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Rover K-Series Engine Transplant
The Rover K-Series engine is one of the more popular modern engine conversions for the Morris Minor. It comes in a choice of 1.1, 1.4, 1.4 16v, 1.6 16v, 1.8 16v and 1.8vvc form, and in standard form produces up to 145bhp. Over 200bhp is possible from the 1.8!. More than enough to make a Minor sit up and take notice of what's under the bonnet!
The K-Series features in the Rover 100, 200, 400, and 600 range. There are also a large number of specialist companies producing performance tuning parts for the K-Series engine, especially since the MGF roadster uses the 1.8 K-Series engines as well. So if you find that 145bhp is not enough in a Minor, then I'm sure you could find someone to extract a bit more for you ...
JLH Minor Restorations K-Series Transplant Kit
Over the last few years, Minor restoration specialists JLH Minor Restorations have been developing a kit for the Minor that allows anyone with a bit of mechanical aptitude to fit a K-Series engine to their car. The kit does not involve any structural changes such as modified bulkheads or firewalls, but it is not simply a "bolt-in" job either. JLH know very well the dangers of putting such high levels of power through an old chassis, especially when that chassis was only designed for less than a third of the power of a K-Series engine. The complete JLH kit includes not only the engine mounts, bellhousing and gearbox crossmember, but also extra strengthening to the vehicle itself.
I first met Jonathon Heap at the Blenheim Palace event in June 1998 where I saw what he was up to and was immediately impressed. JLH had a Van fitted with a 1.4l engine, and apart from being slightly too high (as their development 'mule', they had modified the bulkhead to get it to fit) the engine fitted in very nicely. Jonathon promised me that they had devised a slightly different engine mount that would enable the engine to be located lower down and slightly further forward, eliminating any need for modifications to the bulkhead. This was the first K-Series transplant they had done, and they freely admitted that it was still 'under development', but these things always are!
That 1.4l engine has now been transplanted from the test Van into a customer's Traveller, and having been for a test drive in it I am VERY impressed. The performance is very, very good (not startling, but then I didn't expect it to be - a 1.8 would see to that...) and the ride is firm and very flat around corners. We took a few roundabouts at speed in the wet, and the tail stepped out slightly but was held nicely with a bit of throttle. Very confidence-inspiring. There is a fair amount of induction roar from the performance filter, but it was, admittedly, not in the optimum position, having been placed out of necessity at the back of the engine bay. With a little more work on the plumbing it should be easily repositioned down towards the cooler air at the front of the engine bay and therefore further away from the cabin.
The 1.4l Traveller has since been tested on a rolling road and with JLH manifold, exhaust and performance air filter, the dyno recorded 127bhp at the wheels and 122 foot pounds of torque! Considering that the standard 1.4 K-Series puts out only 103bhp at the flywheel, that's pretty impressive stuff. Imagine what the 1.8i is going to be like...
After questioning Jonathon on every concern I had with putting over 120bhp into a Minor, I came away feeling confident that the kit would do the business. JLH's philosophy of doing a complete job, including chassis stiffening as well as brakes and suspension, rather than just shoe-horning a bigger engine in, seems to me to be the only way to go. I want a car that stops and goes around corners as well as going faster. I also want the car to be still in one piece in 10 years time.
The K-Series engine is fitted to a wide range of Rover cars, including the 100, 200, 400 and 600 series. The largest sized K-Series engine, the 1.8, is also fitted to the MG-F roadster. The MG-F is available with two engine options, the 118bhp 1.8i and the 145bhp 1.8v.v.c (variable valve control). Of course, we wanted a v.v.c!The first problem came in actually finding a vvc engine for sale. The MG-F is a fairly new car and are not normally written off. Owners tend to get them rebuilt rather than scrap them after an accident. The vvc-powered MG-F even more so. So, when we found an MG-F that had gone under the back of a truck, we took what we could get which was a low-mileage (11,000 miles) 1.8i. Fortunately (for us!) the engine in the MG-F is mid-mounted, so the engine bay was completely untouched in the accident. I've got no idea what happened to the driver, and I don't think I want to know either. We bought the engine, including all electronics, injection and wiring loom for £1410 including good ol' VAT.As it turns out, although the 1.8i engine produces less power than the 1.8vvc, it is has more potential due to the lack of variable valve control. The 1.8vvc engine has more electronics to control the valve timing and fiddling with the engine only serves to confuse the engine management system. This means expensive development work on the EMS to handle the modifications. The 1.8i engine is far more easily tuned for much less money. A comment from an MG-F racing driver also indicates that the 1.8i is not that far behind the 1.8vvc on the track, even given the power difference. There's probably a bit of driver skill involved here but when it comes down to it we're talking about the difference between LOTS of power and LOTS plus a little bit. And remember, it's going into a Minor after all.So, happy with the purchase of our engine, we now have to source the bits to turn the engine around from its transverse mounting into good old inline rear wheel drive.
Gearbox, Clutch and Flywheel
The Ford Sierra 5-speed gearbox is a good solid unit and has already been used behind a K-Series by the likes of Caterham Cars to shift the cogs in their awesome Seven. So a bellhousing to mate the K-Series engine to the Sierra box is readily available, in the UK at least, and of course, the JLH kit comes with the appropriate bellhousing for your choice of engine size. For non-UK modifiers, check with your local kit-car manufacturer for someone who does K-Series inline conversions.The 1.4 engine's flywheel is used for both the 1.4 and the 1.8 due to being mated to the Sierra box. For the 1.8 engine the flywheel must be modified with new ring gear because the starter motor is swapped to the other side of the engine. The clutch to use is the one for the 1.4, but for use with the 1.8 engine it should be a competition-spec (organic) version - 1200lb instead of 400lb.The gearbox to use is the Ford Sierra 5-speed unit for both the 1.4 and the 1.8 engine, although it's recommended that the V6-spec 'box be used for the 1.8. This is simply because the V6 box has a longer first gear.