4 Cylinder NA and TurboThis section is for questions pertaining to stock or modified 4 cylinders, including the performance 2.3L applications
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Because this question arises at least once a week, I've decided to address the topic and hopefully the administrators will make this a sticky in tech so those wanting to know can simply click on a sticky post.
How do I turbo my normally aspirated 2.3?
You can install a turbo on a N/A 2.3 but don't turn the boost up past 5-6 psi. If you do, the pistons will disinegrate! And, even running that low psi, they probably won't last very long anyway! True turbo motors came from the factory with forged pistons. Forged pistons will take the heat and pressure of forced induction. N/A pistons are made of cast metal. They're very brittle and simply can't take the heat and pressure. So, if you're going to rebuild your motor, simply replace the cast pistons with forged units. You'll also need to fabricate some sort of oil drainback for the turbo. Oil is fed into the center section of the turbo from the top, circulates and drains back into the oil pan. 2.3 turbo blocks have a threaded drainback hole thats tapped into the block just above the oil pan to accomplish this task. If you have a bare N/A block, you can drill and tap this boss in the block and acquire the appropriate brass fitting to screw into it. The fitting can be found on any turbo block in the junkyard and occasionally they're for sale on Ebay. Another alternative is to tap into the oil pan, above the oil line and run a hose from the bottom of the center section to the pan. That's it for the actual shortblock. True turbo heads have a different combustion chamber and port configuration than N/A heads along with exhaust valves made from a stronger metal known as Iconel.
Turbo motors use a Vane Air Meter and larger 35# fuel injectors for fuel and air delivery. Both can be found in the junkyard or on Ebay. To provide the appropriate amount of fuel to the injectors along with the correct metering of air, you'll need the right computer. An LA2 or LA3, found in '87-'88 Thunderbird TurboCoupes with 5-speeds is the one you want. An LB2, LB3 and PE will also work. The LB series is for TC's with automatics and the PE, the most aggressive of all computers, is found in the Mustang SVO. The computers themselves are easily swapped. You'll also have to repin the wiring harness computer connector. Most people give up here because it sounds like such a daunting task! It's probably the simplest procedure in the whole swap. There are several websites that give you step by step instructions. To correlate with the new computer, you'll need an Air Charge Temperature (ACT) sensor. It threads into the side of the lower intake manifold. You can swap in a lower intake from an '87-'88 TC or drill and tap your existing manifold to accept the ACT sensor. In addition, you'll need either a factory or aftermarket boost controller to control your boost pressure. A good idea would be to add a 255 lph fuel pump to provide the additional fuel that's needed. Too many turbo applications have died due to lean conditions!
By far the cheapest, most thorough and simplest way to add a turbo to your N/A Mustang is to purchase a donor car and swap everything over. The first choice would be a '87-'88 Thunderbird TurboCoupe. They come with a factory 195 hp turbo'd 2.3, T5 and 8.8 rearend with disc brakes and 3.55:1 gears. All this can be easily swapped into a Mustang. In addition, you'll have everything you need along with a zillion nuts, bolts, fasteners, etc. There are many other parts that can be swapped into a Mustang as well. Interior pieces, suspension pieces, brakes, the list is endless. Here's the kicker. '87-'88 TC's are a dime a dozen, at least on the West Coast. $500 will get you a good running, high mileage TC. And as you know, 2.3's are pretty much bulletproof! The iceing on the cake is, what you don't use on your project, you can resell on Ebay or any of the message boards dedicated to 2.3 turbos. There's a good sized market out there for used TC parts. Your $500 will be recouped in no time!
If you can't find a '87-'88 TC, the next best thing would be a '83-'86 TC, followed by an '85-'89 Merkur XR4ti. There are turbo Cougars out there that are also good candidates. I believe '85-'86 are the years for them. Of course an SVO would be the ultimate! However, they're pretty rare and you probably wouldn't want to part one out. Below is a list of websites of both vendors and just regular Turboforders that offer tons of information. I hope this addressed some of the basic questions of turboing a N/A 2.3. It really isn't a very hard swap. If you have some basic mechanical ability and a good set of handtools, you can easily perform this swap. You'll learn a few things along the way and the sense of accomplishment you'll acquire will make it all worthwhile. Oh, and you'll be amazed at how quick you car is gonna be!
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