Tim O'Brien's 1973 MGB with Ford 2.3L Turbo

Tim O'Brien's 1973 MGB with Ford 2.3L Turbo

(originally published in British V8 Newsletter, Volume 13 Issue 2)

Owner: Tim O'Brien
City: Atlanta, GA
Model: 1973 MGB Roadster
Engine: Ford 2.3 liter Turbo 4 cylinder from a 1985 Merkur XR4Ti
Conversion performed by: Owner

Engine Mods: 1988 Turbo Thunderbird head with roller rockers. Ported heads. Larger exhaust valves. Combustion chambers match-ported. Ports and combustion chambers ceramic coated.
Head milled 60 thousandths. Custom made header, this was done for the obvious increase in horsepower but mainly to move the turbocharger to a better location. Cut and gutted intake manifold. This was done to increase airflow and reposition the intake to clear the MGB hood.
Transmission: 1988 Ford V8 5-speed. Clutch and throw-out bearing are SVO Mustang. Bell-housing and clutch slave cylinder are 1987 Thunderbird Turbo coupe. This bell-housing uses a hydraulic slave cylinder to operate the clutch. This way I could use the MGB hydraulic clutch master cylinder with out going to a cable, like the Mustang uses, or a hydraulic throw out bearing.
Cooling system: 1965 Ford Mustang radiator and 10" electric fan. Hoses are sections from different hoses I found with the help of local NAPA store.
Exhaust System: Custom built header with 2.5" pipe with no muffler except for a 24-inch "Cherry Bomb" at the rear of the car. The turbo acts as a muffler and the car is very quiet with little backpressure.
Suspension: Stock except for V8 bushings (front) and tube shock conversion (rear).
Brakes: Stock.
Wheels & tires: Momo 14"x 6" wheels with 195/65/R14 tires.
Est. Cost: $3000 - $5000.

Tim wrote:

Stock MGB's are not as fast as they look. They handle well enough and the brakes seem to be more than adequate, but they just don't perform like they should. I felt that I had to do some thing about that. After a lot of research and a few false starts, I decided to swap out the stock 1800cc MGB engine and transmission for a 2.3 liter Ford turbo engine and a Mustang 5-speed. Ford used this engine in their German car the Merkur, the SVO Mustang, and the Turbo Thunderbird. When I went shopping for the engine I looked for a whole car. The engine has electronic fuel injection along with the turbocharger and is computer controlled. I wanted the entire car so that I could transplant the computer, sensors, and the wiring harness to the MG at the same time I changed the engine.

I found a car that I wanted, a wrecked 1985 Merkur XR4Ti. I had it towed to the house and had it put in the garage where I extracted the engine and all of the necessary electronics.

I sold the Merkur transmission and mated the engine with a 1988 V8 Mustang 5 speed. The V8 transmission is different than the 4 cylinder version, and although some machining was required, the Mustang gearbox is stronger than the Merkur and I felt the gearing is better for the weight of the MG. Just as a note: the Mustang gearshift comes out of the transmission tunnel just about a half inch behind where the stock MG shifter came out.

With a lot of fitting, some welding, bending, cutting and other fabrication, along with numerous trips to NAPA- I finally squeezed the Ford engine into the MGB.

With the engine mounted, the next step was getting the Merkur wiring harness hooked up with the MGB harness. Even though I thought I took every precaution when removing the wiring from the Merkur and recording where every wire went, I still ran into some problems. I got schematics off the Internet and called every body I knew that I thought could help and finally got it done.

I bought a new 1965 Mustang radiator to cool it. I had a drive shaft made to attach the Mustang transmission to the MGB rear end. I have had to do a lot of little adjustments and have had to do a few things over, but all in all it is a good swap.

I am very happy with the swap. I had a few problems after I first finished the engine change that required I do things a little differently than originally planned, but all and all it's OK. I changed the motor mounts to give the engine the ability to move a little more than the way I originally mounted it. This got rid of a lot of the vibrations. I moved the wiring around a little bit, but I'm still not happy with the way it is laid out so I think that will be my next winter project. I may even do a whole new wiring harness at the same time.

The car runs strong and drives well with a great deal of power, especially in the higher gears when the turbo starts building up pressure. I can cruise at 80 MPH all day at 2600 rpm with plenty of punch and still get 30 mpg.

Ford 2.3L Turbo

1988 Turbo Thunderbird head

Hidden intercooler

1965 Ford Mustang radiator

Tim O'Brien's 1973 MGB with Ford 2.3L Turbo

Ford 2.3L Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI)

Ford 2.3L Turbo Engine ECM

Shift NOW!

Turbocharged MGB

Tim O'Brien's 1973 MGB with Ford 2.3L Turbo

Tim O'Brien with his 1973 MGB

Moma wheels

This photo appeared in the printed newsletter

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