Want to drop an eight or 16-valve twink in your Ford? Try these for size.
It’s not Ford but it is excellent — what do you expect from a Cosworth KBA? The earlier Coscast engine is ideal - it comes with forged pistons, while tuning potential is almost instant. Swap the induction, cams and exhaust and 200 bhp isn’t that far away. Or convert to a taper throttle body system and that power is near bolt-on. Turning to rear drive is pretty easy too, with either Manta components (sump and five-speed ‘box), or an aftermarket bellhousing for a Type-9 conversion and a Yukspeed sump.
Pros: Strong, easily tuned
Cons: That Vauxhall thing...
2. I4 RS2000
Found in the Mk5/Mk6 RS2000 and late Scorpios, the I4 has chain-driven cams, a cast-iron block and an alloy head with hydraulic tappets. It’s a pretty robust unit where every component is built nice and chunky - the cams look like they’re on steroids, while the flywheel is a whopping, heavy component. There is little available in the way of performance parts apart from complete induction swaps on RS2000 engines to the likes of throttle bodies and twin DCOEs. Good gains can be made but the engine is harder to tune. There’s an eight-valve version, too (found in late Sierras and Granadas) but only go for this if you’re looking for a cruiser
Pros: cheap as chips, and strong
Cons: tuning options are limited
3. Cosworth YB
They may well cost a fortune to buy in the first place, especially a good one, but they take the minimum to wire up and virtually bolt in place of a Pinto. Plus keeping the turbo means an easy 200+ bhp, and the tuning potential’s incredible. But they have a serious reputation for normal aspiration too. Prior to the 1986 launch, the YB was a Cosworth venture to convert the Pinto into a BDA beater — alloy head, 16-valve, twin cam — the next-step to conquering the rally world. It didn’t quite work out that way but there are plenty of NA Cossies competing and powering road cars. The typical ‘built’ figure is around 225 bhp but it’s at a cost - the conversion isn’t as cheap as some of the more up-to-date options.
Pros: Power is almost limitless
Cons: Cosworth tax makes them expensive
4. Lotus twin-cam
Ford’s first foray into a production twin-cam engine, the Lotus-designed eight-valver was based on the Cortina’s 1500 Pre-Crossflow bottom end, but with a cast alloy head. Blocks were bored to 82.5 mm from the standard 80.96 mm, and like the BDA there have been many derivatives so you need to know your stuff. For instance, the Mk2 versions having a thicker casting to more reliably carry the increased capacity that allowed 1558cc. These later engines also had square mains caps—the same as 711M-block Crossflow’s, proper oil seals as opposed to the Mk1’s fiddly rope-type, and stronger 125E conrods.
Pros: great parts availability, look the part
Cons: expensive, only eight valves
The best-sounding 16-valve engine of all time, no question, the BDA was originally based on the 1600 Crossflow bottom end so fitting one is a cinch. The BDA and its subsequent derivatives totally dominated the motorsport scene at one point and even today, 30 years on, it is still providing many winning cars with their power. At least 15 types have been produced — many with alloy blocks — so you really need to know what you’re looking at before you take one one. Read our Definive Guide on page 48.
Pros: Sounds amazing, huge kudos
Cons: Expensive to buy, and rebuild
Ford’s Mazda-derived, all-aluminium engine introduced in the 2001 Mondeo is the one to fit, albeit at a cost. You won’t pick one up as cheaply as a Zetec but they’re good for 200 bhp without taking the head off. Even then, it’s 220 bhp before you need to swap the rods, crank and pistons. Weigh it all up and that power level’s pretty cost effective. A 2.3 version is obtainable over here, but more common in the US, while a 2.5-litre’s become available there. Its swap potential’s a touch more tricky — you need a conversion bellhousing for a non-Mazda transmission and a strong gearbox. Plus there’s induction and a water rail to consider as well — not cheap, but worth it.
Pros: Modern, light and clever design
Cons: Zetecs are cheaper to buy and fit
There are two series of Zetec — the Silver Top and the Black Top, while the cooking ST170 is based on the latter. The Silver Top is known as the Mondeo engine, while the Black Top’s the Focus engine, and both produce big power with an induction change. You can get up to 150 bhp with the standard breathing components and around 170 with carbs/injection. 200 bhp is hard without headwork and larger-size followers, which are needed for longer duration cams. Zetecs will mate to any Ford-pattern gearbox, so they’re easy to turn round but you will need a water rail conversion, correct-rotation water pump and ideally, a rack-and-pinion equipped car.
Pros: Easy to source — and fit
Cons: Conversion costs can add up
8. Holbay/Warrior 16-valve
Originally designed by Holbay in the early ‘70s as a cheaper alternative to the BDA, the 16-valve alloy head conversion for Pinto blocks has been in and out of production for years. Well-respected engine builders, Connaught took over the design and manufacture a couple of years ago, refining the design to make it stronger and easier to maintain, and now that the Holbay/Warrior conversion is eligible for Historic rallying, some Escort RS1800 competitors have swapped it for the original BDG, as it’s cheaper to build (and rebuild). There are a few in road-going cars, but you need deep pockets for one — they do look and sound amazing, though.
Pros: Look and sound great, can make excellent power, proven bottom end
Cons: Rare and expensive
9. Millington Diamond
So what is a Millington engine? Is a normally-aspirated YB the same thing? Not quite. A Millington engine is basically a totally new engine based on the YB. It uses a lightweight alloy block and a heavily-modified YB head to get the power. A steel crank, custom rods and pistons together with a bigger bore brings capacity out as high as 2700cc although there are options. Millington have since developed the Series 2 head, which has been completely recast to their specification to increase mid-range torque figures. If you’ve got the cash, it’s the ultimate.
Pros: 300 bhp from normal-aspiration
Cons: Not cheap by any means