Tag Archives: ecotec

Ecotec Intake Manifold Upgrade

Been a long time since I’ve done any work on bowtie6.  This little car is just like a trusted Timex watch – it takes a beating and keeps on ticking.  This weekend I installed an upgrade:  the other day, I came across a vendor that offered a phenolic intake spacer for the Ecotec.  The advantage of a phenolic spacer is to help reduce heat transfer from the head into the intake manifold.

The intake manifold my cousin Jim made when we installed the Ecotec in bowtie6 is all aluminum (in case you want to know more about it, here is the link to a previous article with details about the custom intake).  We did this because the original composite intake from the Solstice was just too large and would not fit because the steering shaft lives where the factory intake is attached to the head.

You can see the intake in today’s featured image above, and as you can imagine it gets a bit warm.  I suppose the amount of time air hangs around the intake manifold is minimal, but any improvement would be helpful.  So, I sent the $99 plus shipping for the phenolic spacer and a couple of days later, one of the brown trucks delivered this:

The phenolic spacer matches perfectly the GM intake manifold plate Jim used to build the custom intake and is exactly 1/4 inch wide.  The “kit” comes with new gaskets and several replacement bolts.  Sadly the bolts did not fit the head of the LE5.  When I trial fitted all this, I noticed the factory bolts were about 1/4 inch too short (duh!), so I had to go find replacements.  Fortunately the local NAPA store not far from home had them in stainless, no less.  Torque settings on these bolts is not high, so the NAPA bolts worked just fine.  Not bad for $8 and change.

Taking the bolts out was a job!  There is just no room.  But, with a little patience and a few curse words, the manifold finally came out.  I remember I had used RTV on the original metal gasket and was left with quite a bit to clean up.  This is the intake manifold minutes after I had removed it.

And here we have the other side.  I had to remove the valve cover breather hose and the coolant hose.  You can also see the alternator is still bolted to the block (more on this later).After a little elbow grease, the head and the intake came clean.  From the mess in the the photos above, we have this:

Remember I mentioned the alternator being mounted?  Well, after trial fitting the whole affair, I found there was no way in hell the bottom bolts could be reached without dropping the alternator.  Here is what the phenolic spacer looks like in its new residence…

And here is a closeup…

I had to mark the spacer with “block side” and “intake side” so I could line up the new gaskets in the right direction.  Yes, they have a “side” – you can see that in the first picture above.

Then, the fun part:  getting it all back together.  As I mentioned the new bolts are about 1/4 longer, so it took some fiddling to get them lined up just right.  I had to pay close attention to the gasket orientation and used a bit of gasket adhesive on the gasket face next to the block and intake.  I left the faces that come in contact with the phenolic spacer dry because I did not want to risk damaging the phenolic material with the gasket adhesive material.

All that hard work, and you can’t even see the spacer!  So much of bowtie6 is like this too.

And so, it is time to start the engine and go for a ride.  But, we can’t have a good automotive project without the proverbial “oh shit” moment…

  • gaskets lined up – check –
  • bolts all accounted for – check –
  • no extra parts (yeah!) – check –
  • wiring connectors plugged up – check –
  • alternator properly bolted – check –
  • serpentine belt on – check –
  • engine coolant hose – check –
  • valve breather hose – check –

Get the keys, jump in and hit the ignition button.  Nothing.  Engine turned and turned, no fire.  Strong smell of fuel.


I retrace steps.  Had to be something simple.  Turns out the plug for the injector harness is the exact same size as the one for the electronic throttle body.  I had them switched.  No wonder.  After swapping the electrical connectors, I tried to start the engine again.  This time, a cloud of smoke came out the exhaust – she was pretty flooded so I decided to let the engine idle for a few minutes.

Finally, backed the car up and went for a short drive.  I noticed no seat-of-the-pants improvement, but I did touch the intake when I returned and it felt much cooler.  I have no idea if all this is going to make a difference but there is no big investment here.  And yes, I would agree if you say that heat will still make it into the intake just by heat transferring through the bolts.

We shall see how this little experiment goes…


Details About an ECOTEC Powered TR4

After the success we had with bowtie6, my cousin Jim and I had many conversations on improving the concept.  I remember countless hours of discussions next to the space heater in Jim’s well equipped shop several winters ago.  We quickly zeroed-in on the engine:  the Ecotec as fitted to the Pontiac Solstice mated to the Aisin 5 speed gearbox would supply a powerful and reliable drive-train.  It would also offer a PCM that we could tweak with a laptop.  We also decided a Triumph or MG would be a good platform for the Ecotec.  Finally, we would subscribe to the ideas that Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman based his designs upon:  keep wight at a minimum.

Eventually, we got word there was a local fellow with several cars in his basement that had to be sold  Needless to say, Jim and I quickly grabbed our gloves and jumped in the shop-truck and headed out to this fellow’s basement.  Sure enough.  We found a 1964 TR4 as well as a Datsun 2000 roadster.  The Datsun was our first choice since it is the more “exotic” of the pair however it was missing entirely too many parts.  Jim decided the TR4 would be the best choice.  A few days later we arrived with a trailer and brought the TR4 home.

I could write about all this for hours but I think you want to see pictures and not a bunch of words, so let me fast forward to the present and show you what Jim’s TR4 looks like today.  Unfortunately I cannot cover the entire car in one article; I’ll break this up into several.  Today, I’ll start with the outside.  After all, beauty can’t be only skin deep, right?

As you can see in the picture above, the nose of this TR4 incorporates many subtle changes.  For starters, the turn signals are gone.  They are now hidden behind that hand-made aluminum grill.  The front bumper is also gone and the oval air inlets below the grill have stainless mesh behind them.  Finally there is a hand formed “air dam” with two “nerf” bars on the roll pan.  Jim likes his “nerf” bars – Steve if you are reading this, I am sure you will agree with me.  🙂

The picture above shows the new bonnet.  When I mean “new”, I mean this piece was formed entirely from aluminum.  If you look closely, you will see the “bulge” is missing – I guess it is a matter of choice but this is the way Jim decided to build the bonnet.  The trick to making this bonnet was piecing together several sections.  They were all carefully formed on the English wheel and TIG welded together.  The following gallery shows what the back of the bonnet looks like.

But… Before you start clicking on all these pictures take a look at the first one of the set.  There is a small recess, wide enough for two fingers to be used to lift the bonnet once the latch is released.  Pretty cool, huh?

Next you can see the backbone of the bonnet.  This backbone is also made from aluminum and is not welded, instead it has been bonded to the backside of the bonnet with automotive epoxy glue.  Finally, take a look at the third picture.  If you look close enough, you can see some of the hammer marks left from when Jim formed the headlight bulges.  Yes, all this was carefully welded and shaped just like it in the glory days of hand formed bodies.

The next gallery shown above, displays the hard top Jim made for the TR4.  This top is entirely made of aluminum and just like the bonnet, is extremely lightweight.  Again, many pieces formed by hand and on the English wheel, TIG welded and carefully finished.  If you look at the surface of the top (see second picture) you will see ridges formed by Jim’s Pullmax machine.  These ridges are there to add strength and to prevent the top from oil-canning.  Finally, to keep weight down Jim used thin Plexiglass in the windows instead of glass.  Oh and the side windows open; Jim made special hinges to allow the side windows to pivot.  The following collection of pictures shows what the top looks like from the back and from the sides.

The back third of the top has a small taper.  It is also formed in such a way to give the rear glass a curved look.  At first, one would think this would hinder visibility but the seats are very low in this car, and outward visibility is excellent.  I think it looks very cool!

Finally is this picture from the back of the car.  The bonnet is also different from stock.  Yep, you guessed it.  It is also formed from aluminum.  Jim made a similar backbone frame for it and it is extremely lightweight.  As if that were not enough, take a look at the rear bumper.  This one is not as wide as the ones Jim made for bowtie6, but is just as lightweight.  This bumper also is different from mine in that it’s finish is made by simply wiping it with ScotchBrite.  This gives the aluminum a muted, matte finish.

I hope you have found this interesting.  I’ll have more about Jim’s TR4 in future articles, so stay tuned!  😉

bowtie6‘s ECOTEC Engine

Quick post for today…  Just wanted to show what the whole shebang looks like these days…  The ECM box has a nice cover on it.  Looks pretty cool, huh?

Click on each picture for a larger image…

bowtie6 is Back Home

Fall has arrived.  Today’s weather was gloomy and rainy here in the Upstate of South Carolina.  I decided to take a few days off from work and do some work on bowtie6.  Today, after a year’s worth of work I had a chance to finally driver her home from my cousin’s shop. All I can say is the Ecotec is something else.  The 3.4 V6 is so passe it is pitiful.  The 2.4 Ecotec is so far superior!!  This engine’s power band is amazing.  The torque is amazing. I only had a chance to put a few miles on bowtie6, but I can certainly tell the difference:

  • The new frame is stiff.  I mean Viagra stiff.  There is no flex, the car feels extremely solid.  With the original frame, with no hard top…  I could feel the body flex.  Not so now.  It is (as Bob Seger would say), “like a rock”.  Amazing.
  • Solid axle with PosiTraction – once you get a chance to feel what this is like, you will never go back to IRS.  This thing is amazing.  The “bite” is so different.  There is not “squatting”.  You hit the gas and there is no hesitation.  It gets the job done.
  • Coilovers – OMG!!!  Now we have coilovers on all four corners.  The rears are quite amazing, but the fronts have transformed the whole driving experience:  at parking-lot-speed it almost feels like power steering.  The effort to turn the wheels is almost non-existent.  And…  Remember, I am running 205/55-16’s up front.  At speed, this thing is lightning quick.  Point-and-shoot, baby!!  This and the Ecotec has been the best money spent so far.

I’ll have pictures soon.  I have to work on the interior, do some work under the hood and do a lot of “detailing”.  There is still a lot of work to be done but in a few days I hope to have things back together soon…  Stay tuned!

bowtie6 and ECOTEC vs 3.4L V6

I put some 15,000 trouble free miles on bowtie6 powered by the V6 conversion we did several years ago.  The car performed flawlessly, surpassed my expectations and not once was it ever a disappointment.  Not even from the start, on the contrary:  from day-one I have been very proud of my car.

Not wanting to keep the engine ‘stock’, I started doing some research into performance improvements.  Don’t take me wrong, the engine had plenty of power and torque but I just wondered “what if?”  After all, what fun is there in leaving things alone?

This is no “mid-life” attempt to produce a firebreathing monster – if that were my wish then I would be building something else altogether.  I have the ability and resources to do it, but I decided to take a well preserved TR6 and improve it.  It has been a very fun project that I plan to continue to work on and improve.

bowtie6‘s 3.4 V6 came from a ’95 Camaro so out of the box it is a few years old.  I had it dynoe’d the first time and it produced 150hp at the rear wheels.  Not bad for a ‘stock’ V6 with fifty-some thousand miles on it.  I could have left it there and just driven the thing forever putzing around town like an old fart, but that would be no fun at all.  I had proven the concept was sound:  I had an extremely reliable TR6 that did not leak, had no “issue” to speak of and in which I could drive anywhere, anytime with no second thoughts and no assortment of spare parts in the trunk.

Modifications started with a hot cam and roller rockers.  I already had headers so we modified the intake in order to let the engine breathe as well as it let exhaust gases exit.  The car went to the dyno again, this time producing roughly 170hp at the rear wheels.  Then, we found a brand new set of heads which I had ported, polished and flowed.  I also ported the upper intake manifold and bolted an LT1 throttle body.  It was expensive but I wanted to break the 200hp mark.  Along with the ported heads came an adjustable fuel pressure regulator that helped fine tune the already larger injectors.

Third time to the dyno:  this time we produced slightly above the 200hp at the wheels mark.  I had achieved what I set my goals for.  The difference was indeed palpable and made for an even more fun TR6.  However, this proved to be too much for the tired factory Triumph frame made of 10 gauge materials.  This resulted in a frame failure (which I have discussed previously) and forced a review of the foundation beneath bowtie6.

I did not want to ditch the car because I have quite an investment in it.  The frame was un-repairable so we made the decision to make a new frame.  My cousin Jim’s TR4 was nearing completion with a similar frame.  Soon after I had a chance to drive it and see what a new frame and ECOTEC power would be like we had more data to allow a good decision to be made.

So what was it like?  No, it did not “blow the doors off” my V6 powered TR6.  Jim’s TR4 is lighter than my TR6 giving it an edge.  The ECOTEC is a fantastic engine and has way too many advantages over the V6, even with all the improvements we made.  For starters the ECOTEC is lighter and incorporates much more modern features.  The engine has a huge rev range and offers fully tunable ECM vs the opposite for the V6.  Power wise my fully tweaked V6 is matched by the stock 2.4 ECOTEC.

Back to the frame.  Again.  At first, I had a notion to use the V6 in the new frame.  Add that to a solid rear axle with positraction and a robust frame and I would have been in business back on the road.  But no.  The V6 had reached the end of what I could do with it.  Furthermore, I found an ECOTEC with only 4 miles on it (I’ve written about this here before) so using that over the V6 was a mute point.  There is no compelling reason to go with the V6.  Also, supply of V6’s in junkyards getting smaller yet I am told new crate V6’s can be had for $1980 delivered to my house.  Point taken.  Then again, I have $2000 in a 4 mile 2.4 ECOTEC and that includes a 4 mile AISIN five speed gearbox (last time I checked, crate engines don’t come with gearboxes).  I also own a 2.2 ECOTEC that I paid $500 for and will be in my next project.  Truth be known, Jim’s car was initially powered by  a 2.2 ECOTEC but we realized the 2.4 would be a better choice.  So no matter how you slice it, the ECOTEC proved to be my best choice.

Very soon I’ll have bowtie6 back on the road.  It has evolved through the years.  It has been featured in magazines, won awards and I have received a huge amount of compliments which I am very grateful for and I graciously accept.  bowtie6.com has been hit from every state of the Union as well as from many countries around the world which shows me there are some folks that find this collection of words somewhat entertaining.  Along with the good, I have also had many negative comments ranging from “why did you do it?”, “it is ugly”, “it is not original”, to “your car is a complete abomination”.  I am very grateful for those too.  I fully accept this is not everyone’s cup of tea (that seems to come up a lot too, I guess it is a polite way to say “I really don’t like it”) and that is all good.  Bottom line, latter comments are the ones that make me grin and reinforce the fact that I did the right thing!!!

It is funny though, that I have taken my TR6 to non-LBC events (read street rod events) and not once has it ever been looked down upon.  Matter of fact, folks not only know what they are looking at but also compliment our efforts.  The LBC folks though are something else:  many turn their noses up and walk away, others shrug their shoulders and walk away and others give me strange looks and walk away.  But, in fairness there are some that do appreciate the work, don’t walk away and ask questions.  I’ve met many folks that way that have been very gracious.  The ones that are not gracious, well…  They are fun to meet too.

The truth is in the pudding.  My friend Mike likes to restore TR’s back to stock form.  We have a nice “agreement to disagree” thing going on, but it is all in good fun.  I’ve driven his stock TR’s and see why folks would want to keep them that way.  But then, when I get behind the wheel of one of ours…

…and suddenly I get a big grin on my face and know this is the only way to go.  If only folks could ride in our cars before they make “remarks”, they would see why we like them so much.

For what I have in bowtie6 in time, resources and effort probably I could have a newer car (I’ve been told that too, “why didn’t you just go buy an brand-x or brand-y car?”) but that would not have given me the chance to experience all that I have written about bowtie6.  I know the answer is a bit of a cliché:  it is priceless!