After repeatedly hitting the rev limiter in fourth gear I
decided to fit a 5 speed Sierra gearbox.
The main item is the 5 speed gearbox itself. This needs to
be from a Pinto engined car. 1600 or 2000cc gearboxes are
the same so don't let anybody tell you otherwise! The ratios
in the 2.8i gearbox are betted suited to an Escort but the
first motion shaft is about an inch too long. The first four
gear ratios of the 2.8i box are actually identical to a Mk2
Escort RS1800. This makes first gear useable unlike the first
gear in a 'standard' 5 speed which is far too low. The downside
is a bigger gap between first and second but, like I said,
it works for the RS1800!
You will need to change the bellhousing if you are using a
2.8i gearbox. This isn't necessary if the gearbox was from
a pinto powered car but I recommend changing it to an RS2000
alloy bellhousing for two reasons. The first is that is is
considerably lighter and the second is that it is more 'Escort
friendly' shape. The standard cast bellhousing will require
the tunnel to be 'modified' with a big hammer.
You will also need a propshaft from an RS2000. I chose to
buy a new one from Burton
Power Products. The Burton props are single piece and
therefore don't require the centre bearing mount on the floor
pan which my early shell hasn't got.
If you are fitting the 5 speed to a crossflow engined car
you will need a different clutch plate because the number
of splines is different. Just ask your local motor factors
for an early 1600 Sierra clutch plate. I think they are 7½"
There are two ways to fit a 5 speed box into an Escort. The
first is to remove the original brackets/mounts from the transmission
tunnel and reposition them further back and the second is
to use the gearbox mount that came with the gearbox and just
bolt it through the floor. I've spoken to people who have
used the first method and they say that the gearbox is very
close to the repositioned mounts and makes removal tricky.
It is, however, an ideal solution if the car is very original.
I decided to use the second method and so removed the original
brackets with a cold chisel. These have to be removed because
the 5 speed is slightly wider at this point and would catch
on them otherwise.
To change the gearbox on a pinto engined Escort requires the
engine crossmember to be lowered a few inches to give adequate
clearance. This is simply a case of replacing the crossmember
bolts one at a time with longer ones and disconnecting the
steering rack. The crossmember can then be lowered until the
weight of it and the engine 'hang' on the bolt heads. Believe
me, this makes it a lot easier.
Once the gearbox was bolted to the engine I fitted the Capri
5 speed gearbox mount. With the gearbox tailshaft supported
on a scissor jack I jacked the engine and gearbox up to see
how far the gearlever hole would need to be cut back. I cut
out a section from the top of the transmission tunnel which
included the original gearlever hole. You can see from the
picture above and to the right, how far back the pinto gearlever
exits. You can also see the bracing in the tunnel that had
to be cut out. It lines through with the seat crossmember.
A section of tunnel was cut out of a Mk2 Escort in a breakers
yard, trimmed down and then welded in. I used a rosejointed
short throw gearlever purely because I had one but as I understand
it, the standard lever touches the handbrake when in fourth
gear so a quickshift is preferable.
Rather than use bolts to secure the gearbox mount a friend
welded studding to some steel strips. He also made a selection
of spacers. I marked the floor from underneath the car and
then drilled the four holes. I put the strips with the studding
through from within the car and bolted up the gearbox mount
using two of the spacers. The excess thread was then cut off.
The strips on the floor are smooth compared to bolt heads
so the carpet doesn't have lumps.
A longer speedo cable is required because the speedo drive
is further back on the 5 speed gearbox. I used a Capri cable.