Ford's dohc...

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Over the years Motor Sport readers will have heard many double overhead camshaft engines being “expertly” described as Ford units, so why all the fuss about the new 2-litre from Dagenham?

Because it is the first unit Ford of Britain has designed and manufactured itself. And it replaces (at no extra charge) the rough-andready Pinto 2-litre in all but Transit van fitment. Thus it will serve huge cross-sections of the public in those kissing cousins badged Sierra, Sapphire and Granada Scorpio.

Since the Sixties, Ford has often bought the right to use its name in connection with 8v (Lotus) or belt-driven 16v (Cosworth) engines. It has also taken on generations of racing and rallying motors from Cosworth, such as the 16v turbocharged Pinto-based unit that remains in the Sapphire Cosworth RS, following unparalleled racing and rallying success with the earlier three-door RS Sierra. Ford’s first step in designing and manufacturing its own sophisticated dohc is an 8-valve inline-four that owes nothing material to the previous Pinto; it will be followed by a 16v variant within the next twelve months.

Dutifully touring Dagenham engine plants and driving a selection of automatic Sapphire 2000E and Scorpio 2-litres in Scotland, we were impressed with the £157million investment and the appearance of the 1998cc (86mm x 86mm) newcomer, but not so happy at the wheel. Unfortunately, only Ford A4LD automatic versions were available, and we drove the demanding route with three occupants.

Naturally, acceleration was considerably diminished over the anticipated 0-60 mph capability of less than 10 seconds for an MT75-equipped manual Sapphire 2000E. We drove only fuel-injection (125 bhp at 5500 rpm) derivatives, but a Weber TLD carburettor motor is also offered on the same “all square” bore and stroke dimensions for the low alloy cast-iron block. The carburated inline-four allows 109 bhp at 5600 rpm, both rated at some 128 lb ft of torque. An injection unit peaks on torque output at 2500 rpm, a carburettor Ford 2.0 demands 500 more revs to reach the same values.

As one would expect, the cylinder heads are in alloy, all derivatives running the highish 10.3:1 or which has been electronically managed in the fuel-injection versions (Ford EEC IV) to tolerate 95 octane unleaded (a petrol that can also be used in the simpler carburated versions, which lack the injection unit’s nimonic valve construction materials). The five-bearing newcomers have castiron crankshafts and their overhead camshafts are driven by chain, rather than the belt system of the Cosworth BOA or the belt-drive of the Pinto 1.6 and 2.0 units.

Ford would not be drawn on the comparative reliability of belt versus chain, but any Pinto or CVH-powered Ford does demand a service belt-change at specified (high) mileages. Testing the Sapphire 2000E (£14,950) and 20 Scorpio (£19,245), I was less impressed with the engines and transmissions than with the cars around them. In terms of refinement and resonances, the dohc is a vast improvement over its predecessor, but that is to damn with faint praise, for the Pinto was a singularly agricultural unit by the international standards of the Eighties.

The unit is beautifully managed to operate without hiccups from drawing away to an rpm limit around 6000. But only to 4000, perhaps 4500, rpm could I say it was quietly efficient. Beyond this point it becomes distinctly more strained, though without sinking to Pinto or CVH levels. Tall gearing allows quiet legal-limit cruising in the Scorpio, and Ford claims 121 mph for the Sapphire. But this dohc is unappetising when compared with the smooth escalation of rpm offered by GM in the Cavalier SRi’s 130 bhp, or with the amiability of a Volkswagen unit of similar capacity, never mind the counterbalanced Mitsubishis and Fiat-Lancia 2-litres. Until I drive the dohc a little further in five-speed guise, I can only report: “Getting better; shows potential; needs Nether work to catch up the cream of the class.” JW

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