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U.S. Auto Industry Is Microcosm Of A Global Economy
By Dan Minick
In my last column (see December 2000 Automotive Rebuilder, Just Imports, page 32) we discussed General Motors’ mix of imports and engines. For this installment, we’ll take a look at Ford and Chrysler, and some of the other "inter-breeding" that has occurred within the auto industry in the past 20 years.
The Ford Ranger has used a Mazda diesel 2.2L (1983-’84), a Mitsubishi 2.3L turbo-diesel (1985-’87) – the same motor that the Dodge Ram 50 and Mitsubishi pickups used by the way – as well as the German Ford 2.8L/2.9L/4.0L V6. From 1984-’87, the Escort, Lynx, Tempo and Topaz used a Mazda 2.0L diesel (an unrelated design to the 2.2L diesel used in Rangers).
The Mercury Tracer from 1988-’90 was a clone of the Mazda 323 and used Mazda’s B6 1.6L motor along with Mercury’s Australian-built Capri of 1991-’94. The Tracer from 1991 through 1999 shared a platform with the then new Ford Escort (actually chassis/body engineering on these were of Mazda origin). Although the base motor for the Escort/Tracer was the Ford CVH 1.9L/2.0L, the optional powertrain was Mazda’s DOHC 1.8L BP engine that also found a home in the Mazda 323, Protege and Miata.
Ford’s Probe, which was a sister car to the Mazda 626 and MX6, used Mazda’s F2 2.2L four-cylinder in both first and second generations. While the first generation Probe (1988-’92) used Ford’s Vulcan 3.0L V6 as an option midway through its lifespan, the second generation (1993-’97) used Mazda’s KJ 2.5L DOHC V6 as the top powerplant. Mercury’s Villager minivan is really a Nissan sharing the same 3.0L V6 as the Nissan Quest minivan and Nissan’s Maxima.
A less-common application that will be few and far between is the Taurus SHO that boasts Yamaha power. Yep, a high-performance engine from a company known for two-wheeled power, but not so well known for its engineering and production of high-performance auto engines. Even less common is the 1984-’85 Lincoln Mark VII oil-burner. If not destined to be a rare collectable, at least parts will be rare for this BMW-powered straight six turbo-diesel Lincoln (An entirely new meaning to the phrase "drive me to drinkin’…driving that hot rod Lincoln").
A couple of Korean-built Fords, the Festiva (1988-’93) and Aspire (1994-’97) were both built by Kia. The powerplant used in both of these models was the Mazda 1.3L B3 four-cylinder. This B3 motor is of the same family as other Mazda B-family motors previously mentioned (B6 1.6L and BP 1.8L).
Since Mazda is so closely tied to Ford, it would be expected that Mazda would be the largest user of Ford powerplants. However, there is one surprise. The Mazda-built B2600 pickup of 1987-’89 used the infamous Mitsubishi G54 2.6L of Chrysler minivan fame. In 1989 Mazda brought out its own 2.6L which looks for all the world like an imitation of Mitsubishi’s design. The pickup used the Mazda 2.6L until 1993, and Mazda’s MPV minivan also was a recipient of this look-alike design until 1994. The Mitsu-powered B2600s were carbureted and labeled "B2600", while the Mazda powered B2600 were all fuel injected and labeled "B2600i."
In 1994, Mazda stopped importing its own pickup in favor of the New Jersey-built, Ford Ranger clones B2300, B3000 and B4000. These were Ford powered, Ford built, and Mazda in name only. This was not new ground for Mazda; they tried this earlier with a Ford Explorer rebadged as a Mazda Navajo. Sold from 1991-’96, think "2-door 4.0L V6 Ford Explorer with a black grill," and you won’t be far off.
Probably the most commonly thought of manufacturer that used import engines is the Chrysler/Mitsubishi alliance. Practically everyone is aware of the G54 2.6L used in everything from K-cars to minivans to Ram 50 pickups. The Mitsubishi 3.0L V6 (G72) saw even greater service in Daytonas, minivans, Dynastys, New Yorkers, Acclaims, LeBarons, etc. With the exception of the pure Mitsubishi-built Chryslers, these two powerplants have constituted the majority of import engines in Chryslers.
A note to keep in mind, though, is don’t assume that all Dodges or Eagles with a 3.0L V6 are Mitsubishi 3.0Ls. The Eagle Premier (1988-’92) and Dodge Monaco (1990-’92) used either a 2.5L four or a 3.0L V6. This car (both Eagle and Dodge versions) was AMC/Renault-designed and inherited from Chrysler’s acquisition of AMC/Jeep. Engines were the AMC pushrod 2.5L (not Chrysler’s OHC 2.5L), and the PRV (Peugeot/Renault/Volvo) 3.0L V6. This V6 was also found in various forms from 2.6L to 3.0L in big Volvos, Peugeots and the DeLorean.
The AMC pushrod 2.5L is derived from the AMC/Jeep straight six dating from the early 1960s and is still being used today in Wranglers and Dakotas (Dakota since 1997). AMC developed this engine for model year 1984 to replace the GM 2.5L used in Jeeps and passenger cars (1981-’83). Prior to that, AMC used the Porsche/Audi 2.0L as an economical four-cylinder (1977-’79). It’s fascinating that one could find the same motor in VW trucks in Europe, Porsche 924, U.S. Postal Jeeps and AMC Gremlins.
There are some Jeeps from the late 1980s to early ’90s using Renault diesels (2.1L turbo diesel).
There is one case of Mitsubishi using Chrysler engines. The second generation Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon (1995-’98) used a Chrysler 2.0L DOHC engine as the base motor, while the optional turbocharged 2.0L was Mitsubishi-built.
Even more interesting is the fact that in the Chrysler-powered versions, the engine sits the same as other Chrysler FWD vehicles, with the "front" of the motor on the right or passenger side, while the Mitsubishi-powered versions are like other Mitsubishi vehicles with the front of the motor facing the left or driver’s side.
As a result, Chrysler supplied the entire engine-transmission package in the base versions. This Chrysler engine uses the same block as the Neon DOHC 2.0L, yet the cylinder head flows in reverse from the Neon. This reverse-flow cylinder head is used in the Avenger, Sebring Coupe, Eclipse and Talon, which shouldn’t be a surprise, as these four share the same Mitsubishi chassis. As an aside, the DOHC Neon uses the same head as Chrysler’s 2.4L DOHC.
Something that doesn’t come readily to mind is when a typically imported vehicle uses a powertrain of another "import." Examples of this include the Honda Passport, which is a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo using Isuzu engines; the Acura SLX, also a rebadged Isuzu, this time a Trooper; and the Isuzu Oasis, which is a rebadged Honda Odyssey. Volvo used Audi six-cylinder diesels from 1981-’87. Audi used a five-cylinder version; VW used the same six in European market trucks and vans.
In summary, what constitutes an import today? The mixing of powertrains, manufacturing locations and partial ownership of one auto company by another has blurred the lines. Hopefully these last two columns have proved that, and we’ve been able to shed some light on whose name is really behind that engine. Things are not always as they seem.