TTAC Project Car: It's About Time!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
ttac project car it s about time
The prolonged journey of TTAC’s Ford Sierra is partly because of my prolonged recovery from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. While other projects never help matters, the excuses end now.Because, even during the depths of my recovery, my vision never faltered; thanks to prednisone’s side effects during treatment, said vision became a C4 Corvette-like laser-infused slalom but with Young the Giant screeching in the background.So it’s about time I drove to my friend Brian’s shop and made it happen.
Let’s do it, but remember the mission: to improve performance via Ford donor cars of the era, honoring the time when boneheaded computers made radical aerodynamic shapes that altered our automotive landscape.The 1989 Merkur XR4ti’s superior suspension, brakes and larger differential bolted up easily, but our donor had a bashed engine crossmember. Mercifully, the Sierra’s unit accepted everything up front — being right hand drive wasn’t an issue!Upgrades include Koni shocks and rear disc brakes from one of the Thunderbird donor cars.
Adding American ingenuity to West German engineering involved upgraded rolling stock… parts of which haven’t been rolling for years. This better work!
Can you say sleeper?The choice of the 15×7-inch Ford Mustang 10-hole (teledial) wheels (with grippy Spec Miata rain tires) is the widest setup to fit a stock chassis. And these Fox Body wheels provide the perfect offset and 1980s aerodynamic swagger for a Ghia-spec, near-luxury, British family car.
While no Chevy Nova on slicks, the difference from a 165 mm, 13-inch wheel to a 205 mm, 15-incher gives the little Ford a tough demeanor.No wonder the Bondurant Driving School used them on their Merkurs!
Since the body was ready to test fit its new motor, we spent hours determining the best bits: parts from a 1985 and 1987 Thunderbird Turbo, plus the 1989 Merkur gave us options.I also splashed the cash on ported intakes (one is on the right), even a ported and ceramic-coated “E6” exhaust manifold (the better flowing option).
The most important bit was the larger Garrett T3 from earlier turbo Fords, seen here getting a clean with leftover cam covers (destined to be garage art).
Those factory covers were cool, until the uber-rare Ford Motorsport cam cover (finished in brown like the motor, ‘natch) hit my Facebook feed. And it’s beyond worthy considering there’s a BoPort 2.1 roller camshaft within.So let’s get that motor installed!
Out goes the Nova so the Sierra can get its new engine. Except not.The fancy aluminum engine mounts/brackets of a Merkur’s 2.3-liter turbo “Lima” are 2 inches wider than the Sierra’s 2.0L “Pinto” crossmember.We huffed, we puffed, we failed: why, oh why, did our donor car have a smashed crossmember? That’s one bit we cannot replicate (easily).
Mercifully the Turbo Ford community on Facebook is strong, and a solid Merkur XR4ti crossmember was boxed up within hours of hitting this brick wall. Apparently those addicted to social media are not always clueless!While this won’t be the last roadblock, it hopefully was the worst.

Why? Because everything else in our parts cache [s]is[/s] appears intact, as they were pulled from running vehicles.The only thing missing to complete the engine swap is a low-mount alternator: it shall clean up the engine bay and smooth out/shorten the distance from the (aftermarket front-mount) intercooler to the throttle body. Shouldn’t be hard considering the Sierra has no power steering or A/C to complicate matters, right?
Oh Google Image Search, what wonders you find us!Here’s to hoping the local junkyards have a 92-94 only (yes, really) Ford Ranger with these brackets and pulleys. I’m visiting one with a complete (looking?) 1992 Ranger shortly after I hit the send button on this article!Not to worry, the Sierra’s time will come. Soon.[Images:© 2018 Sajeev Mehta and]
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2 of 23 comments
  • Ford.scorpio Ford.scorpio on Dec 08, 2018

    Good morning, very nice article! I have the ranger set up & brackets if you need them including PS pump. You can find me on the merkurclub forum; just listed some XR's... Jan

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Dec 09, 2018

    I need a Lima 2.3T in my life. I think an 85-88 Thunderbird Turbo would fit the bill. But then I'd be tempted to try to make an ecoboost 3.5 fit.

  • FreedMike I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with the two best German luxury sedans of the time - a manual '81 733i, and a '75 Mercedes 450SE. The BMW was a joy on back roads, and the Benz was a superb highway car. Good times. And both were dramatically better than the junkheap American luxury cars Dad had before.
  • Wjtinfwb A Celebrity Diesel... that is a unicorn. Those early A-bodies were much maligned and I'm sure the diesel didn't help that, but they developed into very decent and reliable transportation. Hopefully this oil-burner Chevy can do the same, it's worth keeping.
  • Wjtinfwb After S-classes crested the 40k mark in the early '80s, my dad moved from M-B to a BMW 733i Automatic. Anthracite gray over red leather, it was a spectacular driving car and insanely comfortable and reassuring on long interstate hauls. My mom, not really a car person, used the BMW to shuttle her elderly Mom back home to Pennsylvania from Miami. Mom and grandma both gushed with praise for the big BMW, stating she could have driven straight through the car was so comfortable and confidence inspiring. A truly great car that improved through the E38 generation, at which point the drugs apparently took hold of BMW styling and engineering and they went completely off the rails. The newest 7 series is a 100k abomination.
  • Vatchy If you want to talk about global warming, you might start here:
  • 28-Cars-Later $55,218 for a new GR Corolla:"But if OTD prices get beyond 50k there are better options"That's what people were arguing in that thread.