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A resource site for owners of the Mk1 & 2 Fiesta

Project Bobcat Ford Fiesta resource site

1988 Popular Plus 2.0 Silvertop Zetec Conversion

James Ross

Author: James Ross | Photographer: James Ross

This project was initially upgraded from a basic 1.1 Popular Plus to full XR2 running gear, then on to run a 2 litre silvertop Zetec on standard Ford engine management.

A New Car is Found

I saw Freya advertised on the Autotrader site. I'd had a small fire when welding the previous project and i looked at all the welding repairs id already done and what I had left to do and realised that I was probably only keeping going for sentimental reasons and I would be better off with a fresh start. My friend gave me a lift to Oldham to have a look at it, the Fiesta wasnt 'nice' enough to be kept at the main garage so we were driven a short distance to a petrol station where the car was on show. It was advertised for £300 but was obviously suffering from a damp issue, all the windows were misted with condensation. I had a quick look around the car and apart from a big rust bubble on the passenger wing it looked remarkably solid. The passenger interior door handle was broken and the interior stunk of a mixture of autofresh and mould.

Popular Plus

A quick look in the boot revealed the source of the damp problem, the parcel shelf had collapsed due to water pouring through a leaking boot seal, under the boot floor was over an inch of water but it looked like a very recent problem, apart from being covered with what looked like soil, the floor was immaculate underneath with no signs of rust. I haggled the salesman down to £240 after a quick test drive to make sure that the car was capable of making the journey home. It ran perfectly but the drive was a bit uncomfortable due to the 4 speed box and sparse interior, the radio had been ripped out of the centre console so there was no entertainment. The car came with a set of festival seats which suggested something had happened to the originals, either way, they were comfy enough to park my bum on for the drive back to Yorkshire

Now that I've got it home I can start improving things, the back ends a big wobbly so the first thing I want to do is fit a rear XR2 anti roll bar and add a few home comforts from the last car.

Stripping Out the Interior

Every time I buy a new car I immediately want to strip everything out of it to see what kind of shape its in and what gremlins are lurking under carpets etc. I actually really enjoy it as sometimes you find previous mods or just randoms bits that give you a clue about the cars history, its a bit like time team.

First of all I ripped out the seats, carpets and door cars, its quite a basic car so this didnt take long.

Things are looking pretty good, the floors really clean and theres not many signs of rot. Just a quick wash down and it should be ready for a slightly higher spec interior to go in. Thanks to my friend Andy for his help.

You will probably notice that I've added an XR2 bumper and boot surround spoiler. This is as far as I'm going with the external mods, I prefer them without the bodykit and it can be a water trap that encourages rust. I'm also fitting this one out with a XR2 interior. I started off with a rear seat and a new parcel shelf that wasnt soggy and bent (unlike the original), then added the XR2 dash and steering wheel.

I used the full loom from my previous blue Ghia which already mated up perfectly to the high spec dash. the passenger side wiring section to the door ground striker and glovebox light had been damaged by the welding fire so I had to splice in a new section to repair it. The clocks also came from the Ghia but I've added in a set of white lockwood dials.

Next in goes the carpet and a pair of clean XR2 front seats

Mechnical upgrades

The drive back in this car was enough to put me off keeping it standard mechanically, it's easy to forget how sluggish 50 odd bhp really is. I've decided to drop in a 1.6cvh with a 5 speed box and uprate the suspension. Before I started with the larger stuff I couldnt resist putting on my Mk1 clio rear wiper. I think it looks alot better than the standard item.

Then it was time to get the car up in the air and get the 1100 OHV out (the can of fanta was essential).

I've got a really short attention span so midway through this I decided to weld up the old radio aerial hole and repair a patch on the outer wing where someone had used newspaper and literally pressed in a big handful of fibreglass filler on top. I had to take some car when welding this so it didnt warp. Unfortunately I still ended up with a dip in the centre so I had to skim on a thin layer of fibreglass filler, pictured here before it was fully sanded back.

Dropping the engine out was really easy and I soon had the engine bay empty and a bootful of parts to be fitted.

I used a block and tackle to lift the engine out of the blue car and one afternoon later it was all in place in the new car. Whilst the suspension was off I drilled the strut towers for the strut brace and welded four nuts under each tower to allow for future easy removal.

Suspension and Brake Upgrades

Im fitting a set off G-Max shocks and -35mm lowering springs, budget kit but should improve over the worn standard items. I've also added a set off XR2 brakes to match the engine upgrade. The flexi hoses looked a bit tidy so I fitted a set of Goodrich braided hoses from Burton Power. The rear hoses needed the mount to be filed out a little to fit them. Its a D-shape as standard and the Goodrich lines require a round hole.

I did have a slight problem when refitting the driveshafts to the box, it turned out that one of the cv joints was smashed so I had to quickly nip to the scrapyard and pick up a replacement XR2 shaft as no motorfactors were open.

The cars now up and running with all suspension, brakes and exhaust fitted.

A Few Small Touches and Electric Windows

I liked the idea of having electric windows so I went to the scrapyard and pulled out some electric window arms from a Sierra Sapphire. I then chopped and welded the arm to part of the Fiesta arm and voila, we have motors. I wired the motors up to switches from a Mk6 Escort using a diagram from a random Ford haynes manual.

When riveted back into the factory location they look as though they are supposed to be like that

Seeing as that job was so easy I thought I would have a go at tidying up a few other small bits with the rest of my day. The centre of my steering wheel has a Ford badge in it but it was looking a bit worn so I prised one out of a Mk5 Fiesta and bonded it over the top. Not the most exciting change but its the little things that all help to improve the car.



Refitting the Wheels and a General Tidy Up

I've chosen to run the car on a set of 13" pepperpots with Yokohama tyres. Its nice to finally have it driving around. Just the annoying sticky rub strip thats really annoying me at the moment.

The front bumper was looking a little faded so I used a bit of back to black to tidy it up and siliconed on the plate so that I didnt need to drill any unsightly holes in it.

I fitted a modern Ford badge to the rear end and stripped the XR2 original exhaust tailpipe back to bear metal and repainted it using VHT silver paint

I want to keep the car looking like a bit of a sleeper so I've used a tartan rug and a National Trust sticker to create 'the retired look'. Oh and at some point I fitted a second rear foglight, almost forgot to mention that.

Recaro retrim

The pepperpots didnt stay on too long before I changed my mind, I replaced them with some late XR2 steels and associated trims. I think they suit the subtle look of the car a bit more.

My friend offered to help retrim some Recaros for me. We used an entire set of front and rear XR2 seat cloths to trim them and we still only just had enough material.

My sewing abilities only stretched to washing the material and unpicking it ready to be stitched in. It took the whole weekend to do them but I think they ended up looking really good.

Wide Rear arches

I havent seen this mod done before but after cutting the arch lips off my XR2, I thought I would see if they would be suitable for fitting to the rear arches of the Pop Plus. One side is in desperate need of a rust repair anyway. The good news is they will mate up fine and will add 1 inch approx to each side so i can run wider wheels.

First of all I cut off the outer arches and started to cut away the rotten bits of the inner.

Then tacked on the new front arch, taking care not to build up too much heat and distort the rear quarter.

The next stage was to join the spot welds together with short runs of weld. I used the CO2 to gently cool the metal as I went by squeezing the Mig trigger very lightly. The arches were marginally too short at the right so I cut the bottoms off, added a piece in and rewelded. you can just make out a cut at the bottom right of the pic below. I'm aiming for this modification to be invisible to the unstrained eye when done.

You can see the extra width it adds in the picture below.

I then ground down the welds till they were flush.

I applied some acid etch primer before skimming on a thin layer of filler to remove any imperfections

Then a further layer of primer was added

Finally I put on a coat of Radient Red, this is just a temporary covering to stop rust appearing through the porous primer. I will be coming back to it later on.

Zetec Power Upgrade

Its been a long time since I updated this. The cvh has been pretty reliable but recently my box developed a nice whine, then we lost 2nd gear. Last weekend I went to Liverpool and managed to lose reverse as well. I decided that if I was going to have the box out then I might as well go the whole hog and upgrade to a Zetec. I read through a guide written by a chap named Ben on xrtwo.com and picked the brains of another member called Stu (thanks guys). It all seemed pretty straight forward so off I went to the scrapyard and found a 2 litre Mk1 Mondeo.

I was looking for an engine ecu without the Ford Passive Anti Theft System (PATS) and this car was perfect, it was registered on an M plate, so with that in mind I took the whole engine bay loom, ecu and engine complete with all ancillaries.

I also picked up a few bits to convert it to fit the Fiesta bay, an alloy inlet and crossover pipe from an Escort Mk5 as well as its water pump, sump, oil pickup and dipstick. Some people were saying that using the Escort 1.8 engine was alot easier but I thought I would appreciate the extra horses for the sake of another hours work.

Now I had the new engine it was time to remove the CVH, the car wasnt in a position to easily get a hoist over it so I stripped the engine out by removing the carb and the head and then dropping the block out of the bottom by hand

I removed the battery tray to make a little room, the intention is to put it into the boot. The rot underneath was quite severe, something that i hadnt previously realised.

Anyway, I went back to the engine and started to strip off the ancillaries that i didnt need

I bought a new timing belt kit from Continental, the Zetec cams have a handy locking mechanism that means you can remove the rocker cover and slide a piece of metal into a slot in the end of them which jams them agains the cylinder head at the right place. I found a straight piece that was a snug fit, no special tool purchase required.

With the Escort water pump fitted and the cambelt timed correctly I could now fit the alternator. I used the XR2 bracket with a Sierra Cosworth alternator. The alternator needed a couple of millimeters grinding off the XR2 bracket to allow it to run in line but it was more compact than the Zetec item I had removed and was rated at a higher number of amps than the XR2 one I had.

I decided that I would grind off the Zetec logo and sticker box from the rocker cover. That way it looks a tiny bit less obvious that its running a none original engine, I used some black hammerite spray to paint it and then polished up the Ford logo.

Next on the job list was the sump and oil pickup, when I had removed the rocker cover the oil looked pretty filthy but the sump revealed a whole load of sludge. I hoped that this was just the result of non existant oil changes but it was a bit of a worry. I swapped the pickup and sump for the Escort items which allowed an exhaust to be fitted in the convential place (the mondeo sump bowl is in a different place which makes fitting to a fiesta awkward). The next step was to change the flywheel, I used one from the same Mk5 Escort that had given up the other parts needed. It had the cutouts on the back to work with the crank position sensor but was small enough to fit inside a BC box. I had a spare Escort RS Turbo 220mm clutch lying aroud so used that. To centre the clutch I used the input shaft from the old knackered gearbox that had been removed from the Fiesta. With everything torqued up I then fitted the engine to a S2 RS Turbo gearbox.

The one thing I was now missing was a exhaust manifold, funds were quite tight at this point so I cut the flange off an XR2 four branch manifold and welded it to a Zetec flange, then ported the inside slightly using a drill. It will be restrictive but good enough to get it running.

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Page Last Updated: Saturday 18th of May 2024