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Mazda Engine Swap

Discussion in 'Modified Alpine' started by robertf, May 21, 2008.

  1. robertf

    robertf Donation Time

    I'm new to this board so I'll do a brief introduction...

    My father purchased 2 sunbeam alpines almost 2 years ago when he retired that needed a little bit of work. I'm helping him with these projects between semesters at school, but a little bit of work has turned into a restoration project on one and a full blown drivetrain swap on the other.

    I wanted to do something that hasn't been done to an Alpine, and everyone seems to have mixed feelings on Alger conversions so I started looking at all of the modern 4 cylinders (modern being factory efi.) I really wanted to put an Ecotec in this, but the ecotec is wider than most v8's. Duratec and zetec engines have funky oil pans and making them rear wheel drive costs some money that could go to things like turbochargers :D

    I started looking at miata engines and all of the dimensions were really close to the 1725. The only obvious problems are the rear cam position sensor and the alternator is in the way of the alpine motormount. I think both of these are easily fixed, but time will tell. The engine that I picked up is a 1.6 out of a 1990 Miata. I wanted to do a 1.8, but the extra 1" of length was the deal breaker.

    Anyway, here are some pictures of the projects. I'm only in town for a few weeks at a time so expect some very slow progress.

    Attached Files:

  2. mikephillips

    mikephillips Donation Time

    Good luck with this. Since swapping for modern 4s tends to be a wide open, no best choice, eye of the beholder type thing you'll parbably be breaking new ground. Don't hesitate to ask if you have questions but be surprised if there's little experience with this specific swap.
  3. Alpine66

    Alpine66 Donation Time

    engine swap

    Hi Robert,
    Welcome to the forum.

    Interesting project, keep the pics coming.I am going to be installing something else sometime in the next 6 months, and this looks like a good possibility.

    How difficult was it to remove the correct wiring for the computer and efi system? This to me is the biggest hurdle to doing an injection engine.
    In the pic looks like the radiator is going to be a tight fit, how much room will you have?

  4. robertf

    robertf Donation Time

    As it sits, there is about 2" between the thermostat housing and the radiator, so an electric fan would barely fit. The engine is not in its final resting spot and won't be until I pick up a transmission for it. Right now the camshaft position sensor is pretty close to the firewall and it sticks out quite a bit, I'd guess 4". Later 1.8 miatas have a block off plate and use a front mounted crankshaft pickup, I will be doing that instead and move the engine back.

    The efi difficulty is subjective. I've been messing with EFI stuff for quite a while and have even attended an aftermarket EMS tuning class (www.efi-101.com), but there is nothing that looks really difficult about this swap if you wanted to keep the stock management setup.

    The stock 1.6 management system uses a vane airflow setup, similiar to a mass air flow setup used on some vehicles. I'm not a fan of mass air flow, and vane air flow is even more limiting so I have no interest in running the stock setup, plus I have plans for a turbo down the line so I will need to be able to tune the engine and I haven't seen anything readily available for the miata engine other than piggy back systems.

    I'm not 100% sure on what I will be doing for the efi management system, but these are the most likely candidates:

    early 90-s GM stuff: The programs that run the cyclone and typhoon are easily modified to work on 4 cylinders. computers compatabile with the program are readily available, and I already have all of the stuff necessary to tune it. Buick grand national stuff might work too, I have to research this some more.

    Megasquirt: I looked at this when it was first released and it was too "heath kit" ish for me, but the latest versions do support everything I would need for this engine. Still, something about using a db-25 plug to connect the engine harness seems a bit off.

    Autronic: Beautiful aftermarket management system with a great software interface, but it is really expensive. Once everything is bolted in I'll see what the budget looks like.
  5. 64beam

    64beam Donation Time


    Great to see another rice burner installation (soo many V6 conversions going on ;) ). The Miata/MX-5 engine looks like a great swap and looks quite at home in the Alpine engine bay. Keep us all informed on its progress and keep the pictures coming. On a side note, I saw a Toyota twin cam conversion and had a similar distributor problem. The guy ended up using a distributorless setup to overcome the space issue.

    Good luck,

    Regards, Robin.
  6. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Donation Time

    Seriously consider the Redline Weber/Pantera EFI ECU/034motorsport equipment (also discussed on EFI-101).

    It falls into the same features grouping as the Autronic, but for way less money.

    I am the designer, and can get an alpine buddy a rip roaring deal.
  7. robertf

    robertf Donation Time

    Sweet, I might have to take you up on that offer. :D
  8. robertf

    robertf Donation Time

    Here are some more pics after moving it around and with the cam angle sensor gone. I'm pretty sure this is the engines final resting spot. I will probably have to modify the thermostat housing, or find one that fits with a different angle.

    The passenger side brace that is removed in the picture will fit, but I wasn't ready to grind off the coil bracket just yet. The intake manifold is very close to the passenger side fender where the brake valve is, but the engine is rotate a little since its dangling from a chain. Once it is parallel to the floor I expect at least 3/4" clearance.

    The transmission is going to be the fun part. Does anyone have pictures of that sunbeam restoration where the guy had it on the rotissiere? I need to see some undercarriage pics to figure out what my next move is.

    The first 2 pictures show the distance between the stock bellhousing and the engine. Its about 1.5"

    And a custom radiator will have to be used since the return and supply are on the opposite sides

    Attached Files:

  9. MikeH

    MikeH Platinum Level Sponsor

    There's one under Stock Alpine/rotissary plans post #19. But it doesn't show the underside.
  10. sunalp

    sunalp Platinum Level Sponsor

  11. sakitume

    sakitume Guest

    Very cool project. Thanks for sharing.

    Have you checked your steering components against the engine? Turned the steering wheel lock to lock? This is where it gets a little hairy for most conversion attempts.

    A few years ago I dropped a 60degree Chevy V6 into the engine bay to get a rough idea if it would fit...it sure does...but the starter would be hit by the steering...also one spark plug gets really close to the steering box. I suspect those issues could be overcome but I decided to wait for V6 Joe's kit to go back into production rather than tackling those issues myself.

    It would be great if you can use the stock steering setup on your Alpine without having to make compromises or come up with radical work-arounds.

    Continued good luck to your project. I anxiously await future updates!
  12. robertf

    robertf Donation Time

    I checked the steering lock to lock today with the engine still hanging and the engine was moving left and right. I started to panic and then realized the tires were pushing the cherry picker, not the linkage against the engine :rolleyes:

    Everything looks like it will clear so far.

    My biggest concern right now is the transmission. The miata shifter is waaaay back from the bellhousing. There is a guy who put one of these in a Sprite and modified the shifter to be closer, I'm hoping that will get it back to the stock location, but won't know until I pick one up.

    Attached Files:

  13. Ken Ellis

    Ken Ellis Donation Time

    robertf wrote:
    "...but won't know until I pick one up." Do you mean a transmission or a shift relocation kit? I couldn't quite tell, but you do have a picture of a trans right there...

    Anyway, if you need trans measurements, I have an orphan Miata trans, and I could measure a few things if you wish.
    On the other hand, if you're talking about a shift relocation kit, I'd be interested in that if you know where I could find one.

    Ken in Columbus
  14. robertf

    robertf Donation Time

    That is a picture I found on the internet, I don't have a transmission yet since I am still day dreaming about starting a foundry and making my own adapters. :D I can't find a transmission with a similar gear set as the stock mazda, and the t5 with mid plate adapter idea was axed when I compared a ford bellhousing to miata and saw how much bigger it was.

    The relocation thing is where you move the shifter bracket up to the next set of holes and modify the shift rod to work with the shortened distance.

    If you could measure the bellhousing to center of the shifter distance, and the bellhousing to rear of the transmission distance that would help out a bunch.

    The good thing about this is everything is relatively cheap. Even the specialized mazda only junkyards are asking $250 for a transmission, and on craigslist they seem to go for about half that.
  15. MikeH

    MikeH Platinum Level Sponsor


    You could always do like was done on the shelbys and have the shifter bent forward. The Shelby used a Mustang shifter that had the handle turned around.

  16. Doobs

    Doobs Donation Time

    I am in the middle of a similar swap, as im using the complete Miata unibody, powertrain and suspension with the alpine body attached...
    from your pics it seems you could actually bring the motor forward about 3 or 4 more inches, then move the rad slightly angled and into the lower front valence area..this should give more room for steering clearance and shifter placement!! although with moving the engine forward you may get some hood clearance issue...which you may have to place a scoop or something of the sort.....just another idea for you to ponder
  17. Ken Ellis

    Ken Ellis Donation Time

    I'll take those measurements tonight or tomorrow night for you.
  18. Chuck Ingram

    Chuck Ingram Donation Time

    It looks to me that that shifter can be modified to be shorter as it is somewhat a remote shifter that was designed for the car the engine came from.You may need to make a new bracket using part of the original.
    I certainly would go that route and if it was not enough you can always bend the shifter as well as make it longer or shorter.
    The Lister has the Mustang shifter reversed and bent while the 62 Mustang shifter has been shortened and bent
  19. robertf

    robertf Donation Time

    Did some research on miata/mx5 transmissions, the 99+ used a revised case that could be modified for a closer shifting location. I picked one of these up thinking I had solved all of my problems only to find that the now redundant rear shifter housing was too tall to clear the hole between the transmission tunnel and X braces. New plan is to get the 97 and older transmission, mill the shifter down 1/4" and weld a plate on to relocate the shifter as far forward as possible.

    Here are some pics of the 99+ trans next to the stock Alpine transmission, and some pictures I found of the modified transmission that went in the Sprite.

    Attached Files:

  20. tigretr

    tigretr Donation Time

    I will second Jarrids comments on the 034 EFI setup. It is running my motor and I am very very happy with it. The guys at 034 are also very helpful.


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