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Technical 4 cylinder mercruiser-engined cars

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by dennis g, Oct 9, 2015.

  1. This thread is about suitable engines for small hot rods.

    After looking in the one scrapyard around here, I found that the available recent engines were much too wide, fitted only a front wheel drive transmission and required a computer. Otherwise they were good ( easy to find, parts available, reasonable power)

    Sometimes I'd spot an old engine but straight 6 cylinder engines are both too long and too heavy although they are narrow enough and simple. I build small 1100 to 1800 lb cars which would be severely burdened with a V8 so that is out.

    So 4 cylinder engines are my choice.
    Here are the options in the order I tried them:
    1) Model A Ford engine: physically small enough but its 475 lb weight and its tendency to easily break when making power are enough to make it an unattractive choice. It also has no good oil system, Babbitt bearings, and an abysmally poor head design. I bought one,
    looked inside it and wanted nothing to do with it because of its design. It is, however, a good 40 hp motor if that is all you want. ( the model T is considerably worse) The old 4 cylinder chevy was about as bad. In its favor parts are still available.

    2) Allis Chalmers tractor engine : It has the Ford engine beat hands down as it has
    -replaceable bearings which withstand more pressure,
    - pressure oiling of all bearings
    - overhead valves
    - easily replaceable cylinder sleeves
    - and parts are easily available at many farm supply stores
    It is the same displacement as a Model A so the ford guys will not complain
    and when it began in 1932 it was a modern engine unlike the Ford engines.
    Now the bad: It is a very tall engine and it is quite heavy. The flywheel weighs 65 lbs, great to pull a stump out but not appropriate for a car, so I adapted a 10 lb flywheel to it.
    The hardest thing to overcome is its 8 1/2" spindly connecting rods. 4 special made rods will set you back about $1600. Although some throw money at their cars, I don't.
    3.)Pickup engines (because most pickups are rear wheel drive):
    A. the ford 2300cc pinto engine:
    Cheap, requires lots of boost to make it go. It is said that these are generally not
    worth rebuilding. But the existing engines have run their lives.
    B. The Toyota R2300
    Good tough little engine which runs a longtime. As this is well known, they
    are sold at excessively high prices and will fit a rear wheel drive car.
    C. the Iron Duke
    This one qualifies as being cheap enough.
    Later ones were called the Tech4, it made about 90 hp.
    4.) Mercruiser 4 cylinder boat engines:
    here is why this choice works:
    A. A small block chevy bell housing will bolt on so rear wheel drive works.
    B. they have Ford or Chevrolet car flywheels
    C. they are easy to find because boats rot (and because the 470 is unpopular)
    D. they are old school engines..carburetor and .no computer
    E. they are made to run hard all day long.
    Now the downside:
    A. they come with mechanical onlydistributor which will not advance at low vacuum
    for economy as cars do. It is a common Delco distributor.
    B. being run in lake water, the 120 and 140 iron engine blocks rust internally.
    ( the aluminum 170/ 190 engine (also called the 470) has its own coolant circuit
    with antifreeze so rust is not an issue.)
    - the 120 and 140 RUST

    -the 170/190/470 : detonation, bad alternator, bad water pump( leaks antifreeze into
    the oil), serious headgasket leak problems are common as, the cylinder walls are
    thin and open decked therefore they squirm around.

    Mercruiser 470 engine parts are airplane-engine-expensive and the engine requires
    frequent major maintenance. Head gaskets do not last long.

    The 120/140 is a high output Chevy 2 engine. Parts are available as the engine is in
    boats, forklifts, boats, pumps etc. the 140 is a stroked version.
    120 = 120 hp 140=140hp

    The 170/190/470 has 170 to 190 hp(depending on the carb) and has 280 ft lbs torque.
    Absolutely wonderful in an 1800 lb car.

    Except for the engines of 3A 3B and 3C above I have rebuilt them and used them in my cars
    jazz1, Zerk and volvobrynk like this.
  2. For detailed information on the 470 which is also the 170 or 190,
    see the "elusive banger" thread)
  3. cfmvw
    Joined: Aug 24, 2015
    Posts: 596


    I had an '87 Grand Am with the Tech 4 motor. The factory version was a poor design...some brilliant engineer went with a fiber timing gear that was PRESSED onto the camshaft - I could pull the timing cover off and look right at it, but changing it involved pulling the motor out and half apart (in '88 they went with a timing chain that was BOLTED to the cam - what a revelation!), the oil filter was upside-down behind the block, lousy head and exhaust manifold design, it was heavy, and only had a 4000 rpm redline. A better choice would be the Quad 4; most of them made 180 in stock form, and I think there were a few that were producing 190+.
    krbstr likes this.
  4. IMG_8089.JPG IMG_8092.JPG My '32 roadster has a Mercruiser 181 cubic inch engine. Everything clears. Need a 4 inch spacer to get the fan close to the radiator. Will bolt to a '39 Ford transmission using a standard speed shop adapter designed to put an early Ford transmission to a SBC. Stock '32 rear end works fine. Generator (if you like the look) from an early sixties Chevy II 4 cylinder (and probably 6 also) bolts right up. Head from a passenger car 153 bolts right on if you don't have time/$ to built manifolds (the Mercruiser manifolds were water cooled). Aluminum valve covers and side plate were available on the Untitled.jpeg Mercruiser engines. Stay away from the marine cams they have the wrong torque curve (don't ask how I know). Standard distributor from a 153 passenger car engine works fine. Much stronger crank than the 153 engine (the industrial strength crank). I believe this is almost the current 181 industrial engine from GM. Ton of information on this (and the 153 engine) engine in the archives.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015

  5. I had a local shop grind my first 470 cam with a mild rv profile. That cam did not live so I bought a boat cam, which I should have just used as a core for regrinding.
    Although the boat cam had specs which "looked" like the car cam, it developed 50 lbs more cranking pressure and detonated persistently on cylinder 4. I did not get around to removing it and later there was a "ping" as my cylinder split. I was not aware of a coolant leak but the 470 is notorious for that. I liked the rv cam better.
  6. Charlie, I'd like to hear more about the marine cam torque curve as I have a couple of them.
  7. The top of a quad 4 looks like the old dohc motors and they have good power.
  8. I am going back to a conversation from the sixties with a man named Jim Kemper. He was knowledgeable enough about cars that I trusted what he said. I have a marine cam in the 181 in my '32 roadster and have never been happy with its performance (I should have listened to him). Sorry I don't have the specs, maybe you could find an engineer at Isky that would know. Maybe you could check if the marine and industrial engines use the same cam and if so get a spec on the industrial engine which I assume is available from GM.

    Charlie Stephens
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2015
    volvobrynk likes this.
  9. 1oldtimer
    Joined: Aug 21, 2003
    Posts: 7,876


    What about the Ford 2.3l or the early pinto 2.0l german built motor, both have a crossflow head.
  10. Phil1934
    Joined: Jun 24, 2001
    Posts: 2,717


    2.3 to C4 bellhousings have dried up so weak C3 auto or T5 manual only. Bendtsen makes adapter to GM and Quick Time makes one to C4 but both are $700. Canfield makes adapter to V8 pattern for less than $200 to run larger V8 clutch instead of 8-1/2" one but no one seems to have fitted an auto with this as need custom flexplate. Stinger made the $300 manual 2.3 to v8 flywheel.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
    volvobrynk likes this.
  11. I saw that little clutch disk in my stuff and threw it away thinking it was from a 350cc 2 stroke minicar engine that I have here. Glad to hear about the $200 adapter, it seems inexpensive when so many others are twice that.
  12. crossflow heads make building manifolds a lot easier. that is enough reason for me.
  13. I know the feeling, my 470 boat cam was worse, it made my motor knock. Even so it ran 100mph while it still ran. but the car cam was much better, running stronger and not knocking. I may go with low compression pistons(and another car cam grind) on my next 470 build.
  14. IMG_7572.JPG IMG_7586.JPG IMG_7587.JPG IMG_7590.JPG IMG_6392.jpg
    One easy solution to your problem would be to get a Chevy V8 head, relocate EVERY bolt and make a piece to cover the push rods that will now pass outside of the block. A second solution would be to get one of the ANSEN heads from the early sixties, they made hundreds (about 200 if I remember correctly, but it has been a long time). See attached. A third solution would be a racing head I believe they currently use in the Australia/New Zealand area (help guys). Some of the Iron Duke 2.5 liter engines had crossflow heads but remember they are a different engine. Also attached is a photo comparing the ports on the 153 and 181 heads. A final thought the Industrial engine is 3.0 liters and the other two referenced are 2.3 or 2.0 liters. Remember what they always say, it is hard to beat cubic liters (or was that inches?).

    Charlie Stephens
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
    Lil'Alb, 29EHV8 and Jet96 like this.
  15. volvobrynk
    Joined: Jan 30, 2011
    Posts: 3,587

    from Denmark

    That's a nice head!

    And the quote you was looking for was: There is NO replacement for displacement!
    Then it dosent matter if it's in cubic inch, or a cubic metric.

    They are nice little mills, and are a little overpriced for the size over here. But them again every thing over here cost more then a 350 SBC or a volvo.

    I got the cravings for a 181 4 banger.
  16. 1oldtimer
    Joined: Aug 21, 2003
    Posts: 7,876


    There was a crossflow Ansen head for sale on here for a chevy 153 last year.
    Lil'Alb, Jimmy B and volvobrynk like this.
  17. Zerk
    Joined: May 26, 2005
    Posts: 1,418


  18. Six Ball
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 3,816

    Six Ball
    from Nevada

    A guy here had all the patterns to cast the Duggan/Deppe 4 and 6 cylinder engines and all the covers and intakes. He was setting up a foundry and then changed his mind. I think it is all in South America now.:(
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Lil'Alb, kidcampbell71 and volvobrynk like this.
  19. cartman4gc
    Joined: Jul 25, 2011
    Posts: 88


    I built this '27 roadster with a 120 Mercruiser a couple years back, ran great, sold it cuz I'm 6'5" and 250 IMG_2572.JPG IMG_2577.JPG
    Lil'Alb, 29EHV8, MO_JUNK and 2 others like this.
  20. There are pitfalls to consider in using a 153/181. being marine motors, they get amazing amounts of internal rusting. So before putting much into one, pressure test the head to be sure it will not fail right after you rebuild it.
    40 psi was enough for water to push a hole right through one of my heads.
  21. Yes, steel tubes welded into head for every bolt hole.

    Charlie Stephens
  22. Travis T
    Joined: May 26, 2014
    Posts: 84

    Travis T

    2.3s can be built to run good without boost. If you have to have an auto, the A4LD is a good alternative so long as you upgrade the internals with Ford Explorer parts, plus you get an overdrive.
  23. Phil1934
    Joined: Jun 24, 2001
    Posts: 2,717


    just a c3 with OD, still 200 HP unless most of the internal parts are replaced or reworked. Here is a good example of a car suited for a 4 cyl although they went a little overboard on unsprung weight with aluminum beam axle and 4 bars. I like the extremely narrowed axles, though.
  24. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 4,838


    I'd be all over a Ford 2.3 liter. You can buy a whole Mustang for like $1,500, take what you want and scrap the rest. I had a guy give me one years ago with the T5. It'd be a blast in a light car like that.
  25. Travis T
    Joined: May 26, 2014
    Posts: 84

    Travis T

    Or put the body on Craigslist as a 5.0 swap project and get triple scrap for it.

    2.3s respond well to lots of gear too. People get too hung up on horsepower numbers, I had a 2.3 Mustang autocross car that would eat a 5.0 alive from a dead stop, all with simple mods and weight reduction.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  26. Six Ball
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 3,816

    Six Ball
    from Nevada

    I'm still putting my 153 together. It is a Chevy II block bored .040". It has a 181 Mercreiser crank and rods with forged Ross flat top pistons for a 250 Chevy 6. Head work is by Tom Lowe milled .035, 2 head bolt bosses removed. lump ports, screw in studs. Valves are 1.86" intake and 1.60" exhaust. Springs are what Tom said. :confused: The cam is a custom grind by Erson. I sat down wit Steve Tanzy and he plugged in the engine mods, car weight, gear ratio, tire size, what the car will really be used for and he worked out 3 cam grinds. I chose the hottest one.:rolleyes: I built a 2X1 intake manifold from a Chevy six 3X1 Offenhauser. It will run 2 Zenith 1 Barrels. I'm still working on the exhaust header. It is one side of a Fenton Black Widow set for the early SBC. The distributer is a modified early Mallory Double life with 2 piece cap. Because the roller rockers will not fit under the stock or Mercruiser valve cover I'm making one. I tried to cut down a GMC but it didn't work out I may try that again. It will take an adapter as well. This is going in a '26 Chevy roadster. Here are some pictures of the parts.
    Related Thread:
    And one more:
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015
    bct likes this.
  27. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 4,838


    Totally agree. Obviously turbos and stuff like that is outside the scope of this forum, but it's worth noting that the '86 Mustang SVO was faster than it's 5.0 counterpart. When your car is 1800 lbs, you don't need 400 horsepower to have a good time, and the gearing of the T5 makes even an lightly modded, NA 2.3 peppy and have legs to get up on the highway.
  28. Six Ball
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 3,816

    Six Ball
    from Nevada

    Maybe turbos are questionable here but there are lots of vintage superchargers. The 151-181 GM based 4s would do well with boost. But as you say a light car with good gears and about any decent engine will be fun to drive.
  29. To the original poster, did you look for the extensive Mercruiser thread we have had going here for a decade?
    earlyford likes this.

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