Tag Archives: ecotec

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 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!

The New ECOTEC is Alive!

It has been quite some time since my last post.  The bowtie6 Ecotec project is alive and well:  this weekend we fired up the Ecotec for the first time!  Needless to say this was quite an awesome event!!

First, here is a quick recap:

  • The engine compartment has been fully wired up.  There is a new engine control fusebox containing circuit breakers, relays and the ECM.
  • Inside the car there is another small panel with relays and fuses controlling turn signals, park lights and main light circuits.  The dash is all back together along with all gauges.
  • In the trunk I have the battery mounted in a special enclosure.  Yet to be done is a separate set of relays and fuses to control the stop lights and fuel pump.

We hot-wired the fuel pump for this weekend’s engine start.  With the aid of my laptop and software, we disabled the VATS system by reflashing the ECM.  We removed the spark plugs, turned the engine a few times and sure enough after a few seconds we had oil pressure.  All good so far.

Next was fueling up and priming the pump.  After running the fuel pump for a few seconds it finally “primed” itself and started pumping fuel.  We attached a fuel pressure gauge and pressure looked very nice indeed.

The next step called for re-installing the spark plugs and re-installing the coilpacks.  Turned the key, and pushed the button.  It took a few tries but finally she fired up and ran.  I hooked up the laptop again, this time to check for DTC’s.  There were a few.  Not good.

Turns out we had a few “issues” with the wiring.  The 2.4 Ecotec has VVT on both the intake as well as the exhaust.  There are two cam sensors on the top of the engine and two more on the back of the engine.  The two on the back of the engine are identical to each other, and I had made the mistake of hooking up the wrong plug to the wrong sensor.  This is something very unusual for GM harnesses: all plugs are unique; in this case the camshaft sensors are identical and share the same plugs.  My bad.

We tried again.  This time the engine ran fine but the scanner on the laptop read we were having fuel delivery issues.  We tapped the throttle a few times.  Coolant temps started to normally go up and we let the engine run for a few more minutes.  Then things started to settle down.  The fuel delivery issue went away and the engine started running better.  We have encountered this issue before when re-starting an engine that has been sitting for a while and this can be attributed to an injector sticking.  Once it has fresh fuel flowing, it loosens up any gummed up fuel and all is good.

We let the engine cool down and this is where things got interesting.  On cold re-start the Ecotec sputtered and coughed.  We noticed we had quite a few more DTC’s.  This type of behaviour is to be expected.  Suffice to say, that after many hours of debugging, changing a few parts around and a lot of tracing of the wiring harness all checked out.  There is no issue with the ECM – we swapped the one in my cousin Jim’s TR4 and the engine behaved in the same way.  So we ruled out wiring, ECM and sensors.  We started looking closer…

As it turns out, the new fabricated intake had an issue.  No, not a leak!  We re-used the rubber intake from the donor Solstice.  However, the housing for the MAF sensor is all home-made in order to allow the low restriction air cleaner element to be mounted.  The size of the housing was the culprit.  This was giving some false readings and this caused the ECM to make erroneous calculations regarding the air flow into the engine.  After correcting the offending intake tube we fired the engine back up, and now it runs smooth as silk.

Next will be to start plugging in new values for engine run-time parameters.  We’ve done some of this on my cousin’s TR4 and this along with some other tweaks will enable my TR6 to finally be back on the road.

So what is next?  Now that the engine is fully operational, we are going to start hanging fenders and doors on the body shell.  We anticipate having to make some special shims for the body since the frame is all new.  However, the frame is perfectly level so we are hoping not to have to shim it too much!

I have some final wiring to do and once that is all complete the next step would be the maiden trip down the road.  Still a few weeks away from that, but the engine runs and this has been a great weekend!

Stay tuned…