gearbox are lowered into place. Basically, the engine
needs to sit as far back and low down as possible for better weight
distribution - ideally, you need to have the first spark plug
hole as near as you can to the centre line of the front struts,
this obviously isn't always possible without removing the bulkhead.
Height is usually determined by sump-to-crossmember clearance.
6. The XE will go a long way back in the engine bay, but
the main problem is the heater bowl on the bulkhead. It sticks
out further than the bulkhead lip and hits the cam cover.
|7. Dave cuts and re-shapes this area to loose the paunch
before re-painted it. Clearance around this area should be about
the thickness of you hand - roughly 12-15mm.
8. Gearbox position needs to be determined before final welding
(see the next section). Once that's done the block-to-chassis
mounts can be made. Dave begins by bolting the provided plate
to the block and welding the provided spacer to make the plate
sit flat. Next is the chassis-mount the bush, then the provided
section of steel tube can be trimmed to length and welded in place.
our engine mounting kit MNT-ENG1
You can use a Manta gearbox, which has an integral bellhousing, but
a four-speed with dodgy ratios is common, while five-speeds are less
so. The best bet is to mate the XE to a Ford Type-9 five-speed mounted
on an SBD bellhousing. This one's from a 2.8i Capri, which is the heavier
-duty type, although the input shaft does need shortening by 12mm.
2. There are two bellhousings available, which either cant the
engine over by seven degrees or mount the engine upright.
3. The bellhousing that mount the engine upright can be used
but it's intended for use with more conventional sumps, plus dry-sump
4. This is the bellhousing we want, which allow the use of a
Manta sump and cant the engine over by seven degrees. Otherwise, the
sump sit at the wrong angle - flat sumps are available fro SBD but obviously
at extra cost.
5. Dave uses a hybrid clutch that he had made up by Helix - basically;
it has a centre plate with the correct 23-spline inner, to mate to the
T9 box. The pressure plate is Vauxhall.
6. To make life easy and give a smooth clutch, we're using a
Retro Ford concentric hydraulic release bearing fitted inside the bellhousing.
7. This connects to the gearbox via a machined front housing,
which replaces the original T9 front plate and oil seal. The adapter
and bolts to the gearbox, picking up on the original T9 fixing threads.
8. The hydraulic slave cylinder bolts to this and the connection
pipes/bleed fittings are directed though the hole intended for the release
The MK1's gearbox tunnel is tiny but it doesn't need completely removing
to fit a T9. Instead, Dave's cut a section fro the top with a lot of
2. In conjunction with mocking the engine in place, Dave can
fit the gearbox and block it up on a jack. This is so it fits in the
hole and aligns with the rear axle flange, getting both faces as parallel
as possible. You can shift the box around until the engine's in the
3. Only when the position of the engine is sorted and the mounts
made and fitted, does Dave adapt the gearbox crossmember to fit.
4. Dave's mocked the box up as close to final position as possible.
The crossmember's from a Sierra, which has been shortened to fit.
5. As the ends of the crossmember have been narrowed, Dave fabricates
some steel sheet to close them up and regain some strength.
6. Once properly mounted, Dave fabricates a new gearbox tunnel
to cover the top of the original.
7. Dave fabricates this steel hoop section, with integral lip
for the gear lever gaiter from an Escort to fit over.
8. These are original gearbox mounts, which are redundant and
get in the way, so Dave removes them altogether.
9. You can see from inside the new tunnel that the centre crossmember,
which runs around the inside of the standard Cortina gearbox tunnel,
gets in the way of bigger boxes. So, its top section's removed and the
ends of the crossmember welded shut.
10. Dave then adds strength to the area by fabricating sections
of box section steel, which fit on the sides of the new gearbox tunnel
and restore reinforcement to the area.
is an SBD kit-car exhaust manifold, which comes very close to fitting
the Mk1, although it does need some modifying for the Cortina, Dave
cuts and shuts the pipes, then mates this to a fabricated exhaust
Ford has made fitting a radiator with the correct inlet and outlet
pipes into the original Cortina position dead easy - it's available
along with the hoses to fit.
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