Certain models of car are more tunable than others. Fact. So if you happen to own something that’s not popular with tuners, you’ll have your work cut out to modify the bugger! That’s not to say it can’t be done. It just means you’ll need to think outside the box, and be prepared for some epic problem solving.
Now, while other Fords with an ST badge have many off-the-shelf upgrades available for them, the big ST220 kind of got left behind. Which is a shame, because anyone who’s driven Ford’s beefy V6 will tell you that they’re cracking motors. It offers plenty of torque from that silky-smooth V6, nimble handling for its size, a quality Recaro interior, and decent looks, thanks to its subtle bodykit. It certainly hit the spot for Andy Martin.
“I’d always wanted a V6 Mondeo,” says Andy, “and I saw this at a local dealer and fell I love with it,” he continues. A deal was done and he drove away in the mint Performance blue Ford. With all the toys and an effortless 220bhp engine, he was a very happy camper. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period was short lived. “The engine blew up after just 20,000 miles, he recalls. “I went through the usual process to get Ford to repair it, but they blamed it on normal wear and tear and wouldn’t budge. They wanted over £4,000 to fix it,” he says. A very despondent Andy had a choice: pay big bucks to get the standard engine rebuilt, or get rid of it. “The thing is, I really wanted to keep the car,” he says. So he began looking at other options.
“A mate of mine said he could rebuild it and turbocharge it,” says Martin. But sadly for Martin, this was kick in the nuts number two. “The bloke had the car for 12 months and it turned out to be a complete waste of time,” he says dejectedly. With the promise of big turbo power gone and a car that still didn’t run, the Merseyside engineer was almost at breaking point.
“I’d totally lost heart in the car and didn’t know what to do,” he admits. But just when he was considering throwing in the towel, a local guy came to the rescue. “I spoke to Steve Critchley from SDC Motors in St Helens and he suggested getting it rebuilt properly with forged internals. With a strong base, the V6 could then be tuned for more power. Lovely. Better still, Steve also recommended a talented local engine builder, John at The Head Shop who previously worked for Aston Martin.
The 3-litre V6 was stripped down and rebuilt with some choice upgrades. These included strong Carillo rods, ARP bolts, ACL shells, and Arias oversized forged pistons. The V6 lump is much more popular with tuners in the US, so the pistons were specially ordered, taking three months. But Martin was happy that things were being done the right way. Uprated valve springs were added and both water and oil pumps were replaced. Nothing was being left to chance this time.
With the engine coming on well, it seemed a shame not to treat it to bit of extra grunt, so Martin had the heads ported and polished to get a better flow of air. Next came a full stainless exhaust system with custom headers. With the cats removed, the system is much freer flowing than standard and as a happy by-product gives the V6 an angry sound. At this stage, Martin could have settled for the modest gains, but he felt there was to more to come from the Duratec lump.
Although supercharger and turbo kits offer good potential gains, they require a lot of fettling to fit the ST, and Martin was keen to get the car back. So he took some advice from the guys at Noble Motorsport. These fellas know the Noble M400 supercar inside out and because it uses a lot of Ford bits, including the 3-litre V6 (albeit with two dirty great turbos bolted on!), lots of it is interchangeable with the Mondeo lump. The plan was to utilise uprated parts, designed for the Noble on the humble Mondeo.
First up, a set of Jenvey individual throttle bodies was fitted. The six trumpets are tucked away under a Noble Motorsport filter and dominate the ST’s engine bay. However, even this caused issues. Because they’re usually fitted to kit cars using the Duratec V6, they actually stick up about three inches, so the bonnet wouldn’t close, which is why the Impreza scoop was required. “If it had been possible I’d have liked to keep a standard bonnet, as I prefer the sleeper look,” says Martin. The fuel rail also required some custom work and shorter Pico injectors had to be fitted. Fortunately, as an engineer, he was able to fabricate a bespoke item using bits of a Jaguar fuel rail. It still caused him a major headache though!
To liberate some more power a set of Mountune cams was dropped in, together with a lighter flywheel. The single mass unit was ordered direct from Fidanza in America and weighs in at just 8lbs compared with a hefty 36lbs for the standard unit. Unsurprisingly response is transformed. Next came an AP Racing clutch, which can take 400bhp, but according to Martin is really light to use, actually improving drivability.
With a Walbro uprated fuel pump, the ST was mapped to 260bhp, but the stock ECU was holding it back, so Nobel Motorsport recommended Omex management. With this fitted and mapped, the final figure is a dyno-proven 300.6bhp and 244lb/ft. Impressive gains for an NA engine. But what does it feel like?
“It just goes and keeps pulling,” comments Martin. “My mate has a 300bhp Mk1 Focus RS and I pretty much keep up with him,” he adds. “Plus I don’t have to wait for the turbo to kick in!” With a straight through exhaust and the ITBs, the noise is pretty special. “Just pottering around it’s very civilised, but at 5,000rpm, the power comes in and it sounds fantastic!” enthuses Martin. “With no cats and a straight through system the noise on the over run is great.”
With 300bhp and 244lb/ft to deal with, the front wheels had their work cut out. So Martin wisely went for a Quaife diff. He also fitted a set of Focus RS Mk2 multi-spoke wheels, which with a bit of spacing out really suit the big Ford. So after a nightmare two years, Martin finally has the ST220 he always wanted. And it goes to prove that if you keep going and work through problems, nothing is impossible.
3-litre 24V V6, fully rebuilt using K1 Carillo rods, ACL shells and Arias oversize forged pistons, fully balanced and blueprinted, polished and ported heads, Mountune cams, uprated valve springs, uprated Pico injectors, uprated Walbro fuel pump, full straight through exhaust system with decat, custom headers and exhaust, Jenvey ITB’s all run by an Omex 710 standalone management system.
6-speed manual, Quaife ATB LSD, Noble M400 AP Racing clutch and cover, Fidanza aluminium single-mass flywheel, Noble M400 modified throw out bearing
Hi-Spec 6-pot Monster brake conversion with custom made Goodridge lines
H&R lowering springs
Ford Focus RS Mk2 wheels with Eibach hubcentric spacers and 235/35x 19in Continental Contisport Contact 3 tyres all round
Stock ST220 leather Recaros and trim
Factory ST220 bodykit, Subaru Impreza bonnet vent to clear throttle bodies
Steve Critchley at SDC Motors St Helens, Mike and the lads at Noble Motorsport, the lads from the ST Drivers website
This feature first appeared in the SUMMER 2012 ISSUE
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