The New Breed of Rally BDA

The main benefit of Ford's new production alloy in the Escort RS 1600 is the ease with which 2-litre versions can be constructed. Lievesley Auto Developments have successfully developed such a unit for rallying.

Since the advent of the Ford BDA alloy cylinder block, much of the limelight has been focussed on its potential in Formula Two, and most of the top engine builders, led by Brian Hart who conceived the new block before Ford took over the project, are basing their 1973 efforts round it. However, the unit's application in rally Escorts is equally significant, though the tuners seem to be more reticent with realising its potential, largely because the average rally competitor would find the cost of an all-alloy engine prohibitive. With the engine now appearing in production RS 1600s and homologated in Group 2, Ford Competitions Department at Boreham is naturally concentrating on it, but other than this the only private tuner so far making a mark with it in rallying is Lievesley Auto Developments, of Brentwood, Essex.

John Lievesley's small company, working from an unbecoming old shed in a builders yard in the heart of Ford-land, has gained a considerable reputation for its BDA engines in this season's British rallies, largely through the inspiring showing of its major customer Harold Morley. Morley began the season with a cast-iron 1,800-c.c. Lievesley BDA in his RS 1600, progressing to a development Lievesley 2-litre alloy BDA in his new car (he changes cars every six months), with which he convincingly finished the season by winning the Castrol/Motoring News Rally Championship.

Morley's engine is built for torque rather than outright power, the 90-mm. bore with a standard throw steel crank giving a capacity of 1,994 c.c. Maximum brake horsepower is 190, about 35 b.h.p. down on the works engine currently used by Roger Clark in his Esso Uniflo RAC Championship winning car, but on the other hand it gives 40 b.h.p. as low as 2,000 r.p.m. and 155 lb. ft. torque, a much more sensible engine for the better club drivers as distinct from the Clarks of this world. The crunch comes with the price: £1,200 on top of a standard alloy BDA unit, putting it completely out of reach of the average British competitor, though sufficient seem to have the wherewithal to make Lievesley's expensive development worthwhile.

So what is the point of running to the expense of an alloy block and what advantages does it hold over the cast-iron item? The major value is that it can readily be taken out to 2-litres by boring and re-linering or even slightly more by using a long-throw crank (Lievesley offers a 2,140 c.c. version). Even the special siamesed iron block can be guaranteed to only 1,800 c.c. and certainly no more than the 1,860 c.c. to which it is taken for Formula Two. To obtain 2-litres from an iron block means fabricating a special liner system which, as indicated by Formula Two, is thoroughly unreliable. An obvious advantage of the alloy block is the reduction in weight; about 60 lb. lighter than a siamesed block which in turn is heavier than the standard block. Lievesley has found ways of bending the normal specification parameters to obtain more power from the alloy engine too, though he isn't prepared to divulge how. The alloy dissipates heat much more quickly than cast-iron, with a disadvantage that a lot of this heat finds its way to the oil, resulting in increased oil temperature, a minor problem easily overcome by fitting a larger oil cooler.

Lievesley's main headache during early development was the provision of suitable liners. His originals were steel with a chrome finish, Loctited in position because they couldn't be shrunk in. Inevitably the liners slipped and a change has been made to cast iron ones, shrunk in position to fine tolerances and located and held by a step in the block at the bottom of the bore and by the head at the top. So far this arrangement has given no problems, even when Morley drove for four miles without water when a core plug came out on the Mull Rally.

Lievesley had built himself a respected reputation as an engine designer long before he started his own business in 1967, though his early training gave no indication of how he was to develop, his engineering apprenticeship being served at the Ministry of Supply's Nottingham factory. From there he transferred to Battersea College of Technology (now the University of Surrey) and wanting a complete break at the end of his training went as an engineer on a Cambridge University three-month expedition to the Arctic. This gave him time to plan his future career and he started by making a list of what he would like to do and which firms he wanted to work for. Heading the list was Cosworth; confident of his ability he contacted Keith Duckworth on his return from the Arctic and as luck would have it, Duckworth was looking for somebody like Lievesley. For the next two years he was Duckworth's technical assistant, the SCA unit being his major responsibility. "We tried to design this engine by sitting down and discussing it in normal fashion, but this didn't work. In the end we developed a technique whereby Keith went home and drew the fundamental designs for six days of the week and I put the flesh on them the following week. The system worked and we had the first engine running in only three months."

Though satisfied with his work at Cosworth, where he began an invaluable association with Brian Hart, he began to feel that he was becoming too specialised. To broaden his horizons he joined Ford's Engine Development Section as Product Development Engineer specialising in engine performance. During his five years in that post he redeveloped the V4 engine into its 2000E form from the troublesome early unit, was responsible for the Mk. 2 twin cam engine and designed all the special internals for the Broadspeed racing engines of that period.

His own business started by accident. A Brentwood builder John was buying a house from asked him if he could make his Sunbeam Tiger safe enough to hand over to his eldest son. Sure enough he made the Tiger handle reasonably well, impressing the builder so much that he suggested he start his own business, gave him financial backing and loaned him the premises. Early concentration was on Formula Ford engines till Lievesley became disenchanted with the Formula and the attitude of the competitors. Rallying has proved a much more satisfying and happier world to move in; his twin cam engines proved reasonably competitive and subsequently his BDA engines are gaining him a reputation second to none.

His general approach nowadays is that he won't put an engine on the market until he considers it to be the best available, which is his opinion of his current BDA units. Indicative of this attitude is his shelving of a Super Vee engine project. While this engine was better than anything else available in this country it wasn't competitive with the continental opposition and that wasn't good enough for Lievesley. With more finance available he could have developed it further.

With rallying in mind, Lievesley has recently been joined by Escort rally driver Peter McDowell, a former Ford of Europe overseas service representative in North and South America. A new third member of the team is David Ray, one of the founders of Trans-Europ, the Belgian Opel specialists, with Vic Heylem, later joining Wooding, the Hamburg Group 2 Escort racing team, and more recently a whizz-kid on injection with Tecalemit-Jackson. His main project will be to develop injection Lievesley engines the firm relying on Webers up till now.

Lievesley is one of the few tuners to design his own camshafts, his academic ability enabling him to do the maths and computer programming necessary to design cams which work: "Any fool can design a cam which gives high lift and wide timing to produce power, but whether or not the valve gear follows the cam profile at high r.p.m. is a different matter, and this is where you have to he clever." He's acknowledged as a master of this art, is retained as design consultant by Zephyr Cams, who produce most of the prototype for motor manufacturers, and designs 75 per cent of Brian Hart's cams (Hart engines using his cams have won the Formula B Championship in the States for the last three years).

He offers two rally cams for the BDA: the fairly mild ZL5 (ZLstanding for Zephyr Lievesley) and the much peakier ZL7 as used by Morley. Most of the quickest Castrol/Motoring News Championship RS 1600 drivers use one or other of these cams, including Jeffs, Pearson, Richards and Mullinger.

The up-and-coming Kevin Videan has recently taken delivery of an 1800 iron-blocked BDA developing 208 b.h.p. on a 4 into 1 exhaust manifold. This raises an interesting point, because McDowell's identical engine gives less than 190 b.h.p. on a 4 into 2 into 1 exhaust. The gain by using a 1¾ in bore 4 into 1 manifold instead of 1½ in as on Videan's car would be even greater: 38 b.h.p. at 8,000 r.p.m., though sacrificing 8 b.h.p. at 5-6,000 r.p.m. However the larger bore pipe is difficult to accommodate and too noisy for rallying.

Basically Lievesley specialises in custom engine building, mainly for rallying though he would prepare racing engines (such as Peter Richardson's 1300 BDA engine in the Daren) so long as they didn't cut across anything offered as a stock specification by Brian Hart. In that case he would pass the enquiry to Hart, who would react similarly if he received rally engine queries.

Eight standard stages of tune are offered for the BDA which can be amended to customer requirements. All built engines are tested on Brian Hart's dynamometer. Stage 1 offers 130 b.h.p. from a cleaned up cylinder head and balanced bottom end for £160. Stage 2 is the same with the addition of ZL5 cam, giving 135 b.h.p. and power up to 7,500 r.p.m. for £210; Stage 3 is as 2 with larger valves, bored inlet ports, opened out exhaust ports, stronger con rod bolts, forged lightweight pistons, heavy duty clutch and 160 b.h.p. (£445); Stage 4 offers 170 b.h.p. by adding 45 DCOE Webers and ZL7 cams (£505). Beyond that a siamesed block is used for the 1800 Stage 5 engine, with steel crank and rods but the same degree of tuning as Stage 4. This gives 185 b.h.p. and 150 lb. ft. torque for £890. Stage 6 is as Morley's, while Stage 7 has racing valves added to raise output to 200 b.h.p. for an extra £80. The ultimate is the 2,140 c.c. engine with the long stroke crank, offering 205 b.h.p., 165 lb. ft. torque and a mighty bill for £1,320. All engines use Lievesley-specification Mahle pistons other than the 1700, which uses Cosworth.

Similar calibre work is offered on the Ford crossflow and twin cam, Ford V6, Volkswagen and Opel engines.

Lievesley maintains good connections with the Ford Motor Co. and in fact fits the core plugs and does the water and oil pressure testing on all the production alloy BDA blocks for Ford AVO. These blocks come direct front Modern Precision Tools Co. Ltd. at Danbury, Essex, where all machining is carried out from the rough casting. This small firm, run by Arthur Weavers, W. J. Slaughter and D. J. Shoob, also machines Lievesley, Hart and Ford Boreham competition blocks. Except for line boring, machining is all done on one machine: a £24,000 Newall-Burgmaster 8 turret tape-control machine, completely automatic in operation. Having seen the precision with which this firm works, we feel sure that the new production RS 1600 with alloy block produced by them will have an infinitely superior engine to the mass-produced cast-iron one.

The alloy BDA engine is still young, but Lievesley Auto Developments (Brentwood 226211), appear to have obtained a head start with it over other rally engine builders. — C. R.