So the big one. Let's
pull out a perfectly good, working, well cared for engine
and replace it with another one. Why? Power, that's why.
I needed more. Not wanted, you'll notice, this was a definite
This 'requirement' started when Mandy and I went on the
List organised Haggis
Hunt in May of 2001. We had a fantastic time, but I
could help feeling that I was working harder to keep up
that the others in our little group. I started to get an
inkling that maybe I needed a little more under the go pedal.
The true deciding factor though was when our main crowd
spent the day at Curborough Sprint track, driving each others
cars and making notes ready for a comparison article in
Low Flying. Here, my car was the lowest powered, with 100bhp,
with cars ranging through 155bhp RKE1700's, a 2.0lt Zetec
and a 2.0lt VX. Given the chance to drive each car, I soon
found that, despite being unfamiliar with each car, and
therefore taking it a bit easy, I did enjoy the grunt from
the two 2.0lt cars. They really could be driven it two modes,
lazy cruiser or full-on blat attack. My decision, it seemed
had been made for me.
I did, of course, look into tuning my x/flow. This would
have given me almost the same power, slightly less torque,
but less weight than the Zetec. The trouble I had with this
was that I didn't want a stressed engine particularly. The
x/flow as a 1.6 had been reliable and fairly unstressed,
with just a pair of carbs bolted on to bump up the performance.
The problem with tuning it close to Zetec power levels is
that it would require more maintenance and it would have
reached it's comfortable limit, beyond which I wouldn't
want to go. The Zetec on the other hand, offered more power,
more low down torque and all on the standard internals.
The Zetec also offered the benefit of being completely modern
with widely available spares, 16v flexibility across the
revs and better economy - not that that last one is a factor
for a sunny day 7. Oh, and if the power wasn't enough in
the future, I could go further at fairly reasonable cost.
The next factor was cost and to tune the x/flow to a reliable
155bhp would have basically cost not much less than a Zetec
swap. Either way, it was going to be a lot of money, and
I wanted the result to last a good few years and give good
So the search began for Zetec information. Everywhere I
looked, Blatchat and the Se7ens List, two companies were
constantly mentioned, Dunnell
Engines and Raceline
Engineering Ltd. As it turned out, Raceline were only
about a 30min drive from my place of work so I popped over
there one evening and had a chat with Chris Smith about
the various options. I had already worked out the various
cost permutations, and had decided I would go for a built
engine, basically ready to bolt into place. However, Chris
talked me away from this route saying that the work required
really wasn't very involved and if I'd built my car I'd
be more than capable, and I'd save a nice chunk of money
at the same time. So this was my preferred route. I would
get the engine and then a kit of parts, including the sump,
inlet manifold for my carbs, water rail, alternator mounting
kit, lightened flywheel, ECU+loom and throttle position
sensor. All I'd have to do was put it all together - easy.
In addition to the engine kit, I also needed a few other
bits that were more specific to fitting the engine in a
These parts included a new water pump from an 1.8lt engine
that pumps water the opposite way to a 2.0lt, the water
hoses to mate to the radiator, etc, and a few odds and ends
that don't come with a brand new engine. I should mention
that I had decided to buy a new engine for two reasons.
The first is that I am a bit fanatical about my car so really
only a new engine would do for me, and secondly I wasn't
really interested in trying to sort out the good engines
from the bad when dealing with breakers. A used engine would
have had the benefit of being nicely run in though.
Whilst I patiently waited for my order with Raceline to
arrive I found an alloy bellhousing which was an RS2000
item and actually had enough time - or was sad enough -
to sand back the casting and polish it. To go with this
I got hold of a matching clutch release arm as the taper
is narrower to suit the bellhousing casting. I also took
the car off the road and over a weekend, took the old engine
out. This was very straightforward with help from Steve
and his hoist. Being the first time the engine had been
out I took the opportunity over the next week or so to clean
the engine bay and touch up any powder coat with some satin
I took a trip to see James Whiting an bought a set of his
exhaust pipes. I wanted these specifically as they are designed
to mate to a standard Caterham side exit silencer, one of
which I had on the x/flow. Again ,whilst waiting, I removed
the unsightly welds and then spent a very very very long
time polishing it, working through all the Wet & Dry
grades up to 1200 grip, before finally putting it on a polishing
wheel on my bench grinder. I would not do this again - it
was a boring, dirty and depressing job, only bearable for
the fact that it was usually cold and wet outside. The result
was probably worth it, although I'd happily pay a company
to do it for me next time.
The phone call came from Chris sooner than I expected, three
weeks after the order, and I hastily arranged to go over
and pick my new engine and a large box of bits. Many thanks
to Rory who came with me towing his trailer, to which we
strapped the engine crate. The major headache of how to
get it home solved. The kit of parts included most of the
bits I needed with a few outstanding due to longer lead
Steve's hoist came in handy again lifting the engine out
of it's crate - which became a very useful bin and worktop
in one. The first job was to attach the engine to Rory's
engine stand. This proved harder than it originally appeared
and I didn't quite trust it so I left the hoist in place
as a backup. The sump had to be replaced with the nice cast
Aluminium Raceline version and this also meant some bolt
heads had to be trimmed down to give clearance. The sump
had to be sub-assembled first, fitting the oil pick-up pipe
and the anti-airation plate. A new sump gasket plus a small
amount of silicone in the specified places and the new sump
was fitted. This was going to be easy. Next up was to swap
the water pump over to the 1.8 version. This required that
the cam covers be removed. This was straightforward and
as I wasn't going to be re-fitting them I also removed all
the backplates and stand-off bolts. They actually weight
quite a bit as they are pressed steel. To get the old water
pump out and the new in meant that the cam belt had to moved
forward. I taped the belt to the cam pulleys and edged it
out gradually. Eventually I just had enough room to get
the pumps swapped, but the belt was right on the edge of
falling off - see later! A breather box had to be fitted
to the side of the block, with gasket and three bolts -
very simple. Lastly the cam cover was swapped for a nice
shiny red one and it was looking good!
I was now ready to put the engine in, as the remaining items
like the alternator mounting kit and the hoses had to fitted
with it in the car anyway. As with the original build, the
bellhousing and gearbox were bolted to the engine before
gradually lowering it into the chassis. This was where a
slight problem was found. Steve had come over to be part
of the birth of another Zetec, and between us we huffed
and puffed and had to heave the engine and gearbox so that
the mountings would line up. I though this was a bit odd
and it wasn't until after Steve and I had got all the bolts
into place that I spotted that the 'spare' starter motor
position on the bellhousing was now sitting nicely on the
triangulation chassis member in front of the drivers footwell.
It's not meant to do that, and I suspect that when the chassis
was changed that year the tube moved, indeed I have seen
them with a 'Y' shaped piece at this point. I therefore
spent the next two nights laying on my back with the engine
supported on the hoist trying to file away the bellhousing.
After 6hrs it dawned on me that this wasn't really working
and admitted defeat. The engine would have to come out again.
By now, I was getting the hang of it and so did this on
my own. A bit more research and I decided to make a plate
with a slot for the gaiter that would be fixed in place
of the starter position, once cut off. I cut the bellhousing
down and then measure the size of the plate required. I
had to retain the thin part where it mates to the block
as this holds the clutch cable outer, but I did cut it down
to give clearance. I was also able to measure the position
of the gaiter from the old cast iron bellhousing and then
make the slot using a cutting disc in a high speed multi-tool.
I used some very strong metal bond to glue the plate into
place and the whole thing only took me a few hours to do.
This time the engine went straight into place with none
of the effort required to line up bolts, which was nice.
With the engine in place, I could then position the wiring
loom and sort out the position of the ECU. The now very
shiny exhaust could also be bolted into place, with a bit
of modification to the side skin required. I also used the
opportunity to give the carbs a thorough clean, using cotton
buds and white spirit got most of the ingrained dirt off
and they looked like new again. These were then bolted to
the inlet manifold which was in turn bolted to the engine,
having collected a gasket from the local Ford dealer.
There then followed a frustrating wait while I waited for
the silicone hoses and the alternator mounting kit to arrive.
I had decided to go for the hoses in silicone as the cost
difference wasn't that great over the normal rubber and
the silicone hoses don't perish - plus they look much nicer.
I had also requested these in red instead of the normal
blue as I wanted them to match the cam cover. While I waited
I carried out the suspension changes, fitted my Christmas
present of a battery cut-out switch, fitted and wired in
a starter button, installed the electric fuel pump and made
a start on the brake modifications. Brent (Zetec owner)
very kindly also came over and helped me route my heater
hoses, using some copper pipe to line the silicone hose
to prevent it kink'ing and giving a very nice bend.
Once the two items arrived I was a) able to stop pestering
Chris and b) finish the build. Both items were straightforward
to fit and I was just left with little jobs like fitting
the throttle position sensor, filling the engine with fluids,
So the time arrived.
It was time to see if this thing would run. I triple checked
that all the essentials where there, oil, water, fuel, the
battery had been on the conditioner all winter. No reason
not to then. The spark plugs were removed and I spun the
engine over 4 or 5 times in short burst of around 10 - 15
secs until the gauge registered some oil pressure. Steve
came over to help with the initial tuning of the carbs and
brought over a friend from Sweden, although no literally,
of course. So, I jumped in the seat, watched the fuel pump
through the filter in front of the carbs and gave the pedal
5 or 6 prods. I turned the key and finally pressed the new
button. And away it went, fired first time, but it didn't
run very smoothly. Steve leapt into action with his carb
balancer, but they were pretty much spot on - the old trick
of lining up the butterflies through the progression holes
works well. A quick check of the idle screws and it was
still running roughly - I think I referred to it as a tractor
at the time. Something wasn't quite right. Steve then noticed
that there was a large quantity of fuel being thrown back
out of the carbs. You could actually see a mist emanating
from the trumpets. There was definitely something wrong
We called it a night and I retreated to contemplate possible
causes. The only thing I could come up with was the cam
timing. If the inlet and exhaust cams were out of sink it
could be why the fuel was being thrown back out. Brent kindly
gave me a suitable piece of flat bar so that I could check
the cam timing. The method for standard cams is to place
a 5mm flat bar into slots in the cams. The bar will only
fit in place with the cams in the right rotation. In the
end I didn't need the bar for the initial check - I could
instantly see the two slots on the rear of the cams didn't
match. Problem found - I just hoped that it hadn't done
any damage internally. I had to set the engine at TDC to
be able to re-set the cams. To do this Raceline lent me
a DTI and some other bits. The technique that I used was
the cam cover removed, I fixed a steel plate in the
center trough, using the middle cam cover bolt holes.
This gives a base for the DTI's magnetic base to fix
to. The plate should be flat and have a 6mm hole directly
over No.1 cylinder.
dropped a length of 5mm rod down the hole into cylinder
number one. Obviously making sure that the rod was
long enough not to disappear.
the DTI so that the point was resting on top of the
rod with plenty of movement in both directions and
set the dial to 0.
an 18mm socket I rotated the engine until the DTI
reading reached a peak, at which point it would dwell.
I checked that I had the right cam rotation - i.e.
not 180 deg out - by seeing if the cam slots are in
roughly the right position. Then I re-set the dial
rotated the engine backwards (anti-clockwise) around
1/8th of a turn and then forwards (clockwise) until
the dial reaches 0 (the beginning of the TDC dwell).
I attached a protractor to the main pulley and lined
up the 0 with the TDC marker on the engine.
continued to rotate the engine clockwise but stopped
as soon as the DTI started to register a drop of the
read the amount of rotation on the protractor and
make a note of this figure and divided it in half
to get the mid-dwell position
I reversed the engine, again by around 1/8th of a
turn. Bringing the engine forward until the TDC mark
is in line with 0 on the protractor. I continued until
I reached the mid-dwell position calculated and checked
that the DTI still read 0.
was TDC of No.1 and I marked the pulley for future
With the engine set to TDC I could clearly see that it was
the exhaust cam that was out, as the inlet slot was parallel
with the head. A few minutes later and the cam belt was
slackened off, the offending cam rotated back by one tooth
(which equated to around 9 degs) and the belt was back in
place an tensioned. I then double checked everything and
very slowly rotated the engine by hand listening for any
bad noises. None came and I was eventually satisfied enough
that I should try starting her again. This time it ran perfectly,
so smooth and a rock solid idle, that was more like it!
All I needed then was to finish the brake upgrade, put the
rest of the car back together and some descent weather.
Once I hit the road it was pretty clear that my carb set-up
was not ideal. It idled perfectly whatever jet we fitted
but at around 2750-3000rpm it had a very large flatspot
that was quite hard to drive around as I was trying to run
it in to begin with. I lived with this until the running-in
period was finished (500 miles, upping the rev limit by
500rpm every 100 miles, starting at 3500rpm) and then booked
a rolling road session as we hadn't been able to find a
solution amongst our collection of jets. On the eve of the
session I had an exciting moment which highlighted why it
needed to be done. Exiting a local roundabout on a wet,
dark night on my way to get a full tank in preparation I
had an idiot close behind me. I thought I would pen the
gap a little to a safer distance and put my foot down a
little more, in 3rd gear still only doing around 40mph.
The car picked up, and then went into the flatspot - great
I thought, then it came out the other side, hit a wave of
torque and the car stepped sideways, by now at about 60mph.
Sevens on a wet road deserve respect, but this was silly.
The RR session was pretty straightforward, just going through
each adjustment in turn. The biggest change was made by
swapping the F16 emulsion tubes for F7's. The rest was just
minor tweaks from then on.
The drive home was great, no stuttering, just seamless power
and totally useable. I sill couldn't bring myself to find
the rev limiter - that took a while. What a great engine
it is too, I don't want a screaming rev-craving engine as
I like to be able to change from banzai blat to relaxed
cruise home, etc. The Zetec gives the best of both worlds
and the extra grunt over the x/flow (165bhp verses 100bhp,
and 146ft lb verses 100ft lb) really brings the car alive,
with enough squirt to blow away most cars that are brave
enough to try. Of course, I'm now wondering if a little
more would be worth pursuing. To this end I have a spare
cylinder head ready for porting but I'd then need new cams,
verniers and it would need re-jetting again, so I think
it would be wiser to go to injection with throttle bodies,
but this adds tank, fuel lines, TB's, fuel rail and a new
ECU to the list, to name but the main items. We'll see though,
it will have to come eventually.
Raceline - 01483 811978
James Whiting - 01784 241466