Making the Boot…Scoot

In many respects, my last post was putting the cart before the horse just a little bit. I haven’t talked about why we’re going after the engine and transmission combo we are, or the big picture in the sense of where this build is going.

To that end, first of all, credit where credit is due–@dotmaster has spent ~4 years so far trying to get one of these up and running with all the bugs worked out, building what was intended to be a showpiece with a lot of cool visual mods in addition to the powertrain swap. He’s spent who knows how much money on someone doing the powertrain swap for him, but it’s still unfinished. That project though answered a number of questions about mechanical stuff that are hard to answer without a Transit Connect and a Focus ST sitting side-by-side, which we won’t have the luxury of as they did.

What we know (or think we know) from that effort is that things like the axles, clutch pedal assembly, and various other things along those lines bolt up to the Connect. A few of those things have been mentioned explicitly as fitting or requiring modification, but like a lot of builds, it reached a point where the guy kind of dropped off the map–forum threads went dead, and lots of detail was missing.

The Platform

First, let’s talk about why the Focus, not the Fiesta or some other vehicle. The Transit Connect is built on Ford’s global C platform, shared with the C-Max, Focus, Escape/Kuga, MKC, Chinese-market Escort, and to a lesser extent the Mazda3, Mazda5, and Volvo V40. The Fiesta isn’t on that list, though the Fiesta ST has the same engine as some Transit Connects (the 1.6L EcoBoost)–in principle, a 1.6L EcoBoost with a 6-speed manual is possible, but vans equipped with the 1.6L are few and far between and the 1.6L has less power and more issues than the 2.0L EcoBoost has.

At least in the North American market, all of the rest of the vehicles on that list have at least one vehicle using an engine derived from Mazda’s L-engine, and would bolt up to any number of transmissions without any adapters. In other markets, you’ll also find a number of diesel engines and a lot more manual transmissions–including multiple variants of the MTX75, iB6, iB5, and MMT6. But most of the diesel options have different bellhousing patterns, which would mean disassembling the transmission case at a minimum to make them work.

Ultimately, the goal is to keep the swap as simple as possible, using OE parts wherever possible. If we’re into custom fabrication, cost goes off the charts and it likely won’t be ready for a road trip we need to take in mid-October. (Yes, we’re starting this swap late August, with plans to put it to use in less than 2 months!!) We won’t be adding/modifying any interior or appearance stuff–the goal when we’re done is for it to look exactly how Ford would have built a Transit Connect that simply had a 2.0L EcoBoost, 6-speed manual option on the build sheet.

Why not a complete subframe swap?

First, we don’t want to buy a donor vehicle. We have neither space nor a way of getting rid of one when we’re done, and between pandemic shutdowns and used car buying craziness, a suitable wrecked donor would be beyond the budget for this project–and would have an engine less desirable than what we’ve already bought.

Second, we’d want to keep a number of things from the old subframe. The Transit Connect and Focus don’t have the same wheelbase, with different steering rack, steering knuckles, and control arms. We want maximum maneuverability (the TC has a sharper wheel cut) and proper Ackerman angles for proper handling and tire wear. While some might think the ST has upgraded brakes, the Transit Connect already has the same stuff (at least for 2014).

Third, the subframe doesn’t need to come out to do the swap. We might take that approach and leave the front end in place if we had the luxury of a lift, but we don’t. And a lot of the front end has to come apart anyways to get to things like the PCM and intercooler.

What about electrical stuff, computers, etc.?

We’ll get there, but for now let’s just say that we know there are manual transmissions on the platform, mated to the engine we’re going to use. That’s a huge head start. We’ve purchased wiring manuals (yes, paper copies) and put together a spreadsheet as we’ve reconciled circuits on one vehicle to the other. That subject will get a lot more discussion in the how-to guide. The goal is to start with something as close to what we already have and still get the result we’re after.

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