2.3l HP squeeze

4eyedfoxguy

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I recently bought a 92 lx convertible with a 2.3l inline 4 and AOD. It had been sitting 7 years( under a tree to make things worse ) in previous owners backyard. Head was rebuilt stock and intake was cleaned up along with the tank dumped/cleaned. When i got it it barely got to 30mph after about 2 minutes and took forever to get up to speed on the highway but didn't want to go that fast because struts and shocks were out. I replaced those, the ICM, ignition switch, found a few chewed wires? grounds... got it driving nicely and heard many a tale of people pulling quite a bit of HP out of these engines and little tweaks to help it along. I have come across a new header for it and the guy also has 3.73 gears, he used to race dirt track in the 2.3l group. i was wondering how much of a difference the header would make ( i had the Cats deleted straight back to muffler they were clogged too), and what else I might get to boost this car.
 
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91TwighlightGT

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The only legitimate way to "boost" the car is... with "boost!"

Here are the facts...

This engine is an ancient design with roots back to the 2.0L Pinto. It has a terribly restrictive cylinder head design, and there are no *cost effective* viable options to replace it. The simple issue is that they can't move enough air to make power without a turbocharger forcing more into the engine, and if you want to make power that is the direction you should be looking.

Unfortunately, your particular 2.3L engine does not come from the factory ready to accept boost. The turbo engines had forged pistons with lower compression, but the N/A versions have cast pistons with slightly more compression. If you attempt to turbocharge your N/A engine to any worthwhile level of boost, you will be picking pieces of the rotating assembly out of the engine bay or off the ground.

You have three realistic options...

#1. Find a used Turbo engine and swap it into your car. You also have to have the associated turbo components, exhaust, and ECU to run the engine. Being that yours is a dual plug vehicle (91-93) it is not a direct swap with the ECU and you would need to rewire. The better solution is to buy the aftermarket PiMP ECU if you want a plug and play solution. Also, as one recent member here discovered the hard way, buying a Turbo engine out of a 35 year old Thunderbird and expecting to drop it in without a rebuild is a dicey proposition. They are all pretty well worn at this point and a rebuild should be expected and factored into the cost of the swap.

#1a - You can also have your current engine rebuilt to Turbo specs, with a few drawbacks. First, the head design isn't going to flow quite as well as the Turbo head so you will likely make a bit less power. Secondly, you have to source Turbo pistons (or aftermarkets - which are apparently no longer produced so good luck!) and machine an oil drainback into the block or into the oil pan for the Turbo. You can also source a 2.5L Ranger engine and rebuild it accordingly, and you get a little more displacement to boot.

#2 - You say screw it all and drop in a completely different engine. The ever popular 302 or 351 swaps being the most common and straightforward, or you go full out and drop in a Coyote 5.0 or sacrilegious LS. The good news is that you get more resale out of a V8 cars, but you still won't get back what you put in.

#3 - Drop the top and enjoy it for what it is. I'll be blunt, for Fox Mustangs the convertible is the weakest body style resale wise, and the time and effort to convert an N/A 2.3L to any other powerplant is probably not worth it over just buying another car.
 
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7991LXnSHO

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In the 90’s, Hastings High School (Hastings, NE) had a bunch of donated Pintos and a drag race team. It was embarrassing how fast the cars were, and I do not think they were turbocharged. They sounded like a cross between a sewing machine and airplane. It would be handy if the automotive shop teacher was still there. I’ll PM you if I find him.
 
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General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
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Don't waste your time with the 4 banger, now this is just my opinion, swap in a v8 but that's a lot of work and usually doesn't end well, get it running good enough and sell it, get a v8 mustang and enjoy the ride.
Those pintos weighted a lot less than a fox chasis car so don't get excited about that.
 
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7991LXnSHO

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Don’t get excited about that? Too late. Seeing those taillights was what motivated me to modify my 79 5.0. They had slicks, a stronger transmission, more track time and no AC, but they also had less than half of the engine displacement.
 

P4S

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Dont waste your time with a V8 swap if you want to build the 4. Those 2.3s can be made to put out decent power. That block will take up to 350HP. A turbo is the easiest way to go. You can use the stock engine if you dont push the boost to high, would have to look it up but i think about 9lbs will work. Build a turbo capable engine while driving, and swap out when ready to push up boost, or original engine goes. racerwalsh.com is a good place to check out for the 2.3
 

junkyardwarrior

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2.3 does not have an AOD transmission it has an A4LD it is nothing common with AOD

Nevertheless, a 2.3 with an automatic is a turd regardless of whether it's a ranger or a mustang

u can build the 2.3 if you want to but you will spend a LOT of money for 200hp (N/A), $5000+ typically

The head is the weak link it doesn't flow. So you'd need to have the head ported to make any power to speak of. Seriously it's anemic. A ported head (with exchange) can run upwards of $2000 but with that, it's ready to bolt on. Lot of guys "think" they can port heads but on 2.3's you have to be really really careful because there is water all around the ports, so you can't just go hogging and expect to make it work, it never works as planned (and I know from experience). BoPort racing heads comes to mind here.

throw a turbo on it, more fun, safer, more reliable if it's done right. Change the pistons to factory turbo pistons, grind the chambers back in the stock head and then toss on the E6 manifold, turbo, coolant lines, intercooler, turbo, and most importantly the ecu. Make sure to update the fuel pump too. 200hp easy, and under 5000 RPM with a "hit" about 2500 that feels like getting hit in the back side by a truck. THe stock T3 hits hard and fast at around 2500rpm; IHI turbo comes on slowly but at a lower rpm, more linear--and then signs off at about 4500.

turbocharged and done correctly the stock blocks will take 500hp--I've seen it many times. The crank "usually" will as well (stock 2.3 crank) but you WILL want forged pistons and good rods. The problem there is that OE replacement forged pistons with the d-shaped dish are long discontinued leaving you with just a few options, one being finding used stock stuff which is almost always worn out, and the aftermarket stuff is pretty expensive for just 4 pistons and 4 rods, figure $1000 or a little more just for 4 pistons and 4 rods. In that sense it's almost the same to build a mild 5.0 but a mild 5.0 isn't as fun if you ask me.

people have run the stock cast pistons with a turbo before but you better have a GOOD intercooler and keep the boost under 10 psi with the stock head/cam/etc. Even then the stock cast pistons may or may not shatter or melt. 10 psi in a 2.3 doesn't really do anything. Doesn't get impressive until about 15. 20 and it starts getting more fun but by then you're out of turbo, out of cylinder head airflow, and out of fuel (on a stock 2.3T setup).
 

ChillPhatCat

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I know I'm a heretic, but having owned 4 F-bodies and now 2 Mustangs... I really don't care what is under the hood to make you smile... building a high horsepower 2.3 is great if that sound and the turbo kick makes you happy. But I don't personally see much of a point of swapping in a 302 when you can find rusted out Silverados all day long at $1,500-$2,000... and they come with engine, transmission and all kinds of wiring goodies and an ECU... either way you would want to get a different transmission/drive shaft and rear end... Grab a conversion kit, headers, intake, cam & valve springs and you've got an easy 400+ hp in even the 5.3. LS blocks can take 800+ Hp unlike the windsor which is good for ~400-450 before you risk cracking the block. Don't get me wrong, I love the 302 sound and 350 hp in a Fox Body is plenty quick... but I wouldn't plan on building more than that to keep reliability.
 

General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
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I know I'm a heretic, but having owned 4 F-bodies and now 2 Mustangs... I really don't care what is under the hood to make you smile... building a high horsepower 2.3 is great if that sound and the turbo kick makes you happy. But I don't personally see much of a point of swapping in a 302 when you can find rusted out Silverados all day long at $1,500-$2,000... and they come with engine, transmission and all kinds of wiring goodies and an ECU... either way you would want to get a different transmission/drive shaft and rear end... Grab a conversion kit, headers, intake, cam & valve springs and you've got an easy 400+ hp in even the 5.3. LS blocks can take 800+ Hp unlike the windsor which is good for ~400-450 before you risk cracking the block. Don't get me wrong, I love the 302 sound and 350 hp in a Fox Body is plenty quick... but I wouldn't plan on building more than that to keep reliability.
It's not right to be here on a FORD mustang site and be recomending a brand x engine swap, granted they are good platform and all but it's not a ford, that said I will repeat, a 4 cyl build, unless you have a bucket full of disposable income, is a waste of time, jmo.
 
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ChillPhatCat

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It's not right to be here on a FORD mustang site and be recomending a brand x engine swap, granted they are good platform and all but it's not a ford, that said I will repeat, a 4 cyl build, unless you have a bucket full of disposable income, is a waste of time, jmo.

I know it’s not right. Haha. As far as sound goes the Ford V8 is untouchable... and you can get some great performance. The LS block is fantastic but to each their own, I can’t fault anyone for sticking with an SBF... and the V8 swap looks pretty similar between the two if all you want is ~350-400 hp... I just see myself someday being like... you know I really like the sound of a blower.

I agree about Turbo 2.3’s... to really go for it you need some money. They may even handle more power than a Windsor block, which I find funny... but it’s a tough road. I ran the numbers and all of a sudden I’m looking at $10k in parts. lol
 

P4S

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It's not right to be here on a FORD mustang site and be recomending a brand x engine swap, granted they are good platform and all but it's not a ford, that said I will repeat, a 4 cyl build, unless you have a bucket full of disposable income, is a waste of time, jmo.
A coyote is better than an LS or windsor. But as far as the bucket of cash for the 4 cyl. A turbo can be done for the same-ish price as a V8 swap. It would all depend what the person wants. A little more power from the engine in the car, or a 10 seconds race car. Without knowing expectations I think it might not be fair to say the 4cyl is a waste of time and money.
 

junkyardwarrior

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Know how to add?

Toss in the cost of the mounts, K-member, headers, transmission crossmember, wiring, ecu, tuning and everything else just to make the 5.3 "fit" and "work" in a Ford car. Add that to the $2000 you had to pay for the truck with the engine. It's not as cheap as one would think, a well built 5.0 will go in a lot cheaper, and a 351+w with tuning will eat it's lunch for the same cost, almost always (almost)

A turbo 2.3 is usually about the same cost and honestly is more fun, though maybe not as "fast". You got any experience on ATV's? Remember the banshee? Thing was an absolute slug until it got up on the pipes, then it was like flipping the power switch on, tripled the power & torque instantly. Just like a 2.3 turbo at 20 psi....not necessarily fast but certainly puts a smile on your face.

Ain't seen a N/A LS (or 4.8/5.3/6.0) that is impressive, lot of guys pull them out of the junkyard throw a hair dryer on it and send it back to the junkyard all in one weekend, and still won't crack 10 second timeslips and yeah there are exceptions, just none around here

I have both a 2.3T swapped 93 coupe and a 92 GT with a 427" N/A SBF. I drive the coupe a LOT more, it's a lot more fun, though the GT is way faster. I can't use 1/2 of the power of the 427 on the streets, it's rough running (cammed obviously), noisy (though it does sound nice), uses a ton of fuel, but the 2.3 is slower, quieter, 30mpg, and honestly a sleeper....3" exhaust, you hear it but not loud by any means, people just laugh when the find out it's a 4 cylinder, then you annhiliate them to the next stoplight & make them feel bad. Don't get me wrong, I've had my butt handed to me many many times and don't care about it either, it's all good. But that little 4 cylinder puts a smile on my face every time I'm in it. I don't know how I ain't hurt it yet. Last week I busted the wastegate line and the first time I got into the throttle, it buried the 30 psi guage and I heard some pretty serious rattling before I could get my foot out of it, surprised it didn't bust the gasket or bend a rod or two. Reminds me I need to get the spare head into the shop for machining and crack test.
 

General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
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I usually don't get into these discussions much, but I do like to stir the soup, now jw, if the guys around you can't put together a 500+ hp 5.3 ls, stick it in a g body brand x and run 10's they need some lessons.
And 'not as fast' and 'puts a smile on your face' is not proper automotive english. Granted the l4 is economical, but fast would be relative to how much money you spent and how light the car is.
@4eyedfoxguy has only one post so I can only guess he has been scared off, not unusual.
I would do a 4.6 with a hair dryer in a minute if I was going to plan another build. And it would have to have an auto in it because I would be busy enough steering it. JMO
 
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ChillPhatCat

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I very much like the modular platform, I wish I had more money to put into my ‘00 GT when I owned it... even with just 4.10’s as my only real mod it was a hell of a lot of fun... could have done with about 5-10 lb less in clutch pedal effort but that’s just nitpicking. :p
 

Rcdgl

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Put a T5 in your four cylinder and it will instantly a lot more fun. I have two 5.0s ( also a Bullitt and an 19 5.0) and swapped the T5 into my 89 four banger notch. Its fun, its light and just feels different than the others.
 

CarMichael Angelo

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I usually don't get into these discussions much, but I do like to stir the soup, now jw, if the guys around you can't put together a 500+ hp 5.3 ls, stick it in a g body brand x and run 10's they need some lessons.
And 'not as fast' and 'puts a smile on your face' is not proper automotive english. Granted the l4 is economical, but fast would be relative to how much money you spent and how light the car is.
@4eyedfoxguy has only one post so I can only guess he has been scared off, not unusual.
I would do a 4.6 with a hair dryer in a minute if I was going to plan another build. And it would have to have an auto in it because I would be busy enough steering it. JMO
Imagine that,..somebody got scared off, and I had nothing to do with it.

It’s not that he got scared off. Its probably more like reality bitch slapped him. A N/A 2.3 that has to be converted to turbo tolerant internals before it can be turbo’d, is an engine best used to anchor the shop pit bull’s chain to.

Nothing screams swap in a JY 5.0 v8 louder, than a N/A 2.3 starting point.
 

7991LXnSHO

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I'd agree with mike but I think a pit bull puppy would drag that 2.3 down the street without slowing down.
I wish I had pictures of our kids taking turns sitting on the skateboard and being pulled by our 4-H show cocker spaniel puppy as fast as she could go. It’s not just pit bulls that pretend to be sled dogs.