New Escort engine and more - Morley's Workshop 433

By: Dave Morley

Presented by

escort escort

The RS Escort gets a new no-expense-spared heart at MBC, auto resto short course dilemmas, gettng scientific with transmissions and hassle free modern wheels. Another smorgasbord of subjects



So, I’m driving the old RS2000 Escort the other day. Having a lovely time I was, too, after a run of outs that started with a radiator dropping its guts and ended with jumped teeth on the camshaft belt (my own stupid fault). But this particular morning, I was enjoying the car as nature intended, and, as I approached the MBC with about 50 kliks under its wheels, the RS was humming. Beauty, I thought, I’ve finally made a trip without a melt-down of some sort. The little bugger is finally sorted. What is it they say about pride…?

Within seconds of uttering my silent victory speech, the needle on the oil pressure gauge flickered and headed for the basement. What the! The oil pressure never dropped completely away, but it was sure as hell lower than it should have been; that much I knew for sure.

Next morning it’s out with the spanners and tear into the thing to find out where the oil went. The Exxon Valdez epicentre seemed to be around the T-piece that exits the block and mounts the capillary tube and the sender for the twin oil pressure gauges I run. So I removed that and started to have a feel about down there. Funny, I thought to myself, that thread has a sharp edge on it. No it didn’t. But the two-dollar-coin sized hole in the block sure did.

Still dunno what really happened, but when we pulled the motor down, the rear cam-retaining bolt was AWOL. Maybe it found its way down an oil gallery and managed to get jammed between the crank counterweight and the block (‘cos that’s where the hole got punched). Academic, really, so what to do?


Mates reckoned I could get the hole patched and be done with it on the cheap, but since I’d always had my doubts about the motor (like, what’s even in it?) I bit the bullet and bought a second-hand long-motor. From there, my small-Ford genius mate Tim took over, pulled it all down, sent the block to a machine shop for the crank to be tested (it was fine) and the block bored 020 thou for new slugs. Then the rotating assembly was balanced and new everything from welch plugs to water pump was fitted. Finally, Tim bolted the recently reconditioned head back on, dialled in the cam, bolted it back in the car and hit the key.

And it’s a ripper. Despite not being any more tuned than before, the new donk is definitely smoother (that’s balancing for you) and seems to be more awake than ever before. And with about 600km on it so far, it’s getting better with every new kilometre.

But more than that, I now have a brand-new engine in my otherwise mint RS2000, so it’s like the final piece of the puzzle has been put in place. On GT’s advice, I’ve reverted to the standard cooling fan and shroud (which has made a difference) and the only thing I’m chasing now is a rattling baffle in the (only) muffler on board. If I can be bothered.

I’ll admit that at first, when I got the estimate, I was a bit spooked by all the zeroes, but in the end I’m glad I went all-new rather than a patch-up. I don’t want to be lying awake at night, looking at the ceiling, wondering what’s going to go bang next. Which is kind of where I was with the original bitsa motor. I suppose I’m lucky it’s just a four-cylinder, single-cam engine and not something fancy like a quad-cam V8 or a Cosworth. Either way, I reckon the old do-it-once-do-it-right thing applies here.


Fan boy


While it’s tempting to think of electric cooling fans as sexy, power-saving devices, don’t be ignorant to the efficiency of the car’s original mechanical cooling fan. As you’ll read elsewhere in this column, my brand-new Pinto engine in the RS2000 has lost the thermo fan I fitted a few years ago in favour of the original mechanical job I dug out of my storeroom (never, but never chuck anything away) to make sure that lovely new, tight engine doesn’t get hot at any point. I also scrounged up the original shroud which is an often overlooked piece of the puzzle, but adds enormously to the overall efficiency of the cooling system. Thermos surely have their place, but the Escort is definitely happier with old faithful dragging air through the radiator.


Where are all the courses?

workshop.jpgTeaching the skills to the next generation is vital for the resto industry

One of the things most restorers don’t have is the ability to perform some of the most difficult (and expensive) tasks associated with getting a ‘roughie’ back on the road.  You know the drill – you buy a nice little resto for $2k, spend $3k on it getting the paint and panel sorted, you do the rest yourself, and it ends up being worth $3k. Maybe less. Yeah, I know the resto thing is all about getting your hands dirty and being proud of what you’ve achieved, and to hell with the cost – within reason!

Take my Renault 10s (yeah, I have two – and a nice 16TS as well). The 10s (like a lot of the older Renaults) have a tendency to seize up the brakes if not regularly used. For a reasonably talented tinkerer, that’s no problem.  I’ve had the master cylinder rebuilt by Power Brakes, and it’s now better than new with a stainless-steel sleeve in the bore. I’ve taken all four brake calipers off (and popped the wheels back on for easy movement around the workshop) and purchased all the rubbers and O-rings needed to rebuild all of them (yes, Renault 10s have four-wheel-disc brakes!).

Now comes the problem – well, two actually, and I suspect a lot of restorers have the same problem.  The car has had a hit up the rear and needs a renovated rear end. A fellow Renaultphile (Thanks Rob) has given me a used rear panel. With no panel beating skills, the best quote I’ve got to get it on the car (with undercoat) so far is $1400. Not a lot, but saving up is required.

Next comes the interior – as you would expect, the seats are destroyed. The best quote I’ve got so far (for vinyl upholstery) is around $2k. Obviously, more saving up to do. 

Upholstery and panel/paint are the two major expenses for the average restorer, I reckon. Years ago TAFE used to run all sorts of ‘hobby’ courses in the automotive area, but I’m finding it almost impossible to hunt down any courses in these disciplines. I saw a great auto-paint course in Sydney a while ago and I seriously considered that, but the travel/accommodation costs killed that idea (I live near BrisVegas). So I’m putting the word out to someone out there who knows all about what courses are available – maybe UC can get someone from each State to provide all their local info to one of your journos to complete an article that will outline what’s available out there. Hoping you are able to help out us poor restorers.

Dave Tonks Woolooman,

THAT’S ACTUALLY a terrific suggestion, Dave. Anybody from a TAFE or tech college (do they even still exist?) out there with any information to kick this off?

For a while there, I was attending my local TAFE one night a week to learn everything from how auto trannys work to MIG welding and even basic blacksmithing. And every course I did was truly beaut. The teachers were often ex-tradies who hung up the tools and started teaching as a second career, or really skilled tradies who were earning a few extra bucks after hours teaching the courses.

The nice part was that you didn’t need to be an apprentice to enroll, and stuff like the basic welding course I did was probably 70 per cent us old blokes and the rest younger fellas starting out in a trade. The auto trans course was probably made up of half apprentices and the rest blokes like me with even a couple of younger servicemen from the Middle East whose government had just bought a batch of army tanks with auto boxes and needed techies to understand them.

I absolutely loved these courses and I’m still best mates with one of the blokes who happened to be a night-club owner who wanted to learn to weld and enrolled in the same course. Each night was a real laugh, too, with a kind of Men’s Shed vibe happening (and I’m sure some courses attract female students, too).

Fellow UC scribbler Torrens has also done plenty of these courses, including one on paint and panel just a couple of years ago. And if the paint job he did on his VP Commodore is any indication, his teacher must have been a pretty handy bloke. Not to mention patient and good with children.

From what I can gather, the TAFE I was attending more or less wrapped up its automotive courses a few years ago and sent them off somewhere else. I think the big auto-trades TAFE in Victoria now is the Kangan Institute which, I think, used to be Kangan-Batman TAFE. There’s also Chisholm Institute in Dandenong that does some automotive short courses. I think. But as for the other States, I wouldn’t have a clue. Help us out all you course administrators out there. Who knows, you might just get a rush of enrolments by letting UC readers know what’s available in the way of some hands-on learnin’.


Decisions, decisions… 

ford-falcon-interior.jpgMorley reckons a self-shifter is a better bet

G’day Dave , hope all is well and I am enjoying the publication as usual. I wrote in some time ago after the AU Falcon came up in conversation. I own a pair of 220kW AU XR8 sedans, one auto and one manual.

I know you are you are well aware of the T-Series and P250 ute, both with the lovely 5.6-litre Windsor, well, a friend of mine has a stable of TE50, TS50 and P250 Fords, in a variety of auto and manual. I can afford to buy either an automatic version of the TE or TS sedan OR a manual or auto P250 ute. The manual sedans he has are too expensive.

My question is this: From a collectable view, is a well optioned sedan in automatic a better investment than a manual ute? A little background. All cars are straight, not crashed, books, history etc. Kilometres range from 120,000 to 160,000 across all cars. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Cameron O’Brien,

JEEZ, WHAT a nice problem to have, Cameron. If you look at things historically, utes have sometimes had an early price spike beyond the sedan equivalent, only to have values calm down and ultimately fall behind. And I reckon that’s going to be the pattern with these FPV cars you’re looking at. So, while it’d be nice to have a manual ute with the 5.6 stroker, I reckon in the long term, the sedan with an auto is going to be the better investment. Sure, a manual sedan would be the absolute pick, but if the budget won’t stretch, there’s no point sooking over it. Bottom line? I’d buy the best, most richly optioned auto sedan I could afford.

But here’s the weird thing about these cars. For my money, I reckon the XR8s you already own are actually nicer cars. I’ve said it many times before, but that 220kW tune (either with the imported alloy heads or the locally-developed iron heads that replaced them on cost grounds) was the old five-litre Windsor’s finest moment. It was smooth, grunty where it needed to be and made a great noise. It even felt – dare I say it – sophisticated in that modern, syrupy, high-tech V8 way. Which was obviously one hell of a trick, because one look at the spec sheet told you it should have been anything but.

hsv-gtsr.jpgGTS-R is a bit overrated in terms of driving

Compared with that engine, I always found the locally-developed stroker was a bit on the lumpy, vibey side (not in a good way) and had a thirst like a pirate on shore-leave. Seriously, these were magic engines. As in, they could magically make ULP disappear. Frankly, I’d take a 220kW Series 3 XR8 over a 5.6 stroker any day. Sure, the big fella is rarer and represents something special to those who hold this stuff dear, but as a collectible, I don’t see that the 5.6 option ever had the marketplace traction to become Ford’s version of the stroker-cranked VS HSV GTS-R (which is incredibly collectible right now and another car that I reckon is a bit over-rated in terms of the actual driving).


Getting scientific 

tacho.jpgThe higher the number the greater the adrenaline

You’ve set another challenge for the few remaining grey cells I have left (Dropping Revs, Morley’s workshop Sep 2019). Why would two 1992 cars (one BMW one Nissan) and a third unidentified car (BMW) all exhibit a drop in revs to about 1000rpm on lift off from a cruise of about 1500rpm before returning to about 1500rpm?

You opine that the lock-up action in the torque converter must be involved. I’d agree. If the engine rpm drops but the road wheels’ rpm does not, then the transmission must disconnect, and in an auto that probably means the torque converter coming into play (there are other ways but unlikely).

In cars of this vintage it is probable that the torque converter locks at around 1500rpm. If the engine rpm drops below that on a closed throttle the ECU will figure a full stop may be forthcoming and will prepare accordingly, opening the torque converter and possibly shifting gears. Later cars will hold onto the lock up longer and shift gears giving more engine braking.  So, it is possible that the engine-speed dip is a transient issue from unlocking the converter and re-establishing a degree of slip. If the engine rpm goes back to pretty well where it was, then no downshift has occurred yet. Which sounds right for an earlier ‘90s car. However, on closing the throttle the ECU will go into fuel cut-off as long as the rpm is high enough. And I’d say 1500 is probably high enough. In fuel cut-off mode it is best to keep the converter locked or at minimum slip to ensure the engine does not stall.

But fuel cut-off will mean that the exhaust will contain pretty much pure air, which will hit a nicely warmed up catalyst thanks to the ECU happily alternating between a slightly rich and slightly lean mixture so the catalyst can do its thing cleaning up CO, NOx and HC.

At lift-off the ECU will probably want to purge and quench the catalyst which it can do in an auto by unlocking the converter momentarily and basically running the engine at idle whilst it sorts things out. In this case it will probably only do it after a decent time running at a steady-ish speed with the engine warmed up. Or, a combination of the above may apply.

So this phenomenon is probably a true design feature rather than the type the service advisor tells you about. 

Lawrence Glynn,
Geelong VIC

LAWRENCE, IT Is painfully obvious that you know a lot more about this stuff than I do. So it’s nice to see we agree on the basics (I’m always inclined to agree with the smartest guy in the room, not the bloke who talks loudest). And yes, I’ll stick by my original statement that this is actually a normal sort of thing to happen and it can be traced back to the torque converter doing its thing. I actually tried this today in the MBC tow pig, and it did exactly what Paul Burge’s cars did that led him to contact this column for advice. That you’ve added an extra layer or two of detail to the explanation is brilliant.

I guess one of the most important functions of the ECU is to keep the catalytic converters at the right temperature to do their thing, and the best way for it to do that would be – as you say – to constantly fine-tune the fuel-air mixture to control the temperature of the exhaust gases and, therefore, the catalyst.

And I’m way out of my intellectual comfort zone, here, but would returning the engine to idle (via the torque converter) send the engine back into closed-loop operation? If so, that would explain why doing so would give the ECU some thinking time. From what I can understand, EFI systems operate in closed loop (where the ECU is happy to take its cues from the oxygen sensors) at idle and on light engines loads, so presumably, when a driver backs off the throttle and the converter releases, the car returns to running in closed loop anyway.


Toy story

zh-fairlane.jpgZH Fairlane: Prestige 70s Aussie motoring was affordable

Hi Dave: I’m 66, and have been driving since I was 18. Indeed, I drove professionally for 45 years, operating a range of earthmoving and mining machinery, and driving trucks up to triple road-trains.

I read with interest your comments in issue 431 regarding old cars such as XD Falcons and HQ Holdens becoming classics and commanding large sums. And I started thinking; surely these cars of my youth can’t be getting THAT old? And got me reminiscing on the varied wheels of my early days, and their value now if only I’d kept them!

My first car was a 1962 EK Holden with a Hydra-Matic slush box. Paid way too much for it, $890, lost my licence in it, and sold it for $320. Lesson learned. Licence back, I bought a 1962 VW Kombi windowless barn-door van, that took five days to get me and two mates from Melbourne to Brisbane! What would that be worth now? A while later I traded that on a 1962 AP5 Valiant, that hated starting when hot. I returned in it to Melbourne, where I found it also hated starting when cold. A trip to the local car-yard upgraded it to a 1969 HT Kingswood Wagon with a 186 and three-on-the-tree. That car took me across the Nullarbor four times (700 miles of dirt in those days) and in five years of ownership cost me a clutch and a water-pump.

I finally traded it on something flash: A 1972 ZF Fairlane 500 with a 302 and column auto. Like a rat with a gold tooth! That car cost me big bucks for a blown gearbox. Finally sold it to raise funds for a house, relying on a battered 1968 HK Holden ute for transport; 161 with three-on-the-tree, and soon another blown gearbox. Is there a pattern here?

Jeez, even that old wreck would be worth a motza now. Upgraded that into a 1976 XC Falcon ute, with a 4.1 and column auto. Finding myself suddenly single, I decided a sedan was more suited to the hunt for a new partner, so I swapped it for another 1972 ZF Fairlane. Yep, even the same colour as the previous one. Gearbox was good, but I managed to blow the engine. A new donk, and I drove it up to Queensland, where a bloke offered me a bunch a cash for it…so, off to the local car-yard once again. This time I drove home in a 1972 HQ Holden Kingswood wagon, with a 253 V8 and column auto.  This machine performed well enough, until late one night the diff said it’s all over. We limped home, and I threw in a second hand diff I found in a paddock (true story).

Next day at the car-yard I traded it on a 1974 XB Fairmont with a 302 and T-bar auto. No mechanical probs with this one, but a loud flapping noise on the highway one day revealed the vinyl roof had taken flight and was now hanging over the bootlid. The appearance of several rust holes prompted another car exchange.

A shiny ZH Fairlane at the front of a car-yard caught my eye and wallet. This one sported a 351 V8 with a T-bar auto, and, oh joy, air-con. Not long after a sump full of water demanded a rebuild, including a rebore and oversized pistons. I recall the mechanic claiming it was now a 375, and did it go! And did it drink! Under power I swear you could see the fuel gauge move. By now it was 1986, and I traded it on my first new car, a 1986 Nissan Bluebird TR-X, which cost me zero in repairs. And every car I’ve owned since has been new, and all have been mechanically faultless.

There’s been a 1990 Camry, followed by a 96 Commodore, which I kept for 12 years, a 2008 Camry, and finally, my current drive, a 2014 Mercedes C200. The Benz was my retirement gift to myself, and covers a mere 7000 or so kliks per year. Parked beside it is my wife’s Mazda 2, in front of which is parked my V Star 1300 motorcycle, whilst down the backyard is a Toyota HiAce campervan. Gotta have some toys.

Jeff McKenzie,
Mackay, QLD


THAT’S QUITE a roll-call Jeff. It comes as no surprise to learn that the brand-new cars you’ve owned have all been more reliable than the old dungers that were forced upon you in your youth, but even then, I reckon I’d rather own any of the second-handies over a Nissan Bluebird. I mean, I see your point that having the thing start every time you twist the key is a good thing. But I also have a suspicion that, judging by the nostalgic tone of your reminiscences, you’re kind of with me here.

Full disclosure on the Datsun Bluebird thing: My old man bought a brand-new Spewbird in about 1982. Lord, what a floater that car was. The panels were so thin you could almost see through them and the interior was falling to bits from the very day he turned up at home in it. It was also a victim of the famous batch of soft piston-rings in the day, so it was burning more oil than petrol by the time 100,000km had clicked over. Okay, so yours was a TRX (a Series 3 going by the dates) but let’s be honest, that was a stripe kit rather than a fair dinkum sporty model, wasn’t it?

Certainly it was nowhere near as interesting as a ZF Fairlane with a monster donk, right? I’ll happily put up with a few idiosyncrasies and maybe even a dab of mechanical grief here and there provided the car makes me want to drive it, not hit it with a shovel.

That Blueturd Dad bought was even worse than the car that it replaced; a Series 2 Datsun 200B. Nope, not the imported SSS with a five-speed manual and independent rear end, nope a boggo 200B with four gears and a live rear end that was as under-done as the rest of the loathesome thing. Fortunately, Mater T-boned the neighbour one morning, so that was the end of that shitbox (the car, not the neighbour – she survived to pull sketchy U-turns for many years).

I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the car Dad traded-in on that mongrel Datsun was a late (74) HQ Kingswood with a four-on-the-floor, 253 V8, GTS rims and bucket seats. Sure, the old Kingy had done a quarter of a million kays by then, but it’d never had so much as a rocker cover lifted in the name of repairs. And I absolutely hate to think what that thing would be worth now. Actually, come to think of it, if I owned it, it’d be absolutely worthless, because it’d never be for sale. I keep having dreams about finding it and fixing it up, but I have a feeling it went to God many moons ago. (Mind you, you never know, so NSW rego GSL 973, if anybody’s seen it.)

Meantime Jeff, you’re absolutely right when you wonder aloud what those early cars would be worth now if you still had them. Were they still in the McKenzie shed, I agree that you’d be sitting on a fortune.



Chev Briquettes


We’ve all seen late-model Holdens bearing Chev bowtie badges, right? Okay, so it’s in recognition of the Chev LS1 under the lid, but where did the bowtie logo come from. For many years, it was thought that Chevrolet co-founder Billy Durant had spotted the design on the wallpaper of a French hotel, but other theorists reckon he saw the bowtie design in either a magazine or newspaper just a few days after the company was born. If that’s the case, the bowtie logo was originally used to sell briquettes under the Coalettes brand name.

Rat or tat


Where do you stand on the rat-look thing? I kind of dig it in the right context. A mate of mine has just stripped all (and I mean ALL) the paint off his old Ford Anglia and reckons he’s going to clear-coat what’s left in a satin finish. It should look amazing, mainly because there’s virtually no damage to the metal. But is that a true rat in the first place? And what about those hot-rods with rusty bits and pieces hanging off them like they’ve been painted in Tarzan’s Grip and driven through a scrapyard? It’s one way to save money on body and paint, I suppose. What’s the view out there in UC Land? Is it rat or tat? 


Write to Morley c/o or Unique Cars magazine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166


Unique Cars magazine Value Guides

Sell your car for free right here



Subscribe to Unique Cars Magazine and save up to 39%
Australia’s classic and muscle car bible. With stunning features, advice, market intelligence and hundreds of cars for sale.