1985-1/2 1.9L Escort Build-up
About 170 horsepower is achievable in naturally aspirated form. That is without any power adders like NOS, turbo, or a supercharger. With a mild turbo setup, you should be able to get over the 200 mark, possibly up to about 225 hp. An all out race motor can make much more but will cost a lot more money to build.
An 85-1/2 1.9L I personally build several years ran very well. It would walk on a stock 5.0L Mustang GT from a roll. I've also pulled on several 275 hp Z-28 Camero's from a roll. Off the line the car would just smoke the tires so that was the wrong way to race. Also, the V-8 cars would come around on top end, up past 100 mph, but I could hold them off through a rolling quarter mile. On the dragstrip it ran upper-mid 14 second times at 93 mph with slicks, or about 1 full second and 2-3 mph less with street tires. With the engine built up, it still could get over 49 mpg on the highway at 60 mph. With all the abuse, the only thing I broke was 2 motor mounts. The engine was reved to 6,500 rpm in each gear.
The car was a 1985-1/2 model which is exactly like an 86 except without the 3rd brakelight which I added later. The basic car had no power steering and had a 4 speed trans. It was a base model, but had dealer A/C. The bottom end was stock but was re-ringed.
The cylinder head was fully ported and milled .060 to raise the compression a bit. It used the stock valves. I used the double valve springs and a cam ground almost exactly like our 1C1C84C hydraulic cam. It was degreed in 4 (crank) degrees retarded.
The intake was stock except it was cut apart to be ported and then rewelded. It had an adapter plate for a Holley 2bbl carb. The hot water passage was blocked off at the head to keep the intake mixture cool. The carb was a modified 500 cfm Holley 2bbl. The stock mechanical fuel pump provided all the fuel pressure necessary maintaining 6 psi all the way through a run, so was never changed. I also made an air filter housing that used a K&N filter. It mated up to a cutout on the sheetmetal in the firewall. The housing mated up to a 1983 Mustang GT hood scoop and provided a source of cool air fed from the windshield area which is under higher pressure at speed.
The exhaust was the stock 2" system with the converter removed. I used the same mufler as we sell now and at 6500 rpm / full throttle, had only 1/2 psi backpressure. I used a Hooker 4 into 1 header (no longer available) which had 1-1/2" primary tubes with a 2-1/2" collector.
I also used a larger alternator pulley to slow it down and save a couple of hp. Also, I used the oil pan evacuation system to relieve the crankcase pressure. (less pressure below the piston makes more power.)
The ignition system was basically stock. It had 8mm spiral core wires and modified spark plugs (side-gapped) and a high output coil. The tip of the rotor was extended as far as possible in the distributor cap. The base timing was advanced about 3 degrees and I believe I had a lighter spring in the centrifucial advance mechanism.
I ran all synthetic oils in the engine and transaxle. The alignment was set for minimum rolling resistance. I had a 3/4" add-on sway bar in the rear and all poly bushings in both sway bars. Also had Monroe gas struts front and rear.
It still took a lot of work to get the car to run this hard. Most of it was in figuring out the carburetion and getting it dialed in. For instance, in a 4 cylinder engine with a carb, uncapping the exhaust enrichens the fuel mixture, so it needed leaned. The car was all mid-range torque. The power started slowing falling off aboue 5,500 rpm but pulled hard past 6,500 rpm. A set of 220mm wide street tires would go up in smoke from a 20-25 mph roll just standing on the throttle, not dumping the clutch or anything else. The car ran low 14's at 93 mph in the quarter mile with small road race slicks. It wouldn't even attaept to hook-up on the track with street tires. It was hard to get rolling even with slicks. One problem is a front wheel drive car is sitting in the rough rubber laid down by other rear wheel drive cars. This was a rough area on the track surface and usually caused wheel spin. Also, no front wheel drive slicks were available at that time.
Two burnouts were necessary. The transaxle was not a posi and it would only spin one front tire in the burnout. The best plan was to heat one tire, then roll up a couple of inches and do another burnout to heat the other tire. Usually, the hot tire grabbed and the cool tire spun on the second try. I used the emergency brake to hold the car back durning the burnouts.