Project 420a Sleeper, Part 1
I think just about everyone who owns a non-turbo, 420A powered, 1995-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse or Eagle Talon has heard these words muttered whenever they have mentioned wanting to turbo their car :
"Just sell your car and buy the turbo model." For some, thats just the way to go. For others, this just drives them even more to make their 'less adequate' version even more powerful and faster than the factory turbo models which seem to steal all the glory.
For this project, we will be purchasing a 420A powered 1995-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse or a 1995-1998 Eagle Talon with the goal of extracting as much usable power out of it on a budget. To make this project even more fun, we decided to do this while maintaining the stock appearance in the process. The stock appearance isn't necessary but we just thought it would be more fun to surprise a few turbo model big brother Eclipses along the way. We will continue to keep this appearance throughout the project until it begins to hinder the performance of our upgrades.
Whats Under the Hood?
The 420A Chrylser powerplant found in many 2nd generation Eclipses and Talons is no slouch, though it's always thought as the cheaper motor in comparison to the 4G63 Mitsubishi engine offered in the turbo models. With a base horsepower rating of 140hp and 130ft. lb. of torque at the crank, it's nothing spectacular to say the least.
Whats nice about this engine is its design and potential. The block is capable of roughly 300hp in stock trim with the weak links being the piston and connecting rod assemblies. Replace these parts with a more suitable setup and you're looking at one solid base capable of handling some serious power. The four-bolt main bottom end keeps things held together under even the most severe conditions which nearly eliminates the dreaded 'crankwalk' issue which plagues many 4G63 owners.
The cylinder head is quite nice as well, flowing better than some engines pumping out double the power numbers (thanks to its Lotus inspired design). Its resistance to detonation is astounding and does a great job at keeping things cool in the process. Also assisting with the breathability of this engine is the intake manifold which is rather adequate in stock trim and shouldn't restrict airflow even at much higher power numbers.
Dude, Where's My Car?
Ok, now we need a car. Since we were on a budget, we scurried the internet and the classifieds for a good deal that wasn't going to need too much TLC to get up and running. Once we started looking, we found some cars with blown engines, no engines, blown tranny's, front-end damage, and then some! Since we already knew that the engine was going to be addressed immediately, we took into consideration the cars without engines and even the cars in need of transmissions.
Finding a good deal isn't always easy, but if you are patient enough, a good deal will come along. Our good deal came in the form of a 1995 Eagle Talon ESi with 102,000 miles. The Ad stated that the timing belt was broken and it didn't run. This can be very bad with these engines because of the close proximity of the valves and the pistons during operation. Once the belt breaks, you can have severe damage to the valves, cylinder head, engine block or all of the above. For some reason I was drawn to go see this car in person. After conning a few of my friends to take to 1.5 hour trip to go see this "non-operable" car, we were on our way.
The exterior of the car was generally in excellent condition with some minor flaws. The interior, though dirty, was also in great shape. As a perk, we found that this car was LOADED! It had every possible feature offered in a 2nd gen talon except the turbo engine and leather. Sunroof, power windows, power locks, air conditioning, cruise control, and it even had 4 wheel disc brakes!
The car was equipped with a 4 speed automatic transmission, which we weren't fond of, but the rest of this car made this car worthy of such a sacrifice. At this point, we didn't even know if the engine was worth saving. Once we took a look at the INTACT timing belt, myself and my pal Brent both had a 'feeling' about this one. The belt was pretty chewed up but it was all there so we decided to haggle. Now, I cant haggle..... one bit. So we left the haggling to our friend Dave who did a great job of scoring us this possible gem for a mere $750.
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines
Once we trailered the car back to the shop, we pulled off the old belt to find every single tooth was still on the belt. Some were half missing, but they were all there nonetheless. It seems that the idler pulley had self destructed, letting all the ball bearings run free under the timing belt cover which found their way between the gears and the belt itself. We also removed the valve cover to inspect the lifter assemblies and valve stems, which looked great while sitting on a head clean enough to eat off of! One timing belt and pulley kit later and we had ourselves a running breathing project car!
After it was back on track, we performed a cylinder compression test to see how healthy the engine actually was. All tests showed that this was one solid engine with plenty of life in her. Game on!
Now that we have found a solid candidate for Project Sleeper, we can lay out a 'plan of attack' for the upgrades that lie ahead. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 where we outline our visual and performance goals. Soon enough we'll be ready to get some improved power numbers out of this little wonder of an engine!
Continue to the 2nd article!
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