Thursday, December 18, 2014

She was built with a brain and some swagger

If you follow this blog (and I know that there are at least four of you that do) I'd forgive you for thinking that I'd become a deadbeat and given up on the project. But before you drag me to court to pay alimony for shirking my building/blogging responsibilities, let me present photographic evidence in my defense.

Truth be told, I've been dedicating a ton of time to a piece that I feel will set this build apart from everything else out there. Of course being set apart from the crowd can be a very bad thing (think Pontiac Aztek or asparagus ice cream) so I was going for an improvement over the current situation as well as something a little different.

Lets go back in time a few months to the day that Tim helped me install the engine. So now I'm doing the math in my head and that was way longer ago than I thought it was, in fact that was six months ago. I guess time flies when you're getting old. Back on topic, I had built the motor mounts with just a bare engine block for mock up so when I installed the engine, I came to find that the intake manifold would interfere with the brake master cylinder. This left me with two options: either make new engine mounts and move the engine forward an inch, or build a new intake manifold that would clear the master cylinder. Of course since my life's mantra seems to be if it's worth doing, it's worth doing the hard way, I couldn't not take on an intake manifold fabrication project.

This was the problem area, the upper manifold would interfere with  one of my master cylinders
Once I decided that I had to make a manifold I got right to work with my ever helpful cardboard. I wanted to see what size plenum I could fit in the engine bay without purchasing the material. For those not familiar with the term Plenum, it's kinda like the dentist's waiting room where the intake air hangs out until the door (valve) opens up and it can go down the hall (runner) to the room (cylinder) where it will be picked at with pointy metal things and violently flossed and scolded by a dental hygenist (ummm... mixed with fuel and ignited?). I found that the Falcon had room for a 5" OD plenum, or so I thought. Plans changed as the project progressed, but I'll get to that in a bit. 

Most intakes have a throttle body at the end, or in the center of the manifold, but as you can see in the picture below, having it at the end was not possible and as much as I hate to admit it, the only reason I didn't go center mounted was that I couldn't stand the aesthetics of a center mounted throttle body on this type of manifold. In the picture below you can see my plan for an angled throttle body entry (minus a few vital parts).

See, just like a dentist's office!
Once I'd made some plans (in my head) I started ordering all the pieces I thought I might need. I also began researching how to MIG weld aluminum as I'd only done this once or twice before and the outcome looked like an aluminum version of Gettysburg. While watching a YouTube video comparing aluminim MIG vs aluminum TIG (trust me, I'd use TIG if I had access) I was introduced to Rockmount Nassau's Neptune wire. The author of the video seemed to think it was magical wire, particularly good for non-ideal welds. By non-ideal I mean dissimilar alloys, possibly dirty or oxidized materials, and low operator skill. Since I could check all of those boxes I decided to check it out. 

I called Rockmount Nassau and this nice lady named Peggy or Betty (or one of those names you would expect a receptionist at a welding company to have) connected me with their engineer. The engineer whose name I have no recollection of was very friendly and was willing to discuss the unique challenges of my project. He told me that since I was welding a cast flange to a 6061 tube, Neptune wire would be my best choice. He could have just said that to make a sale, but I chose to believe him. This was a roll of the dice because normal welding wire is about $10 per 1lb roll, and this magical wire has a magical price. My minimum order was $100 so I ended up spending $150 for two 1lb rolls. Magical wire indeed...

manifold ingredients
Ford 2.3 Turbo inline intake found on 83-86? TurboFords 
Surgery begins, the indent on cyl #1 can't be helping things...
I've mentioned before that I have a bit of a third world fabrication shop setup, but I'd like to take a moment to remind you that this entire manifold was fabricated on a kitchen chair. My tools were a drill with various bits and hole saws, a hacksaw, a die grinder with carbide burrs, and a MIG welder. Moral of the story: being stubborn is probably the best tool you can have in your box.

Cutting precise holes with my 3rd World Bridgeport.


Remember the part about the Civil War War of Aluminum Aggression? Well my first few beads looked about the same, and you can see them in the photo directly below. When my roommate Vaughn saw this he burst out laughing. In a desperate attempt to salvage some diginty, I challenged him to break these welds. He leaned one end on the concrete and the other end on a Big Block Chevy cylinder head which was sitting on the ground. He hit the middle of the ugly welded tube with at 4lb sledge three times before it broke. I felt vindicated, and more importantly, convinced that the magical wire really was magical.

Something you'll learn about welding is that sharing pictures of your welds is a lot like being a preteen girl who uploads a YouTube video of herself singing. Unless everything about it is absolutely flawless, people (most of which have never laid a bead of aluminium in their life, or sang a cover of Never Getting Back Together, as the case may be) will tell you how bad it sucks, that you are a failure, that your eyeshadow makes you look like a zombie, etcetera, etcetera. Well I got something to say to you, haters. I AM BEAUTIFUL! AND SPECIAL! MY MOM SAYS SO! AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME AFRAID TO SING AND SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD! 

Now that I've got that out of the way, as I mocked up the runners and plenum I found that if the runners curved up, there would not be room for a fuel rail. I'd never seen the intake on a Ford 2.3 turbo curve down toward the block, but it seemed like a good idea. As the manifold progressed, I began to like this idea more and more. It will create a very unique look on this engine and should also improve airflow since the intake runners will have at least 44% more cross sectional area vs stock.

In the following two pictures, you are looking down the #2 intake runner. The faint D-shaped outline around the runner indicates the actual intake port size. The stock intake manifold is significantly smaller than the port. I opened the runner with a die grinder and carbide bit to better match the intake port size.

Shortly after beginning to grind
Finished runner

If you were previously confused by my rambling about the throttle body entry, perhaps this will clear things up for you a bit. I welded a 3" tube off the side of the plenum at an angle so that it will go around the power steering pump. Intercooler piping will hug the driver's side of the engine compartment.

Inlet tube transition
Runner transitions smoothed, but this revealed several large gaps
So I welded them shut
So smooooove

Almost completed Ford 2.3 Turbo custom intake manifold 
At this point the intake manifold is about 90% completed. I plan to trim the inlet tube about 3" and attach a throttle body flange, as well as a few brackets and bosses, and smooth the welds. Additionally, I will have to fabricate a custom fuel rail. Once this is all finished and I've actually run the manifold on the engine, I will remove it and give it a nice thick coat of wrinkle black paint to cover my transgressions.

And that, your honor, is why I believe I should not be paying alimony.

Author's note:
I had intially intended to wait until the manifold was completed before writing this post, but it had been almost three months since my last update. Also, seeing that I'm sitting in a hotel in Snorewich Connecticutty and by the time I get back to California I will have been on the road almost a month, I decided I needed to write. It's been far too long. YOU DESERVE THIS, DEAR READERS! ALL FOUR OF YOU! (It would also be rad if you subscribed)

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  1. I'm getting ready to hook my 8.8 up to the leaf spring I got from your car.

    1. Awesome! Glad to see it's going to good use!

  2. Hey man, I finally got caught up. That intake manifold is clean, nice job! I also laughed pretty hard at the Pontiac Aztek reference. Classic.