Essex Engine – Introduction

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    Kim Warner

      Essex Engine

      Ask any Ford enthusiast about the Essex engine and most will speak lovingly of the venerable 2994cc V6 that did duty in South African Fords from the late 1960’s all the way to its eventual termination in 2000. Some of the more knowledgeable will speak too of the 2495cc version, the original “Big Six” which powered the early MKIII Cortina’s, and Granada L model, and then a few will know about the 1663cc and 1996cc V4 Essex’s from 1961, which powered so many of the bigger “fours” in the 60’s and early 70’s.

      The Essex V4 and V6 engines where originally conceived to replace the ageing inline 4 and 6 cylinder engines which powered the Zephyr/Zodiac line.

      Out of the two, the unusual V4 had the shorter production run, and is hence much less known than the ever-popular v6 lump.

      A V4 is inherently unbalanced, the smoothest angle would’ve been 90o, but the design brief was for compactness, so the more difficult 60o angle was chosen, and a balance shaft was used to dampen the worst of the harshness. Despite such measures the engines were infamous for their rough running characteristics and mechanical problems such as leaking head gaskets and main bearing oil starvation.

      Originally the V4 was fed via a single barrel carburetor, and power output ranged from 54kW for the low compression version of the 1700cc to 69kW for the high compression 2000cc. Later the 2000cc engine was uprated by adding a twin choke carburetor, slightly raising the compression ratios and lengthening the oil channel in the mains bearing shell making a significant improvement to both performance and reliability. Despite these improvements the inherent characteristics made this an unpopular engine and it was replaced by the 2000 Pinto in-line four in the mid-seventies, having a much shorter lifespan than the v6 version.

      Local applications for the Essex V4 mostly used the High Compression (9.1:1) 1996cc engine and included the Corsair 2000E, The Capri 2000’s, the Cortina MkIII 2000 models (excluding the 2000GT which used the Pinto right from the beginning) and the first of the Cortina “Bakkie’s” (LDV).

      Very few V4 engines remain; most of the surviving V4-engined vehicles having had their engines swapped-out for inline 4’s or one of the V6 Essex engines.

      The Essex V6 was never bedeviled by the balance problems of the V4, and went on to become a legend. The V6 was developed from the 1996cc V4 and shared many of the parts, the bore, stroke, crank throw and angle all being identical. Even the math works out ( 1996 / 4 = 499; 499 x 6 = 2994).

      The Essex engines were originally designed to have a common block and head between petrol and diesel versions. Hence the combustion chamber in the piston design. The diesel version never came to being but the heavy cast iron block and heads resulted in an extremely durable engine able to withstand much abuse. Running characteristics are indeed reminiscent of a diesel, with a relatively low (5700rpm) rev limit and that “elastic-band-attached-to-the-horizon” kind of torque.
      We affectionately refer to the Essex as a “Donkey-Motor” and has never been happy at sustained high revs, on the other hand the copious amounts of torque produced allow for high overall gearing, my personal experience with this being with a Sierra 3.0GLX Wagon which I owned, at 120km/h in 5th gear, the tachometer read less than 2500rpm and at 180km/h close to 4000prm, despite this high gearing, very few downshifts were ever necessary and pulled strongly from below 60km/h in top gear.

      The Essex V6 was released initially in 2495cc and 2994cc versions. By the mid-seventies the 2495cc version was dropped and the 2994cc version remained in production in various guises until 2000. Early versions of the three liter produced 95kW (234.57N.m), around October 1971 improvements were made which included; modifying the camshaft and cylinder heads, raising the compression ratio slightly (from 8.9:1 to 9.0:1), changing the shape of the inlet ports from an “O” to a “D” and replacing the old Weber 40DFAV carb to the Weber 38DGAS, which cumulatively improved output to 103kW (259N.m).

      The 2494cc engine was rated at 102kW (196N.m) and production lasted until 1977 at which time production ended, along with production of the V4.

      During the Early 1990’s then SAMCOR (now Ford SA) developed an Electronic Fuel Injection system for the Essex in conjunction with the University of Pretoria’s Engineering Department using Lucas components. This EFi version was fitted to the 3.0RSi Sierra’s and Sapphires and the Sapphire Ghia and produced 117kW. Internal tuning of the motor (increased compression) and a switch to a Pierburg Twin Choke Carburetor raised the output of the standard motor to 110kW at the same time hydraulic valve lifters were introduced to cure the infamous “tappet racket” and this became known as the uprated motor.

      In 1997, in response to demands for more torque (by now the V6 Essex was only being fitted to LDV’s), especially for the AWD versions, the capacity was increased to 3.4L by boring the cylinders by an extra millimeter and increasing the throw of the piston by means of a new crankshaft, this saw power decrease (vs the uprated motor) to 108kW and torque increase to 260N.m, only a 1N.m increase, however the torque curve was flattened resulting in a smoother, wider spread of torque.

      This “factory” 3.4L Essex is not to be confused with 3.4L versions produced by local tuners including J.T.Developments, and Basil Green who bored out the pistons and fettled the mechanicals in search of more performance power.

      Production tooling was scrapped and sold in 2000 to make way for the new 4.0L V6 which was a development of the Cologne V6.

      Special Editions (South Africa)

      Probably the most well-known special edition of the Essex V6 was the Interceptor, of which 250 were produced by Ford South Africa for homologation purposes. The conversion included a set of 3 Weber Carburetors mated to a special intake manifold, revised cam profile, raised compression and tubular exhaust headers. No official test car was provided and thus official figures of power, torque and performance are not available, Ford did however release their claims of 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds and a 195.6 km/h top speed (vs the standard car’s 9.5 sec and 182km/h).

      Simpson Ford of Port Elizabeth responded to demands for more of the same (or similar) by developing the “X-Ocet” conversion named after the deadly Exocet air-to-surface missile of the then current Falklands War. The X-Ocet used a four-barrel Holley carburetor along with a bespoke inlet manifold, revised pistons, cam and exhaust headers. Car Magazine tested this conversion in May 1983 and published official figures as follows:

      Top Speed 193.9km/h
      0-100km/h 8.8 seconds
      Max Power 115kW
      Fuel Consumption 9.66 L/100km @ 100km/h (std car 9.8)
      • This topic was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by  Kim Warner.


        Hi please need alittle help with sertting timing and tappets on acorsair v4 essex will highly appreciate



          The timing is presently set 1342 but the original states that 1324 am not sure which is correct v4 corsair

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