Piston Slap: Can Psarhjinian A-Ford a Caterham?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC commentator psarhjinian writes:

Thanks to the terrible economy, I’ve recently been given the opportunity to pick up a project car on the (very) cheap. The catch: the project car is a Caterham SV, sans powertrain. Googling around has given me all sorts of options, from four-cylinder Zetecs to small-block Chevvies to Hayabusa powerplants. I’m sure some madman has shoehorned a Prius’ drivetrain in there, but thus far I haven’t turned up the requisite Youtube video of it.

To say “I don’t know where to start” would be an understatement. What I’m trying to figure out is what kind of powertrain would be good, given a perfect storm of cheap, quick and easy for someone with not a lot of tools, experience and time to work on.

Oh, and I do have young children. So as not to invoke my life insurance policy, I think we can skip anything that’s too far into “Death Car” land.

Sajeev writes:

Fascinating project! Fear not the Grim Reaper because an LS-X swap is your only choice. Okay, I might be kidding, except when I am not. I mean, seriously dude. LS-X FTW.

Not convinced? I’m cool with that. Go with a Duratec four-banger for several reasons: common usage on this platform makes for easy answers to installation questions, replacement parts are plentiful at local junkyards, surprising refinement for the price and, most importantly, easy and affordable EFI tuning to get it running perfectly.

So get the goods from www.car-part.com, a local LKQ car recycler, or rent a Focus with full coverage so you can strip that shitbox clean! Just kidding! I’d get an early Focus ZX3 from Craigslist, pull the powertrain plus the wiring/sensors/computer and try to save some of the emissions parts to remain legal, if necessary. Whatever emissions parts (EGR, all four O2 sensors, fuel vapor recovery, etc.) you don’t use might upset the engine computer, but that’s where the tune with a dyno-hacker comes into play.

Once the Caterham runs and you’re certain the donor Focus is pointless, sell the body for scrap. Done.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Campisi Campisi on Jul 26, 2009

    First of all, definitely go with something designed to be mounted longitudinally; otherwise you're begging for endless headaches for the prize of having the soul of a Corolla in your sports roadster. A rotary would perfectly suit the mission of a Caterham and would be the easiest to fit, but since you don't seem to be the adventurous type in this regard I'd stick with a Ranger engine and transmission.

  • Dave Dave on Jul 27, 2009

    I've got a Toyota 4AGE with twin Webers in my Seven - fits real nice. A V8 would be a bear to fit. I'd either go with a Ford Duratec/Zetec for maximum resale value or a 20 valve 4AGE - silvertop ones are dirt cheap and the four throttle bodies are beautiful. Just watch the height of motors - things like the S2000 motor are extremely tall. Here is a nice list of available options for the Locost builders: http://www.locostusa.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=83

  • Glennbk First, Cadillac no longer has brand cache. And as such, the prices need to drop. Second, reliability. Cadillac doesn't have that either. Dedicate GM funds to re-design the High Value Engines. Third, interiors are too gimmicky. Take a step back and bring back more buttons and less black plasti-chrome. Forth, noise isolation. These are supposed to be luxury cars, but sound like a Malibu inside.
  • Dave M. Mitsubishi for many years built stout vehicles for whatever market they were in (specifically citing Mighty Max and Montero). In the '90s they became the LCD for high-risk borrowers; coupled on top of mediocre and stale product, interest in them waned. Aim for the niches (hybrids, small pickup, base CUVs). I find it interesting that they have a plug-in CUV based on/made by Nissan, but Nissan doesn't.
  • Glennbk Please Mitsubishi, no more rebranded Nissan products.
  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help