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Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1

Upgrade Your Classic Ford, Alfa, Hillman, Sunbeam & Singer Published: 31st Mar 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1
Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1
Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1
Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1
Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1
Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1
Upgrade Your Classic - Part 1
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Paul Davies concludes his look at just what can be done to upgrade your classic

Alfa Romeo (105)

Seen in the Giulia saloon and various Giulietta and GTV Coupes, Alfas lovely twin-cam engine in capacities from 1300cc right through to 2-litres really sings if it’s in good condition. If you’re after bits, join the Owner’s Club!

Engine/transmission:

There’s very little off the shelf upgrade material available in the UK, and for that reason the most important thing must be a really good re-build to make sure the unit is giving all its intended power.

Some engines will have a single carburettor and you can uprate with a pair of twin Dell’Ortos if the correct manifolding can be found. Like most engines, the cylinder head will benefit from careful working by an expert. There’s also scope to swap power units, including later Alfa Twin Spark engines, but the smaller 1290cc and 1570cc engines are joys to drive.

Running gear:

Very early cars had disc/drum brake combinations and these could be converted to the all disc set up of later cars. Rhoddy Harvey Bailey raced Alfas, so’s he’s the man to contact if you want to improve the handling – which traditionally involved scraping the door handles on the Tarmac!

Ford Anglia/Classic/Cortina (pre-crossflow)

Ford’s earlier ‘modern’ saloons rivalled the Mini for their tune-ability and, with considerable motorsport success, generated a lot of performance expertise and equipment.

Engine swaps within the various models are relatively easy and the same is correct for the car’s transmission and braking systems.

Engine/transmission:

The 997, 1200 and 1340cc precrossflow engines were all threebearing crankshaft, whilst the 1500cc had five main bearings and is more durable. There’s also a five bearing 1297cc unit that was used in the Mk2 Cortina. The smallest motors are tuneable, but the 1340 has a weak crankshaft. There’s quite a bit of scope for swapping components: a 997 head on a 1200 gives a handy, heady 10:1 compression ratio, for example.

Ford’s masterstroke was to base all their four cylinder engines on the same bore size (80.97mm) which means you can turn a 997 into a 1200 or 1340 if you want to - but due regard has to be paid to the resulting compression ratio.

The best of the early engines was the 1500GT motor, which gained its extra power (78bhp) from a big valve cylinder head, extractor exhaust manifold, camshaft and Weber 28/36 DCD dual progressive choke carburettor. All these parts will work on the lesser engines, but real 28/36 Webers are unobtainable these days and the best replacement is the DGV used on Escort Mexicos and the Essex V6 Capri.

An ultimate road tune 1500 will have a pair of 45 DCOE Webers, big valve head and a Kent 244 camshaft based on the now extinct Ford A6 Cosworth design. Burton Power, based in Essex, are the people for all pushrod Ford conversions. We must mention the 110bhp Lotus Cortina TC, which utilised a (bored) 1558cc version of the five bearing engine which, of course, will fit in any of the engine bays. It’s better left in its rightful place….but the Mondeo unit fits quite easily, too!

Running gear:

The 997 and 1200 Anglias, plus the first 1200 Cortina, were the only cars with drum brakes at the front, and these can be relatively easily upgraded by using Classic or later Cortina front strut and hub/brake assemblies. Front struts and rear dampers need Bilstein gas-pressure units (as used in period by the Ford Rally Team) and appropriate springs.

Gearboxes and bellhousings are interchangeable and so it’s possible to fit stronger and better ratio boxes from within the range, including the four-speed Bullet and Rocket boxes and the Type 9 five speeder. The socalled English axle used on early cars is not as strong as the Atlas.

Ford Capri

Lesser versions had the same Kent crossflow range of engines found in the Cortina and Escort models dealt with elsewhere in this feature, so we’ll concentrate on the three-litre V6 Essex motor which offered smooth and torquey performance.

The V6 will fit in smaller engined Capris, as will the Lotus TC or 16 valve BDA if you want.

Engine/transmission:

Production quality of the Essex unit was poor and few engines achieved their quoted 138bhp ‘straight from the box’ so a blueprinting job (bringing up to standard spec) is the first essential for extra power. An additional 10bhp can be found with gasflowing of the cylinder heads and careful matching of the inlet manifold to the standard 38 DGAV carb, while a hot cam and big valve heads can take it up to 180bhp but real racers use triple Webers (part of official X-Pack kit)!

Ford’s holomolgation special RS3100 of 1973 had an engine bored to 3091cc but it’s hardly worthwhile bothering with this unless you’re after ultimate power.

Just like the in-line fours, you can play around with other gearboxes from the Ford range, including the five-speed Type 9. A limited slip differential is also useful to get any extra power to the ground.

Running gear:

Strut front and live axle rear suspension benefit from the same uprated coils (front) and good dampers as the rest of the Ford models. The Capri 3.0S had vented front discs, which are a good conversion but 2.8i running gear is best.

Ford Cortina/Escort (crossflow engines)

Kent series engines from 1968 were stronger and more efficient with a crossflow cylinder head and generally uprated transmission systems (see Anglia). Tuning follows the same procedures, with a really nice Escort having a 1760cc (1600 with 85mm pistons), twin sidedraught Webers, gas flowed head and an A6 camshaft, developing around 140/150bhp. A simple tweak at rebuild stage is to fit 1300 pistons into a 1600 block – this ups the compression ratio to a useful 10.3:1.

Engine swaps are, again, relatively easy but the correct sump pan will be required to clear the front suspension crossmember.

The ultimate crossflow engine was, of course, the 1600 BDA with its Cosworth developed 16-valve, light alloy, cylinder head, found in the most powerful Escort. There’s a lot of tuning potential here, but really only for competition purposes: QED and Burton know all about this motor, and the Twin Cam as well.

Ford Sierra Cosworth

A (relatively) modern day classic from the very basic jelly-mould saloon that replaced the Cortina!

Engine/transmission:

The Cosworth developed YB 2.0 litre, 16 valve, turbo, engine can give up to 500bhp depending upon the state of tune, but it’s not really a DIY prospect. ‘Chipping’ the engine management system can produce oodles of extra power but often results in a lack of driveability and poor fuel economy. Like all turbos, the key to power is a properly designed intercooler and boosting.

Running gear:

Ford’s standard suspension set up is good for road use, but if you fancy track day adventures talk to some of the motorsport experts. And beef up the brakes with larger discs and race pads for goodness sake!

Hillman / Sunbeam / Singer Imp

Rootes ‘Mini-beater’ was a great idea and, with a jewel-like Coventry Climax-based engine, had tremendous performance potential as a rally and race car. Sadly it didn’t last long enough to be properly developed.

Engine/transmission:

The 875cc, light alloy engine, can’t easily be taken beyond 998cc, unless you can find the 928cc block used on the first Talbot Sunbeam which will go to 1140cc. Stage One tune is to throw away the early vacuum throttle and Solex carb, and replace with twin 1.25 Stromberg CD’s and exhaust manifold from the Imp Sport or Stiletto. The engine loves to rev and responds well to a modified head and upgraded camshaft. Race engines give upwards of 115bhp – Ben Boult at Corley Conversions is the expert.

The gearbox is good (JKD has close ratios) but the doughnuts on the drive shafts can suffer with excess power.

Running gear:

Early cars had ‘sealed for life’ front swivel joints, which need to be replaced with ones with grease nipples. The front wheels also need several degrees of negative camber to transform the handling, plus uprated dampers, wider wheels (Viva ones fit) and decent tyres.

All Imps were drum braked, and these are adequate (with appropriate linings) for most applications. Aftermarket discs are expensive to fit.



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