It came from one of the rarest of grey imports from the early 1990s. There was not one locally available part. Yet we were able to fully rebuild and restore this engine back to its former glory. But it certainly wasn’t easy…
The engine is a four cylinder Ford 2.3L turbo, sometimes called a Lima engine. These engines were manufactured in the United States during the mid to late ’80s and early ‘90s and were fitted to locally delivered Mustangs, Thunderbirds and the Merkur XR4Ti. The Merkur is an interesting beast. Essentially it was a US delivered Ford Sierra, made in Germany. But instead of having a European made engine based on the 2.3L Pinto, Ford decided to go with the locally made Lima.
Our particular example was imported into Australia by a company called Hisierra in 1993, converted to right hand drive and rebadged as a Sierra. Its current owner acquired the car late last year and decided to undertake a comprehensive restoration. We were approached in December to “tidy up” the engine. Our original brief was to improve the appearance of the engine by tidying up the vacuum, emission and induction piping, seal up the oil leaks and give it a lick of paint. But the scope of the job grew the more we delved into the engine.
Our first problem was understanding exactly what we had. The owner naturally told us it was a Sierra engine, and being a Sierra, parts could be sourced from an on-line company in Germany. But after a few late nights with Google, we eventually worked out that the beast we were dealing with came from the US. Being so unique in Australia, there are no locally available parts. So everything for the engine, every gasket and seal, right down to the spark plugs leads, had to be specially imported from US suppliers.
The next issue was the condition of the engine. Our customer was led to believe that the engine was in good condition. This wasn’t the case. As we opened it up to repair the oil leaks we discovered extensively worn main bearings, leading us to question the condition of the rest of the engine. And after reporting back to the customer, he agreed to a complete rebuild. Working with one of our local suppliers, we were able to source all the internal engine components (bearings, pistons, rings, camshaft, rocker arms etc.) through their contacts in the US. The only part we couldn’t source was an exhaust valve, which we had custom made by a local supplier.
Issue number three emerged when we cracked tested the cylinder head and found extensive cracking through two of the valve seats. Cracking is fairly common in a lot of the old cast iron cylinder heads we work on, but given the uniqueness of the engine, it presented a special problem. Do we replace the head or repair? Normally we’d always replace. Repairing cracks in cast iron is tricky business at the best of times, but even more so in a turbocharged engine. But after consulting with our customer, we decided to repair. One of our local partners with expertise in this area did an outstanding job for us.
The final problem emerged during assembly. We had no technical specs. Being a professional workshop, we have access to a wealth of technical information covering over 40,000 different models from the early ‘80s onwards. So, we’d usually expect to have access to bearing clearances, valve timing, ignition timing and torque specifications as a minimum. But for this engine, nothing. And while we could estimate the specs ourselves, it’s always nice to have the confidence of using official manufacturer’s specifications. Another late night with Google revealed the info we needed, and confirmed our original estimations.
The engine has now been assembled and delivered back to the customer, ready for installation in the car once he gets it back from the paint shop. It’s soon be back to us for final configuration, initial start and tune. I’ll keep you all posted!