Zetec conversions to your classic Ford don’t need to be tricky. Retroford’s Zetec engine conversion kits make the job achievable for any competent DIYer, especially if you’re well-prepared beforehand.  

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know before beginning your Escort Mk1/2 Zetec conversion with Type 9 gearbox.


Mk1/2 Escort Zetec conversion FAQs

Q: What is a Zetec?

A: Zetec is the name given to the family of engines fitted to many Ford cars from 1991.  Early, ‘silver-top’ engines (Zetec-E with an aluminium rocker cover) were fitted to Escorts from 1991 onwards, late Fiesta Mk3s and then the Mondeo. The unit evolved into the ‘black-top’ unit (Zetec-R, with a black, more rounded rocker cover) when the Escort was phased out and the Focus introduced.

The name Zetec is a little confusing because it’s also used by Ford as a trim level. On top of this, there’s a smaller-capacity Zetec-S, otherwise called the Sigma. Plus, late Zetecs and the ST170 were branded Duratecs, which are the newer Mazda-derived Ford engine but essentially the same.


Q: Do I need to modify the bulkhead on my Escort when fitting a Zetec?
A: No


Q: The back of the engine is hitting the bulkhead of my Escort. Why?
A: In almost all cases the tail of the gearbox needs raising by approximately 15mm from its original height. We have designed a ‘gearbox tunnel raiser plate’ (DRT004) to give clearance.


Q: Do I need to modify the gearbox tunnel?
A: Yes. The original mount and stiffener must be removed, and the gearstick hole moved further back.


Q: What gearbox mount do I need to use?

A: We have designed a ‘universal gearbox crossmember’ (DRT007) complete with mount for Type 9 application.


Q: I have a 2.0 silver-top Zetec, so do I need to change the water pump?
A: Yes.The direction of rotation is incorrect. We can supply a water pump with the correct rotation (Z013).


Q: Can I use a standard Zetec sump?
A: No. All variations of Zetec sumps will hit on the engine crossmember; we have designed a cast aluminium sump to solve this problem (Z007).


Q: Can I use a standard Zetec clutch and flywheel when converting to RWD?
A: No. The standard Zetec clutch is designed for a different-ratio release arm to a Type 9 gearbox, meaning you will have very little pedal travel, and problems with the cable jumping out.

We supply a re-machined flywheel (Z015) to take a 215mm Pinto clutch, and use a standard Pinto/Sierra release bearing.


Q: What is an ST170 engine? Is it a Duratec or Zetec?

A: It was fitted to the Focus ST170, and is an evolution of the black-top Zetec. The main difference is that is has variable valve timing, higher quality rods and pistons and a better-flowing cylinder head. Note, although it states ‘Duratec’ on the rocker cover, it most definitely is not. Duratecs have chain-driven cams.


Q: Do I need to use a water expansion tank?

A: Yes. Zetecs run at a much higher temperature than original Crossflows and Pintos. The fan cuts in at 105C. An expansion tank has a volume of air to allow the coolant to expand. If you don’t use an expansion tank, excessive pressure will be put on the radiator, gaskets, seals and hoses.


Q: Can I use a standard Zetec alternator?
A: No. In the majority of cases there is no voltage regulator due to being regulated by the original ECU. We have designed an alternator fitting kit that mounts an ACR-type alternator.


Q: Can I use a standard Zetec starter motor?
A: No. It has a different bolt configuration from a RWD setup.


Q: Black-top or silver-top?
A: In a standard format, there isn’t a lot in it. Condition is generally more important when buying a second-hand engine. The installation components cost about the same. The only thing differing between the two when installing in a rear-wheel-drive car is the water pump and alternator kit.


Q: What horsepower will my Zetec make?

A: A standard Zetec on aftermarket throttle bodies/carburettors that has been mapped/rolling road tuned will make between 155 and 165bhp. 


Q: Do I need a spigot bearing?
A: Yes. This supports the input shaft of the gearbox – Zetec crankshafts are counter-bored to take this bearing (DRT006).


Q: Do I need to cut the Escort’s front crossmember to fit my new radiator?

A: No, there is enough room to bolt the new radiator to the original mounts in a Mk1 or Mk2 Escort. 


Q: What bellhousing do I need?

A: Either a cast-iron bellhousing from a Sierra Type 9 gearbox, or an alloy RS2000 bellhousing (with RS2000 clutch arm). Both are a bolt-on affair. But you will need a clutch cable adapter plate (Z019) with an RS2000 bellhousing.


Q: Can I use the original clutch release arm and bearing from my Type 9 gearbox?
A: Yes. But only with a cast-iron Sierra bellhousing.


Q: Cable clutch or hydraulic clutch?

A: Cable is fine for the majority of installations. But if you are running an uprated clutch (higher-rated cover plate), a hydraulic setup will improve the pedal effort.