1985-1/2-1990 1.9L & GT Buildup Tips

The header that came factory on the GT / H.O. cars works reasonably well. Remove the catalytic converter (if it's not a street driven vehicle) and change the muffler. The intake system also works well with a bit of modification. With a ported throttle body and vane-type air flow meter it ran equally as well as other cars with 4X40mm Weber carbs or a 500+cfm modified Holley 2 barrel carburetor. We used a large diameter smooth radiator hose (for a truck) that fit that application with a little trimming, but I cannot remember what it actually fit. Go to an auto parts store like NAPA and see if they can find one similar to your stock intake hose and trim if necessary.
The head and intake manifold needs custom porting and port matching. This will wake the engine up. The ignition timing needs advanced 2-3 degrees and the curve modified if that's possible. Most of these cars used a distributor and a single TFI coil. The ignition system used was basically stock. It had 8mm spiral core wires and modified spark plugs (side-gapped similar to our dual-gap) and a high output coil. The tip of the rotor was extended as far as possible in the distributor cap without hitting the posts. Also, the cap was indexed to the rotor (at full centrifical advance, the rotor is aligned with the posts in the distributor cap). The base timing was advanced about 3 degrees and I believe I had a lighter spring in the centrifical advance mechanism.

The cam we would recommend for a strong engine is the 1C1C84C. You will need lifters, springs, retainers, and seals. They come as a kit plus the camshaft. The cam is available by special order only and takes 3 to 4 weeks. The cam needs to be installed 4 degrees retarded (crankshaft degrees) and will run it's best  from 4500-6000 and can pulls hard to the 6500 rpm shift point for maximum acceleration.

The adjustable cam gear we offer (discontinued) will only work if you change the water pump and crankshaft pulleys / sprockets. The later engines used a round profile belt design and it must be used with matching pulleys. The crank timing belt pulley will fit from a later (April-1991 or later) Escort 1.9L engine. You will also need a pulley from a later model water pump and have it pressed on your pump. I'm not sure but the later model pump / tensioner may fit. It's definitely worth a try. The water pump will bolt up and work. The tensioner will should work but must be able to adjust the belt properly.

If your engine has the EDIS (Electronic Distributorless Ignition System) and is a single belt system, you can use one of our 50% underdrive crank pulleys to free up some power to the wheels. You may be able to use the underdrive pulley if you can run the engine on one belt. The crankshaft snout diameter is the same on all the 1.9L and 2.0L SPI engines. If not, you can use a larger alternator pulley to slow it down and save a couple of hp, and change the steering rack over to a manual to eliminate the drag of the power steering pump.

Run a 180 degree thermostat. For a race engine, use a crankcase evacuation system to create a little vacuum in the bottom end. This creates a small vacuum source from the high speed exhaust flow when running at full throttle and higher rpms.
The block should be re-ringed with premium file-fit piston rings The stock rings are a low tension design, are very weak, and don't seal well. Hone the cylinders and check the bores for size. We would also recommend a new oil pump, premium bearings of course, and a new water pump. If the pump locks up, the timing belt will break or come off.

You cannot deck the block much, only do it if it's necessary. The safe maximum we would recommend to go on the head is .050-.060". Then be sure to shorten the dowel pins. If not, the pins can bottom out and prevent the head from tigntning up properly and a head gasket failure is the result. The compression is not going to reach the 10.5 level without new pistons. You would do better to concentrate on airflow to make power than compression.

If rebuilding, replace the rod bolts with premium ARP bolts. The rods should also be resized or checked. A custom set of forged steel rods would be nice but very expensive as will a custom set of high compression custom forged aluminum pistons. The pistons must match the combustion chambers in the head, in your case, a true hemi design. The factory rods are plenty strong if prepped properly for most any engine except an all-out high rpm race engine
If you have the engine out, take the time and align the bell housing to the center of the crankshaft. This will cut down on friction and help aid shifting. Also use all synthetic fluids

One street car we built a few years ago ran just under 95mph in the quarter mile in the low 14 second range. That takes about 175 horsepower. This car also got 50 mpg at 55 mph in a highway milegae test.

If running on the street, use a larger diameter exhaust system if possible, a 2-1/4" to 2-1/2" with a free flowing muffler and no convertor. We made the power mentioned above with a 2" system.

The stock electronics was used on this 1987 Escort GT.

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