Normally in order to qualify for classic engine status, a power plant would have to be at least 25 years old. Occasionally though, an engine comes along that may not be too long in the tooth, but is highly significant for retro and classic car owners. The Ford Zetec fits this bill, just as Vauxhall’s legendary XE unit does, and for the same reason - both engines are ripe for transplanting into older vehicles. Over recent years the Zetec has become very popular amongst retro car circles. It may be a totally different engine from the traditional Kent Crossflow and Pinto engines that powered most Fords. The bolt pattern on the block is just the same, and it will fix straight on to the bellhousing used on almost all of the in-line Ford gearboxes, including the popular five speed Type 9. And even though all of the production line Zetec Focus, Fiesta and Mondeo’s have a transverse engine installation. Ford must have realised this, and even machined the end of the Zetec crank to accept a clutch spigot bearing just like the Crossflow and friends.
All that’s required to mate the Zetec to an in-line gearbox is a spigot bearing (to press fit into the crank), a flywheel, clutch cover and clutch plate. To slot the engine and gearbox assembly into an Escort is then just a matter of fabricating engine mounts. It’s not just old skool Ford’s that can benefit from the Zetec either: anything where you previously thought of fitting a Kent or Pinto engine - Caterham, Morris Minor, Marina, Triumph Spitfire etc - will take it, and you gives modern reliability and performance at relatively low cost.
You can get used Zetec’s for ?350 and, unlike buying an old worn Rover V8, Pinto, Kent or Fiat Twin Cam, you’ll be able to complete the transplant without a desperate need to carry out an overhaul. That’s the point - the Zetec may in it’s own right not be old enough to justify being called a classic engine, but it’s a sure-fire way to get modern, reliable power under the bonnet of your modified classic.