Forum > It's all about the Turbo...

My 1972 turbo swap thread

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I figure this can serve as an example of what may be necessary to stuff a 2.3T EFI drivetrain in a pre-'74 Pinto. A common attitude that I found before starting the project years ago was that it's simple, straightforwar d, easy, etc. This undoubtedly came from people who had never tried it and at best knew that Pintos came with a 2.3 sometime in production, so surely it would be simple, straightforwar d, and easy.

It is none of those things. Nothing actually fits in the car without modification, moving something else, cutting, welding, or making custom parts outright. Well, except the T3 turbo's wastegate actuator. Maybe I'll type up a list of my own gotchas some time and add it to your "So you want to do a turbo swap" thread.
Anyway, the car is running again and I drove it a bit. It's back to an open downpipe for now and sounds more awful than I remember. Surprisingly it also makes no turbo noises anymore; the T3 was quite loud. Boost response is better than expected although worse than stock. Boost recovery between gears is perceptibly slower, probably due to the larger turbine and compressor. The wastegate actuator's baseline ended up being a few psi lower than stock and turning the controller up from 23% to 50 brought peak boost to exactly 14.7psi on the data logs. The pulls weren't long enough to see if it creeps higher due to running out of road.
I'm going to break down and remote-mount the battery(moving something) so plumbing an FMIC and working on the engine will be less of a headache. Pretty sure I still have everything to build a full exhaust also plus some nice v-band flanges to make it cleaner.

I've been working on the car, just not updating everything here as it's done. I removed the hood latch, cut-down the grille/hood latch/front apron support to clear the/an intercooler, put the ugly spare hood on and installed hood pins, spaced the grille out by an inch like a '74-76 car, and haven't taken pictures of any of that. Yet.

I took a deep breath and cut the tanks off a Spearco bar & plate intercooler and drew some templates for a new "back door" tank design that will make plumbing less difficult.

And I probably would have had most of it welded as of this writing, but the TIG welder's cooling fan bearings packed up and it was a three-hour venture getting it apart and fixed. (it's a 700lb transformer machine) After the intercooler gets welded, next is plumbing it, relocating the battery, installing bigger injectors, and...I dunno, maybe a muffler?

I finally got the end tanks welded on a little while ago and that was a harrowing experience. I have a #9 and #17 TIG torch and found out the hard way that the gas hose to my larger #17 had completely dry-rotted its whole length and was losing the shielding gas. I started to get suspicious when 50cfh was hardly coming out the torch end. I ordered a new 25ft hose and used the little aircooled #9 torch in the interim. It gets hot very fast and requires frequent cool-downs.

 It's only the 1.5th time I've TIG welded aluminum and it looks like it, not to mention I had to remake one of the tanks because the first turned out so bad. There were a lot of things I did wrong and/or the hard way and I suppose the important part is what I learned. The biggest one is to start with new, clean metal.
I still have to make some threaded bosses for mounting the intercooler and weld them onto the top and bottom, but once that's done I can bolt it onto the car and start relocating the battery.

Well, I have never TIG welded so I for one will not comment on the welds.  My son has TIG-ed and says it is a learned skill. Life gets interesting as you get older. I've been a car guy my whole life. I majored in High School Machine Shop and Welding but back in the mid 1970's they were still "old school" methods.

 I spent a year at LA Trade Tech College in their Machine Shop program. But frankly I got frustrated. I knew that in the automotive/engine building world you need to work at times within 10,000th's of an inch. Maybe it was just the equipment we had to work with but I'd measure, see I needed to turn something .003 and set the lathe to cut .0025 as a cautionary cut and find it cut .004! Smog laws were getting stronger every year, performance was down as much as high horsepower insurance rates were up.

I just decided to shift my teen year dreams of working in a speed shop and got into Television Production which I also had an interest in.  I've always wanted to improve my machining/welding skills but now in my 60's I've concluded my son is far more capable than I am. Today my struggle is to cram my needs into his "busy" life. So, regardless of the results you may not be pleased with there is still admiration for your perseverance.

I took a break from the Pinto for a while and focused on getting a new road bicycle because my old one was so decrepit from years of hard riding. Then I got a used backup bike. Then a used mountain bike. Then parts and accessories and gear. I'm not done, but the car cruising season will be here before I know it and want to get some in when the weather is good.

Last Friday I took the car out and nothing was out of the ordinary. It's still loud, but I notice the turbo sounds much better after the time away. Then on Saturday I needed to move it and the battery was flat. It was showing ~12.2v open circuit, but a small accessory load of 4A pulled it right down into the high-6v range. I'm going to try a desulfating charger on it, but that may not work since it's an Optima AGM. It's getting replaced anyway so nothing to lose by trying. Since the battery is getting relocated, now I have to decide if it's worth the hassle and expense of finding group 51 AGM batteries and using the billet tray I already have or getting a regular battery box and using a standard group 24F. Total cost is about the same.


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